Tension grips Red Mountain anew as Mamanwas take over minesite

KM. 90,  Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/06 May) – Tension has gripped another mining company here as at least a hundred members of the Mamanwa tribe have taken over the minesite of a China-based company since Thursday evening.

The Mamanwas are now camping at key posts of the minesite of Shen Zou  Mining Group Corporation located at Kilometer 90, at the boundary of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, setting up barricades and campsites at the entrance, including the  guardhouse, to  bar the entry and exit of company officials and staff including their vehicles.

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At least 15 Chinese personnel are reportedly inside the premises of the minesite.

Company guards interviewed said the causeway and the motorpool are now “under control” of the Mamanwas from Claver, Surigao del Norte.

“We tried to talk with them pero medyo init man sila…bagan tag-control na gani nila (its like they are already in control),” the company’s chief security officer Rene Gumanoy told reporters.

Gumanoy said the Mamanwas also set up barricades at the other roads going to the causeway.

Policemen from the Regional Mobile Group of the 132nd Regional Public Safety Company (RPSC) stationed at Km. 90 detachment on Thursday after receiving intelligence reports that “armed men” were seen Wednesday at the minesite.

 ANTI-INSURGENCY COPS. Members of the Regional Mobile Group of the 132nd Regional Public Safety Company based in Km. 90, the boundary of Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte, were deployed to the area on Thursday afternoon on alleged intelligence reports of armed men in the minesite of Shen Zou Mining Group Corporation. Policemen (in blue uniform) from Claver, Surigao del Norte responded to reports that a "commotion" occurred in the area on Saturday, May 5, 2012. Contributed photoPolice Inspector Edgar Polay said they went to the minesite on Thursday but he claimed the Mamanwas threatened them to a fight using their bolos. “Wala lang barilan, itak lang,” (No guns, just bladed weapons), Polay quoted the Mamanwas as saying.

Polay also denied they were there to protect the mining company.

“Walang tayong kakampihan dito dahil sa security lang tayo (We are not siding with anybody here. We’re just securing the area). Ang sa amin ay insurgency lamang,” he said.

As of Saturday noon,  Polay’s men were expected to pull out of the minesite that afternoon.

Police Senior Inspector Capt. Christopherson Cauilan, chief of police of the municipality of Claver, took to task the eight RMG personnel who were inside the minesite. He said they should  not forget that their priority is to maintain peace and secure the area to prevent violence.

Cauilan said he received reports from Baby Coter, a Lumad (IP or indigenous peoples) representative and councilor of Barangay Camam-onan in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte, and a certain Dumadag, administrative officer of Shen Zou, on Friday that some “commotion” happened in the area.

“We had to also confirm what happened, but so far peaceful naman. Ang request lang natin eh walang mangyayaring harassment on both sides” (Our request is that there would be no harassment on both sides),  Cauilan said addressing in-house security personnel and the RMG.

The Mamanwas on other hand initially refused to talk to reporters but later said they were there because they want the company to pay them an estimated P24 million royalty due them.

Under the Philippine Mining Act and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, the  Lumads on whose ancestral domain a mining firm operates, are entitled to a royalty/share of 1%  of the gross production/output.

The Mamanwas are members of the controversial CADT-048 led by Datu Renante Buklas.

Buklas repeatedly declined an interview with reporters when contacted through his cellular phone.

Another tribe leader, Datu Alicio Patac, confirmed to reporters that the Mamanwas have resorted to setting up barricades and taking control of the causeway allegedly because the company has refused to honor its obligation to them.

Patac and Buklas through their lawyer, wrote Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno to stop issuing the Mineral Ore Export Permit (MOEP) or OTP (ore transport permit) pending the “final decision of the National Commission on Indigenous People’s (NCIP)  of its decision dated 12 January 2012.”

On January 12, 2012, the NCIP in an en banc resolution ordered Shen Zou to “cease and desist” from operating after finding the company’s Certificate of Precondition (CP) issued by the NCIP on February 22, 2012 was “void ab initio” or a certificate issued without proper authority.

In the same en banc resolution, the NCIP said with this development, “all other agreements, licenses and similar issuances premised on the said CP  is “deemed void.”

A CP is issued after a Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of the indigenous peoples is obtained.

Apparently, the order did not reach the company as it continued to operate until May 2, the same day  the Mamanwas started to barricade the mining company.

Buklas and Patac also sent a letter on February 27, 2012 to MGB regional director Engr. Alilo Ensomo Jr. on the NCIP’s decision.

Ensomo could not be reached for comment as of press time. However, over radio station  RPN-DXKS here on Thursday, Ensomo said he had forwarded a letter and the NCIP en banc decision to Jasareno and is now waiting for the “final instruction of the Central Office.”

This reporter also tried to contact Jasareno but he could not be reached by phone as of  5 p.m. Sunday.

Shen Zou is facing another case from the holder of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA), Claver Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC), at the Regional Trial Court, 10th Judicial Region, Branch 29 here in Surigao City.

The case was filed against Shen Zou for the “Cancellation of Operating Agreement” for the latter’s failure to pay CMDC the 5% royalty “of the gross sales of all ores sold or shipped by the company.

Shen Zou and CMDC entered into an “Operating Agreement” in July 2009 with the provision that after its 25th shipment of ore, it will start paying CMDC the 5% royalty.

Shen Zou allegedly “fraudulenty violated the terms and conditions or stipulations” of the agreement and “unreasonably failed or refused to pay the above royalties despite constant demands.”

At the mine site, Shen Zou personnel declined to speak to reporters, claiming they cannot speak on behalf of their Chinese bosses. (Vanessa L. Almeda/MindaNews with reports from Jun Clerigo/RPN-DXKS)