MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippine tribe wins official status in mining struggle

Published by MAC on 2008-11-24

Members of the Subnanon tribe on the Philippine island of Mindanao have secured official recognition that anointed representatives of their tribe - the bogolas - are the legitimate negotiaters in their dealings with mining companies especially TVI, the Canadian junior with which they have been in conflict for years. See:

Subanon tribal leaders win NCIP recognition of 'bogolals'

LRC-KsK Press Release

17th November 2008

After years of marginalization from decision-making regarding their ancestral lands, the Subanon of Siocon Zamboanga del Norte in Mindanao island have come one step closer to asserting control over their ancestral land which is currently being exploited by TVI Resource Development Phils, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining company, TVI Pacific. This after the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Region 9 agreed to recognize the bogolals, anointed members of the Subanon's traditional council of leaders, as legitimate representatives of their tribe.

Leaders of the Subanon tribe in Siocon led by Timuay Boy Anoy and and Timuay Lino Tii and their respective bogolals, trooped to the NCIP office in Regional 9 today to demand the immediate recognition of their indigenous leadership structure which was effectively set aside when the NCIP facilitated the creation of what the Subanons claim to be a 'bogus' tribal council, in 2002.

To symbolize their seriousness about settling the issue of the legitimate leadership and representation once and for all, Timuoy Anoy, Tii and the bogolals brought position papers which they signed in front of the NCIP officials. Timuoys are the anointed leaders of the Subanon while bogolals are members of the council of traditional leaders.

According to the Subanon leaders, under the 1995 Mining Act (R.A.7942), indigenous peoples must give their free prior informed consent (FPIC) before any ancestral lands can be opened to mining. At Mount Canatuan , a mountain sacred to the Subanons of the area, a mining permit was issued in 1996 without the consent of the legitimate representatives of the indigenous community even being sought. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (RA 8371), enacted in 1997, also requires FPIC for any development projects on indigenous peoples' ancestral lands.

The "fake"council, known as the Siocon Council of Elders (CoE), promptly entered into a memorandum of agreement with the mining company, further fuelling allegations that it was created simply to allow the mining company to secure the "consent" of the indigenous peoples and allow the mining operations to proceed.

"This was done despite the objections of the recognised indigenous Subanon leadership and many of the ancestral land holders, and without adherence to the provisions of FPIC under IPRA requiring 'respect for customary law' and decisions based on the 'consensus of all'," Timuay Boy Anoy said.

In 2004, the Gukom of the Seven Rivers, the highest judicial body of the Subanons, demanded that the traditional leaders be respected and that FPIC be sought from them. It instructed the NCIP to declare the Siocon CoE 'null and void' and to nullify all agreements entered into by it. Up until today however, the NCIP had continued to recognize the Siocon CoE in contravention of the expressed wishes of the ancestral land holders and Subanon customary law.

In their statement to the NCIP, Anoy and Tii said, "We reiterate our position since the beginning that we oppose the operations of TVI Resource Development Inc. (TVIRD) in the ancestral domain to which the Siocon Council of Elders had entered a Memorandum of Agreement when it did not have the right and authority to do so. We greatly mourn the destruction in the ancestral domain because of TVIRD. At present, TVIRD is continuously destroying Mt. Canatuan with its ongoing project that does not have our consent. We demand that the NCIP and the DENR-MGB stop this!"

During the dialogue, NCIP Regional Director Lista Cawanan Jr. pointed out however, that while he recognizes Timuay Boy Anoy and Timuay Lino Tii as traditional leaders of the ancestral domain, the NCIP itself will still need to change the list of recognized leaders currently in their records.

The recognition will be formalized through a traditional Subanon ritual to be held next month. As a sign of sincerity, the NCIP has agreed to bring the panggasi, a traditional wine which participants drink during important Subanon gatherings.

For more information -

Law Paralegal
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth - Phils.
8th - 17th Sts., Nazareth
9000 Cagayan de Oro City
Tel. Nos. +63 88 856-5045

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