Complaint of the Mamanwa Indigenous People against Mindoro Resources Limited Mining Exploration, Agusan Del Norte
This is a story brief on the Mamanwa (Philippines) case presented at the Asian People’s Land Rights Tribunal held at the University of the Philippines last 16-17 January 2014.
The Mamanwa indigenous people in Sitio Dinarawan and Barangay Bunga in Jabonga, Agusan del Norte oppose the nickel, gold and copper-gold exploration of the Mindoro Resources Limited (MRL). The Exploration Permit (EP) has expired on November 4, 2012. However, the people are alarmed that mining operations may resume that is feared to threaten Lake Mainit that was declared a key biodiversity area.
The Mamanwas said Lake Mainit is sacred to them and the ancestral domain is their most valuable resource handed down to them by their forefathers. Its destruction is grave violation of their customary laws, culture and traditions. They have been living and dependent on the lake for livelihood even prior to the creation of the Republic of the Philippines. They asserted that under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (RA 8371), they have the right to use and protect their ancestral domain.
In a resolution passed by the Dinarawan Indigenous Peoples Organization (DIPO) on July 23, 2008, the Mamanwa community opposed the entry of MRL in Sitio Dinarawan. They expressed this in the consultation conducted by MRL in July 2008. The same position was submitted to the Office of the President, National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the same year.
The Mamanwa indigenous group composed of 67 households has pending ancestral domain claim since October 2008 with the NCIP on the 8,000- hectare terrestrial and lakeshore areas, including a portion of Lake Mainit which is the fourth largest lake in the Philippines.
The MRL’s C$15M exploration project which seeks to define a world class nickel deposit suitable for large scale mining started in 1997. Its first tenement for mining exploration covers the Agata Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) site, the company’s principal nickel laterite resource, close to Santiago, Agusan del Norte.
At the time of application, the area was divided in five parcels. The communities of Dinarawan and Bunga are located north of the Agata MPSA, in the Municipality of Jabonga, Agusan del Norte and their concerns relate to areas covered by the Tapian Extension tenement.
In July 2002, the company applied for an additional Exploration Permit that covered several areas north of the Agata MPSA and west of Lake Mainit, which was named the Tapian Extension. Its EP for the Tapian Extension was issued in November 2010 by the Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB).
On September 16, 2011, the Mamanwa tribe in Sitio Dinarawan filed a formal complaint before the Compliance Adviser/Ombudsman (CAO) of the International Finance Corporation, one of MRL’s major shareholders, equivalent to 9% of MRL’s total equity. CAO is an independent redress mechanism that is mandated to address complaints from people affected by IFC supported projects.
The complaint was caused by the entry of MRL’s employees in the sacred grounds of Mamanwa’s ancestral domain without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). The indigenous group cited this as violations of Sections 10, 16 and 59 of the Indigenous People’s Right Act (IPRA). The law states that the indigenous people have the right to be informed in any projects/programs or activities that will be done within the ancestral domain, and to participate in any decision that will take place within the ancestral domain territory.
They asserted that consultations should have been conducted prior to MRL operations. Where consultations did take place, the negative impacts of the project were not explained thoroughly.
The Mamanwa community lamented that the MRL exerted undue pressure and influence on community leaders, attempted to create parallel leadership structures, used LGU representatives to pressure the communities, and used of illegitimate signatures to demonstrate community consent, among others. This caused deep division in the tribal community and even familial relations. This resulted to some of their community members defying the decision of tribal chieftains and community elders, a grave violation of their customs and tradition.
The indigenous people community criticized the 2010 Summary of Public Information and the Environmental and Social Review Summary of IFC that stated no IP community is physically or economically displaced or otherwise directly affected by the exploration activities or by land access. The report further said the Manobo and Mamanwa are physically distinct but no longer practicing their old customs and traditional religion.
Engaging the CAO mediation mechanism has worn down the Mamanwa community and found the process not going to their favor with their demands seemingly falling on deaf ears.
In October 2012, CAO issued its Appraisal Report holding that the conduct of a compliance audit is unlikely at present. CAO acknowledges that extractive industry projects, even at the exploration stage, can have significant social impacts on indigenous communities, particularly when sites of religious or cultural importance are involved. However, the immediate risk of adverse outcomes to the complainants was mitigated by MRL’s decision to suspend exploration in the contested area. #