Pay royalty to lumads, solon tells Surigao mining firms

Inset map courtesy of Wikipedia.SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/2 July) — Surigao del Norte Rep. Guillermo Romarate Jr. (2nd Dist.) has warned mining firms operating on ancestral lands to pay their royalty share to the Mamanwas or their permits will be revoked.

The reelected Romarate, said in a press conference that he will open this matter up when the 15th Philippine Congress convenes late July.

Members of the Mamanwa tribe of Surigao have been clamoring for the one-percent royalty from the gross output of mining operations entitled them, even staging barricades to pressure the mining companies in the municipality of Claver whom they accused have not paid their dues since 1997.

“They have to remember that the lands where they’re operating have ancestral domain titles.

These are owned by the lumads,” said Romarate. He added that if the mining companies will continue to deprive the lumads of their share, he will push to “do the best thing,” which is stopping the mining operations.

As a member of the House Committee on National Cultural Communities, Romarate said he will ask the office of National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) to help in claiming what is due the Mamanwas.

Four firms are currently operating in Claver — the Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC), Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation (OSMC), Case Mining Company (CMC) and Platinum Group Mining Company (PGMC). The 48,678-hectare mining areas in barangays Taganito and Urbiztondo are covered by a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).

Under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, the lumads in the mining areas are entitled to one percent of the gross earnings of the mining operations in their respective areas.

In the case of the Mamanwas, the mining companies reportedly owe them more than P200 million.

In February last year, the Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC) deposited to the bank account of the Mamanwa association in Surigao del Norte P51.5 million, “largest royalty payment” made by a firm to  indigenous peoples or Lumads in the Philippines, for its mining operations in the latter’s ancestral domain.

“We are pleased to confirm that we have today made a deposit in the amount of P51,536,292.46” to the account of the Asosasyon sa Madazaw na Panagkaisa nan mga Tribong Mamanwa sa Taganito ug Urbiztondo (Ampantrimtu) in the Land Bank of the Philippines branch in Surigao City, TMC President Gerard H. Brimo, in his February 19, 2009 letter to lawyer Jose Dumagan, acting regional director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), said.

“The amount represents 1% of our gross sales of Nickel laterite computed from July 2006 (the date of our Memorandum of Agreement with the Ampantrimtu) to December 2007 from our Taganito mine,” Brimo said, adding that “once our audited sales figures of laterite shipments in 2008 are finalized, we will provide a similar computation for the royalty due.”

“In the absence of any specific guidelines on when this should be paid, we propose to pay the 1%

royalty on sales for the first half of 2008 at the end of June and the royalty for the second half or 2008 at the end of September.”

Dumagan told MindaNews that TMC paid an additional P20 million last year and is due to pay royalty fees again this month.  (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)