Civic/religious and tribal leaders march to the municipal hall to show strong opposition to mining in Kiamba

Kiamba, Sarangani Philippines 9514

Press Release 2013-001
July 9, 2013

Civic/religious and tribal leaders march to the municipal hall to show strong opposition to mining in Kiamba

A group of men and women representing the civic, religious sectors and Tribal Leaders of Kiamba, Sarangani, Philippines, led by Social Action Group (SAG) representative Virgie E. Nabor, marched to the Municipal Hall to personally deliver a letter voicing their united stand to object and oppose in the strongest manner the conversion or proposal to convert Kiamba’s public forest/ancestral lands/watershed to a Mineral Reserve Area (MRA) and/or allow mining operations tagged as “Minahan ng Bayan”.

‘We call on President Benigno Aquino Jr. to intervene and order an immediate freeze, investigation and review of all applications for Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) in Kiamba, specifically Hardrock Mining Corporation which seem to be a midnight deal, with the MGB website showing approval of the exploration permit date as June 29, 2010, a day before the term of Office of former President Gloria Arroyo expires, the leaders said. “The MGB website has since been updated and no longer show the dates of approval and names of specific municipalities where mining companies applied to operate, another area worth looking into.”

The letter pointed out major reasons why mining in Kiamba should not be allowed.

Foremost is the danger to the lives of the people and a serious threat to their safety, livelihood and property. There exists scientific evidence that Kiamba is prone to flood and landslides as shown in maps by the the Mines and Geo Sciences Bureau(MGB), which will endanger the lives of 53,040 of its inhabitants (2007 Statistics).

“The degradation of Kiamba’s rainforest and the destruction of Kiamba’s watershed through the introduction of any mining activity in Kiamba is a gross violation of the people’s right to a balanced and healthy ecology as mandated under Article II Section 16 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines”, the letter states.

The area to be converted is classified as a watershed by MGB, with a total area covering 14,500 hectares which is roughly thirty percent (29%) of the total area of the whole town. The area proposed to be mined is larger than the now controversial Tampakan Gold mines.

A part of the letter states: “ Research will show that when the forest is removed, there is no longer any sponge to absorb the water and the result is massive flooding, soil erosion and siltation of the waterways. Siltation causes the water to become choked with mud and all life that depends on that clean water eventually suffocates”.

The Tribal leaders led by Anito Untal, President, Tri-people Coalition for the Environment and newly installed Municipal Chieftain Gerry Bangon, expressed strong opposition to any mining activity in their ancestral domains, because it is the biggest threat to the Indigenous People’s (IP) right to their survival and bring about irreparable damage to their hunting grounds and their environment, impinge on their sacred sites, burial grounds, cultural beliefs and practices. The impact of any mining legislation/endorsement/grant of a permit to operate or failure to stop mining operations in their ancestral domains is taken as a form of active aggression and ethnocide.

Twelve out of the fifteen Municipal Tribal Leaders signed the letter.

The rights of the Indigenous People are guaranteed under Republic Act (RA) No. 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997.

The letter cites violation of mining laws in the Philippines which prohibit mining to be undertaken in watershed areas, protected areas, cemeteries, burial grounds,near dams, areas planted to valuable crops, and other National Integrated Protected Areas (NIPAS), among others.

Kiamba is part of Important Bird Area (IBA) which is part of a protected area comprising the coastal range of mountains in South Cotabato Province that includes Mt Parker, Mt Three Kings and Mt Busa of Kiamba, with it’s old growth virgin mossy forest, a watershed forest reserve and a wilderness area, a game refuge and bird sanctuary which is home to critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable bird species.

Kiamba’s shores is also a part of Sarangani’s protected coastal watershed as mentioned in the Sarangani Report. The Food Safety of the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority data show that around 10,000 fishermen of Sarangani supply 250 metric tons of tuna in a day, 90 per cent as export and 10 percent for the domestic market. Kiamba’s fishermen supply thirty percent (30%) of the export grade Sashimi tuna product.

European, Asian and worldwide markets are very keen on the food safety of its imports and any mining activity is a severe threat to the fishing industry. Any form of mining will also greatly affect the people’s source of livelihood, majority of Kiamba’s population of which depend on fishing, farming and tourism as their source of income.

Kiamba, once known the cleanest and greenest town in the Philippines and known as Paraiso (Paradise) ng Sarangani, has become a famous local and international tourist destination.

The Tuka National Marine Sanctuary, with it’s white sand, blue waters, beautiful corrals and verdant forest faces the Celebes Sea, the municipal waters being a part of strategic agriculture and fisheries development zone and fish refuge and sanctuary. It is home and nesting ground to the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles, which belong to the category of marine turtles protected by various international treaties and agreement including local laws such as the Republic Act No. 9147 otherwise known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

Bacud Reef is an offshore reef encompassing the municipal waters of Maasim, Kiamba and Maitum with a total area of 2,150 square kilometers . The area falls under NIPAS (National Integrated Protected Area System) through Presidential Proclamation Number 756 promulgated in 1996.

Bacud Reef is said to be one of the few sites in the Philippines where the endangered Mameng (Napoleon wrasse) lives. Napoleon wrasse is one of the most valuable fish in the international live reef food fish trade because of its rarity and taste. It was declared as an endangered species under the

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2010. At present Sarangani including Kiamba has been identified as one of the priority area for Mameng conservation.

The letter also takes the case of exploitation of children through child labor in the existing minesites of Kiamba and neighboring areas, a serious social issue.

‘ The lack of knowledge on the part of our people and the apparent lack of transparency in matters relating to mining activities in Kiamba lead us to take a position that no public consultation with the people of Kiamba was done, unless proof is submitted and fully scrutinized and verified to prove otherwise. Such is a violation of social acceptability and the free, prior and informed consent of the people, as required by Mining Laws of the Philippines”, a part of the letter stated.

The leaders expressed fear of the possible lack of legislative and executive check and balance, noting the present composition of the Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council), all of whom belong to the People’s Champ Movement (PCM), with present Mayor Raul Martinez admitting in his inaugural speech his open support for mining in Kiamba. The Vice Mayor Danny Martinez is the son of Mayor Raul Martinez. The new set of Officials assumed office July 1, 2013.

The people has yet to hear the stand of Sarangani Governor Steve Solon (PCM) and international boxing icon Congressman Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquaio, also a PCM party member, on mining issues. Congressman Pacquaio is a supporter of Bantay Kalikasan but has remained mum on his stand about large and small scale mining. The wife of Congressman Pacquaio, Jinkee Pacquaio (PCM), also won the seat as Vice Governor of Sarangani.

Kiambans worldwide only came to know of the existence of mining companies through the social media sometime in May, 2013, when two barangay mining resolutions were presented to the SB of Kiamba for endorsement but were aborted because of the vigilance of opposition Councilors James Pimentel, Jaime Fado and Rico Amador . The 2,000 plus strong Kiamba Natives FB site has since become an effective anti-mining campaign media and forum.

“Sana makinig si Mayor Martinez at President Aquino sa hinagpis ng bayan (We hope that Mayor Martinez and President Aquino will listen to the cries of the people)”, Rosejane Montano, an IP youth said. She was inspired to write a touching poem ”Hinagpis Ng Tribo” highlighting her people’s struggle to save their home: Kiamba Rainforest, where her tribe and ancestors lived and hunted since time immemorial.

Copy of their letter was furnished the United Nation Commission on Human Rights, the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Greenpeace International, and Bantay Kalikasan, among many other offices furnished with the letter.

(SGD) Carolina Villanueva Peralta
International Public Relations Officer
Kiamba Natives Organization Worldwide (KNOW)
New York, NY, USA
Facebook: Kiamba Natives