Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,Published by MAC on 2004-03-23
Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,
President Republic of the Philippines,
I am writing to express my dismay at recent events in Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.
I am gravely concerned by reports that TVI Pacific's security forces have fired their weapons and wounded four local residents, who were protesting at the company's presence, resulting in their hospitalisation. Those injured include Timuay Macario Salacao, chairman of the Siocon Federation of Subanon Tribal Councils, Edie Cayabyab, Juan Veloria and Dakbot Lorete. Timuay Salacao is a respected elder of the Subanon people living downstream from the mine. Mr. Cayabyab is reported to have had a bullet lodged in his knee. According to previous reports by the Philippine Human Rights Commission, local NGOs and church groups, as well as local residents, this is only the latest in a number of shooting and other violent incidents that have occurred involving TVI guards on different occasions over the last nine years.
We write to urge you to act with speed to suspend until further notice all activities by the Canadian mining company and so prevent further heightening of tension and possible further violent incidents.
Madame President the root of the continuing problem surrounding the presence of TVI in Siocon is that many local people who oppose the development of the a mine, and specifically the presence of TVI, feel that their rights and wishes are not being respected. They feel their voice is ignored in decision making that will seriously affect their future.
TVI claims that they have secured widespread local support. There is, however, much evidence to the contrary. The Mayor and municipal council of Siocon are on record as opposing the plans of TVI, as are the vast majority of Barangay officials within the municipality. The Siocon Subanon Association has maintained its opposition consistently for ten years. Recent divisions in the community nearest the proposed mine caused by the presence of the mining company have not altered the overwhelming opposition among Subanon people.
Opposition to TVIs plans have, in fact, been expressed by Subanon organisations across the whole Zamboanga peninsula. These include the Piksolobukan nog Bansa Subanen (PBS). Bishop Jose Manguiran of Dipolog and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines have specifically called for the withdrawal of TVI. Local farmers report that over the last 15 months, in which the TVI cyanide gold separation plant has been allowed to operate, they have experienced a marked deterioration in the quality of the water in the river and reaching their fields. Their local Irrigators Association is also on record as opposing TVI.
Madame President, as you know, Philippine law rightly requires that any and all new mining ventures secure local acceptance and, in cases where Indigenous Populations are affected, the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of the affected ancestral landholders is required. This FPIC is, according to the law to be determined through indigenous decision making processes. These latest incidents appear to show that local people will continue to insist on their right to a say in the future of their community, especially one that could have such adverse effects on so many of their livelihoods.
In the name of peace, justice and long-term sustainable development we therefore appeal to you to act with speed to protect the community:-
- To use the powers of your office and your personal influence to immediately order a halt to all work on the TVI Pacific mine project and call for the withdrawal of all TVI staff especially armed security personnel from Canatuan, Siocon. We hope this will reduce local tension and fear, and hopefully help prevent further violence.
- We endorse the call of local organisations for a credible investigation into the most recent shooting incident and the bringing of criminal charges against the perpetrator(s) of this shooting and wounding.
- We urge you to require, during an immediate cooling off period, the conduct of a transparent public consultation process by an independent and credible team which has the confidence of all, including particularly the local Lumad, Moro and settler peoples to ascertain their genuine opinions on the project and to act thereafter with respect for their wishes.
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