Mamanwa Datus vow to continue barricade despite payment of royalty

The mining firm has deposited P51.5 million to the Surigao City bank account of the Mamanwa association but Datu Reynante Buklas told MindaNews in a telephone interview that they will continue to barricade the production site of the Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC) in Claver, Surigao del Norte until the amount is deposited to the joint account of Datu Alfredo Olorico and himself in Butuan City.

At least 30 makeshift structures had been set up by the Mamanwa on the road leading to the production site since January 29, as they demanded payment of the 1% royalty due them.

The TMC on February 19 deposited the amount of P51.5 million representing the 1% royalty from its gross production from July 2006 to December 2007, to the Land Bank of the Philippines account of the Asosasyon sa Madazaw na Panagkaisa nan mga Tribong Mamanwa sa Taganito ug Urbiztondo (Ampantrimtu) in Surigao City.

Engr. Sergio Pascual, a Butuan-based contractor who claims to represent the Mamanwa, is the major supporter of the Mamanwas at the barricade. Datus Reynante and Olorico said they need two sacks of rice a day which they said, is “utang” (debt) they owe Pascual.

MindaNews interviewed Datu Reynante by phone late Friday afternoon. At the time of the call, he was with Pascual who then told MindaNews they will file cases against TMC president Gerard Brimo; Jose Dumagan, acting regional director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and all the NCIP commissioners for allowing the deposit of the amount to the account of Ampantrimtu.

Asked what cases they would file against the NCIP and TMC president, Pascual told MindaNews, “the tribe’s three lawyers are preparing legal actions against them.” But complaints have been filed in the Ombudsman against Dumagan, he said.

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.

The Mamanwa tribe holds a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) over 48,870,026.3 hectares in the towns of Alegria, Bacuag, Claver, Guigakuit and Tubod in Surigao del Norte. The CADT was issued on September 22, 2006. The TMC’s MPSA was approved July 28, 2008.

The July 2006 MOA, signed by Datu Olorico, Datu Rizal Buklas (father of Datu Reynante) – leaders of the area where TMC is operating -- and Datu Emiliano Gedi, the CADT head claimant, stipulated only an annual “financial assistance amounting to P500,000” released in two equal tranches every last week of June and second week of December, until 2031.

Datu Reynante told MindaNews in a telephone interview Friday that TMC should have deposited the money to his and Olorico’s account because Ampantrimtu, he said in Cebuano, was “organized by TMC.”

The July 2006 MOA showed the signatories were Datu Reynante’s father, Datu Rizal Buklas, and Datu Olorico.

Datu Reynante and Datu Olorico told MindaNews they received a total of P1.5 million “financial assistance” for 2006, 2007 and 2008 but did not know they were entitled to a 1% royalty until Pascual, a former contractor of TMC, told them they deserved more than P500,000 a month under the Mining Act of 1995 and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997.

Pascual told MindaNews at the barricade site last Saturday that he represents the tribe and has a special power of attorney from and a Memorandum of Agreement with the Datus.

He set up Caraga Indigenous People Management and Development Corporation and summoned the officials of TMC and two other mining firms operating in the area-- Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation and Platinum Group Metals Corporation – to a meeting in October 2008 to inform the Mamanwas’ demand for the 1% royalty due them.

But the NCIP on November 13 passed Resolution 325 en banc, declaring that the special power of attorney that designated Pascual as Attrney-in Fact of the Mamanwas and the MOA resulting therefrom “violates the provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and NCIP Administrative Order NO. 1, Series of 2006” and also declared that it is “contrary to the customs, tradition and practices of the Mamanwa tribe.”

Pascual told MindaNews in a telephone interview Friday that the NCIP should be reminded that the royalty is “not a government fund but a private fund of the Lumads.”

He said the NCIP en banc had no right to nullify the special power of attorney from and memorandum of agreement he entered into with the Mamanwa and that Jose Dumagan, acting regional director of the NCIP has been declared “persona non grata” by the Mamanwa leaders.

“Why can’t Engr. Pascual and the IPs be given a chance,” he asked. Last Saturday, he told Mindanews that among their plans is to build a township at the site of the housing project the TMC constructed for the Mamanwas.

Also on November 13, the NCIP passed Resolution 324 authorizing Dumagan to “renegotiate, execute, and/or enter into favorable terms and conditions for and in behalf of the Mamnwa tribe of Surigao del Norte and the NCIP.”

The resolution acknowledged that “some of the terms and conditions” of the July 2006 MOA are “not in consonance with the provisions of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 as well as with Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (RA 8371) which provides for the protection and promotion of the interest of the ICCs/IP,” particularly citing the P500,000 annual financial assistance when it should be 1% of the gross production/output as IP royalty/share.

Following Resolution 324, the TMC and NCIP signed a Joint Undertaking on December 8, 2008, acknowledging that the P500,000 annual financial assistance “does not accurately represent the amount due to the Mamanwa Tribe (Ampantrimtu) as their IP loyalty/share” and that “it is the desire” of TMC to “faithfully comply with its legal obligations to the Mamanawa Tribe based on the provisions of both the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997.”

The Joint Undertaking was signed by TMC president Gerardo Brimo and NCIP’s Dumagan, in the presence of CADT Head Claimant Datu Emiliano Gedi and MGB’s Ensomo.

On January 30, 2009, the NCIP passed en banc, Resolution 009, directing TMC to deposit the royalty to the bank account of Ampantrimtu.

The NCIP also directed the Land Bank of the Philippines branch in Surigao City “not to release any part of the said royalty funds…without the signatures of Datu Emiliano Gedi, the CADT head claimant, Dodoy Bago (Mamanwas’ community representative) and Vicente B. Baldoza, Jr., (NCIP’s OIC provincial officer).”

Dumagan told MindaNews Bago was chosen by the community to represent them during an assembly held on December 23, in the presence the Mamanwa community, representatives of the local government unit and other sectors.

Dumagan said the assembly was called for to notify the community on the developments regarding the royalty share and to open a bank account for the royalty payment. He said Datu Olorico and Datu Reynante were invited but they did not attend.

Dumagan said Datu Reynante or Datu Olorico to be the fourth signatory if that is what they want. He said he will ask the NCIP to pass a resolution to make one of them the fourth signatory. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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