Lumad group opposes move to ban open-pit mine in Zambo Norte

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/11 February) – A group of Subanens in Zamboanga del Norte has expressed opposition to a proposed ordinance filed at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) that would, among others, ban the use of open pit mining method in the province.

The proposed ordinance is titled “Protecting and Conserving the Integrity of the Land and Water Resources in Zamboanga del Norte.”

In a statement sent by lawyer Pablo Bernardo, chair of the Provincial Consultative Body, the Subanens said that the proposed ordinance should exclude from its coverage ancestral domains of indigenous peoples, which are considered private lands under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (Ipra).

The Provincial Consultative Body is formed by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and comprises Lumad leaders handpicked by the agency.

Bernardo said they cited in a position paper submitted to the SP that some provisions of the proposed ordinance curtail the rights of IPs to manage their ancestral domains and its resources as provided under the Ipra.

One of the ancestral domains, the Pigbogolalan nog Subanon sog Konotuan (Traditional System of Governance of the Subanons of Canatuan) headed by Timuoy Jose Anoy and covering more than 8,000 hectares of land in Barangay Canatuan in Siocon town has been hosting the copper-zinc mining operations of TVI Resource Development Incorporated (TVIRD) since July 2004.

Bernardo, said the proposed ordinance is “selective and discriminatory against a particular mining company” as the TVIRD is the only mining firm that employs the open-pit mining method in Zamboanga del Norte.

He added that by allowing small-scale mining and disregarding ancestral domains the proposed ordinance would violate the Ipra.

The statement went on to criticize small-scale mining and praised TVIRD for supposedly bringing in socioeconomic benefits and safeguarding the environment in Canatuan.

It also argued that the SP may no longer legislate on mining since it is already covered by the Mining Act of 1995 the implementation of which is the responsibility of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

If the ordinance is approved, Zamboanga del Norte would be the second province in Mindanao and in the country to ban open-pit mining.

South Cotabato last year approved an environment code that bans the open-pit method. (MindaNews)