MAC/20: Mines and Communities

The following are two written statements - there were shortened statements read out - tabled at the

Published by MAC on 2001-05-23


The following are two written statements - there were shortened statements read out - tabled at the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations on 20th July 2005.

Statement to the Twenty Third session of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations

Presentation under section 4c “Indigenous peoples and conflict prevention and resolution”

Timuay Fernando Mudai, Coordinator of the Pigsalabukan Bansa Subanon Federation

I am Fernando Mudai, a Timuay or traditional leader of my community of Tiling, RT Lim, Zamboanga Sibugay. We are of the Subanon Peoples of the Southern Philippines. I am also Coordinator of the Pigsalabukan Bansa Subanon Federation of Subanon organisations. Our organisation has been formed to protect our ancestral land and protect and promote our distinct culture.

Mr Chairman, we traditional leaders of the PBS see that our culture and knowledge are under threat from forces that want to grab our land and disrespect our beliefs and wisdom. It is the role of our indigenous structures and traditional leaders to resolve conflicts and protect our people, culture, livelihood and environment. But now we are shamed because some conflicts and problems have come from outside our own people and they divide one Subanon from another. They ignore and overturn our basic commitments to be pro people, pro environment, pro life and pro God.

The Philippine Government, advised by the World Bank, has offered our land to foreign mining companies for their profit, and our destruction. This was done against our Subanon laws and against the laws of the Philippines because we within PBS.

Our concern is great about the wanton destruction of sacred places, like Mount Canatuan, which is being destroyed now by 24 hour-a-day mining of TVI Pacific of Canada. TVI tell the world that they can protect the environment, but these are lies to gain time while they steal the riches of our land. The destruction on Canatuan is clear for all to see. This mountain is sacred to us Subanon, and especially to the Manglang clan who have a special attachment to this place. It is the place where immortal and mortal beings made their first Peace Pact through APU MANGLANG (our ancestor) and APU SANANG. TVI, which seems to claim to be an instant expert in our traditions denies that the mountain is sacred to us.

TVI spent years trying to negotiate to gain the support of the Subanon of Mount Canatuan without success. They tried to win over Timuay José Anoy, and other traditional leaders of that place, with incentives and promised gifts. But conscious of their duties as leaders to protect, they always refused.

In 2001 the company was forced to adopt a new tactic, which was to arrogantly abuse our culture by manipulating and promoting their own puppet leaders and even claiming them to be anointed Timuay.

They promoted a so-called Council of Elders, which included the usurpers who are supported by the company. This “Council of Elders” has no place in our culture. We say we have no vacancy for so many new Timuays. There were not 30 Timuays that died in Canatuan that they created these 30 new Timuays.

In our traditional tribal court of the Gukom we have looked at those who claim now to be our “elders”. Some of them are not even from Canatuan. They came there to work for TVI. Others have no right to be called elder or Timuay. They have no hereditary claim, they are not anointed and they were not chosen by the ancestral families, who are the landholders of that place.

These false claims are a crime in our culture and we have settled penalties upon those who falsely pose as our leaders. How much greater the crime of those who come from Canada, either from TVI or even the Canadian embassy, who are in total ignorance of our culture, but now have the arrogance to think they can choose our leaders for us, to take and destroy our land? We say we have no sin to those people of Canada. We do not even know where is this Canada. What harm did we do them that they seek our destruction?

The true leaders of Canatuan, and those who oppose TVI, are harassed and threatened. They try to make us into criminals by bringing false charges against us and slandering the opposition on their company’s website and in company statements.

In 2003 Timuay Anoy was personally handed the title to the ancestral domain of Canatuan in a public ceremony by the President of the Philippines. Now, because he opposes them the company tell lies about him, and try to deny that he is a leader even after the years when they themselves tried to negotiate with him.

Mr Chairman, I come here today - as our senior Timuay, Noval Lambo, came last year - as a representative of the regional Gokum, which includes Canatuan and other areas to verify that TVI never got the agreement of the legitimate leaders, as our law and even Philippines law demands, but only has the worthless endorsement of the false Council of Elders.

We Subanon are a peace-loving people. But now hundreds of armed guards surround the mining camp. They maintain checkpoints and will not allow the legitimate community leaders entrance to their own ancestral land. We believe our lives are in danger.

We ask the international community to hear that we, the Subanon people of PBS, who represent more than 50 Subanon organisations, reject all mining. It brings conflict and destruction. This is not part of our tradition. Our God gave us the seeds of all we need for our survival. He did not give us the seeds of gold for us to plant, and it should stay in the earth.

We fear that conflict and tension is mounting as even the government breaks its own laws to support the foreign companies. TVI has now announced its plans to expand its mining in many communities, including my own community in RTLim Sibugay, Bayog, Sibugay and many others where they do not have free prior informed consent.

We give notice we will impose fines and traditional penalties upon the abusers.

We give notice to TVI, that you have violated our hospitality and our laws. You have desecrated our land. The Canadian embassy has collaborated with TVI in this. We fear they promote mining by Canadian companies with no regard for the wishes of the affected people.

We give notice to the Philippine government that you have failed to respect and protect our rights. The laws are being applied to us in a discriminatory way

The land of Canatuan is deeply damaged, the rivers are filled with poison. Other communities are now also threatened. This must stop and all who have conspired in its destruction must pay for their damage

In 2002 UN Special Rapporteur Professor Stavenhagen visited the Philippines. He asked to visit Canatuan but was prevented. The Philippine government reported that a UN investigation (1503 Procedure) was underway in Canatuan. We know of no such investigation. We are suffering human rights abuses and fear that TVI and their paramilitaries are causing increased conflict throughout Subanon areas. We again invite Professor Stavenhagen to visit us in the hope that such independent reporting can halt the abuses and destruction and reduce tension. We hope at least it will shame the international backers of TVI to withdraw.

Finally we wish to register our thanks to the Canadian Parliament that listened not only to the company, but also to our representatives, and has called for an investigation into the abuses. We welcome any honest independent investigation. We urge the involvement of the United Nations through the Special Rapporteur.

We also extend an invitation to our indigenous brothers and sisters from the indigenous organisations in Canada, that have experience of what destruction mining can bring, to see the destruction, weep with us and work together for a greater accountability of the mining industry and the full payment of the damages caused to us both.

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