"Largest royalty payment" to Lumads divides Mamanwas

The estimated 400 families of Mamanwas in five towns in Surigao del Norte ought to be celebrating: they now have P51.5 million, the “largest royalty payment” made by a mining firm to a Philippine tribe, in their bank account. And there will be more payments, for 2008 and every year thereafter, not only from the Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC) but the two other mining firms operating in their ancestral domain.

But no one is celebrating. Instead, there is “kagubot” (trouble).

Datu Emiliano Gedi, the head claimant of the Mamanwas’ ancestral domain over five towns in Surigao del Norte and chair of the Provincial Consultative Body of the Asosasyon sa Madazaw na Panagkaisa nan mga Tribong Mamanwa sa Taganito ug Urbiztondo (Ampantrimtu), told MindaNews in a telephone interview that he hopes they can convene a general assembly to settle the issue among themselves.

The amount, representing 1% of the reported gross production of TMC from July 2006 to December 2007, was deposited to the account of Ampantrimtu in the Land Bank of the Philippines branch in Surigao City on February 19.

The amount does not include as yet the 2008 royalty.

But Datu Reynante Buklas of Taganito told MindaNews in a telephone interview on February 20 that he and Datu Alfredo Olorico of Urbiztondo, will not lift the barricade at the entrance of TMC’s production site, claiming the royalty should be deposited to their joint account at the Philippine Veterans Bank in Butuan City. The barricade was set up on January 29.

He said Datu Emiliano is not from Taganito or Urbiztondo but Gigaquit. Datu Emiliano acknowledged he is from Gigaquit but added that the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) covers not just Taganito and Urbiztondo.

He added that the two Datus should have attended the December 23 assembly where the decision to open an account for the royalty payment and who would be its signatories was discussed and approved by the body.

Datu Emiliano said that while the two Datus did not show up, about 300 community members did, as well as representatives from the local government, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the mining firm.

The assembly, he said, decided to open a bank account for the royalty payment and named there persons to be the signatories: Datu Emiliano; Vicente Baldoza, the provincial director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and a “community representative” named Dodoy Bago, of Urbiztondo.

Had the two Datus been there, he said, they may have been named signatories, too.

The two Datus told MindaNews on February 14 and 17 at the barricade in Taganito, Claver, Surigao del Norte and in a telephone interview on February 20 with Datu Reynante, that they are the chieftains and that the money should be deposited to their account. They are being supported by Butuan City-based contractor, Engr. Sergio Pascual, a former contractor of TMC, who claims he has a special power of attorney from the tribal leaders in the CADT areas.

Under the Memorandum of Agreement, Pascual is to receive 30% as management/negotiation fee, among others.

But the NCIP in an en banc resolution on November 13 ruled that the special power of attorney and the Memorandum of Agreement between Pascual, who is not a member of the Indigenous Peoples, and the Mamanwas “violated the provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 and NCIP Administrative Order No. 1, Series of 2006,” and declared it “contrary to the customs, traditions and practices of the Mamanwa Tribe.”

Datu Emiliano told MindaNews that of the 18 tribal leaders in the five towns covered by their CADT, only the two Datus are insisting on having the money deposited to their account.

But he assured the two Datus they have nothing to worry about because even if they are not signatories, no withdrawal of the money can be done without a resolution from the group.

Jose Dumagan, acting regional director of the NCIP based in Butuan City, told MindaNews in a telephone interview Friday that Datu Reynante or Datu Olorico can be the fourth signatory if they want. He said he would ask the NCIP commissioners, who passed an en banc resolution on January 30 directing TMC to deposit the royalty to the Ampantrimtu bank account, to allow a fourth signatory.

MindaNews tried to communicate with Datu Reynante twice on Sunday but could not reach him.

But Pascual, who was in the company of Datu Reynante when MindaNews interviewed the latter by telephone on Friday, told MindaNews Sunday that the two Datus will not lift the barricade until TMC deposits the P51.5 million to the Datus’ account at the Philippine Veterans Bank in Butuan City.

“Why did they deposit the money to other people?” Pascual asked, adding that Datu Emiliano is “not a tribal chieftain and is not a member of the association.”

Documents pertaining to the case, including the July 2006 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between TMC and Ampantrimptu and the NCIP as third party, identify Datu Emiliano Gedi, as the head claimant and chair of the Provincial Consultative Body of the Ampantrimtu. Documents also show that the two other signatories in the July 2006 MOA were Datus Olorico and Rizal Buklas, Reynante’s father.

Pascual said Datus Reynante and Olorico will file charges of estafa against the NCIP commissioners, the acting NCIP regional director, the TMC president, the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau, and even the Land Bank for allowing the deposit of the royalty to Ampantrimtu.

Ampantrimtu is the organization of Mamanwas that forged a Memorandum of Agreement with TMC and the NCIP on July 18, 2006, when TMC was applying for a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) for the “exploration, development and commercial utilization of nickel ores/deposits located at Barangays Urbiztondo and Hayanggabon,” covering 4,975.03 hectares. Under the law, no MPSA can be granted without the free and prior informed consent of the tribe. Two months after the MOA signing, Ampantrimtu was issued its CADT on September 22, 2006. The TMC’s MPSA was approved July 28, 2008.

The Mamanwa tribe’s CADT covers a total of 48,870,026.3 hectares in the towns of Alegria, Bacuag, Claver, Gigaquit and Tubod in Surigao del Norte.

The July 2006 MOA, however, stipulated only an annual “financial assistance” to the indigenous peoples in the area, amounting to P500,000, released in two equal tranches every last week of June and second week of December, until 2031.

Pascual is credited by Datus Reynante and Olorico for having informed them that under the Mining Act of 1995 and Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, they were entitled to 1% royalty from the gross output instead of the measly half a million peso “financial assistance.”
Datus Reynante and Olorico told MindaNews at the barricade in Taganito, Claver, Surigao del Norte on February 17 that food provisions for their stay at the barricade are “utang” (debt) they owe Pascual. The Datus said they need two sacks of rice a day.

Datu Reynante told MindaNews he has a total of 46 Mamanwa families under him while Datu Olorico said he has 56 or a total of 102. Not everyone is at the barricade; they come mostly from Taganito.

The Mamanwas number about 400 families or around 5,000 individuals, Datu Emiliano said.

As of February 17, at least 30 makeshift structures had been set up at the entrance to the TMC production site.

Pascual told MindaNews the remedy is for the NCIP commissioners and acting regional director to be replaced with a new set officials so there can be a “bagong pag-uumpisa” (new beginning).

He said they will sue for payment of royalty “retroactive to 1995” when the Mining Act was passed, “not retroactive to July 2006” when TMC entered into a MOA with Ampantrimtu.

Pascual said TMC should recognize the two Datus as the leaders of Taganito and Urbiztondo, and deposit the amount to their account so the barricade would be lifted. He said the two other mining firms “recognized” the two Datus and that a day earlier, on February 21, an official from the Platinum Group Metals Corporation (PGMC) from whom the tribe reportedly has a collectible of “almost 10 million pesos,” royalty, paid a “partial amount.”

How much “partial” amount was paid, Pascual declined to say. He also declined to name the PGMC official who allegedly paid “partial” (royalty).

Datu Emiliano says that the customary practice of the tribe to deal with the “kagubot” is through “husay” (dispute settlement) and that the December 23 assembly was part of that. The two Datus, however, did not show up there but their community members did, he said.

Datu Emiliano says he hopes they can convene an assembly soon to settle the dispute but adds they have no money.

They actually have P51.5 million. In the bank. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)




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