MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Tribal Filipinos re-invoke their rights, as more communities oppose seizure of their territory for mining

Published by MAC on 2008-10-21

Statement on the occasion of the CBCP Tribal Filipino Sunday

KAMP Press Release

10th October 2008

Indigenous Peoples vow to continued defense of their ancestral lands, and the struggle for their inalienable right to self-determination.

We are the indigenous peoples from different tribes and communities in the Philippines. Ours is the united voice for the continued defense of our ancestral lands, and the struggle for our inalienable right to self-determination.

As the world's multinational corporations, and their local lackeys, race to loot our lands and resources, our kin and children become expelled from the very territories our forefathers bequeathed us with - the same territories that cradled our life ways, worldview, and traditions and beliefs. We have become squatters in our own lands. Our communities continue to be militarized, and our brave brothers and sisters, harassed and summarily killed by State armed forces. Our sacred culture is commercialized. We fall prey to unwarranted discrimination. We are denied or neglected by the State's basic services.

Despite the many promises, the Arroyo government has failed to uplift the lives and promote the healthy well-being of our people. Overall, the Arroyo government has failed to respect, recognize, and promote the human rights of the country's indigenous peoples.

Undeniably, these are very difficult times for us.

The voices that call for respect for human rights, including the rights to ancestral lands, territories, and resources abound. These come to us as faith, aspirations, and challenges. We continue to be moved by them, and we are impelled to dispel all dissimilarities across tribes and with our non-indigenous brethren to finally work hand-in-hand in a unified action.

As such, these are our vows to keep:

* Amidst the total sell-out of our national patrimony, including our rich territories, through the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, Industrial Forest Management Agreement and other "land appropriation" policies of the Arroyo administration, we shall heighten our defense of our territories and communities, resist the misappropriation of our resources in favor of extractive industries, seek redress and repatriation for all those that have already been forcibly removed from ancestral territories, and call for a repeal to national laws that only benefit greedy multinational corporations and their local partners ;

* Amidst the Armed Forces of the Philippine's unhampered militarization of our communities, terrorist-tagging of our organizations, and the intensifying human rights violations, including the summary execution of our leaders and community representatives, we shall exhaust all available judicial mechanisms, from the local to the international levels, to seek justice and redress for all victims of such condemnable grave acts, and to expose the State's counter-insurgency operations, such as through the Oplan Bantay Laya;

* Amidst the Arroyo government's recruitment of paramilitary forces, the "buy-out" of indigenous communities, creation of fake tribal leaders, and even the fanning of anti-indigenous peoples sentiments among the Philippine majority and among our Moro brothers and sisters, we avow to promote understanding and good relations across tribes and the other sectors of the Philippine society, and to expose and counteract all forms of divide-and-rule tactics, realizing these are but means to weaken our internal socio-political affairs;

* Amidst the government's many forms of pseudo-development programs that claim "progress for the common good," , we shall exhaust all administrative and legal mechanisms, from the local to the international levels, to counteract all unjust forms of integration and assimilation into the mainstream;

* Amidst the re-engineering and manipulation by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and other pertinent government agencies of the "free, prior and informed consent" of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), we shall continue to uphold and practice genuine consultation processes that is suitable and effectively ensured by our own specific customs and traditions;

* Amidst the discrimination against our women and youth, we shall avow to combat unpopular prejudices in the media, schools, and other influential institutions of the society, realizing their unique yet unrewarded contribution to the economy, food security and best health practices within indigenous communities and to the Philippine society as a whole.

May these vows further propel the Catholic Church's unwavering support for and unity with us indigenous peoples, as we steadfastly fight for our rights to self-determination.

Reference: Himpad Mangumalas KAMP Spokesperson (Tel - 0910-5406198)


Gov't not serious on implementing IPRA: Lumads

By Cong B. Corrales, SunStar Cagayan de Oro City

10th October 2008

ELEVEN years after the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA) has been implemented, only one Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) had been awarded to indigenous peoples or Lumad in Misamis Oriental.

In April 7, 2006, Pamalihi, a Higa-onon tribal council in Misamis Oriental, rejoiced when their ancestral domain claim in Mt. Balatukan was finally awarded to them.

It took them though seven years of lobbying before their claim was awarded to them.

Today, even that small victory is slipping away.

The National Government has declared the entire mountain range of Mt. Balatukan as "a natural park" based on the Nipas Act (RA 7586) of 1992.

"We feel that the government is not serious in the implementation of IPRA," Rodelio Sawangga, a Higa-onon tribal leader said.

Sawangga said IPRA law or Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) or Republic Act 8371 of 1997 should have done away the conversion of Mt. Balatukan range into a national park.

But the National Government, Sawangga said, instead went ahead in classifying Mt. Balatukan range into a national park much to the detriment of the lumads who lived by its slopes.

Higa-onon leaders from tribal Council in Gingoog city, Malitbog and Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon gathered here Thursday to discuss their plight amid the entry of large-scale mining, Jatropha, bio-fuel, palm oil and other 'development' project in their ancestral domain claims.

Central to the issue is the IPRA law and the NIPAS Act (RA 7586) of 1992.

Under the NIPAS Act (RA 7586) of 1992, hunting, destroying, disturbing, or mere possession of any plants or animals or products--acts that are traditionally done by lumads--are prohibited in national parks.

IPRA law is also being questioned by the lumads for it " violates their inherent rights to their ancestral lands."

Government officials who were present at the meeting tried to explain the problem to the lumads.

Lawyer Ruby Oblefias of Department of Interior and Local Government in Region 10 said there are still many 'gray areas' in the implementation of local government code that involves the IPs.

But she said the DILG recognizes the IPRA because it guarantees the "mandatory representation" of IPs in the local council or any other policy making bodies in towns and cities.

"We even have a department circular which in effect recognizes IPRA as an enabling law of the local government code," Oblefias told the lumad leaders. Teddy Sabugaa of Misamis Oriental provincial government lamented that lumad issues were not presented to the provincial board because representatives from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) were always absent during the sessions.

Sabugaa said the presence of NCIO and lumad leaders is important especially that the provincial board will soon meet to discuss the budget of Misamis Oriental this coming November.

Fidel Gamos of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Region 10, assured the lumad leaders that the decision classifying Mt. Balatukan into a national park is "not final."

"There is a specific clause in the proclamation that it will only be finalized until further ground survey and in full consultation with IP leaders in the area affected," Gamos said.


Tribal elders voice out opposition to mining - They prefer farming as livelihood and source of jobs

Dexter A. See, Manila Bulletin

10th October 2008

BAKUN, Benguet - Tribal elders in 10 communities in Barangay Gambang, this town have voiced out their opposition to a mineral exploration project being pursued by a mining company in their villages.

They warned that the exploration activities would cause divisiveness in their communities.

The council of elders indicated their opposition to mining in the certificates of rejection which they forwarded to the barangay council of Gambang. The elders said they are vehemently opposing the controversial mining exploration being undertaken by Royalco Philippines Inc.

However, instead of acting on the certificates of rejection, the barangay council forwarded it to the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) as well as the offices of officials of Benguet and Bakun.

The elders said that farming is their preferred source of livelihood and employment.

They claimed that mining operations would automatically begin after the conduct of the exploration project to confirm the presence of substantial mineral deposits.

They said that once actual mining begins, their source of domestic water and irrigation would be adversely affected, if not depleted.

They also said they are conserving the land for the future generations, and for this reason, they are not ready to allow the land to be destroyed by large-scale mining.

The council of elders warned that mining could ruin the harmonious relationships among communities, fearing that this could lead to acrimonious debates, misunderstanding and even fighting between those who are in favor and those who are not in favor of exploiting the natural resources of their areas.

There are more than 500 elders at Sitios Mabuhay, Pulag, Gold Star, Mogao, Batanes, Nametbet, Bagtangan, Takayan, Liwang, and Bolbolo, all within the jurisdiction of Gambang.

The communities fall within the jurisdiction of Royalco's Phase 3 mine-exploration areas.

Earlier, the company had drawn the support of the residents at Phase I of the exploration area in Gambang, but the company failed to get the support of the residents of the Phase 2 area which includes Barangay Tineg in Mankayan town.

Provincial and municipal officials challenged the mining company to widen its village-based consultation to include all the affected villagers, saying it should not concentrate its efforts on only one or two clans.

The Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) had earlier granted a two-year exploration permit to Royalco for the conduction of exploration activities in a 98-hectare mineral-rich area in Barangay Gambang.

But some residents questioned the mode of acquiring the endorsement from the affected communities because it was given at a meeting in Bangao, Buguias where the elders were reportedly forced to sign the agreement with the mining company.

Some residents said the company is not capable of pursuing its mining activity in the town because it has allegedly failed to comply with its commitments under the first agreement, and that's the reason the elders in other areas opposed the project.

"There is a specific clause in the proclamation that it will only be finalized until further ground survey and in full consultation with IP leaders in the area affected," Gamos said.

 

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