“We are risking our lives to protect our territory from destruction. Do the dead bodies of Juvy, John, Jordan, Kitary and many more [locals] who died protecting our domain not enough to tell the truth? People are dying, government forces are killing us, and all of these happened under the nose of [Sagittarius Mines Inc.] SMI/XSTRATA.”
This is an excerpt from the statement of the local cultural communities in Tampakan, South Cotabato that supported the validity of the factual evidences included in the Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) presented by International Network of Environmental Forensics (INEF).
“We want our story to be heard outside Bong Mal. We want the world to be informed what our government and the mining company have done to us… The HRIA tells our story”, the B’laan Indigenous Cultural Communities of Bong Mal Bong Banwe continued in their statement.
Bong Mal is the most affected part and the biggest community in terms of population and land area among the four territories covered by the SMI/XSTRATA proposed open mining project in Tampakan.
The document, which was signed by Bong Mal residents, urged President Benigno Aquino III, local government officials, concerned government line agencies, particularly the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) “to protect the welfare and respect [their] rights as IPs”.
“We owned the territory since time immemorial and we are human too”, they asserted. “In the petition signed by the different IP [indigenous people] leaders and chieftains, we were acknowledged as the remaining B’laan territory that practices our culture and customary laws, and have to be protected. But because of SMI/XSTRATA’s interests, private armies, company guards, seven military detachments, PNP stations were deployed against us. Why against us, is it because we are protecting our domain and our next generations?”, further contention written in the document.
B’laan natives discredited the claims of other IP leaders who are not members of their community who spoke on behalf of them and asked the SMI/XSTRATA to discontinue “using corruptible IP leaders”.
They also narrated in their statement the efforts of the fact-finding team composed of national and local partners that was blocked by several IP leaders from another territory and some SMI/XSTRATA employees upon going up to Bong Mal to gather evidences of violations and other facts against the mining firm and the military.
“Our partners, the church, the Tampakan Forum, and several individuals and local government leaders have done so many ways for the Philippine government to listen and take action more favorable to us. Issues and concerns have reached the Office of the President and other line agencies, still, like the other mining companies all over the Philippines, money and short-term benefits is still uttered from the tongues of a few narrow minded people who have benefitted or hoping to benefit from the mines”, B’laan mentioned.
Just a few weeks ago, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo and the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) initiated an online petition to cancel the permits issued to SMI and, as of today, more than 8,500 individuals signed the said petition posted on Change.org.
There is also a separate ground petition initiated by the Social Action Center of Marbel was able to collect 170,000.