In Siocon, Subanens Continue Struggle Vs Canadian Mining Firm

Mar. 28, 2006

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Contributed photo
Bishop Jose Manguiran of Dipolog leads the re-consecration of Mt. Canatuan

SIOCON, Zamboanga del Norte — For two years, timuay (tribal chief) Jose Anoy has not been able to set foot in his home. Home is Mt. Canatuan, the most sacred place for the 2,000 Subanen people, which has been encroached into by the mining firm Canadas Toronto Ventures Inc (TVI) since 1994.

Anoy said that the TVI has prevented him from returning home because he refused to give consent for the company to mine 508 hectares located in the Subanens sacred land.

The company offered me money before, and shares in their profits, he recalled. Accepting this could have been easy, but being a timuay, I remained firm for the sake of the Subanen.

His stand forced the company to lay it hard on Anoy — driving him away from his own home. Since then, TVI has taken over Mt. Canatuan, barricading the area with three checkpoints.

Contributed photo
A portion of the Canatuan mining project of TVI.

Despair has not overcome him. Instead, he now finds various groups supporting the Subanens fight against TVI.

Anoys group, the Apo Manglan Glupa Pasaka, together with religious leaders from the Moro, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, and local officials have coalesced to form the People’s Response for the Protection of Environment and Natural Resources (Protect-Western Mindanao), a regional alliance opposing large-scale mining.

On March 23, the group made an interfaith pilgrimage to Canatuan. The pilgrimage, according to the group, is a re-consecration of the Subanen ancestral land in Canatuan, which the TVI has desecrated.

One of Protects convenor, Godofredo Galos of Save Siocon Paradise Movement, noted that TVIs operation has affected the Lituban River, a 25,000-hectare watershed area and a water source to a 750-hectare farmland in Siocon. The river is below the mountains where TVIs tailings pond are located. Galos said residents who have waded through the river have shown signs of skin rashes.

The pollution in Lituban River worries Anoy, who fears this will lead to the loss of rice production in Siocon, which provides rice supplies for four municipalities in Zamboanga del Norte.

TVI calls this development, but for whom? Can you call this development when a tribal chieftain is being driven out from his land? Anoy asked.

The pilgrimage gathered religious leaders from the local parishes in Zamboanga del Norte, UCCP Northern Zamboanga District, Sisters Association in Mindanao, Imams and Ustadz from Moro communities, and Subanen leaders from Zamboanga Sibugay and del Norte. It also gathered 500 people from the communities in Siocon, from the provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte, and the cities of Pagadian, Dipolog, Ozamiz and Davao City.

Upon arriving at the TVI grounds, the leaders gathered around a circle, holding arms and said prayers in Subanen, Islam, Protestant faiths.

Bishop Jose Manguiran of the Diocese of Dipolog made a symbolic prayer by lying prostrate on the ground for a minute of silence, and then planted his Bishops staff on the ground. This prayer, Bishop Manguiran said, symbolizes a Prophetic plea for Gods intervention to help the people in Siocon.

The pilgrimage culminated with a torch parade and cultural program at Siocons plaza, the Tanghalan ng Paraiso.

The pilgrimage touched Timuay Anoy, who said during the program that the struggle (against mining) is not only the Subanens concern, or the Christian people, or the Moro people; it is the struggle of all people here in the region of Zamboanga.

The tribal chieftain is happy for now to see his home for a brief moment. He cannot stay on in Canatuan for concerns of his safety. Nevertheless, Anoy expressed his wish, that like the other people in Zamboanga, he would like to see TVI leave our lands, and compensate for whatever damages they wrought to the people and the land.

The pilgrimage comes at this time where the religious sector is now actively opposing large-scale foreign mining. Earlier in January, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued its statement calling for the repeal of Republic Act 7942, known as the Mining Act of 1995.

A Mindanao Interfaith conference on mining was held in Dipolog also last January leading to the formation of Panalipdan (Defend) Mindanao. The conference opposed the Arroyo governments promotion of Mindanao as a mining haven. Ten of the governments mining priority projects are located in Mindanao, including Siocon, four in Caraga region, four in Compostela Valley, and one in Socsksargen.

What lies behind the rise of foreign mining in this country, Bishop Manguiran siad, is the globalization pushed by G8 countries such as TVIs country Canada. Globalization scraps away nationalism, and patrimony, as patrimony is about who controls resources, he said. (Panalipdan Mindanao)

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