UPPER ULIP, MONKAYO, COMVAL—Indigenous people mostly belonging to the Mandaya community here were enraged over the cease and desist order (CDO) issued by the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) to stop mining operation within the Tribal Mining Area (Trima).
On June 25, Friday, they held a sort of rally along the road at Sitio Mibatas brandishing their traditional hunting gears — spears and arrows, while wearing the Mandaya distinctive red garb.
Members of the Mandaya community in Upper Ulip organized a Panawag-tawag ritual officiated by a “baylan” (shaman) who appealed to diwatas (fairies) to protect Trima from intruders.
The baylan, identified as Datu Dabis, also prayed for equality and invoked the spirit of sharing and giving so tribes living within the gold-rush Mt. Diwalwal would harmoniously enjoy what nature is giving them.
In an interview, Balbin Gubaton of the Upper Ulip Tribal Emancipation Cooperative (Utec) Board of Directors, urged PMDC to officially cancel the CDO and remove its publication in its website.
“Kung dili nila walaon, basin mapugos mi pagpugong sa ilang mga proyektong himoon dinhi. Pugngan sab namo sila. (If they will not remove it, we might be forced to prevent them from undertaking any project here),” he said.
Datu Fernando Latiban, Utec chairperson and recognized clan leader of barangay Upper Ulip, said the show of resistance is just the first action that his group was taking to prevent intrusion into Trima.
Trima is carved out from the 8,100 hectare Diwalwal Mineral Reservation Area and is part of the 30,000 hectare ancestral domain awarded to Mandaya, Manobo, Mangguangan and Dibabawon tribes of Monkayo.
Agreement with tribal leaders
Leaders of the four tribes under the United Tribal Council of Elders (Utcel) entered into a memorandum of agreement with PMDC and on June 17, 2009 mining operating agreement in Trima was signed as facilitated by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and witnessed by then Environment Secretary Jose L. Atienza Jr.
Signing on behalf of Utcel were Datu Rizalino Andresan of the Mandaya tribe, Datu Victorinano Tullic Tungay of the Manobo tribe, Rajah Carlito Buntas, Sr. of the Dibabawon tribe and Datu Carlito Chavez of the Mangguangan tribe.
Created as a corporate arm of Utcel, Utec entered into agreement with Comval Tribal Resources Corp (CTRC) and that it signed in July 2009 a financial technical mining agreement (FTMA) with CTRC as explained by CTRC Exploration Manager Leo Sosa.
Sosa revealed that the agreement gives Utcel 30 percent of the mining share while CTRC gets a larger share of 70 percent being the mining financier and technical adviser.
Sosa explained that their agreement gives Utec a hand as “operator”, meaning Utec members are the ones doing the actual mining with the technical guidance of CTRC.
About 100 workers, who are all Utec members, were employed during the course of mining operation which, Sosa said, started in August last year but was stopped in December.
“Dili pwede nga lain ang magmina (Outsiders cannot be allowed to mine),” a representative of Datu Andresan said in a discussion with the media after the Panawagtawag ceremony.
Informing her co-Mandaya that Datu Andresan was sick, she said that the tribal leader was sending his message not to give in to forces of other tribes who are not from their area.
“Dili pwede ihatag sa lain. Dili pwede nga ihatag sa kauban nga leader ug dili pwede nga sila ang magbuot (This cannot be given to outsiders. It cannot be given even to other leaders and they cannot make decisions offhand),” she said referring to Rajah Buntas who the Mandaya tribe members had known to have gotten into contract with other investors.
Gubaton looked at the situation as a violation to self determination rights of indigenous people. He said requirements were already passed to PMDC but other interested parties were still coming into the picture.
Upper Ulip Barangay Kagawad Crisanto Palomar cited Section 10 of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (Ipra) in explaining that the tribe living in the “impact area” should be the one to decide the course of action to take.
“Ang community ang mag-decide dili ang four leaders(the community should decide, not just its four leaders),” he said giving bias for the Mandaya tribe which is predominant in Upper Ulip.
Claiming her foreparents as Mandaya clan leaders, Bai Linda Salumire pointed out that the tribe should have a rightful place they can call as their own mining territory.
“If they have the Diwata, how come we as owners of the land cannot have our own and be allowed to work on our own,” she said in dialect referring to the small-scale miners of barangay Mt. Diwata which the national government has carved out a 729-hectare area for their small scale mining operation.
Palomar is hopeful that the next administration would look into the situation in Upper Ulip and would give due credit for the Mandaya tribe whose members, he said, are majority voters of Upper Ulip.
Seeing possible upheaval to rise, Upper Ulip Barangay Captain Rosalio Ombao appealed for the tribal four leaders to sit down and agree what course to take to prevent bloodshed.
Tribes failed to comply – PMDC
On the other hand, Eugene Canillas, community information officer of PMDC revealed that PMDC issued CDO for Utec operation to stop because it failed to comply with the four major requirements.
He explained that when the CTRC-Utec agreement was signed, the four tribes was yet to agree who to stand as their operator.
The CDO had long been issued but PMDC decided to upload it in its website “as a reminder that the tribes have yet to comply with the requirements.”
However, Canillas revealed that Utcel with Rajah Butas at the helm is endorsing FFCruz and Balunos who PMDC board of directors has yet to approve.
Meanwhile, NCIP provincial director Shirley Iguinon in a separate interview said the government has done its part to grant the tribes of an area to do mining but she appealed the tribal leaders to transact business with credibility.
She revealed that long before PMDC entered into a mining operation agreement with Utcel, tribal leaders had entered into an agreement with Balunos.
Other than their agreement with CTRC, tribal leaders have also entered agreement with FFCruz. (PIA-XI)