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Mining Company tells Subanen Community to Cooperate or Face Immediate Eviction.

Sitio Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte -

Eighty-six Subanen families face immediate eviction from their Ancestral Domain at the hands of the Canadian Mining company TVI Pacific Inc. (TVI). The community members have until the last day of February to accept a relocation fee and get ready to move. If they do not comply then TVI will file an eviction notice against them. The company is offering each family 250,000 pesos ($4,600 US).

Three of families have already received formal notices from the company. Emmanuel and Gaga Gonzaga, Ireneo and Luciana Calibo, and Joey and Josie Gonzaga have been ordered sign or get out. These families are among the many farmers who have been actively opposing the operations of the mining firm.

Timuay Boy Anoy, a Subanen leader, has responded to the recent pressure by saying that TVI will only have its wishes "over our slain bodies". He has started further that "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 does not have the slightest respect for our indigenous rights and sacred practices."

TVI started open pit gold mining in Sitio Canatuan last year under a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement that they gained in 1998. Starting at the top of Mt. Canatuan, the Company has steadily worked its way down the mountain with earth scraping bulldozers. TVI operations are now just 15 meters from the houses of some members of the Canatuan community.

The Subanen community refuses to relocate since they believe it is their ancestral right to live on the land. Mt. Canatuan is sacred for the tribe and they consider it their most holy place. In 2003, the families obtained a Certificate of Ancestral Domain (CADT) to the area through the Indigenous People's Rights Act. This certificate makes it illegal for anyone to enter their land without their approval.

Interview with Joy Gonzaga of Sitio Canatuan

January 27, 2005

Josie Zamora Gonzaga has been a resident of Sito Canatuan for 15 years with her husband Lesjolando Gonzaga Sr. She has one son and two daughters aged eight, six and one. (The text has been translated and edited from the original Visayan)

  • DCMI: Where you live?
  • JG: I live in Sitio Canatuan. Right at the mining site. We are currently in a difficult situation because the mining area is just 15 meters away from my house.
  • DCMI: How do you support yourself and your family?
  • JG: Our means of livelihood is mainly farming. We planted fruit trees and we sell the products to the market and the local community for 100 pesos ($1.85 US) a day. It is not enough for the family since we need to buy milk for the children. The neighbours are hard up and selling their goods for debt. That is one thing that would like support agencies to help us out with. Our meagre income is not enough - especially before the harvest comes.
  • DCMI: What can you tell me about what your life during the last year and your experiences with TVI?
  • J.G:

    Last year I joined a picket in Pisawak to express my opposition to mining operations in Canatuan.

    My experience with TVI has been really disgusting. Since they have started operating we can hardly live or enjoy drinking fresh and clean water. Our water sources are now unclean since the mines operate day and night. Everywhere the water is polluted - the farmlands etc. Half of Luciana's (another Canatuan resident) plants are covered with waste.

    I would like to appeal to the President Macapagal Arroyo who gave them permission to operate. She should be the one to get them to stop. We are just poor but they will trample our rights. We are forced to fight for our rights. I do not know what we will do.

    Our right to our land is also being violated because they established checkpoints in certain areas where we used to pass. They have placed barbwire across our path. We are not allowed to enter the check points when we go home after 6 pm.

    On December 9, 2004, I was approached by 8 of TVI's Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) members. I recognized three of these men as Mr. Kanadawan, Mr. Tumimrang and Mr. Baes. They tried very hard to convince me to sign a three page document agreeing to a settlement of 170,000 pesos ($3,150). They told me that being stubborn would accomplish nothing - I would have to vacate anyways because it was inside of TVI's MPSA area. I simply answered that, "I will not vacate because I lived here before the MPSA and the CADT".

    On December 10, 2004 I was offered 250,000 pesos ($4,600). Adolfo Dalman tried to tempt me with the amount (although I did not see cash in hand) at the house of Mr. Edang. I said "no" and they told me that if I keep on refusing they would be forced to file a case against me. They also told me that 'something' would probably happen to me. I replied that "I will take note of that statement from you. If something happens to me then you will be the first one to be questioned."

    We all received an invitation from TVI a week after that. The people of Canatuan were asked to come for a meeting to discuss the problems. We were all asked to become members of SSAI II (a pro-mining Subanen Association organized by TVI) and accept a settlement of 250,000 pesos. A waiver was attached for us to sign. If we did not agree to sign than we would not be granted a green card which entitles us to pass TVI's checkpoints. They said deadline for the decision is February 28, 2005. If we keep on refusing we are going to be evicted from the area.

    When I think about how much money I was offered - I try not to remember that I was offered that much. I am more happy to see my children still living here and going to school. I am happy to live simply with the fruit trees and just dream that we have the money.

  • DCMI: What is your biggest concern for the future?
  • J.G: My biggest concern for the future is security for my family. I am concerned about my livelihood and way of life. I urgently ask the Government to act on it.
  • DCMI: What will happen to you if you are forced to relocate?
  • J.G: Time will only tell. I am determined to live here forever. If I will be forced to relocate I do not know what I will do. As of now I will not move from the place where I have stayed for so long.
  • DCMI: When you think about the future, what do you wish for?
  • J.G.: I dream of having TVI gone. What I really wish for the future is to see my children grow and live simply. I wish that TVI would leave soon.
  • DCMI: Do you have anything that you would like to say to the people who are supporting you both locally and internationally?
  • J.G: I would ask those who support us in our struggle to help us drive TVI out from Canatuan.

- Maryanne Mutch of DCMI