BACKGROUNDPublished by MAC on 2001-07-15
"Our land in Canatuan is being occupied against our wish"
UNITED NATIONS WORKING GROUP ON INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS
Statement on behalf of the Siocon Subanon Association, Mindanao, Philippines.
Presented by Onsino Mato, Secretary General, Siocon Subanon Association Inc.
Molongas gondaw sog glam niu. A wonderful day to everyone, to all delegates from different countries and participants to the meeting of the United Nation Working Group on Indigenous Populations. I want to greet you all, in accordance with our custom and traditional practices.
It is my delight to make statement on behalf of the Subanon people. We are the largest indigenous group in the southern Philippines numbering more than 320,000 people. One hundred years ago our ancestors occupied the whole of the beautiful Zamboanga peninsula. When I was born 43 years ago our lands were still wide and our mountains covered with forest and game.
I am Onsino Mato, of the Siocon Subanon Association Inc. (SSAI). A portion of our ancestral land rights in Canatuan are today even recognised by the Philippines Government. We have consistently struggled for recognition of our rights since 1989 after the Philippine Constitution finally recognised indigenous land rights in 1987. SSAI are the holders since 1991 of a Certificate of Forest Stewardship Agreement and of a recognised Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) Number RO9-113 Issued in 1997 by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), covering the area of 6,523.68 hectares, in Canatuan Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte. This is the last that remains to us from the inheritance of our ancestors and the only gift reserved for our future generations who we hope will continue to practice our ways of life.
Mining and logging companies are the destroyers of our lands and our peace. The loggers especially Boise Cascade of North America destroyed our forest until protests drove them out in 1988.
Our land in Canatuan is being occupied against our wish since 1994 by the Toronto Ventures Inc. (TVI) a mining company from Calgary, Canada.
Throughout they have militarised our land and maintained armed checkpoints to impose a total economic blockade to starve us out. They planted two inch nails in our trails. (I can show you an example). They have arbitrarily barred passage to the municipal midwife, our priest and even the chairman of SSAI (Timuay Jose Anoy) was stopped from walking through his own land, construction materials for our school were also confiscated.
According to the Philippine Constitution (1987) and laws including the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (1997) and the Mining Code ( 1995) our rights must be respected and no mining company or other developer can encroach our land without our Free Prior Informed Consent . But the heart of the Philippine Government is against us and the practice is different from the promise. Instead they keep on inviting foreign investors and assisting them even with tricks, frauds and brutal force to enter indigenous lands and exploit them.
We have been opposing TVI since the beginning. We held rallies and marches We sent petitions and resolutions. In September,1999 we conducted a peaceful picket to prevent TVI equipment from drilling in our sacred site. They used police and armed goons to disperse our picket brutally. At first, I appealed to them and tried to explain regarding our ancestral domain rights, and the need to respect our sacred places but they did not listen, instead we were mauled, beaten dragged boxed and kicked without mercy. We were 56 victims. I myself was handcuffed and was illegally held captive in their compound for more than 6 hours and the Philippine Mobile Force together with the security staff of the TVI took me, and I was arbitrarily detained for more than 30 hours.
TVI's presence has caused us the following problems:
1. Violation and abuses of our basic rights as indigenous peoples;
By forbidding us to go out side and inside the area, where we can gather materials for our house and other purposes.
By not seeking our free and prior inform consent.
By not recognizing the area as our ancestral domain.
2. Militarization and acts of violence and intimidation.
By ambushing people and confiscating goods.
By wounding Camilo Aquino and also shooting at others and indiscriminate firing to scare people in the community.
By beating, boxing, mauling and kicking picketers. Arrest and illegal detention at the point of guns.
3. Imposing a cruel blockade barring even food and essentials to enter
Our chairman, priest, midwife and visitors were stopped at TVI checkpoint.
Food and other commodities was stopped and confiscated at the TVI checkpoint.
Our farm product cannot be transported to town due to the TVI checkpoint.
4. Blocking health services
Midwife was stopped at TVI checkpoint.
We cannot gather herbal medicine to cure our infirmities because they privatise the forest area.
We cannot bring emergency victims to hospital because of the TVI checkpoint.
5. Blocking religious practices
Priest was stopped at TVI checkpoint.
They confiscated materials for our GLAPOW or house of worship.
6. Blasphemy within our sacred site and breaking our ritual requirements on sacred ground
They constructed road, processing plant, tailing dam and camp in our sacred area, without initiating rituals because they despised our religious belief.
They mocked the God whom our people worship in the area especially during their attacked our peaceful picket.
7. Destroying our hunting ground, fishing grounds and herbal medicine area
They drove away animals with their noise and gun burst.
They will poison our fishes with their mining.
They constructed road, camp, cyanide processing plant and tailing dam in our herbal medicine area.
8. Contributing to the spread of forbidden vices including rape and prostitution
Gambling was introduced.
Some women have become prostitutes to service the TVI employees.
Two local women have been raped by TVI employees.
9. Disrupting Education and delaying construction of our school building
Materials for school building were confiscated and held at TVI checkpoint for 3 weeks until we were able to take It back during a rainy night time.
10. Undermining Livelihood activities
We cannot sell farm produce for lack of road access.
11. Disrupting travel on our farm to market Road
Our road is full of disrepair because it is blocked. Before we have regular services but now only by motorbike can we reach our community.
12. Dividing the community against itself
The company has promoted its own organisation among a small group of immigrant Subanon and company employees. It recognises this group.
We went to Canada in Nov. 2000, to appeal to the Canadian government and people to help us. We thought they would help. But last April the Canadian Ambassador came to our town, giving support to TVI and proceeded to our community in Canatuan, without informing or visiting us the ancestral domain holders. This was a disrespect and we fear it betrayed his true sentiments.
We are appealing to all mining companies and governments if, as they claim, they are concerned about community development they must go away from our territory because what we have experienced is not development and not what we want for our sustainable future. The mining companies are not bringing development but are Predators upon the people.
Finally, we are longing for and calling for the immediate cancellation of TVI's Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) the scrapping of the Philippine mining Code and its provisions. We are also longing for an equal recognition, protection and respect of our indigenous rights over our ancestral domain rights, customary laws and traditional practices as promised in words and laws but not yet respected in our experience.
Madame chairwoman I deeply believe that our future generation has all the capacity and potential to bring peace, freedom, justice and equality to all people in our territory but this is currently being prevented by the presence of outside greed and violence. The Subanon are known in the Philippines as a peace loving people and we do not want to transgress the teachings of our foreparents. We have tried all we know to resolve these problems in peace confident of our rights to our land. We welcome visitors who want to know the truth. But so far we have not found where is the assembly or body that can respect our wishes and resolve our problems in peace? We are even being forced by outsiders to dialogue with a company that has systematically violated our rights. In April this year we were forced to walk out of a so called "dialogue" that we found was biased in favour of the company, that did not respect the right of our elders to speak their mind, that took place far from our territory and far from the proposed mine so that all our people could not join in or even hear the discussion about the future of their land.
It is my desire to go back to my country reporting good news from Geneva, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Population, to keep hope always alive in our communities. It is also my desire to go back to my country nowing that the abuses, human rights violations and affliction caused by this Canadian mining company the TVI, will be halted.
Therefore, Madame Chair, having inform this meeting regarding the development in my community, it is my hope that under agenda item 6:standard- setting activities, including a review of indigenous people relationship with natural resources, energy and mining companies, appropriate recommendation can be made to prevent violations of human rights of indigenous people affected by mining developments not only in my community but, in all parts of the world.
Please accept my thanks, and a wonderful day to all of you.
Secretary General Siocon Subanon Association Inc.
Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines.