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Divide and rule towards the indigenous people

The organizations representing the indigenous people in the area of Mindex' concession, were all against the company's plans for mining operations. However, earlier this year a new organization, Kabilogan, was formed. This organization is in favour of the project. No wonder, the critics say; the members of Kabilogan have received financial support, social benefits and - watches.

Artikkelen er mer enn to år gammel. Ting kan ha endret seg.

The organizations representing the indigenous people in the area of Mindex' concession, were all against the company's plans for mining operations. However, earlier this year a new organization, Kabilogan, was formed. This organization is in favour of the project. No wonder, the critics say; the members of Kabilogan have received financial support, social benefits and - watches.

By Harald Eraker

- Mindex says we will get money, roads, schools and other benefits when they start mining. But we do not need all this, we have all we need here in the mountains. The elders have told us not to give away our land to the foreigners, says Binata Padiwan, from the Tadjawan tribe.

The Tadjawans and Alangans are the two Mangyan tribes to be affected by the project. When NorWatch visited the Alangan village Bukvan, just outside the Mindex concession area, indigenous people from many villages both inside and outside the concession area, showed up to voice their opinion on mining operations and on the recently established organization Kabilogan. During the Bukavan meeting, it was evident that the Mangyans had little knowledge about what impacts the mining operations would have on their local environment. Most of the questions NorWatch asked, were answered either by silence or by reiterating that Mindex had assured them that the operations would cause no harm.

Does not believe in Kabilogan
The temperature at the meeting rose when questions relating to Kabilogan were brought up. Binata Padiwan said quite directly that he did not believe in Kabilogan, because it had been initiated by outsiders. Kabilogan was formed in April this year, the initiative having been taken by the National Council for Indigenous People (NCIP), the authorities' agency for issues related to indigenous peoples and land rights. At that time, the traditional Tadjawan and Alangan organisations, the CAMT and SANAMA respectively, had both passed resolutions against the Mindex project. Already in 1994, CAMT and SAMANA started the process to have their claims for ancestral domain recognised. The area they claim includes the Mindex consession area. The organisations' claims were formally registered in 1997.

- NCIP came to us and said there was a problem with the claims presented by our organisations. They told us that we had to start a new organisation which should only represent those who lived inside the concession area, and that we should submit a new application for ancestral domain claim in the name of Kabilogan, says leader of Kabilogan, Mario Haba.

Good idea
The leader of Kabilogan, representing indigenous people from 6 villages inside of the Mindex concession area, explains that they thought it was a good idea, because nothing had come out of the previous claims.

- We have understood that the Kabilogan land claim will be considered before the previous claims, but we have complained because the process with the new ancestral domain claim is also moving too slowly. We have been very clear that we accept the mining project only if our land rights are recognized, says Haba. During the meeting it became clear that many were members of both Kabilogan and a traditional organisations, and several stated that they were against the mining project even if they were members of Kabilogan. Mindex, on the other hand, sees no problem with not having consulted the traditional Mangyan organizations.

- According to the authorities, Kabilogan is the only lawful organization to represent the indigenous people living within our concession area, says Isberg.

The statement made by Isberg is strongly reacted to by politicians in Victoria, the municipality where the mining concession is located. In a letter to the NCIP from the Mayor's office, the advisor Edwin A. Gariguez writes that the credibility of Kabilogan is highly disputable:

"First, the members of this organization are mostly workers of the mining company, including the elected chairman. Their stand on the mining issue is already conditioned by the short-term benefits and promises of material rewards. Secondly, the group was not organized nor initiated by the Mangyans themselves. The NCIP suggested the formation the group, while Mindex subsequently took the responsibility of formally organizing them. In fact, the election for the Kabilogan officers took place inside the Mindex compound. Clearly, this was violative of the provision of the law wherein it is prescribed that 'free and prior consent' of the IPs whould be free from any external manipulation, interference and coercion... (R.A. 8371, Section 3.g)"

By referring to the indigenous peoples' rights, which are confirmed by the country's laws, and the mining company's ignoring of the existing indigenous peoples' organisations in the area, Gariguez concludes that "the Mangyans were subjected to subtle manipulation and deceptive tactics for the self serving intent of the mining company."

Money and gifts
Since Kabilogan was started, the members have received substantial financial support from Mindex. Domingo Bae, the company's local representative in Mindoro, says that among other benefits, every family head of the members receive 1000 pesos monthly. Recently, the company has donated eight buffaloes and agricultural equipment and have promised to financially support the ancestral domain claim of Kabilogan. Some of the leaders of Kabilonga, have also received watches from Mindex.

- Many church-based organizations have been working with the Mangyans for 20 years. Still, their life situation is no better than before, says Arne Isberg, who is more than insinuating that Mindex are the first onces to treat the indigenous people fairly.

The Mindex concession area is located within the Barangay Villa Serveza. In this Barangay the relative numbers of Mangyans and Filipinos is two to one. Already, Villa Serveza has adopted a resolution in favour of the project. The previous Barangay-leader is now a Mindex employee. The present leader is advisor to Kabilogan, while his wife is the Kabilogan secretary - even though none of them are of indigenous heritage.

Doesn't understand
A newspaper article in the Manila Bulletin on June 2nd this year referred to a letter signed by the leader of Villa Serveza and the leaders of Kabilogan, in which they supposedly pledge their support to Mindex. The Mangyans were puzzled by this when the article was presented to them during the meeting in Bukvan.

- I do not understand who has given this letter to the press. At any rate, it is not correct that we have said that it is alright for Mindex to come and start their mining operations. Before this may happen, we must have our ancestral domain rights recognized, says leader of Kabilogan, Mario Haba.

Others at Bukvan expressed their anger with the Kabilogan leadership.

- I don't understand why our leaders in Kabilogan signed that letter. Even though I'm a member of Kabilogan, I don't want Mindex to come here. I want the mountains, says one of them.

Time on their side
- When the authorities passed the Indigenous People Rights Act in 1997, many investors threatened to leave the country. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the NCIP therefore joined forces in order to 'solve' the problem of land rights versus the State's ownership over the resources. One of the actions, decided in 1998, was that companies may have a temporary licence to proceed with their activities if two or more organizations are claiming land rights for the same area. According to our information, the Mindex case is the first case to be affected by this decision. Reaching a final decision on which of the organizations has the right to the land, may take 10 years. Time is on Mindex' side, says lawyer Vincente Paolo B. Yu at Friends of the Earth, Manila.

After NorWatch ended the Mindoro visit, Mindex has informed that the company has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Kabilogan.

- We are proud to have signed the agreement. At least the majority of the Kabilogan members are in favour of our project. As you could see, there are many new buildings in the area. How do you think they got the money for that? We have used them as our labour force, no-one else does that. They are sick and tired of empty promises made by organizations and the church, says Anders Hvide at the Mindex head quarters at Høvik, Norway.

The Mining Act of 1995
According to the Mining Act of 1995, foreign companies may engage in a so-called FTAA-agreement (Financial or Technincal Assistance Agreement). This implies, for example, that they may have a 100% ownership of mining projects, they may be awarded concession areas up to 81.000 hectares per project, they are granted rights to the concession area for 25 years (which may be extended for another 25 years), and they get the benefit of exemption from a range of taxes. An important provision is that the mining companies are granted full rights over water and forest resources within the concession area.

Foreign mining companies may also enter into MPSA-agreements (Mineral Production Sharing Agreement), which usually presuppose a 60/40% sharing of the ownership between the local and foreign partners respectively. The mining companies get their Exploration Permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Mining Geodetic Bureau (MGB).

Norwatch Newsletter 11/99