Digos City, Davao del Sur – Mining, Conflict and Death of IPs in Tampakan Following the blocked entry of the church and human rights groups led fact-finding and solidarity mission to Bong Mal, Tampakan South Cotabato.Twenty seven (27) of the more than a thousand B’laan natives awaiting the arrival of the team in Bong Mal, managed to get past the barricades in Brgy. Kimlawis, Kiblawan Davao del Sur to meet the fact-finding team in Digos City last April 26, 2012.
Earlier, iron pipe barricades were set up by hand-held radio equipped pro-mining locals and scholarship grantees of SMI at Pulang Bato, Tampakan, the first gateway to Bong Mal, the actual site of the proposed 500 hectare-wide open-pit of the mining project. A woman who earlier identified herself as the barangay’s bookkeeper restrained the barricaders on giving any more information.
In their traditional garbs and with faces still weary from the 3-hour road travel aboard hired motorcycles and lack of sleep the night before, men and women, Blaan elders, young mothers with their infants, middle-aged adults and adolescents laid down mats on the floor to squat on for the focus group discussion with the fact-finding team at the multi-purpose hall of the San Isidro Labrador Parish in this city.
In their native tongue, translated in Visayan and Filipino by local translators, the B’laans recounted stories and testimonies on the situation besetting their communities in the first quarter of this year, every now and then retracing past or earlier events related to the Tampakan mining project of Sagittarius Mines.
Diya Capion, an elder woman told the team of her anguish and pain of having lost her sons since her family staunchly opposed the mining’s entry into their once peaceful communities. One has been imprisoned and the other three sons declared by the military as outlaws and fugitives. Life has never been the same to her and her family since then. She along with the other fellow B’laans have witnessed and fallen victims to physical and psychological violence wrought upon them by military elements who destroyed houses, crops and makeshift warehouse where they keep their farm produce in the course of a man hunt operation against one of her sons, Daguil Capion.
“ Takot na kami pumunta ng kagubatan para manguha ng pagkain namin simula nuong pinagbawalan na ang mga lalaki pumunta doon (we don’t go to the forest anymore to fetch food since it has been prohibited) “ said one of the younger men who is somehow able to express in Filipino. “Takot kami lalo na sa nakita namin na kapag tutol ka sa mina, yung mga sundalo ng 27th IB na lumalakad sa gilid-gilid para mag patrol, manghuhuli at ma-charge kami na NPA (we are afraid because if we are caught by the 27th IB soldiers on foot patrol, they can arrest us and just charge us as NPA/rebels) ” , he added in broken Filipino.
One of the women, holding back tears, lamented the injustice that she and her family suffered. She questioned the fact that her husband who became wanted by the military, and was subsequently captured was still killed last December 5, 2011 during an operation as claimed by the military. She said that images of her helpless husband still haunt her to this date.
Another B’laan woman narrated that last January 13, in search of her now fugitive husband who she said was one of those who actively barricaded against the mining project, police personnel raided her small abode, divested them of their few belongings such as cooking pots and pillows, terrorized her children when in their presence, the police threatened to arrest her, should she refuse to reveal her husband’s whereabouts.
Still other stories freely came out; burial grounds of a young man’s parents accidentally ran over by a bulldozer while undertaking road widening, razed houses and farms as a result of road expansion activities, SMI and the military prohibiting people to construct new huts or abodes and imposing curfew in the community, male members of the community were not allowed to go to the forests to gather food, hunt and farm and women have to seek the permission of the military who assigns time limit when they go to the forests to perform tasks and roles which the men are already unable to do because of the imposed restraints.
They also cited that SMI notices were posted in their houses last march 21, setting march 22 as cut-off period for them to enlist in something that is totally incomprehensible for them as many of the B’laans couldn’t write and read and had to rely on others to explain and translate to them in their native language the information in the posted notices which were in Bisayan.
“They beat up, hurt and kill our men then outlaw those who hide away or stand up against them, threaten our women and children,control and limit our movements, access to our communal resources, prohibits our natural way of life” the mother of the now fugitive sons bemoaned.
It also disturbed them that attempts to bring these problems to the attention of their village chieftain only to be told that they have no rights anymore over their lands as it is public domain anyway. This, they say is totally an unacceptable explanation since Bong Mal is their ancestral domain, and it is a common known fact.
As aggrieved parties, they reiterated that they are not even after payment or indemnification anymore. They just want SMI out from their ancestral domains. An elder man said “ if other communities wants SMI in their area, let them and we will respect that, but the mining company should not force their mining operations in communities who doesn’t want them, such as Bong Mal.”
Most of the gathered B’laans agreed to the thoughts expressed by several of them that the present conflict and rift between and among B’laan communities and clans caused by the mining issue can be resolved if only they will be left by themselves to settle and bridge the divide based on their customary laws and beliefs. “This is not possible as long as 7 military detachments with soldiers telling us that we are crazy not to accept SMI in our lonely place they say, are in our midst and SMI personnel meddles and worst, employ deceptions and manipulations to fan even more the conflict that they created in the first place,” said an elder B’laan man.
A teenage B’laan girl who was silent and was just listening intently for the most part of the exchanges opened up in a chant-like tone about her fears and feelings on the present situation that befell her community and her people. “ There’s not many of us B’laans anymore left in this world, If SMI will really force its way and its mining operations in our community , it is like vanishing half of our race us B’laans, because by their doing, we are made to fight and turn against each other. It is the children like us who will suffer the most and I fear this will all lead to pangayao (tribal war) if they will not stop“ the young B’laan uttered in native vernacular.
Most of those in the group were in unison in agreeing to an elder woman ventilating that they are being driven away from their ancestral lands. “ They are forcing mining on us and sending us away. But we have nowhere else to go. Not in the resettlement area where they want us relocated. When our lands are taken from us, and us, plucked away from our land, it is tantamount to death for us B’laans.”
Meanwhile, Digos Bishop Guillermo Afable said that in the 3 years that he has followed the developments related to the Tampakan mining issue , it was only after having personally listened to the stories of the B’laans gathered that day in the diocese’s auspices that he came to understand the social impacts of the mining project to the natives of the area, “which goes beyond claims of economic benefits by the mining company, the local and national government units supporting and aggressively pushing for it. The rights of the Indigenous people should be respected and protected not risked “ the bishop added.
Tampakan Forum had already pointed out last year in its critic of SMI’s Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) document submitted to the Environmental Bureau of Management (EMB) for review that mitigation in the form of a Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) fails to appreciate the unique cultural identity of the B’laan, and merely enumerates standard social development interventions . The ESIA fail to understand and truly take into account the interplay between the Blaans, their culture, knowledge and interaction with their environment is critical.
The Tampakan project is set to dislocate an estimated 2,600 families or 4,000 individuals , mostly or 3,000 B’laans in the mines development site that straddles 3 overlapping CADTS (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles ) and 1 CADC (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Certificate) belonging to the B’laan communities covering about 74% or 7,095 of the 10,000 hectares of the proposed mine site.
Tampakan Forum is a technical working group on the Tampakan mining issue convened by the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. Anti-Mining Campaign (PMPI) in collaboration with Social Action Marbel, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Philippine Association for Intercultural Development (PAFID), Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Friends of Earth Philippines (LRC-KSK), Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLINKS) and the London Working Group on Mining in the Philippines and IUCN CESP-SEAPRISE.
Contact Persons: FR, GILLARME JOY PELIÑO – (083) 2283793 ATTY. MARIO E. MADERAZO – (02) 3534287, (mobile) 09228501873
The Secretariat Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.
2nd Floor, No. 8 Cordillera St. Cor. Ramirez St. Barangay Doña Aurora 1113 Quezon City , Philippines Tel. No. (02) 353- 4287 Fax. No. (02) 353- 4396 www.2003pmp.org