2 Caraga solons seek probe on alleged connivance over ancestral domain row in Surigao Norte town

Surigao del Norte Congressmen Guillermo Romarate Jr. (2nd-District) and Francisco Matugas (1st-District) have filed a proposed House resolution seeking an inquiry on a complaint of alleged connivance of three mining firms and officials of the National Commission on the Indigenous People (NCIP) involving ancestral domain of Mamanwa tribes of Claver, Surigao del Norte.Matugas is currently chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources while Romarate is vice chairman of the House Committee on National Cultural Communities.

Proposed House Resolution No. 183 dated Sept. 30, 2010, introduced by the two lawmakers, directs the House Committees on National Cultural Communities and Natural Resources to conduct an inquiry in-aid-of legislation on the complaints of Mamanwa tribes in Claver about alleged connivance of three mining firms and two NCIP officials in "the fraudulent, irregular issuance of Certification of Consent."

The Mamanwa tribes complained that Taganito Mining Corporation, Sumitomo Corporation and Nickel Asia Corporation entered and executed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Nov. 16, 2009 with a certain Alicio Patac who misrepresented himself as leader of the Mamanwa tribes in Claver town, where said mining firms are allegedly operating, for purposes of securing prior certification as required by law.

In their 27-page complaint, the Mamanwa tribes said that Alicio Patac is not their leader as they have elected/appointed Mamanwa leaders Mabalaw Alfredo Olorico and Mabalaw Dodoy Bago to represent them and not Patac.

In the resolution filed by the two solons, local NCIP officials Regional Director Jose Dumagan, Jr. of Caraga Region and NCIP Provincial Director Vicente Baldoza allegedly gave full credence upon assailed MOA and proceeded to conduct bogus and illegal consultations with only 30 members of the affected tribes and allegedly bribed them to sign a fraudulent resolution for the construction of a mineral processing plant owned by said mining firms in Barangay Taganito, Claver, Surigao del Norte.

The Mamanwa tribes claimed they appealed to said NCIP officials and their offices by filing formal letters of petitions to investigate the problems they raised and if not conduct hearings to whether nullify or not the alleged fraudulent MOA but their efforts and pleas were not given due importance.

Without recourse and no options left, Mamanwa tribes through their leaders filed criminal and administrative cases on January 10, 2010 with the Office of the Ombudsman against the two NCIP officials.

Mamanwa tribes in their complaint alleged that even cases were already filed against the said NCIP officials, the problems still exist and no there is no immediate remedy or relief in their plight, causing them to become almost desperate.

On July 22, 2010, armed men suspected to be members of the Mamanwa tribes attacked and burned some equipment of the Taganito Mining Corporation in Claver town. Some P30 million worth of damage was incurred by the mining firm as a result of the armed attack and burning.

The incident, according to the two lawmakers, created further tension, animosities and conflict between the Mamanwa tribes and the mining firms that if no solutions are found soonest, it may cause further damage to the economy and threat to peace and order in the province.

The Philippines News Agency tried but failed to reach and get the sides of the three mining firms and the two NCIP officials. (BS/PNA)

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