MAC/20: Mines and Communities

The following are a number of statements and press releases or articles that resulted from a press

Published by MAC on 2004-10-26

The following are a number of statements and press releases or articles that resulted from a press conference on the issue of TVI Resources in Metro Manila on 23rd October. They include a statement from the Bishop of Dipolog (the diocese that covers the proposed project) and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, as well as an update on meeting.

An Urgent Appeal to Save Mount Canatuan and the Subanon People

October 26, 2004

DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI) statement

Tabayo, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao, Philippines – Yesterday Timuay (Chieftain) Jose "Boy" Anoy released an appeal to the international community on behalf of the Subanon people. As one of the leaders of the Subanons, Timuay Anoy urgently asks for support to save Mt. Canatuan from destruction by TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc., a Canadian Mining Company.

Mount Canatuan is part of the ancestral domain of the Subanon people. This peak has great spiritual and cultural significance for them as they consider it their most holy place. However, Mount Canatuan is also of great interest to TVI because it has rich deposits of gold and other metals. For the last 10 years TVI has been setting up its operations in the area and mor erecently reprocessing mine tailings that were obtained from small scale miners. This year the company started to open cut mine the mountain. If these operations continue it will only be one or two months until the bulldozers reach Timuay Anoy's doorstep and the community will have no choice but to relocate.

However, the community is absolutely opposed to vacating their land. For 15 years the Canatuan Subanon have been trying to protect their claim to their ancestral land. In 2003, the group was finally successful at being the second indigenous group in the Philippines to gain rights to their land through the Indigenous People's Rights Act. These rights make it illegal for anyone to occupy their land without the approval of the landholders. Thus, TVI is an illegal presence in the area since they do not have the approval of the Canatuan Subanon. However the Government has been slow to recognize the Canatuan Subanons rights in this area. As Anoy states in the appeal:

"We cannot understand why the Government has given the green light for TVI to operate. The Government has stated that TVI's operation is one of answers to stave off the fiscal crisis, but the Mining Act and Mineral Action Plan gives TVI a tax holiday and they can legally repatriate 100% of their profits. Their operation is nothing but a bane to the majority of the people."

TVI is quick to defend its actions by claiming that it has the approval of the majority of the local people. The company declares that it secured the support of the Subanons through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed on December 19, 2003 by the leader of the Subanon 'Council of Elders'. However, the Canatuan People believe that this agreement is illegitimate because they do not recognize the Council as a legitimate governing body. In response to this agreement, the local Subanon revived the practice of the Gokum (a traditional court of the Subanon) in February 2004. At this meeting the elders and leaders from the local communities debated the legitimacy of TVI's claims. The verdict of the Gokum was that "many of those included in the so-called Council of Elders are not of the clan and blood of our ancestor Manglang, and not even originating from the Canatuan area. And therefore had no claim to be representatives of the Canatuan people".

TVI has continued its support and recognition of the "Council of Elders" and the pro-company group within the community. This group is made up largely TVI employees and others who come from outside the area. TVI has enlisted the help of CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) in providing privileges and programs to those who cooperate with them. TVI has gone so far as to recruit people in the community to spy on their neighbours. All of these actions have sown distrust and division within the community. By using the traditional colonial strategy of 'divide and conquer', TVI has solidified its power within the community.

The Canatuan Subanons remain opposed to the mining project because they firmly believe that their land is their future. It is not only vital to culture and their traditional way of life, but it is also their key to community development and building sustainable livelihoods. Anoy asserts that, "without our land, our people will suffer the same fate of some of our indigenous brothers and sisters who have been driven out of their land to satisfy the greed for the profit of big business." The group recognizes a temporary influx of money into their community will in no way compensate them for what they will lose if their land is destroyed.

The communities around and downstream of Canatuan also support the Subanons stance. The mayor of Siocon – a downstream community – has pointed out that "TVI claim of having overwhelming support from Siocon, but that's not true, because the Local Government of Siocon had clearly stated its position against any form of environmental destruction, including the operation of TVI, through a municipal council resolution".

Tensions have run high between the Subanons and TVI, especially since TVI enlisted the help of a Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) to protect the interests of the company. This paramilitary group has been trying to quell local opposition through intimidation, the establishment of blockades, and violence. In response to these actions, Anoy states that 'Even with TVI's propensity for violence, we will not waver in our struggle." However, Anoy and his people believe that they cannot do it alone. Thus, he appeals to all concerned organizations and individuals to support their struggle. He asks the international community to "Help us stop human rights abuses against our people. Let us join together to stop the plunder of our national patrimony, the destruction of our environment."

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