ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/22 November)– Traditional Subanen leaders and chieftains of Zamboanga Peninsula gathered November 21-22 in Pagadian City to draft their guidelines for Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), an inherent right of indigenous peoples to be respected and for prospective corporations to comply with before they could start utilizing the Lumads’ ancestral domains.
Ronald Gregorio, team leader of the Legal Rights and Natural Resource Center/Friends of the Earth, Philippines explained that the activity was in “response to the frustration of indigenous peoples (IP) communities in Zamboanga to the FPIC Guidelines of 2006 which only led to the increasing incidence of development aggression in Subanen territories brought about by extractive industries.”
“As of press time, the Subanen renamed the guidelines into Subanen FPIC Guidelines for Corporations, whether transnational or multinational. They will also decide what they will do with the existing guidelines and what they will do with the new proposed and drafted guidelines,” explained Cesar Rebuta, team leader of LRS.KsK of Cagayan de Oro City.
Gregorio said that while existing guidelines mandated the NCIP offices to facilitate the conduct of FPIC as a method of recognizing the indigenous customary rules and governance, some NCIP officials oddly became tools to facilitate the easy entry of mining companies and other extractive industries against the will of traditional leaders.
“They have been accused of transacting with illegitimate tribal leaders by cooptation and corruption; executing and facilitating FPIC processes which is leading and with the obvious agenda of the proponent mining company at hand. What is also clearly missing in the 2006 FPIC Guidelines is the spiritual aspect in the consent process inherent with the Subanen tradition for example which only a legitimate leader or balyan (religious leader) can only execute,” he said.
LRC cited that such is the case in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Sur where the NCIP office allegedly “smoothened” the FPIC process by “acquiring the consent with pseudo representatives from the Subanen tribe” despite the opposition of legitimate timuays led by Timuay Jose Anoy, owner of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title.
Greogorio said the NCIP made a “deliberate effort to divide and malign the Subanen indigenous community” although the same office admitted in a consultation done with the gulang gukom (traditional judicial body head) in 2008 at the NCIP office that the legitimate traditional leaders in Siocon are those led by Timuay Anoy.
The drafting of FPIC guidelines was “a result of various consultations from and among the 11 Subanen indigenous territorial leaderships in the Zamboanga Peninsula to address the actual impact of the FPIC Guidelines that ironically had become an instrument in the facilitation of resource extractive industries into their lands rather than a mechanism to strengthen and respect indigenous decision making processes.”
Timuay Codium, V. Sagon, who headed the delegates from Zamboanga del Sur said “the 2006 FPIC Guidelines clearly disregards and undermines the rich experience of our traditional community in the aspect of leadership, governance and decision making processes.”
“In this conference we will try to consolidate and institutionalize among ourselves on how should we as a community appreciate the entry of development projects in our ancestral lands based on our customs and tradition. Consequently, we want the government to acknowledge and respect the result of this process as an expression of our right to self-determination,” Sagom emphasized.
Gregorio said that the output of this conference — a consolidation of the wisdom of the council of elders of the Subanen tribe on FPIC and be considered as the IPs’ crtique, will “be submitted to the NCIP office as a recommendation” and as basis to substantially change the FPIC Guidelines of 2006.
The Subanen conference was held at the Casa Emsa with 50 Subanen participants. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)