MAC: Mines and Communities

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

Published by MAC on 2005-07-20

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”

Onsino Mato, Apu’ Manglang Glupa’ Pusaka’

To all delegates coming from different parts of the world, I want to greet you all “Gompia nog gondaw sog glam niu”, meaning “Good day to all of you”.

I am Onsino Mato, the Secretary General of the Apu’ Manglang Glupa’ Pusaka’ (AMGP). I am here on behalf of the Subanon people in Mount Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines. I come to report on the conflict generated by the mining of TVI Pacific of Canada, in connivance with the Philippine government and the efforts to resolve the conflict.

Mr Chairman, our ancestral domain is recognised by the Philippine government and a land title was issued into the hands of our traditional leader, Timuay José Anoy. TVI have encroached against our wishes on that ancestral land, including our sacred place, since 1994. Part of our land is fully militarised to protect their open pit mine. Zamboanga is already a region of conflict and the presence of TVI and their more than 200 heavily armed paramilitaries makes this worse. Because of our opposition to mining most of us, especially the legitimate Subanon tribal leaders, have been displaced and are under threat.

The mine has resulted in a serious division among the Subanon people. Our community school building was closed to make way for their open pit mine. Some have suffered skin diseases because our river was contaminated by poisonous chemicals. The fisheries of our Christian and Muslim neighbours are damaged. Aside from the traditional Subanon, the municipal government, the local Christian and Muslim communities are all on record opposing the mining.

We have complained many times to the proper bodies of the Philippine government. Several groups, including the Government’s Human Rights Commission, have conducted fact finding missions and come up with a recommendation for the cancellation of TVI’s permits. However TVI threaten to expand into other Subanon communities. We wish to put on record that there is much opposition in our communities to mining. The law requires, before mining is allowed, indigenous communities must give their consent . We state this consent has not been given.

Mr Chairman we have exhausted our domestic remedy to oppose TVI operating on our land. We finally appeal to this honourable body, and the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, to find ways to help us in calling for an end to the human rights violations, through the removal of TVI.

Special Rapporteur, Professor Stavenhagen, during his visit in the Philippines in 2002 concluded that the presence of the military was a main cause of human rights violations and conflict. This is our situation. We invited Professor Stavenhagen to visit Canatuan, but he was denied access. On behalf of the ancestral land holders, we repeat our invitation to him.

We confirm our willingness to host any independent fact-finding investigations to validate the human rights violations, the shootings and grave threats that we suffer. Some of us who oppose the company are denied access to the land and farms we depend on for our food. Some farms are destroyed.

Mr Chairman we have tried everything within the law to resolve the conflict. I, along with our principle Timuay, and representatives of other affected communities, visited Canada to raise our concerns. TVI refused to meet us, but we had the opportunity to meet with our indigenous brothers and sisters there. We met with the Canadian government and civil society groups. During this year I and one of our lowland brothers were invited to testify before the Canadian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

We thank the Canadian Parliament for listening to all sides. We ask the Working Group and others to note the proposal of the Standing Committee asking for an investigation to be conducted on the human rights and environmental impact of TVI Pacific's Canatuan mining project. And calling for the government to suspend all support for TVI, including from the CIDA, at least until the investigation is included. I am submitting a copy of that statement. We welcome the proposals but hope the UN through the Special Rapporteur can be included in such an investigation so we can have more confidence in it.

The Parliamentary Committee wrote to the Canadian embassy in Manila urging them to monitor the future safety of the two of us who testified, because we fear our lives are under threat. We are grateful for these efforts. But our concern is also for all the others in our communities who oppose mining and are being harassed. During this year the company has sought to evict people from their homes in Canatuan. This threat is still very real. Everyone is fearful of these evictions, especially when it may be implemented by the paramilitaries.

Mr Chairman we know that the impact of private corporations, especially the extractive industries corporations, is a big problem for many indigenous peoples. We humbly propose that the impact of corporations, and especially the extractive industries, be an agenda item for this Working Group next year.

Finally we feel that binding international standards to regulate all extractive corporations are more than ever necessary and we recommend this for future activities on standard setting.

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