Mamanwa tribe now on their 2nd week of "human barricade" vs mining firms in Taganito

Some 400 members of the Mamanwa tribe are now on their second week of staging a “human barricade” along the highway of Taganito in Claver, Surigao del Norte, demanding their right to one percent royalty from the gross output of the operations of four mining firms there.

Mamanwa members earlier sent notice of termination to the mining firms, informing them they will no longer allow mining in their ancestral lands, claiming the firms failed to pay their one percent royalty fees since 1997.
The barricade started on January 29.

The four firms, Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC), Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation (OSMC), Case Mining Company (CMC) and Platinum Group Mining Company (PGMC), are operating on the Lumads’ 48,678 hectare ancestral land in barangays Taganito and Urbiztondo. The land is covered by a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).

In a statement on February 4, Datu Joel Buklas of the Taganito Mamanwa Association, said, "Today, 4 February 2009, is our seventh day of human barricade along the highway of Taganito, Claver, Surigao del Norte to demand before the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) on our share agreed for allowing the mining companies to ruin our lives and our ancestral domain."

The statement noted that TMC has been operating in their ancestral domain since the 1960's and “got a new contract to operate for another 25 years in the red mountain of Surigao del Sur.”

“The moving truck loads of nickel ore is a regular scene for motorist passing along the Claver highway.

Literally, the red mountain of Claver is moving inch by inch every day. Sumitomo Metal Mining Company together with TMC planned to start this year the construction of a 30,000 ton-a-year smelting plant which would start its operation by 2012,” it said. Sumitomo, it added, is “determined to start the construction this year of the one-billion dollar project” even as the price of nickel in the world market has dropped 15 percent, leading to to lay-off of workers in nearby nickel mining operations like CTP in Carrascal, Surigao del Sur and SRMI in Tubay, Agusan del Norte.

The statement said it was only in 2006 when the Mamanwa signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with TMC where they were to receive a financial assistance of half a million pesos a year.

The Mamanwas said they learned only recently that under the law, they are entitled to a one percent royalty from the gross output of the mining operations.

The revised implementing rules and regulations (RIRR) of the 1995 Mining Acts states that it “fully recognizes the rights” of the Indigenous Peoples/Indigenous Cultural Communities and respect their ancestral land and in accordance with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Administrative Order No. 2, and consistent with the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), the following shall be observed:

- “ No mineral agreements, FTAA and mining permits shall be granted in ancestral lands/domains except with prior informed consent in: a) Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim/ADC/CLC areas; and b) areas verified by the DENR Regional Office and/or appropriate offices as actually occupied by Indigenous Cultural Communities under a claim of time immemorial possession;

- Where written consent is granted by the ICCs, a royalty payment shall be negotiated which shall not be less than 1% of the Gross Output of the mining operations in the area.

- This Royalty shall form part of a Trust Fund for socioeconomic well being of the ICCs in accordance with the management plan formulated by the ICCs in the CADC/CALC area.

“In a large-scale mining operation the 1 % Royalty could easily run into several tens of million pesos per year,” the RIRR says.

The Mamanwas have no MOAs with the three other mining firms.

Datu Buklas said in the statement that the Mamanwa community had informed Mines and Geo-sicences Bureau (MGB) and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) of their demands since December 2008 but claimed the two agencies did not help.

The group reported that five Mamanwa carpenters who built the makeshift in the barricade near main road in Barangay Taganito were reported missing on January 29 after they went to their respective farms to harvest camote and cassava for the protesters.

They also showed letters they sent earlier to the Philippine National Police, to local government units and the NCIP, informing them of their planned barricade.

"This is our land even before these mining companies came, we were already here, we were forcibly ousted from these lands against our will and we hope concerned government agencies whom we have been asking for years will wake up", the statement read.

Lawyer Roldan Torralba, who is helping the Mamanwas seek justice, said the MOA the Mamanwa tribesmen had signed with Taganito Mining Corporation was unacceptable as it was one-sided and did not follow Indigenous People's laws.

Torralba said the agreement was not written in a language understandable to the Mamanwas, second, it only gives Mamanwas, including affected host communities P500,000.00 a year instead of a one percent royalty fee from the mining company's gross annual income.

TMC management was reported to have denied the allegations. MindaNews sought TMC’s comment but has yet to receive a reply.

Sister Lydia Lascano, ICM, Directress of the Social Action Center in the Diocese of Tandag wrote Environment Secretary Jose “Lito” Atienza, appealing to him to intervene so the Mamanwas can get their just share from the mining firms operating in the area.

“We support them in their peaceful effort to fight for their rights as a people whose lives were very much affected by the operations of these mining firms, one even as early as 1960's. We grieve that these people had to resort to this difficult means of protest which they consider their last resort in making their voices heard,” Sister Lydia said.

But she condemned “the fact that they were allegedly not properly informed of their rights based on the IPRA Law when they signed the Memorandum of Agreement with TMC entitling them to only P500,000 a year as ‘financial assistance,’ when the one percent provision under the law is the minimum benefit that they should get.” (MindaNews)


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