Canadian Mining Company Threatens Indigenous Filipinos

Calgary based mining company TVI Pacific Inc. (Toronto Ventures Incorporated) is accused of harassment and intimidation of indigenous Subanen people in the Philippines. Urgent reports sent out by local support groups and by the Mennonite Central Committee in the Philippines document violent dispersal, physical assault and harassment, illegal entry, food and economic blockades, and illegal/warrantless arrests and detention of Subanen people and of small scale miners that oppose mining by TVI Resource Development Philippines, a subsidiary of TVI, on ancestral land of the Subanen.

The Subanen and local small-scale miners have been struggling to stop the incursion of TVI on their area since 1995. In 1997 TVI acquired the already heavily contested mining rights over 508 hectares of land within the 6,557 hectares that makes up part of Subanen ancestral domain in the municipality of Siocon, in the province of Zamboanga del Norte on the southern island of Mindanao.

The latest report from the area, sent out on September 9, 1999, lists some 50 victims, including women and children. The report names the perpetrators as being Dominique Pastoreza, project manager of TVI Resource Development Philippines, Major Petronillo Ochoterena of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Mobile Force and other PNP members.

Two of the latest victims are members of DCMI, a broad coalition of six Roman Catholic dioceses, non-governmental organisations, and the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines that supports the Subanen and small scale miners. Fifteen victims are reported to be members of the Siocon Subanen Association, Inc. (SSAI), 27 victims are small-scale miners and members of the Canatuan Small-Scale Miners Multipurpose Cooperation (CSSMPC). Both groups contend that TVI has used bribery, blockades and heavily armed security forces to break resistance to its operations.

José Anoy, a traditional Subanen leader, says he was offered a salary "just for staying at home if I would endorse the project." A 150-strong private army called the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) made up of retired military officers and headed by ex-Major F. Cocal, is armed and trained by the Philippine military but paid by the company. This paramilitary group carries high-powered weapons including M-14 sub-machine guns, high-powered rifles, and even a 105mm howitzer field gun. On April 27, 1997 Camilo Aquino of Siocon was shot and wounded by the SCAA security force and members of the Miners Co-op contend that its leaders and property have also been attacked by the SCAA.

TVI has recently reported financial backing by "Japanese investors" and has resumed test drills on the ancestral land of the Subanen people after aborting mineral production in 1998 due in part to strong opposition from both the Subanen tribe and small-scale miners of the area.

On August 17 to 24, 1999, the Subanen and the small-scale miners staged a human barricade to block TVI's heavy machinery and equipment. The barricade was broken when the protestors were denied food support.

According to reports, a blockade by the SCAA of the provincial road into the area was started in 1995 on behalf of TVI. This blockade has served to severely restrict the movement of goods and people for many years and has been a primary means of repressing resistance by the Subanen . The blockade also denies critical supplies to the small scale miners of the area and prevents them taking their gold rich tailings off site, forcing them to sell exclusively to TVI. The net proceeds from processing these tailings are calculated in company documents to "be in the range of $150,000 per month."

The Subanen filed an indigenous land claim in 1992. Their claim was finally recognized in 1998. But only after TVI had acquired the rights to mine in the area making it more difficult for the Subanen to exercise their rights to deny access to the company under the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act.

Osino Mato, Secretary of the Siocon Subanen Association, Inc. protests: "We made an ancestral land claim in 1992 before TVI were ever here but the company has been allowed to go ahead and our claim has been blocked. This is our land. We have always lived here." He says, "I don't believe the Government in Canada know what is going on in our place. I do not believe TVI give an honest report."

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For more information contact:

Fr. Albert Bael at DCMI headquarters, Dipolog, Mindanao
e-mail: [email protected]
fax: 63-65-212-2817 or 63-65-212-3678

Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada
e-mail: [email protected]
tel. 613-569-3439 or 613-256-8331, fax: 613-569-5138

Geoff Nettleton, Minewatch UK
e-mail: [email protected]