In Surigao and Caraga Region, a Brutal Push for Investments

“There are…mining opportunities in Caraga, the northeastern region that holds the country’s largest gold deposits,” reads a Jan. 29, 2004, statement from the Office of the Press Secretary.

Rich in gold, nickel, silver, chromite, manganese, copper, and other mineral resources, Caraga is considered one of the country’s major mining areas. The region is also reported to contain the country’s largest nickel deposits.

Ten of the Arroyo government’s 24 “Priority Mining Projects” are in Mindanao, with one of the largest being the Nonoc Nickel Project in Surigao del Norte.

As of March 2009, based on a report by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau during the 5th Caraga Mining Summit held on April 23-24, Surigao del Sur has the largest number of exploration permit applications in Caraga, with 35. Following are Agusan del Sur, with 27; Surigao del Norte, with 22; Dinagat Islands, with 21; and Agusan del Norte, with 13.

Surigao del Sur also has the largest number of applications for production-sharing agreements (APSAs) in the region, with 19; followed by Agusan del Norte, with 18; Agusan del Sur, with 17; Surigao del Norte, with 12; and Dinagat Islands, with five.

Caraga is covered by 41 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs), with 15 of these covering the Dinagat Islands, 13 covering Surigao del Norte, eight covering Surigao del Sur, and one each covering Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur. All in all, these 41 MPSAs cover a total of 96,186 hectares, or 5.05 percent of Caraga’s 1.9 million hectares.

Among the largest mining firms operating in Caraga are Taganito Mining, Platinum Group, and Oriental Synergy Mining, all in Surigao del Norte; SRMI Metals in Agusan del Norte; and Philsaga in Agusan del Sur.

Mining and Militarization

Critics have castigated the Arroyo regime for the militarization in Surigao del Sur and the rest of Caraga. “The Arroyo administration is ‘developing’ Caraga as the mining capital of the Philippines,” Isaias Morales of the human-rights group Karapatan in Caraga told Bulatlat in a recent interview. “The deployments are highest in mining and eco-tourism areas.”

“Mining and militarization are like twins,” said Ilagan of Gabriela in a recent webcast interview with Bulatlat.

In Surigao del Sur, militarization intensified in the Manobo communities following the conclusion of the Philippine Energy Contracting Round.

Militarization drove the Manobos of San Agustin, Lianga, Carrascal, and Tago towns to evacuation centers in Lianga town proper and in Tandag, the provincial capital.

The places used as evacuation centers — the Lianga Gymnasium and the Tandag Diocesan Pastoral Center — were crowded and the evacuees suffered from the lack of support from government agencies. Only through the efforts of their leaders were the members of these communities able to survive the harrowing conditions in the evacuation centers for almost three months.

Their community leaders brought their plight to the attention of government officials, non-government organizations, and people’s organizations at the local, national, and international levels. They would not go back to their communities, they said, unless the military pulled out. The military announced its pull-out only after the issue came to the attention of national leaders.

But the presence of the military still looms over their communities. Ilagan, who was also the spokesperson of Task Force Surigao, branded the military’s pullout from the Surigao del Sur communities as a “relative pullout.” While the military had pulled out of Lianga, Ilagan said, they had given notice that they would be back to continue implementing their “development” projects in the area. In Carrascal town, the soldiers did not even bother to leave.

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  1. We were among those who participated the Surigao solidarity mission last Aug.28-Sept. 2. WE are members of PASAKA-the Lumad Confederation in Southern Mindanao. The evacuations of the lumads in Surigao is a clear manifestation of the state's violation of the IP rights to their ancestral domain and their right to life using its instrumentality the military.

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