SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/04 Feb) — Members of the Mamanwa tribe said they may not allow the creation of a “Minahan ng Bayan” or People’s Small-Scale Mining Area within their ancestral domain, claiming the planners did not seek their consent.
The Mamanwa tribe under the MAMASANSISU group, comprising 16 tribal communities, said the miners operating near the Parang-Parang watershed did not seek their Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
MAMASANSISU leaders said the operations of Nagkahiusang Gagmay’ng Minero (Nagami), occupy a portion of their claimed ancestral domain but Nagami has not sought their FPIC.
In December 2011, Nagami applied for a Minahan Ng Bayan (People’s Small Scale Mining Area) permit before the Provincial Regulatory Mining Board, covering 20 hectares in Barangays Mat-i and Mabini.
Datu German B. Tiambong, Mamasansisu head claimant, said they will not tell Nagami what to do but added that it was the latter’s obligation to seek their consent.
Tiambong said mining in Parang-Parang, the source of potable water in Surigao City, started in the 1960s. He said they could not do anything to stop it because the Indigenous People’s Rights Act or IPRA Law in 1997 and Mining Act of 1995 had not yet been enacted. These laws empowered IP groups to manage the natural resources within their own domain.
Mamasansisu leaders held a meeting on Monday at a local beach resort and discussed their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Protection Plan, particularly with the current application of Nagami for a Minahan ng Bayan.
But some members of Mamasansisu who requested not to be named said they would rather mine their areas than give Nagami consent.
“Kami nalang magmina kay para mi naay panginabuhian sab total amo man sab na yutang kabilin,” they said.
Nagami chair Ignacio M. Arevalo said in an interview that they will soon enter into a Memoradum of Agreement (MOA) and seek Mamasansisu’s FPIC.
Arevalo said they hope their application for a minahan ng bayan will be granted so that they could operate legally in the area.
Arevalo acknowledged the presence of the Mamanwas but claimed that Mamasansisu has not complied with the requirements for Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title.
Officials headed by Surigao del Norte Governor Sol F. Matugas and Environment and Secretary Ramon Paje earlier came up with a proposal to set up a Minahan ng Bayan near the protected watershed area b to at least “contain the waste from the mining activities.”
Matugas, whose top priority is to provide livelihood for her constituents, said she can’t allow mineworkers to lose their jobs.
On Wednesday, Engr. Noli Arreza, chair of the Provincial Board Mining Regulatory (PMRB) and Provincial Board Member Simeon Castrence, chair of the committee of environment, led an ocular inspection at the mining sites, along with representatives from other line agencies.
Datu Tiambong told reporters some of the mine workers in the area are not from the Surigao City but from Cabadbaran, Davao, Agusan and other neigboring areas.
“They are destroying our natural resources and they do not even pay taxes to the government because they are illegally operating in the area,” he said.
Nagami’sArevalo said his members are all from Surigao City.
Arevalo said there are some mine workers who are not members of Nagami and has mining machineries somewhere in Placer, Surigao del Norte.
He said Tiambong is pointing to some small-scale miners operating in Placer.
“These miners who do not belong to us, are getting raw the material from their tunnels somewhere here and they process it in their machinery in Placer,” Arevalos said.
Arevalo also denied that they are using harmful chemicals in processing gold.
The Surigao Metropolitan Water District (SMWD), which serves the city’s18,000 households, opposed the mining application of Nagami.
In a resolution dated December 16, 2011, SMWD’s board of directors said mining operations near the 967-hactare watershed imperil the city’s water supply, although the applicant-miners have been exploiting the area for gold for decades.
“The proposed tunnel mining and the watershed boundary are so close and could easily be encroached by tunneling the area within the watershed boundary which contains high grade ore as evidenced in the previous illegal mining activities.
Because mining uses logs to prop up their tunnels, SMWD officials are apprehensive that the mining activities could also denude the remaining forest cover in the watershed.
They also fear that chemicals and other hazardous substances used in processing will contaminate the environment and will surely affect the quality of our water.”
“All the effluence, run off mine and mill waste carrying toxic materials will eventually find its course of Surigao River–the future water source of the city,” the SMWD said.
The city has been experiencing water shortages despite the reforestation projects in the watershed.
Proclamation No. 63, signed in August 29, 1990 by former President Corazon C. Aquino, declared the Parang-Parang Watershed as a protected area. The area and its surrounding vicinities.
“SMWD cannot betray its mandate to protect the source of potable drinking water of Surigao City and its obligation to the future generation that will be deprived of their rights to a safe and potable drinking water,” the resolution said. (Roel Catoto/MindaNews)