Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V,    No. 2      February 13-19, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines

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Mining firm moves to evict Subanen folks and farmers in Zamboanga

Eighty-six Subanen and peasant families have until the last day of  February to leave their homes and ancestral land or face eviction by a Canadian-owned mining firm.

According to the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE), Toronto Ventures Inc. (TVI) which holds a Mineral Production Agreement in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, is going to file eviction notices against the 86 families on Wednesday next week. TVI Philippine manager John Ridsdel and lawyer Pablo Bernardo allegedly confirmed the filing of eviction notices.

Three of the 86 families already received formal notices which allegedly demanded them to leave the soonest. These are the families of Emmanuel and Gaga Gonzaga, Ireneo and Luciana Calibo, and Joey and Josie Gonzaga. They are among farmers actively resisting the operations of the mining firm.

Reason: the houses of the 86 families will allegedly be buried as the company progresses in its current expansion work.

Before TVI established its mining claim in the mid nineties, 8,000 families of farmers and Subanens lived in the foothills of Mt. Canatuan, site of TVI's open pit mine. Now, there are less than a hundred. With the eviction notices to be filed by TVI, Godofredo Godi of the Save Siocon Paradise Movement said that the mining company plans to wipe out all human settlements in the area. But Godi said TVI has no right to evict the people because they have settled in Siocon for years prior to TVI's venture in the area.

The leader of the Subanen tribe in Siocon, who is also among those threatened of eviction, however, said that whatever happens they will not leave their houses and ancestral land.

Timuay (leader) Jose "Boy" Anoy, chairman of the Siocon Subanen Association Inc (SSAI) and holder of a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) in the area, said that TVI can only have its wishes "over our slain bodies." "Even if it means death, we will continue fighting TVI because our land is our life and it has already been taken from us by TVI which has the slightest respect of our indigenous rights and sacred practices," he said.

The peak of Mt. Canatuan used to be a sacred site for Subanen folks worshiping practices. It has since been shaven off by the mining firm to make way for its open pit mine.

Kalikasan-PNE National Coordinator Clemente Bautista, also co-convenor of the Defend Patrimony alliance, said the displacement of people is among adverse consequences of the Mining Act and the liberalization of the mining industry.

"Even as we support the just and legitimate fight of peasants and Subanens against TVI as well as all other indigenous Filipinos and sectors opposing large-scale TNC mining, what is happening in Siocon best illustrates what the mining program of the Arroyo administration is all about. It is not about responsible mining. It is also definitely not about being pro-people and about respecting indigenous peoples' rights. No to TVI! No to TNC plunder and violations of people's rights," said Bautista.

February 11, 2005

Posted by Bulatlat

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