Tribesmen ask MGB to cancel mining permitPublished by MAC on 2006-04-24
Tribesmen ask MGB to cancel mining permit
By Nuhman Aljani, Manila Standard
24th April 2006
ZAMBOANGA CITY-Subanon tribesmen in Zamboanga del Norte have filed a petition asking the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to cancel the mining permit issued to the Canadian-owned mining firm TVI Resource Development Phils. (TVIRD).
Lawyer Jarly Sulay Trugillo said the petition, filed on April 20, was signed by some 17 Subanon tribal leaders who claimed that the Mineral Resources Sharing Agreement or MPSA that was issued to TVIRD should be cancelled because the company violated national laws including some provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
The petitioners said TVIRD, the largest mining company operating in the peninsula, violated the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, Indigenous People's Rights Act and the Local Government Code through its mining operation in Siocon town.
Such violations, Trugillo said, are sufficient grounds for the government to terminate the company's mining permit.
Timuay Lino Tii, the representative of the Subanon leaders, said their decision to file the petition was made after the government failed to protect their rights over what they called ancestral domains.
"We earlier sought the help of local government units, the DENR, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Office of the President not to allow TVIRD to operate in the area because the mining site is part of our sacred mountain in Canatuan. But they failed to take any action to protect our rights. Harassments continued and had caused massive displacement among the residents in Canatuan," he said.
But TVIRD denied the tribesmen's allegations and said the issues the petitioners raised are merely repetitions of issues that have already been discussed in various forums and congressional hearings.
"TVIRD's MPSA with the Philippine government predates the Certificate of Ancestral Domain of the Subanon in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, despite the fact that the company enjoys prior rights over the ancestral domain claim and title. TVIRD entered into a memorandum of agreement with the Siocon Subanon Association Inc. for the development of Canatuan as a gesture of good faith and affirmative action," TVIRD said in a statement.
The petitioners, however, cited a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), which was awarded to them by the government in 2003 as substantial proof that their identity should be recognized and therefore providing them autonomy to manage their land.
But sadly, according to Timuay Jose Anoy, a Subanon tribal chieftain, their CADT has failed to enforce their legitimate claims against the mining venture in Siocon.
"The physical threats and harassments are continuous and we are even barred from entering our places [in Canatuan]," he said, adding that TVIRD has continued destructive mining practices, including the massive cutting of trees resulting in soil erosion and the pollution of rivers in Siocon, depriving the Subanens of access to potable water.
TVIRD, according to the petitioners, allegedly terrorized residents in the mining area. "The heavy presence of the military troops and the militiamen are even more than jeopardizing our rights of going back to our respective homes in Canatuan," he said.