Barricade at Surigao minesite divides Lumads

CABANGAHAN, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/18 April) – The human barricade set up at the foot of an erstwhile protected watershed turned mining site is dividing the Manobo tribal community here.

Richard Ampo, who represented his stepbrother,  Martin Ampo Jr., Cabangahan barangay chair, said Wednesday that 18 “hawudons” or tribal elders in the barangay held a dialogue with residents and workers who were rendered jobless, and agreed to come up with a resolution asking Gov. Johnny Pimentel to stop the human barricade set up since April 6.

Some 50 supporters of the Bat-ao and Hunanhunan clans led by Datu Jimmy “Dagsaan” Bat-ao set up a human barricade and tent along the  road leading to the mining operations of Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MMDC), paralyzing operations and temporary stopping soil extraction activities for about a week now.

Bat-ao demanded P150 million in damages for the alleged desecration of the clan’s burial site and water source and the closure of the nickel-mine firm while upholding its claim on the ancestral land of Cabangahan and outlying areas where the protected watershed is also located.

Ampo countered Bat-ao’s claim saying the latter is not the sole claimant of the area since there are other clans who share the rights over the land which is also the subject of protest of anti-mining groups led by the Social Action Center Vicariate of the Carrascal-Cantilan-Madrid-Carmen-Madrid and Parang (CarCanMadCarLanPar) Zone.

MMDC’s has a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement No. 016-93-XI which covers 4,799 hectares, approved on October 23, 2009 “on interim basis.”

The tribal chieftains also met Leo Orquina, a mayoral candidate described by critics as “pro-mining” Orquina told MindaNews that the company will be filing a case of damages against the “anti-mining groups.

In an earlier email message, MMDC vice president Jegie Pereda told MindaNews the company is thinking of filing charges against those responsible for the barricade.

Amid the discord between pro- and anti-mining Manobo supporters, the SAC issued its “solidarity to the Manobo community” by holding a mass at the barricade site on Saturday.

Fr. Raymond Ambray, executive director of the SAC said “it may be that they are now in different positions, but it is the task of the church to let them understand of the real situation that befalls them.”

Chito Trillanes, SAC spokesperson,  said what is happening is a manifestation of  the deception committed by the mining company against the Manobo’s through a questionable free and prior informed consent (FPIC).

“It only proves what we earlier pointed out in the early days of our struggle that the FPIC was done with the intent to deceive the people,” said Trillanes, who also joined the Saturday solidarity mass in the barangay.

Both officials admitted that amidst the ongoing ‘conflicting’ sentiments of the people, is the need to emphasize the reality amongst tribesmen and even the public that they are exploited as a group and continue to be one should the issue will not be resolved.

During Saturday’s dialogue with Bat-ao, several residents voiced concern that the barricade will cause the closure of the mining firm.

But Bat-ao told them the alleged violations committed by the company against their tribe should make them indignant.

Margarito Ondao, a teacher at the Cantilan National High School, said he was not against the mining firm at the start of the operation. But with its continued failure to honor its commitment based on the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), then he would rather that the mine will close down.

“Well if nothing is agreed then it’s useless. All the same we are still being looked down anyway,” Ondao said referring to the unfulfilled MOA.

Francisco Sumbiran said the mining company should have delineated the area as it earlier promised so the conflict could have been avoided.

Some Manobos who lost their jobs due to the barricade, expressed fears they would not be reinstated if they join the “anti-mining” barricade.

But Ampo said his brother and the ‘hawudons’ are not pro-mining but “are only looking at the interest of the people.”

“If the mining company will close, what will happen to the people?” he asked.  (Vanessa L. Almeda/MindaNews)