28 June 2012

Struggle to save ancestral land

Supreme Court of the Philippines grants Writ of Kalikasan to protect ancestral Lands.


The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:21).

And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance (Benedict XVI, Inauguration Mass, 24 April 2005).

Columban Fr Sean Martin (right) sends this report

Tomorrow , the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, a clarification will be sought in the Supreme Court of the Philippines about a hearing that was to have been held in Cagayan de Oro City. It coincides with the fiesta in Father Sean's native parish in the Diocese of Meath, Ireland. May these two great saints intervene on behalf of the Subanen people who live in the Zamboanga Peninsula in western Mindanao, Philippines. 


Over the past recent decades the Subaanen people who have lived on the Zamboanga Peninsula since time immemorial have felt the scourge of mining threats upon their ancestral lands. The area of the Zamboanga Peninsula which they inhabit includes the slopes of a vast mountain range which, reaching as it does from north towards of the peninsula, provides a watershed for the entire area. Within this range with its rich ecosystem stands Mount Pinukis , the mountain which the Subaanens revere as sacred. Should mining be allowed in the Pinukis area, not only would the unique culture of the Subaanen people be undermined; the rich biodiversity of the area would be disastrously damaged.
Over many years, especially since the 1990s when the RIO TINTO - CRA mining company obtained permission to mine 600,000 hectares in the Mt Pinukis area, Subaanens and many of their Visayan neighbours have protested against this permission, and the Company’s beginning mining, as the following chart shows.

Baking Caporoso, one of those injured on 14 January while a hanging bridge was being repaired

 Tropical Exploration Philippines Inc. TEPI- RIO TINTO-CRA.  Registered 7 Sep  1995
May 25,27, 1996
Petition of Subaanen Cultural Community endorsed by DOPIM Bishops signed by 750 people.
June 6, 1996
MGB director forwarded petition to TEPI.
July 24, 1996
TEPI response to MGB.
Aug 18, 1996
Petition follow up from Subaanen Cultural Community
Sep 12, 1996
Petition follow up forwarded by Director MGB to President TEPI for response.
Sep 23, 1996
Consultative meeting held in DPC, Pagadian City- TEPI, MGB, OSCC (Office of southern Cultural Communities,) government and NGO’s   more than 100 Subaanens attended along with large numbers of Visayan.  Strong opposition to mining expresses. (Pagadian more than 2 hours by open truck)
Sep 26, 1996
Petition to President to Cancel TEPI  FTAA’s  from Priests, sisters lay assembly Pagadian.
Oct  10, 1966
Letter of concern from Diopim bishops. 
Oct 20, 1966
Petition follow up No. 2
Nov 16  1966
Endorsement letter of Bishop of Pagadian to Petition signined by 2,325 people in Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur against mining companies.
March 18, 1997
Rally in Midsalip against mining attended by Mayor, Bishop and thousands of people
May 3, 1997
Letter to Mayor from MGB  in response to petition signed by 555 people.
May 7, 1997
Letter of Bishop Jimenez of Pagadian read at shareholders meeting in London.
May 10,  1997
 Letter of Bishop Jimenez to Catholic Bishops of England and Wales. 
May 15, 1997
Response by chairman of RTZ
June  1997
Meeting in Pagadian strong opposition to Mining Summary describes people not being heard,  (Dialogued to death)
Sep 25, 1997
 Letter from MGB to vice Mayor stating  RIO TINTO had relinquished areas within Midsalip.  /Subject resolutions.   
October 1997
Subaanen timuays from Malindang, misamis Occidental, Pinukis, sibugay, bayog and Mt Paraya issued a statement against mining.  In P3 of Dialogie to Death.
November 1997
Rally in Dipolig – attended by 5,000 people
February 28 1998
A statement of concern on Mining act from CBCP,  includes support for those who oppose RTZ.
March 19, 1998
 Letter from MGB  to Secretary of TUPUSUMI stating an exploration permit had issued to TEPI area location – Naras Tinuyop, Bacungan, Zamboanga des Sur
April 1-8 1998
Jummy Tindao attended Asia, Europe Peoples Forum in London with 2 representatives from Tri People Partnership  for peace and development. Met with RIO TINTO.   Press release 31-3-98
April 1998
Anti mining Rally Manila – Press statement Bishop Jimenez. 
August 4 1998
Letter to Jimmy Tindao, Sec. of Tupusumi  from MGB listing RTE  Corporations with areas covered by FTAA and EPA  applications some with Forest Reserve Midsalip is excluded they stated. 
Nov 17 1998
 Forum on Mining issues – in  Pistahan, Pagadian. 
Nov 20, 1998 
Letter form gov. Real To Columban Justice and Peace stating that Rio Tinto are no longer active in pursuing claims in Zamboanga del Sur.
In a meeting in office of Rio Tinto in London, Rio Tinto informed Jimmy that they were willing to wait for 25 years, until the people were ready.

The petitions were clear and unambiguous.
“Our Ancestral land is the place prepared for us by God....   it is all God’s land.  He has given it to us to live on and to care for it.  This is central to the meaning of our life and culture as Subaanens.  It is difficult for a foreign mining company who are not part of this place to understand this.  Maybe it is because they do not understand, that they are able to say they respect our rights and our culture, while at the same time, they plan to mine the lands which God has given into our care”
“We therefore appeal to the President and the Government at all levels –to uphold the provision in RA 7942  which states.  “No ancestral land shall be opened for mining without the prior consent of the indigenous cultural community concerned”   “to recognize and respect the rights of our people to our Ancestral land to arrest further degradation of our environment to uphold the right to life of the Subaanen people to refuse to allow Tropical Exploration Philippines Inc. to operate on our land”.
Since 1997, one company after another has sought and obtained mining rights in the Zamboanga Peninsula, specifically in Mt. Pinukis and its neighbouring Mt Medau area.
One would think that the Subaanen and Visayan people who live and work in the land would be free to live in their land in peace.  Bishop Jiminez beautifully describes the vision of indigenous and poor people to the company share holders in London. [i]
In fact the opposite happened. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) disregarded the heart-felt plea of the indigenous and poor farmers and fishermen and divided their lands out for other companies to apply for mining.
The final report on Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Priorities published in 2002 states that the status of Mt Sugarloaf Conservation Priority Area covering an area of 87,963.43 hectares is of extremely high criticality.

How many times do the Subaanen people have to say 'No to Mining' before the government agents who have continually shown that they are mere puppets of mining companies who would unscrupulously destroy the environment for future generations, will begin to safeguard the environment as mandated by the Philippine constitution. Sec. 16 Art.II 
'The State shall protect and advance the Right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accordance with the rhythm  and harmony of nature.
The MBG& DENR have obviously disregarded repeatedly the laws which protect the environment and the food production of grain and root crops along with thousands of tons of fish every year in the Zamboanga Peninsula alone. 
  • The MGB & DENR  have ignored the constitution and the forest Reserve and watershed areas which protect the livelihood of poor people in remote areas and provide food for all to eat [ii](G.R. No.191537) 
  • Forest reserves totalling over 400,000 hectares and overlapping key bio – diverse areas  along with IPRA  law which protects the lands of Indigenous peoples  has been handed over to mining companies for destruction.
  • The only flaw in the process to protect the sacred Mountains, rivers and seas is that the poor don’t have financial capacity to coax officials.
  • Speculation for Profit  for an elite group seems to be the name of the game.                                             Mining applications  secretly change hands as happened with Geotechniques and Mines Inc. (GAM)I  to MSSON Mining Corporation (MMEC) (which have not been ratified by the government and/or the DENR Secretary);   and also 168 Ferrum to Hua Ming Mineral Resourses Corporation without notifying people to be affected and disregarding Mining laws. No Free Prior Informed Concent (FPIC)  process was conducted[iii].
In August 2011 the Supreme Court of the Philippines granted a Writ of Kalikasan (nature) to protect the environment of the whole of the Zamboanga Peninsula. Having the highest court in the land hear the plea of the Subaanen people for over fifteen years was a source of strength and comfort for the people ( by Sr Ita Hannaway SSC and Fr Sean Martin).

[i] Letter of Bishop Zacarias C. Jimenez to shareholders in London.  'Archbishop and three other Bishops who are concerned about the sovereignty of our country and the lives of our people, have joined with me to appeal to our Government not to sign the contract with RTZ-CRA.  I, myself, have written personally to our President.
'It seems until now members of our government here, along with directors in your company, have not been able to hear our appeal.  We Filipinos love our country as you do yours.  We love our land, our mountains, our rivers.  Our tribal people have lived  on the land here for countless generations.  The land is sacred to them.  They are acquainted with the different species of plants and trees, birds and animals inhabiting the tropical forest here; they have cultivated their land and here they bury their dead.  The land is precious to all of us and we want to live here in Peace.
'Our country has a huge foreign debt so in order to attract foreign investments, our leaders made a mining law which greatly favours foreign companies.  In our region alone your company has applied for contracts covering over one half million hectares of the land of Filipino people.  Our leaders do not seem t take into account the fact that your company’s  investment will be for a short time only.  For this short time investment our sovereignity  as a nation and the future of our people is threatened.  Since the company have the right to expatriate all the profits, you, the shareholders, will probably earn some money.  However, many of our people who own the lands where all the minerals are will become paupers.   Our rivers and seas will become polluted, our mountains will become deserts and our ricelands poisoned.   Our forest birds and animals will become extinct.  The very existence of the Subaanen, a gentle and beautiful people will be put at very high risk.'
[ii]  Supreme Court, Second division, Notice, Please take notice that the Court, Second Division, issued a resolution dated 06 February 2012 which reads as follows.
 G.R. No. 191537 (Paulino M. Alecha, Felix B. Unabia, et al. vs. Jose L Atienza, Jr.,  The Departmen of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR],  et al.    …REQUIRE the OSG  and the Chief of Legal service of DENR  to SHOW CAUSE why they should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for such failure, and to COMPLY  with Resolution dated 28 April 2010,  both within ten (10) days from Notice”  
iii    For more than 2 years the office of the Solicitor General has ignored the Supreme Court, with regard to the case of 168 Ferrum,  Inspite of the legal battle
There are Chinese nationals (living in the Mayor's house in Midsalip), personnel of Hua Ming Mineral Resources Corporation which by virtue of an (illegal) Memorandum Of Agreement between 168 Ferrum Pacific Mining Corp and the former  acts as the Option Holder/ project Implementor of 168 Ferrum Pacific Mining Corp.(according to documentation received from Mayor Leonida Angcap, Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur May 23, 2012.)

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