Indigenous Peoples in Palawan are challenging a mining company’s latest attempt to mislead government officials and the public so it can gain access to mineral resources on indigenous ancestral lands. Below, a press release from the Philippines-based advocacy network Ancestral Land/Domain Watch (ALDAW).
ALDAW Press Statement:
Indigenous Peoples Protest Against Macroasia Sneaky Moves To Mine Palawan Virgin Forest
In spite of massive opposition and peaceful demonstrations organized by indigenous peoples and farmers since 2008 to protest the entry of MacroAsia corporation in their territory the company claims to have obtained the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the local indigenous communities, being represented by the so called “Brooke’s Point Tribal Leaders Federation”.
What MacroAsia Corporations (MAC) is presently doing is to disseminate untrue information through newspapers articles and paid adds on the social consensus that the company allegedly claims to have obtained in all targeted barangay of Brooke’s Point Municipality to be affected by its planned mining operations.
Media sources, fed by MacroAsia misinformation, report that 50 tribal chieftains supported by about 80 percent of the indigenous people in Brooke’s Point have welcomed the project. Ironically, the position of ‘tribal chieftain’ does not fit into any of the ‘customary’ definitions used by the Palawan to refer to those respectful community members, such as elders, whose advice might be sought when important decisions need to be made. Official positions such as ‘tribal chieftain’ have been instrumentally created to fit the interests of large corporations and government agencies rather then to respond to the genuine needs and aspirations of the local communities. This is to say that these 50 tribal chieftains allegedly representing 80% of the indigenous are people that do not hold any representational status or outstanding reputation amongst the Palawan indigenous population of Brooke’s Point.
Using these false arguments MacroAsia is now exercising pressure on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to release the so called “certificate of precondition” (CPC) which the company needs in order to get the final clearance from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and then push with its mining operations in one of the best conserved forests of the Philippines inhabited by vulnerable indigenous communities.
“It was very unfortunate that two months ago, other tribe members grabbed the chance to visit Manila and the Office of the President in Malacañang and acted in our behalf to allow mining operations there in spite of our opposition” say a group of genuine indigenous Palawan spokespersons representing the communities living in those uplands and lowlands regions to be directly affected by MacroAsia operations.
For the general public and newspapers reader who is not aware of the situation in the field, MacroAsia argument may appear even convincing and worth of merit: “Why, stopping mining operation if they are so welcomed by indigenous people and, in fact, are seen by them as a new source of job opportunity and wealth for their families? In short why going against the interests and development aspiration of a legitimate majority?”. A few clarifications are then needed in order to dismantle MacroAsia’s prefabricated argument. First of all, it must be specified that these pro-mining “tribal leaders/chieftains” belong to the so-called “Brooke’s Point Tribal Leaders Federation” which, indeed, is an obscure entity that is practically unknown to most indigenous peoples’ living in the Municipality. Indeed, MacroAsia has sufficient financial resources to backup the creation of ‘fake’ indigenous organizations and – through the assistance of unscrupulous local Palawan NCIP officers – ensure the top down appointed of so called tribal chieftains, that –
instead – are not perceived as such by the very communities inhabiting those forested lands that MacroAsia intends to plunder. It must be pointed out that the local Palawan officials of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) have often sided with the mining companies rather then helping their own indigenous constituents. More importantly, the NCIP have failed to consult those vulnerable and isolated Palawan communities of the uplands which completely rely on forest resources for their survival and whose existence will be practically washed away by MacroAsia open-pith mining.
Even more surprisingly, many members of this ‘opportunistic’ and ‘ad hoc’ created “Brooke’s Point Tribal Leaders Federation” are not even indigenous people from the affected areas; most of them come from acculturated groups living in the more populated lowlands and have no emotional linkage or livelihood interest in the forested uplands of Brooke’s Point. Some of them are either ‘half-blood’ Palawan or originally from other locations. Interestingly enough, the names of vulnerable Palawan of the uplands to be directly impacted by MacroAsia operations do not even feature in the membership list of the “Brooke’s Point Tribal Leaders Federation”. Moreover, this ‘federation’ is not affiliated with and recognized by the well-respected NATRIPAL (Nagkakaisang Mga Tribu ng Palawan literally, The Federations of Tribes in Palawan) which operates on the island since 1989 and encompassed most of the community/municipal based indigenous associations in the Province.
On early June, a group of 9 tribal leaders and representatives from the Palawan tribe travelled to Manila to counter-act the move of the fake pro-mining tribal chieftains supported by MacroAsia and meet NCIP officials, as well as other government representatives in order to explain their points of view. Their visit was arranged by the Ancestral Land/Domain Watch (ALDAW) Indigenous Network.
The Palawan IP delegation received the full support of Congressman Teddy Baguilat (Chair of the Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities) who is calling for an urgent committee hearing to investigate the issuances of mining permits and NCIP Certificates of Precondition in the province of Palawan and other parts of the country highly populated by Indigenous People.
On 22 August indigenous members of the same Palawan delegation and specifically Artiso Mandawa, Pedro Sagad, Wiliton Palete, Prudencio Danadio, Titu Cui, Leticia Sagad, Nelson Sumbra have written a message to be delivered to both President Aquino and to the press. In the message, written on the behalf of the upland Palawan communities of Brooke’s Point it is stated:
“We will never let our mountain and rivers to be mined. These are our sources of food, medicine and livelihood. We do not need money, because our ancestral lands provide for our needs. In the mountains, we do our rituals and call on our God. This is our sacred land. Mining in Brooke’s Point means the death of our indigenous community and the demise of the Palawan tribe. We trust that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples will take this seriously before deciding on issuing Certificate of Precondition to MacroAsia. Free prior informed consent should be obtained from the indigenous communities that will be affected by actual operations, not form those who live in cities and in the lowlands outside Brooke’s Point, and who wrongly claim to be true leaders of the Palaw’an tribe”
For previous IC coverage of the Palawan case also see https://intercontinentalcry.org/palawan-voices-from-the-lost-frontier/ https://intercontinentalcry.org/troubling-developments-for-the-island-of-palawan/
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Address your concerns to the following NCIP officials
Hon. Roque Agton,
Hon. Santos Unsad,
Hon. Cosme Lambayon
Hon. Percy Brawner
Requesting the no-issuance of the Certificate or Preconditions to MacroAsia Corporation:
Telefax: (63 2) 373-97-65
Please also include in the Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com (PALAWAN COUNCIL FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT – PCSD)
Kindly request President Benigno C. Aquino III (Malacañang Palace, Manila) to support the Brooke’s Point indigenous peoples’ claims against MacroAsia Corporation and call for an in-depth investigation of the procedures fallowed by the NCIP Palawan staff to obtain, allegedly, the Free Prior Informed Consent of local communities in favour of MacroAsia
Also sign the Rainforest Rescue online letter addressed to President Aquino and NCIP https://www.rainforest-rescue.org/mailalert/716/philippines-please-support-palawan-s-indigenous-peoples-against-mining
As well as the no-2-mining-in-palawan petition launched by the Save Palawan Movement http://no2mininginpalawan.com/ and the ALDAW Petition to stop the encroachment of mining corporations and oil palm plantations on Palawan ancestral land http://petitiononline.com/PA2010/petition.html
Contact the ALDAW INDIGENOUS NETWORK (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch) at: firstname.lastname@example.org