Mamanwas rue ‘substandard’ housing units donated by mining firms

CLAVER, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews/07 December) — Who wouldn’t want to live around rolling hills set against the backdrop of a scenic coastline? Definitely not the Mamanwa tribe residing in Punta Naga Mamanwa Village in this mining town.

If given the choice, tribe members said they would rather go back to their nomadic ways, than be forced to live in allegedly substandard housing units that have no reliable access to water and zero electric connection to boot.

“We’re thankful but with our present living conditions, we’re not happy,” Junjun B. Harod said in the local dialect.

Harod’s family is among the recipients of the 120 housing units turned over by the Taganito Mining Company (TMC) and its sister companies Taganito High Pressure Acid Leech (THPAL) and Sumitomo, on November 19 this year.

The three companies tapped the Gawad Kalinga (GK) Foundation, a non-profit organization that prides itself as a builder of “sustainable homes” in poor communities.

TMC Community Relations Officer Chatty L. Gambe said the housing project was part of the companies’ joint “corporate social responsibility” project for the Asosasyon sa Madajaw na Panaghiusa ng Tribung Mamanwa sa Taganito ug Urbiztondo (Ampantrimtu), the group that represents the Mamanwas affected by the mining operations in this town.

Gambe said each house, the construction of which was primarily handled by GK, cost P130,000.

But the recipient Mamanwas said the cost was difficult to believe, noting that each unit was constructed without foundation and columns.

“Our houses were built without foundations at all. Jalousies would fall off if the winds are strong, the comfort rooms wouldn’t flush and the sink would clog,” Harod said.

He said they were also disappointed to find that each house has only one room, contrary to the two-room design laid out to them in the original plan.

Gina Patac said she also found no use for her comfort room and lavatory because they are defective.

Harod said that recipients were not also consulted on the locations where their housing units would be built, contrary to the claim of Nickel Asia Corporation, TMC’s and THPAL’s mother company that they conferred with the host communities before starting the project.

“They picked a spot that is so naked, no trees or ornaments at all, and we’re exposed to elements, especially to laterites,” he said.

During strong winds, Harod said laterites would completely engulf the whole community. It’s no wonder, he said, that around 10 percent of the residents have tuberculosis, while the kids often complain of stomachaches from laterite exposure.

Another problem is when the laterite mixes with the drinking water, which in itself is not reliable. Residents get their water supply from a water tank that constantly dries up because, they said, the source is affected by the mining operations of TMC.

Harod said they were relatively better off in the mountains because there they have everything they need for their daily living.

“But which mountain would we return to when it’s being mined and strictly guarded? We are a displaced tribe and we have nothing to turn to,” he said.

Electricity is another problem, though a local GK official said Surneco, the province’s power supplier, is currently working on it.

Efren P. Ravelo, GK provincial coordinator, said the Mamanwas’ complaint on water was baseless.

He said the community has ample supply of water but the tribe members don’t know how to save it.

“They need to be educated more on conserving water because they keep the water flowing when washing clothes,” he added.

Ravelo admitted that the original plan was for each house to have two rooms. He, however, said this was modified because tribe members wanted to have one room per house only. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)