Interfaith Pilgrimage Holds Rites to Oppose Mining in
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.
BY TYRONE VELEZ
Siocon, 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
“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.”
PRAYER FOR SACRED
MOUNTAIN: An interfaith prayer with Catholic, Protestant, Moro, and
Lumad representatives in the TVI grounds
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
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.
PARADISE LOST: Tailing
pond in Mt.
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.
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
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.
culminated with a torch parade and cultural program at Siocon’s plaza, the
Tanghalan ng Paraiso (Paradise Theater).
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.”
The tribal chieftain
is happy for now to see his home for a brief moment. He cannot stay on in
Canatuan for concerns of his safety. Nevertheless, Anoy expressed his
wish, that like the other people in Zamboanga, he would “like to see TVI
leave our lands, and compensate for whatever damages they wrought to the
people and the land.”
The pilgrimage comes
at a time where the religious sector is actively opposing large-scale
foreign mining. Earlier in January, the influential Catholic Bishops
Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued its statement calling for the
repeal of Republic Act No. 7942, known as the Mining Act of 1995.
A Mindanao Interfaith
conference on mining was held in Dipolog also last January leading to the
formation of Panalipdan (Defend) Mindanao. The conference opposed the
Arroyo government’s promotion of Mindanao as a mining haven. Ten of the
government’s mining priority projects are located in Mindanao, including
Siocon, four in Caraga region, four in Compostela Valley, and one in
What lies behind the
rise of foreign mining in this country, says Bishop Manguiran, is the
globalization pushed by G8 countries such as TVI’s country Canada.
“Globalization sweeps away nationalism, and patrimony, as patrimony is
about who controls resources,” he said. Bulatlat
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