MAC/20: Mines and Communities

TVI mining firm denies Subanens' accusations

Published by MAC on 2006-04-27

TVI mining firm denies Subanens' accusations

By Bong Garcia Jr., MindaNews

27th April 2006

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- The TVI Resource Development Philippines, Inc. has categorically denied the accusations of the Subanen group that filed a complaint with the Panel of Arbitrators (PA) of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Western Mindanao office.

TVI public affairs director Rocky Dimaculangan said the issues the Subanens raised are mere rehash of their unfounded allegations that have been ventilated in various fora, including Congress.

Dimaculangan said TVI's Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the government pre-dates the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) of the Subanens in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.

He said that TVI has entered into a memorandum of agreement with the Siocon Subano Association, Inc. (SSAI) for the development of Canatuan as a gesture of good faith and affirmative action despite the fact that the company enjoys prior rights over the ancestral domain claim and title.

In their complaint filed before MGB on Thursday last week, the Subanens in Siocon town said they were awarded a CADT on June 12, 2003 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, making them the second indigenous peoples' community in the country whose rights were fully recognized.

However, Dimaculagan said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has approved the assignment of the MPSA to TVI pursuant to the Deed of Assignment executed between TVI and Benguet Corp. on June 16, 1997.

He also cited that DENR issued the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Certificate (CADC) on October 21, 1997 to the Subanens covering an area of 6,523 hectares in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, one week prior to the enactment of the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA) on October 29, 1997.

He said that an archaeological assessment conducted by the Archaeological, Cultural, Environmental Consultancy, Inc. on behalf of the National Museum of the Philippines revealed that the areas affected by TVI's mining operations are negative of any Subanen archaeological or cultural materials.

"There was no evidence found of any historic or prehistoric religious practice, ever, at Mt. Canatuan," Dimaculangan said in a statement in reaction to the Subanens' claim that the mining site is part of their sacred mountain that was occupied by their ancestors since time immemorial.

He clarified that the presence of the military and militia forces in Canatuan is a precautionary measure employed to maintain peace and order in the community.

The military and militia units in Canatuan are under the direct control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), he said.

Having invested more than $25 million into the Canatuan project, TVI is compelled to protect itself, its employees, and its community from criminal and terrorist elements who threaten to harm not only the company's physical assets but, more importantly, its on-site personnel, according to Dimaculangan.

He said on 2004 and 2005, TVI spent a total of130 million in its environmental management and protection initiatives. The company has allocated P80 million for 2006, with a possibility of increasing to P200 million.

He said the urgency to protect itself became more pronounced for TVI when two ambush incidents occurred near the project site on March 13, 2002 and December 26, 2002, resulting in the death of 15 and injuries to 20 TVI personnel and their relatives, mostly Subanens.

Dimaculangan said that since the deployment of militia forces -- mostly Subanens themselves -- the people in Canatuan have been enjoying the benefits of security.

He said TVI welcomes the proposal to extend the membership of the Multipartite Monitoring Team to include representatives of the Church, farmers' and fishermen's groups, as well as Subanens.

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