NCIP orders probe on dialogue turned voting on entry of mining firm

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/27 July) – The regional director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples has ordered an investigation into a supposed dialogue among Mamanwas in Jabonga, Agusan del Norte where the tribe members were instead told to vote on the entry of a mining firm, allegedly at the behest of an employee from the same government agency.

The dialogue was meant to settle differences among the Mamanwas who were divided over the application for exploration of Canadian-based Mindoro Resources Limited, but segued into a voting where those who favored the application prevailed, said Gliceto Dagondon, executive director of the Green Mindanao Association Inc.

Dagondon said Green Mindanao reported the “anomalous” act of the employee to NCIP-Caraga Regional Director Dominador M. Gomez, who promptly ordered an investigation into the July 11 dialogue.

In an email to Green Mindanao last week, Gomez said he has instructed their regional legal officer to “conduct investigation on the alleged haste, insufficient time, lack of participation and open expression and directed immediately voting for their individual stand on MRL exploration.”

The NCIP official said the supposed dialogue occurred in Sitio Dinarawan, Barangay San Pablo and was presided by Noli Quiambong of NCIP-Agusan del Norte with around 200 Mamanwas in attendance.

But instead of holding a dialogue, Dagondon said that Elvira Catuburan, who represented the NCIP regional office, called for a voting on MRL’s application where the “yes” votes prevailed, 79 against 71.

Dagondon called the voting a sham, adding he was worried the results would be considered as the tribe’s Free and Prior Informed Consent to the mining venture.

FPIC, a requirement under the Indigenous People’ Rights Act, states an indigenous community’s approval of projects and programs undertaken in their territory.

Dagondon said the presence of local officials who voiced their pro-mining stance may have also influenced the results of the voting.

Jabonga Mayor Glircerio M. Monton Jr. was present during the dialogue, together with San Pablo Barangay Captain Arthur Grana. Both openly campaigned for the entry of MRL in the area.

Still, Gomez said the “yes” vote did not mean anything, and a formal FPIC process as required by the Ipra would still be conducted.

He noted that in 2008, the Mamanwas of Dinarawan did not give their consent and vehemently denied the application of MRL.

“The company now wanted to cover the area of Dinarawan. The people are divided over many issues and concerns that is why they contacted the office to attend and facilitate the dialogue and not to arrive at a consensus,” Gomez said. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)