SAN FRANCISCO, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews/31 August) — Around 1,000 Mamanwas trooped to the municipal gymnasium on Friday last week to receive cash “bonus” from a mining company which they have allowed to conduct exploration activities in their barangays.
The distribution of the so-called bonus to the Lumads was timed with the signing of the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and Memorandum of Agreement with Corplex Resources Inc.
Corplex bundled some P1 million of “goodwill money” in Manila paper.
The firm will undertake exploration activities in barangays Cagtinae, Amontay, Jubgan, Linongganan, Balite, Oslao and Diaz in San Francisco and barangays Mat-i, Ipil, Trinidad, Mapawa and Poctoy in Surigao City. Based on EXPA 000036-XIII, the exploration will cover a total of 6,989.721 hectares.
Elvira G. Catuburan, technical management services division chief of the National Commission on Indigenous People’s (NCIP) for Caraga Region, said there’s nothing wrong with the “dole-out” and the giving of two brand new XRM Honda motorbikes.
“I think the money given by Corplex can’t force the people to sign the FPIC and MOA because this is goodwill on the part of the company,” she said in the vernacular.
She said only one person represented each family that came from 11 Mamanwa communities, although at least a thousand individuals arrived instead of just 500 as expected.
Catuburan added the presence of the Mamanwas proved that they are giving their full consent to the mining company’s entry in their ancestral land.
“It’s clear that the decision is not merely that of a few leaders but of the whole communities that they manage,” the NCIP official said.
But a tribe member who requested anonymity said it was not the mining firm’s idea to give cash to the Mamanwas. He said it was their leaders who demanded money in exchange for their consent.
Salvador Manital, who the Mamanwas and the NCIP identified as the president of Corplex, refused to answer questions from reporters saying he was too tired and had not eaten his lunch yet. After the FPIC and MOA signing he and his two aides left the gymnasium in haste.
The Mamanwas who packed the gymnasium are members of the federated Mamasansisu, an organization of 11 Mamanwa tribal communities in the municipalities of Malimono, Mainit, San Francisco, Sison and Surigao City.
Mamasansisu holds the ancestral claim in these towns and Surigao City, but officials could not reveal the total land area the claim encompasses.
Catuburan said the certificate of ancestral domain title was still being processed.
German B. Tiambong, Mamasansisu head claimant chose not to answer questions.
Cain Hukman, chairman of the Indigenous Peoples Organization, also refused to speak. “Our group decided not to speak anything to the media. I hope we can answer your questions in some other time,” Hukman told reporters in the vernacular.
Bae Leonides Balukluk-Laid of Magtangale, San Francisco is the sole tribal leader who voted against the entry of Corplex or any other mining companies.
She said her community fears that the entry of the mining firm would destroy the city’s main water source, as well as the neighboring municipalities.
Mamasansisu secretary Luzminda H. Caga said that 401 families received P3,000.00 each from Corplex.
But Catuburan said only 396 families received the money.
It has become a common practice for Mamanwas to include relatives and fellow tribe members who already migrated to other areas in census listings. These tribe members usually return to their old communities after two years thus they should be included in the list, Caga said.
An NCIP insider told MindaNews that the families were supposed to receive P2,500 each and an additional P700 for rice assistance. The same source said that since this will be too tedious for the company, it was instead released as cash assistance amounting to P3,200 per family. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)