Maitum sues miners encroaching on ancestral domain

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/28 July) — The local government of Maitum has filed a complaint against at least 20 persons who were arrested by a joint team from the Philippine National Police and the Army’s 73rd IB for  mining in Sitio Kaffugan, Barangay New La Union, without the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the Manobo-T’boli in the area.

Maitum Mayor Elsie Lucille Perrett, in her affidavit-complaint said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) had certified that no FPIC or any permit was given for the men to enter or mine any portion of the Lumads’ ancestral domain.

Mayor Perrett is a Lumad herself, and is in fact head claimant of the T’boli-Blaan ancestral domain in the area.

The 20 miners were arrested on July 20.  Of this number, 11 are from Kiamba town, four from Compostela Valley, two from Bukidnon, one from Panabo City, another from Butuan City and one from Barangay Kalaong in Maitum.

Campsite in Sitio Kaffugan, La Union, Maitum. Photo courtesy of the Maitum Information Office

One was ordered released immediately, having been found to be a minor “who does not appear to have acted with discernment when he participated in the intrusion into the ancestral domain,” the Provincial Prosecution’s resolution dated July 21 and signed by OIC Provincial Prosecutor  read.

The rest were indicted for violation of Section 10 of RA 8371 or Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act  unauthorized and  unlawful intrusion and use of the Manobo-T’boli Ancestral Domain).  Bail was recommended at P120,000 each.

Sacks of ore. PHoto courtesy of Maitum Information Office

Cesar Tayag, watchman under the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO), in his affidavit said he joined the  joint police-Army team in going to Sitio Kaffugan “to verify reports that there were around 37 men mining in the area for gold.”

“We arrived at the mining site at around 8:32 a.m. where I saw shelters and bunkers, destruction and clearing of forest area, 11 tunnels and 414 sacks containing mineral ore,” Tayag said.

Tunnel. Photo courtesy of Maitum INformation Office

Perrett first learned about the encroachment on May 24, 2010 when Barangay Captain Douglas Movilla went to her office and informed her about the alleged presence of “several men who were doing mining activities in Sitio Kaffugan.”

Movilla in his affidavit, said that sometime in April, “a German national named Kent, and a certain Edgar Sereno of unknown address, came to see visit me. He expressed his intention of doing mining activitiy in Sitio Kaffugan.”

“He even handed me an undisclosed amount of money. He told me that money would help my candidacy as SB (Sangguniang Bayan) member. I refused the money and instead I told him that they cannot operate miningif they have no permit. He told me that all is already ironed out and coordinated – checkpoints, DENR, etc.,” Movilla said.

Note concrete structure at the portal of the tunnel. Photo courtesy of Maitum Information Office

Perrett said she sent an investigating team on May 26. The team confirmed the illegal activities and Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez immediately issued a stoppage order through then OIC Governor, Steve Chiongbian.

The order said “all excavations should be backfilled and rehabilitated.”

Despite the stoppage order, the miners continued arriving and digging tunnels. This stopped with the arrest on July 20. (MindaNews)