FOUR FARMERS from Casiguran, Aurora met with the Sanggunian Central Board (CB) yesterday, July 20 to elucidate on their plight back home. They were accompanied by Development Studies Program faculty member Soc Banzuela.
The ongoing construction of the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco) in Casiguran has displaced thousands of farmers, fisherfolk and the native Dumagat who live there.
“Nangangamba po kami sa aming buhay. Ano ang kahihinatnan namin? (We fear for our lives. What will happen to us?)” said Elmer Gonzales, one of the guest farmers, who is the president of the Bicolano Ilocano Casiguran Farmers Association (Bicfa).
The said zone covers 12,923 hectares of land. Local farmers claim to have settled in the area since 1962, and have been tilling the land since then. In comparison, the Sumilao farmers from Bukidnon, who figured in a similar predicament a few years ago, fought for 144 hectares of land.
Apeco is a special economic area for industries such as tourism and banking. Representative Juan Edgardo Angara and Senator Edgardo Angara sponsored the bill enabling the creation of Apeco. Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved its creation in 2007.
Issues of legality
Banzuela pointed out a legal difficulty as regards the issue.
He said that on one hand, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper) Bill, the Fisheries Code and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act make the Apeco illegal.
On the other hand, however, he noted that its creation appears to be legal because it was signed into law.
“This case undermines the achievements of the Philippine nation since the EDSA Revolution,” Banzuela said.
Fears and appeals
Gonzales said that the farmers were promised jobs by Apeco, but he doubts that the jobs will be long-term.
“Isa itong panganib sa aming mga maliliit (This is a danger to us in the margins),” he said. Gonzales also wishes to appeal to the president of the Philippines to help them with their situation.
Edwin Garcia, one of the farmers present during the CB meeting, said that their land was very important to them.
“Ang alam lang po namin ay ang pagsasaka (All we know to do is farming),” he said.
Sanggu’s initial plans
School of Social Sciences Chair Toni Potenciano said that the Ateneo should bank on moral grounds to lobby for the farmers, fisherfolk and the Dumagat.
As a start, School of Science and Engineering CB Representative Nicole Dela Cruz said that an awareness campaign should be rolled out.
Sanggunian President Gio Alejo identified three initial plans of action, which are to send a letter to University President Jett Villarin, SJ, to meet with other offices such as the Ateneo School of Government, the Theology Department and the administration, and to put together an Apeco Task Force.
Although women from various indigenous communities in Mindanao welcome some provisions in the mining EO 79 that may potentially improve the conduct of mining industry in the country, they still asserted that what they need are policies that would directly address the issues they have been raising against mining companies inside their ancestral domains.
According to the unified statement of about 30 IP women from 16 tribes and sub-tribes in Mindanao who participated in a consultation session in Davao City last July 13-16, EO 79 does not respond to the old and urgent issues being raised against mining which are also the primary concerns of women in the community such as threat on livelihood, food security and the continuing disrespect to the rights of the indigenous communities.
The IP women are also disappointed that EO 79 still recognizes current mining contracts as valid and binding as it proclaims that it will only be effective for incoming mining applications.
“Our appeal to the President, even before, was for him to listen to the woes on mining of the indigenous group. For us, B’laans, who are experiencing a lot of hardship because of the Tampakan mining project, the new mining EO has nothing to do with our problems. This does not cover the on-going application of Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), We have no one else to depend on in our defense of our communities, but ourselves,” said Robina Poblador of a B’laan group in Sarangani Province.
While the EO mandated DENR to conduct review of the existing mining contracts and operations, IP women are still wary that they will not benefit in the process.
“Who will lead the review? DENR? There have been a lot of tears and sweat which went through as we bring our bring our complaints and documented reports of violations to DENR, but nothing has happened,” said Wilma Tenoro, member of Subanen tribe and one of the petitioners for Writ of Kalikasan against GAMI mining company in Midsalip, Zamboanga del Norte.
Tenoro also added, “Until there are institutional changes within DENR, and until the bias of the government to mining will change, then this provision of review and monitoring is useless. This EO does not respond to our grievances nor to our interests.”
The Lumad women asserted that the President’s intervention is needed not just for the future generation who will suffer from the impacts of mining, but also to the ones who are already experiencing the atrocities of degraded environment caused by mining.
According to Bae Rose Undag, a Higaonon leader from Misamis Oriental, “At present, large number of hectares of indigenous people’s forests and mountains are being denuded and flattened by mining operations. Several mining permits have been issued in small islands and worst in vast agricultural lands. Why are these not the ones covered by the moratorium? What ecosystems will remain, which the EO aims to protect, if the existing mining operations are not to be stopped in its wanton destruction of our environment? The protection of our environment, agriculture and forests should start now – not tomorrow.”
The IP women also asserted that the government should not only speed-up the process for all mining applications but more importantly its procedures in addressing human rights violations involving mining companies.
“This provision reflects the priority concern of the P-Noy Administration, which is to guarantee efficiency in collecting revenues for government – but at what cost? We fear that this process will fast-track mining applications but will side-track the new guidelines of the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC). If there should be a mining-related one-stop shop service, it should be one that addresses the human rights violations being reported from the ground. More than just economic efficiency, this EO should provide justice delivery,” pointed out by Froilyn Teorio-Mendoza, a Teduray leader from Maguindanao and also the IP spokesperson of the Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK)
The government should acknowledge the complaints within 24 hours and ensures that resolutions will be imposed and served within the period of one year, the group added.
Judy Pasimio, coordinator of LILAK, an IP women rights’ advocates group, says, “EO 79 is being touted as a balanced mining policy, a win-win formula by the government, and the mining companies are lauding this. A balanced policy is not what is needed at this point – but a just and equitable mining policy. And we are not simply talking about economic benefits – but also about participation, opportunities for development, especially for the affected communities. While the government works hard to protect the interests of the investors, there should be more protection of the rights and interests of the communities, its constituencies.”
“A just and equitable mining policy is what the Alternative Minerals Management Bills (AMMB) is about. This should be passed now,” Pasimio asserted.
The Lumad women also committed themselves to work hard for the passage of the AMMB. According to them the call for the alternative laws such as the AMMB that looks at mineral resources as integral part of the biodiversity, environment, food security, livelihood and survival is the urgent task of the country right now.
The statement of the Lumad women was presented to the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) – Women Sectoral Council meeting held in Davao, on July 16-18.
Daryl Leyesa, Secretary General of the Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan said that it is imperative that women, especially indigenous women and rural women in the mining areas, be consulted on policies that affect their lives and livelihoods. “Mining projects have violated indigenous women’s rights in many aspects, especially their role to nurture their families and communities as part of their cultural identity and right to self-determination. It is time to reclaim these rights in every arena possible,” she added.
The NAPC Women Council adopted the Resolution that recommended the inclusion of the marginalized women in the processes of the IRR formulation for EO 79, as well as expressed support for the passage of the proposed AMMB.
Meanwhile, ATM said that it is obvious that the government failed to consult the affected communities in drafting the new mining EO. “We encourage the president to visit, stay and sleep in a mining affected community even for a day; talk to these women, to the mothers in the community so that he himself would feel their worries and witness the struggles they have to face because of mining. Let’s see if the president will have the same stand again,” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of ATM.
Alyansa Tigil Mina is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. The alliance is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of Executive Order 270-A, repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and passage of the AMMB.
MANILA –Groups asserting the rights of indigenous people’s to education and protesting against the attacks of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) have embarked on a campaign of defense.
Earlier this week, the Mindanao Conference in Defense of Schools Under Attack was launched at the Mission Center, Davao City with 118 teachers, directors of literacy and non-formal schools, community leaders and school children attending. It was organized by the Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran) or Alliance of Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao, a Mindanao-wide alliance of indigenous peoples’ organizations some of whose members have partnered with non-governmental organizations to establish literacy-numeracy programs and other schools in their communities.
Also among the supporters of the conference are the Sisters Association in Mindanao (Samin), the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Sub-Region; the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services (Clans); the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev); Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS); the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI) . Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Assistance Center; and the Educators’ Forum for Development (EFD).
In a statement, the conference organizers said various community schools in Paquibato district and in the provinces of Surigao, Agusan, Davao del Norte, Sarangani, and Bukidnon brave not only the difficult conditions, but also the threats of the military present in the communities.
They said the conference aims to draw a common analysis of schools under attack; draw out collective steps and recommendations toward upholding and protecting the rights of indigenous children and educators; to inform government officials, international bodies and the public of the increasing threats to rural schools and the communities, and press for holding state security forces accountable for violations of children’s rights.
Since 2011, the northeastern Mindanao has been used by the AFP as a staging ground for intensified military operations. Beginning February 2012, the military began to use Lumad ancestral mountain lands as operations area for their increased attacks against the New People’s Army (NPA) ranging from live fire excursions to aerial strafing and bombing runs.
Last July 10, a dialogue was also held in Ateneo de Davao between community schools and government officials to address the issue of defending the community’s rights to education.
“We call for action from the government to uphold our right to education and defend our community schools from continuing harassments from the military. For so long, we Lumads have suffered from conditions of discrimination and neglect, the plunder of our ancestral land, and the exploitation and ridicule of our culture. Amid such conditions, we have made efforts to unite our people and uphold our rights. We make efforts such as establishing schools through the support of church organizations and non-government organizations,” the groups said.
According to IP rights advocates, education for the Lumad people is not only an instrument to teach them the basic literacy and numeracy, ” It is also an instrument to teach the lumad children our culture, our traditions, our direction as a people. Education becomes an instrument to teach our children to defend our land. Education is our right,” they said.
The schools of IPs, however, continue to be attacked by the AFP and and its counter-insurgency campaign. In Davao del Norte, Paquibato district in Davao, Bukidnon, Surigao del Sur, Sarangani, there have continuing reports of the AFP threatening the safety and security of the schools for IPs, so much so that the schools have been forced to close.
“There is a common threat to schools, and this is the presence of soldiers in pursuit of ‘peace and development’ programs in far-flung communities. With such programs, soldiers have occupied our communities, questioned the existence of our schools, interrogated our teachers, and branded our schools as ‘rebel schools’. Wherever our schools are, government soldiers have began to conduct classes for children. We wonder why they take over our functions. They also brand us lumads as ‘enemies of the state’. Thus, harassments and killings of our people continue to happen,” the educators said.
The groups said that because the Aquino administration has done little or even nothing to do away with the culture of impunity regarding human rights violations, many Lumad communities live in fear, particularly the children whose schooling are affected.
They charged that the presence of the military is advanced by Oplan Bayanihan that protect investments and projects such as agri-business expansion, large-scale mining, hydro and power projects that has encroached on the Lumad people’s ancestral lands. IP’s food and water security also continue to be threatened by these operations.
Given the extreme context and social circumstances that they face, the IP advocacy groups said that their schools use a curriculum that is appropriate and relevant for developing their communities and ancestral domain.
They, however, face the difficulty of meeting what they said were the “voluminous requirements” set by the Department of Education, the agency that gives the permit for operations for Lumad schools.
“We believe that education is a right. We believe that government as a signatory to international instruments is duty-bound to fulfill its responsibility to education as stated from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Millennium Development Goals, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Humanitarian Law. We appeal to our government, through its local officials, agencies, representatives to uphold and defend our right to education,” the groups said.
The participants of the conference issued a list of demands to the Aquino government, saying that President Aquino has a very long way to go to prove that his administration is different from its predecessors. They said when it comes to human rights, the Aquino government, in its first two years, has shown a shocking indifference to the violations against them.
Among the demands the IP groups laid down are the immediate pullout of military and paramilitary units in all IP communities for the safety of the people especially the children; the scrapping of all policies, programs and laws that push mining and other investments and projects that plunder the country’s natural resources; the holding of investigations into the cases of harassment by the military and paramilitary against children and school personnel; and for the government to ensure that services to education, health and other social services are provided to the poorest of the poor, especially the Lumads in Mindanao.
“We call on the government and its agencies to recognize if not respect the efforts of our community schools, which have the commitment to serve in places where government support is lacking. We make this appeal in hopes that education will be upheld, an education that helps in our liberation and in shaping our future and community,” they said.
In the first quarter of 2012, at least 125 families from various Mamanwa communities in the adjacent barangays of Ombong, Alegria in Surigao del Norte and Bangayan, Kitcharao in Agusan del Norte have been forced to evacuate because of continuous military operations. Among the evacuees are 53 children all 6 years old and below, and 52 women, nine of whom are pregnant. Children have since stopped going to school and families have been prevented from returning to their farms, losing crops, farm animals and their livelihood in the process.
Adam Shaw of InPeace Mindanao, said that schooling and free education through high school is deemed a human right by the UN, “but this is a human right that most Filipinos cannot afford due to no viable education budget in the national governments yearly expenditures,” he said.
“Education at government public schools is a privilege that few can afford. Many communities rely on missionary, non-government organizations- supported schools. Unfortunately, many of these schools, teachers and students, are coming under psychological and physical attack in recent years by military and paramilitary forces who seek to ‘defend’ investor’s interest in Lumad communities,” he said.
TUBA, Benguet — Mining operations of the Philex Mining Corporation in town caused division among the indigenous peoples (IPs) lately.
The legislative council received complaints on issues concerning the operation of the mining company Monday during their regular session.
Around 40 members of the IP Organization–Alluyon Inc. (IPO–Alluyon) attended the session to express their concerns.
IPO–Alluyon president Asia Gabino said they want to be the organization to represent the IP community of the town when it comes to the conduct of free prior consent (FPIC) of any mining firm.
Gabino said the conductedFPICfor theAPSA102 of the firm is full of “irregularities.” She refused, however, to identify these irregularities because of the existing involvement of some of their community members.
The Tuba Indigenous Peoples Organization (Tipo) president and former councilor Blas Dalus said the IPs want the council to recognize them as an organization and endorse them as well as represent the IP community of Camp 3.
He said the existing IP organization that entered into an agreement with the company has various problems. One of the problems is the distribution of the royalty share given by Philex Mining Corporation to them.
Dalus said they do not have a systemic policy on the distribution of the royalty fund to the affected beneficiaries.
Another problem he cited is theFPIC, which was conducted but did not cover the whole IP community.
Dalus said this situation pushed the other IPs to create another IP club, which is the IPO–Alluyan.
Vice Mayor Clarita Sal–ongan said they will accredit the organization but they will not endorse the organization as representative of the IP community because they do not have the authority to do so.
MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/27 June) – Companies behind six proposed hydroelectric power projects in Bukidnon have applied for a free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process with the provincial office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Ma. Shirlene Sario, Bukidnon provincial officer, said the list does not include the proposed 300-megawatt Pulangi V hydro electric power complex in southern Bukidnon and North Cotabato because there has been no application yet from the group behind it.
Sario told the Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan during her appearance Wednesday they are processing the applications for six proposed hydro plants in the province. The 132-megawatt Bulanog-Batang hydro-power project in Cagayan River is so far the biggest proposed by the Northern Mindanao Electric Cooperatives Association (Nomreca).
The NCIP has already issued the certification pre-condition (CP) to Nomreca, one requirement for the firm to obtain permit for the project. With NCIP, this is the final issuance.
According to the NCIP guidelines for FPIC, to obtain CP, the applicant has to go through the field investigation first, which may result into an issuance of a Certificate of Non-Overlap. This needs no more FPIC process. But if there is overlap, the applicant then goes through theFPIC process proper.
The tribe may or may not give consent to the applicant in the FPIC process. If disapproved, the tribe will issue a resolution of non consent. If they approve, they can proceed to the signing of a memorandum of agreement. After the MOA signing, NCIP may then issue the CP.
KORONADALCITY(MindaNews/30 June)—Foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. is to blame for the rising violence in its Tampakan copper-gold project area and not the tribesmen supposedly responsible for the atrocities, a militant leader said yesterday.
Ryan Lariba, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Socsksargen, defended the “pangayaw” launched by the B’laan tribesmen against the mining firm.
Pangayaw is reportedly a tribal tradition to confront with force threats to their ancestral lands.
“There would be no violence if only the mining company respects the wish of the tribal members for them to abandon the Tampakan project,” Lariba said.
While there are tribesmen opposed to the mining project, there are also those who support the venture, especially the tribal chieftains.
Personal thoughts: The B’laan are a peaceful culture and they only assert ‘pangayaw’ (war) when provoked. Their culture is quite like the Manobos in Arakan, which is also in Mindanao.
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Far Southeast Gold Resources Inc. (FSGRI) denies manipulating the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Regional Office (NCIP).
“We respect the NCIP and its role as the government agency responsible for upholding the rights of the Indigenous People (IP). The case filed by the Save Mankayan Movement went through a standard legal process and we adhered to that process,” read FSGRI’s official statement.
THE Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (AILTF) on Sunday said President Aquino was privy since May 2012 about the conspiracy of environmental plunderers and some people in government to implement logging and mining activities in the Manobo tribe’s 51,000-hectare ancestral home in Barangay Kasapa, Lapaz, Agusan del Sur where the Manobo Agroforestation Complex is located.
In its May 2012 report to Mr. Aquino, copies of which were obtained by the BusinessMirror, the AILTF alleged the provincial government and the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Ancestral Domain Office (NCIP-ADO) could have been behind the conspiracy.
The secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Ramon JP Paje, chairs the AILTF and his task force ground commander, retired Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda, is the executive director.
The former Marine commandant was detained for several years for his alleged involvement in the February 2006 standoff that aimed to bring down the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Miranda had availed himself of the government’s amnesty program for rebel-soldiers; he was later appointed by Mr. Aquino to the AILTF.
From May 4 to 6, Miranda sent a seven-member team of investigators, led by Sharon Quitzon, to validate information regarding threat and deceptions by some groups to drive away the Manobos from their ancestral home.
Quitzon’s group found there were political and legal issues bothering the Manobos, for one, an attempt to convert the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim 132 to a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).
A Dutch environmental advocate based in the Philippines was killed this afternoon in front of his office in Sto. Domingo, Angeles City Pampanga. Willem Geertman is the executive director of Alay Bayan Inc. (ABI), a non-government organization that works on community-based and development-oriented responses in addressing the vulnerabilities stemming from poverty, powerlessness, environmental degradation and political abuse. Together with other environmental and civic organizations, Geertman and the ABI campaigned for disaster risk reduction and environmental concerns in Central Luzon.
Quezon City, Philippines – Mining in the Philippines, just like in many other countries in the world, has faced countless protests and rejection from communities and civil society groups. For an industry that boasts multimillion dollar investments, it has been accused of barely contributing to the efforts of uplifting the lives of people in dire poverty. This consideration alone should have discouraged the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the World Bank’s private sector arm) from investing in a mining project in the Philippine province of Agusan del Norte.
But there are more reasons for the IFC to pull out its equity investment of nearly $10 million in Mindoro Resources Limited (MRL), a mining company that has violated the rights and customary laws of the Mamanwa tribe dwelling in the target mine site. In September 2011, leaders of the affected indigenous community filed a complaint with the IFC’s accountability mechanism, the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman, which found it eligible for further assessment. The complainants claim MRL encroached their sacred grounds, watershed and burial sites without their knowledge. Under the Philippine Indigenous Peoples Right Act of 1997, any project that affects indigenous peoples and their ancestral domains should undergo consultations with the tribal community to get their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Should the community reject the project, this has to be respected. FPIC is also now part of the IFC performance standards (see Update 77).
In the same letter, the Mamanwa leaders reject MRL for causing division in their community (pro and anti-mining), affecting relationships among them. For Mae Capua, 22, a student and member of the Dinarawan Indigenous Peoples Organisation, growing up in her village she was always told to respect her elders and the environment. The community performed rituals, toiled on the farm and took care of the children together; through this they maintained good relationships in the tribe. That silent pace of contented life remained seemingly undisturbed until MRL pushed its operations on their ancestral domain. Pro-mining people in the community and some leaders in the local council now often have heated arguments with the anti-mining segment of the community, even though they belong to the same kinship group. For more than three years now, Mae and her parents and siblings have not been talking to some of their cousins and other relatives, whom they used to play and spend special occasions together with.