- Published on Tuesday, 21 September 2010 13:10
Indigenous Peoples Cry For Help vs. Miners In Zamboanga Peninsula, Philippines
Frustrated and helpless about government utter failure to protect their ancestral domains in the Zamboanga Peninsula, Subanen leaders have reached out to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to seek advice on how to protect their remaining swathe of lands from incursions by both local and international mining companies.
Three Subanens leaders, who all requested anonymity, charged that the operations of these mining companies have resulted in human rights violations, environmental destruction, disunity of local communities, denial of people’s means of livelihood, dislocation of communities, and the use of abusive armed Special (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit or CAFGU) Armed Auxiliaries (SCAAs).
They singled out one mining company among the many, the Canadian-mining firm TVI Resource and Development, as greatly damaging their lives, polluting the air and rivers, and destroying their last habitat for their incoming generations.
This company is currently operating mining gold and silver in Canatuan Mountain in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte. The Canadian firm has been operating since 1997.
The MILF leaders, who met the Subanen leaders last month in Maguindanao, told them to band themselves, form a strong national network, and argue their case before the United Nations.
“You cannot expect to get justice in this country, because many of the national leaders are partners of these mining companies or are under their pay,” Khaled Musa said to the visiting Timuays (chieftain).
“We cannot tell you to arm yourselves; it is not for us to say that; it is your people’s decision,” he added.
“Rhetoric or petitions will always fall on deaf ears,” said another senior leader of the MILF, who requested anonymity, “citing the example of the Bangsamoro people in resorting to armed struggle before they are heard.”
In 2009, three IP leaders Timuay Jose Boy Anoy, rightful owner of ancestral land in Mt. Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte; Timuay Noval Lambo, Chief elder of the Subanon Council of Seven Rivers in Zamboanga Peninsula; and Peter Dupayat, President of the Didipio Earth Savers Movement Association (DESAMA), participated in a United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) hearing on a complaint filed against the Philippine government by the Subanon community.
The elders charged that their rights to the ancestral domains have been breached by the continuous mining activity, accusing the Philippine government especially the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for being hostile to their cause.
Timuay Jose Boy Anoy had been personally given a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But the IP leader was ejected from his land by TVI Pacific, Inc., a Canadian Mining company that has been operating in Mt. Canatuan.
Timuay Anoy claimed that NCIP connived with TVI in forming a phony tribal council that gave approval for the company to mine in their ancestral land.
“There was no genuine free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) given to the mining operations. Our customs, traditions, and beliefs have been disrespected by no less than the government,” the elder declared.
For his part, Timuay Lambo said the government should be held accountable for its bigotry towards indigenous people.
“The government must tell the truth. We have been waiting for so long. The government’s report which states that there is no discrimination is purely a lie. [It is] fabricated by the NCIP, through its incompetent local officials,” he said.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says there are over 14 million to 17 million indigenous people (IPs) in the country, majority of whom live in Mindanao.