Rights groups conduct probe in mining town

BAYUG, Zamboanga del Norte (MindaNews/31 August) — Human rights groups conducted a three-day fact-finding mission which started Sunday in nine barangays here to uncover facts behind the killing incidents that victimized civilians and to determine if these were in any way related to conflicts arising from overlapping mining and ancestral domain claims.

Inset Map Courtesy of WikipediaNymia Simbulan, head of the Manila-based Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights) said they wanted to know how mining activities have affected the lives of members of the Subanen tribe.

Information gathered by the fact-finding team will serve as the bases of recommendations on possible interventions from the local government and other institutions, Simbulan said.

The investigation will give emphasis on the ancestral domain rights of the Subanens, said Carl Cesar Rebuta, of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK).

Bayug presently hosts seven mining ventures covering Subanen ancestral lands. These are being operated by Greater Asia, 168 Ferrum, Bayug 9 Metal, TVI Resource Development, and one Cherril Astorga.

TVI has bought out the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) entered into by the Zamboanga Mining Corporation covering 4,779 hectares.

Rebuta said these mining projects span areas with two overlapping ancestral domain claims that have remained unresolved. These are the Lupa Pigigetawan claim led by Timuay Casiano Edal and the Pigsalabukan Guhan de Bayug claim under Timuay Lucenio Manda Umbang.

The mission conducted interviews and group discussions in Barangays Conacon, Buboan, Balubahan, Tinago, Dimalinao, Pulang Bato, Depore, Depasi and Bantal.

Aside from looking into the effects of large-scale mining operations, the group investigated the condition of small scale miners in sitio Balabag (Tinago) belonging to the Monte Oro Small Scale Mining Association in relation to the entry of TVI in the area.

The association has been operating for 15 years and has benefited some 5,000 villagers.

Comprising the fact-finding team are representatives from PhilRights, LRC-KsK, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Dipolog-Iligan-Ozamiz-Pagadian-Ipil-Marawi Committee on Mining Inc., Social Action Ministry of Ipil (Zamboanga del Sur), Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., Miriam College, Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao, Ecoweb Inc., MAG and Pikhumpongan Dlebon Subanen Inc. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)