BY TYRONE VELEZ
For two years, Timuay (tribal chief) Jose Anoy has not been able to set foot at his home. Home is Mt. Canatuan, the most sacred place for the 2,000 Subanen people, which has been occupied and encroached upon by the Canadian mining firm Toronto Ventures, Inc (TVI) since 1994. But despair has not come over him: instead, he now finds various groups supporting the Subanens’ fight against TVI.
iocon, Zamboanga del Norte — For two years, Timuay (tribal chief) Jose Anoy has not been able to set foot at his home. Home is Mt. Canatuan, the most sacred place for the 2,000 Subanen people, which has been occupied and encroached upon by the Canadian mining firm Toronto Ventures, Inc (TVI) since 1994.
Anoy said that the TVI has prevented him from returning home because he refused to give consent for the firm to mine 508 hectares located in the Subanens’ sacred land.
“The company offered me money before, and shares from their profits,” he recalled. “Accepting this could have been easy, but being a Timuay, I remained firm for the sake of the Subanen.”
Taking this stand has made the company to lay it hard on Anoy – driving him away from his own home. Since then, TVI has taken over Mt. Canatuan, barricading the area with three checkpoints.
Despair has not come over him. Instead, he now finds various groups supporting the Subanens’ fight against TVI.
Anoy’s group, the Apo Manglang Glupa Pasaka (Apo Manglang’s Ancestral Land), together with religious leaders from the Moro, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, and local officials have coalesced to form the People’s Response for the Protection of Environment and Natural Resources (PROTECT-Western Mindanao), a regional alliance opposing large-scale mining.
On March 23, the group made an interfaith pilgrimage to Canatuan. The pilgrimage, according to the group, is a re-consecration of the Subanen ancestral land in Canatuan, which the TVI has desecrated.
One of Protect’s convenors, Godofredo Galos of Save Siocon Paradise Movement, noted that TVI’s operation has affected the Lituban River, a 25,000-hectare watershed area and a water source to a 750-hectare farmland in Siocon. The river is below the mountains where TVI’s tailings pond is located. Galos said residents who have waded through the river have shown signs of skin rashes.
The pollution in Lituban River worries Anoy, who fears this will lead to the loss of rice production in Siocon, which provides rice supplies for four municipalities in Zamboanga del Norte.
“TVI calls this development, but for whom? Can you call this development when a tribal chieftain is being driven out from his land?” asks Anoy.
The pilgrimage gathered religious leaders from the local parishes in Zamboanga del Norte, United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Northern Zamboanga District, Sisters Association in Mindanao, Imams and Ustadz from Moro communities, and Subanen leaders from Zamboanga Sibugay and del Norte. It also gathered 500 people from the communities in Siocon, from the provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte, and the cities of Pagadian, Dipolog, Ozamiz and Davao City.
Upon arriving at the TVI grounds, the leaders gathered around a circle, holding arms and said prayers in Subanen, Islam, Protestant faiths.
Bishop Jose Manguiran of the Diocese of Dipolog made a symbolic prayer by lying prostrate on the ground for a minute of silence, and then planted his Bishop’s staff on the ground. This prayer, Bishop Manguiran said, symbolizes a Prophetic plea for God’s intervention to help the people in Siocon.
The pilgrimage culminated with a torch parade and cultural program at Siocon’s plaza, the Tanghalan ng Paraiso (Paradise Theater).
The pilgrimage touched Timuay Anoy, who said during the program that “the struggle (against mining) is not only the Subanens’ concern, or the Christian people, or the Moro people; it is the struggle of all people here in the region of Zamboanga.”