Monthly Archives: April 2012

Open letter to Aquino and Xstrata on Tampakan Genocide

Fact Finding Mission Article No. 1

Dear President Aquino and Xstrata-SMI President Peter Forrestal,

I hope this letter gets to you because many Filipinos can no longer stand the insults and abuses being meted on the B’laans of Tampakan, South Cotabato. If you do not do anything about this, there will be a terrible war never before seen in Central Mindanao in defense of the ongoing slow genocide of the B’laans, all for the gold in the hands of foreigners, and the trickle they will give to the government. Are mining forces intentionally inducing conflict as an excuse to kill or drive away protesting B’laans from their ancestral domain, where the gold sits. This letter will be copy-furnished to PMS Malacanang, DENR Secretary Paje, MGB Director Jasareno, CHR, NCIP, and the media.

This article is based on the Church-NGO-led Fact Finding Mission conducted on April 26, 2012, attended by Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), NASSA, Radio Veritas, Commission on Human Rights (CHR), PhilRights, Task Force Detainee (TFD), Legal Rights Center, Social Action Centers of Marbel, Digos and Columbio, and the Passionist Fathers, with inputs from an earlier mission on March 29, 2011, attended by Social Action Center Marbel, 27thInfantry Batallion (IB), CHR, National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), DXCP, and Sto. Nino Parish, Tampakan.

The fact finding mission was prevented by SMI-led pro-mining barricades from entering the venue inside the proposed mine site, so that 27 B’laans with two two-month old babies, had to trek to the Digos Church on 7 motorbikes to penetrate the barricade. No one could stop them from expressing their voices to the world about what is being done to them. Here is what they had to say.

See Tampakan Forum Press Statement for more details at


At present, this is what Xstrata-SMI, a ‘prestigious’ mining firm, fourth largest worldwide, is doing to the B’laans. They have partnered with the 27th Infantry Batallion under Col. Alexis Bravo, with 7 detachments in the proposed mining area, to impose a reign of terror akin to the vicious counterinsurgency campaigns during the Marcos era, as an excuse to suppress dissent against the mining project. They say it is better to die instantly than slowly. Only the vicious resort to slow death. Here is a list of ‘Killing Me Softly’ (KMS) activities of Xstrata-SMI and the military.

KMS No. 1. The B’laans are not allowed by the 27th IB to go to the forest, their source of food, in fear that they would coordinate with imagined NPA elements. Later, they allowed only women, but they had to ask permission first. They are slowly dying of hunger, worse that a bullet in the head.

KMS No. 2. The 27th IB forbids the B’laans from meeting at night in fear of imagined coordination with the NPA. The B’laans congregate twice a month in ‘chapels’ or houses of prayer. The suppression of the B’laans right to religion and freedom to pray is considered as a form of slow spiritual death. On top of denying the body, they deny the spirit, an unforgivable inhuman crime against Indigenous People.

KMS No. 3. The 27th IB conducts random sporadic house raids where they confiscate or throw away clothes, kitchenware, and farm animals. The B’laans right to privacy is violated. Please, Col. Bravo, if you do not know this, investigate the abuses of your soldiers. This is an unforgivable crime against the B’laans. They are human beings. Do not look at them as ‘rebels’.

The connivance between Xstrata-SMI and the military is confirmed by Col. Bravo himself, who admitted in dialogues that SMI indeed approached them and requested for their help. Is Xstrata-SMI involved in military planning? Does it dictate or ‘suggest’ measures not for security but for suppression of dissenters? Those are the $64,000 questions. The employment by large mining multinationals of military forces in Third World countries is a global trend. As long as money flows in, there are no protests.

KMS No. 4. When the ECC was denied in January 2012, Xstrata-SMI’s mining preparation activities surprisingly intensified. They are confident their multi-million-peso PR will break all the hurdles. They continued exploration, widening roads to accommodate huge drilling machines which bore deep 6-inch-diameter holes in the ground. (Such drilling in a network of fault lines, such as in Tampakan, have triggered earthquakes in many places worldwide.) Road widening has destroyed cornfields and sacred burial grounds, contributing to the killing-me-softly of B’laans, both physically and spiritually. When the B’laans asked for compensation, the SMI people simply said the land was no longer theirs. Development activities without an ECC is illegal, but the government seems unable to stop Xstrata-SMI from these blatant violations. These activities also violate human rights.

KMS No. 5. SMI has ongoing relocation efforts inspite of not having an ECC and no Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), which are blatant violation of our laws. They have asked pro-mining mayors, who have received SMI development funds, to be the spokesperson for these illegal moves. SMI imposed deadlines for the B’laans to submit an inventory of their properties so they can be compensated for the relocation. They threatened that non-compliance means no compensation. The B’laans had to sign the inventory, which SMI will consider as evidence they agree to relocation. SMI set up giant streamers announcing relocation, thinking the B’laans, majority of whom do not read, would understand. The B’laans do not know what is going on. Are DENR, MGB, NCIP and CHR helpless to stop these blatant violations? Please let us hear from you.

SMI wants to relocate the B’laans of Bongmal to Atmurok, inspite of knowing there is a long standing tribal feud between B’laans of Bongmal and Atmurok. Are they intentionally inducing tribal war as an excuse for more military control in behalf of SMI?

Dear President Aquino and Mr. Forrestal, why does Xstrata-SMI have the gall to blatantly disregard and violate existing Philippine laws. Is the government tolerating this so that it can get taxes from the mining operations? If not, why is it so helpless. We want some replies.

Read a letter sent by British ambassador to Clive Wicks, who raised concerns about the Tampakan project.


Fact-finding mission blocked from entering Sagittarius mine site

By  | Thursday| April 26, 2012 |

TAMPAKAN, South Cotabato — Members of a multi-sectoral fact-finding mission who trooped to the mines development site of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. on Wednesday  to check alleged military abuses in the area were blocked by groups supposedly supportive of the mining project.

At least three roadblocks were set up in the towns of Tampakan and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur to prevent the fact-finding mission from going to their destination, Rene Pamplona, advocacy officer of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel, said.

He said they are planning to proceed tomorrow (Thursday), with the help Diocese of Digos, to Bong Mal through Kiblawan town.

Bong Mal can be accessed through the towns of Tampakan and Kiblawan, about three hours apart using the General Santos City- Davao City highway.

“The fact-finding team will go to the tribal communities directly affected by the Tampakan project to find out firsthand the real situation there,” he said earlier today.

But even if the group could not go to Bong Mal, they can still gather testimonies as several residents have decided to descend from the mountains to talk with the fact-finding team, he said.

Those who went down were expected to reach the lowland this (Wednesday) evening, Pamplona said.

He said the two-day mission also seeks to gather evidence that the mining firm “does not respect lawful orders.”

An estimated 1,000 tribal members were expected to gather in the mines development site to call on Sagittarius Mines to abandon its project during the fact-finding mission, he said.

Pamplona said there have been complaints from tribal community members that the company, in cahoots with the military, has been allegedly curtailing their religious and cultural practices.

The fact-finding mission came days after militant groups tried but failed to reach the mines development site for a solidarity mission with the tribesmen opposing the Tampakan project.

Last Sunday, militant groups returned after they claimed that two vehicles blocked their way towards the mountains here. They blamed the company and the military for the blockade.

John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communications manager, said that the company is “committed to open and transparent engagement.

“A commitment to ethical behavior guides SMI’s approach to how it responds to actions by stakeholders and how it conducts its business,” he said.

Arnaldo said that SMI has always conducted its business “through genuine partnerships by working ethically, responsibly, openly and with others.”

SMI will continue to talk openly with stakeholders about its plans. This includes engaging in facts-based, reasoned discussions with those opposed to the Tampakan Project in the spirit of transparency, he said.

Lt. Col. Alexis Noel C. Bravo, 27th Infantry Battalion commander, said earlier that soldiers have been deployed in the mines development site due to the security threats posed by the communist New People’s Army.

The military official denied that soldiers were deployed there to protect and advance the interest of Sagittarius Mines.

Since last month, members of the B’laan tribe opposing the mining project have set up barricades in various portions within the tenement of Sagittarius Mines.

The move was triggered by the plan of the mining firm to relocate them from the mines development site.

The blockades were set up Bong Mal, the boundary between Tampakan and  Kiblawan that serves as crucial artery for the mining firm to move around the mines development site.

Before the barricades were put up, there have been indications from some tribal communities in Bong Mal that the mining firm should abandon its venture, despite the project’s touted economic benefits for the residents like jobs, education, health and other basic social services.

Last year, disgruntled tribal members resorted to violence in dismay over the firm’s continued operation in the area. They ambushed workers of a construction firm hired by company resulting in the death of three persons.

Pamplona also said the fact-finding mission will seek to establish that Sagittarius Mines “has been violating” the order of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Last January, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje issued an order denying the company’s application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the Tampakan project.

Paje cited the open-pit mining ban imposed by the provincial government of South Cotabato in denying the firm’s ECC application.

Paje’s order also directed the mining company to refrain from doing any activities in the area it has applied for.

Sagittarius Mines eventually filed a motion for reconsideration but the Environment department has yet to issue a decision.

Pamplona said the mining firm still has operations in the mines development site even with the DENR order.

The fact-finding mission was composed of representatives from at least three Catholic dioceses in Mindanao, the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., the Alyansa Tigil Mina, Legal Rights Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/ Friends of the Earth-Philippines, and the Philippine Human Rights Information Center, among others.

The group also invited representatives from the Human Rights Commission.

Meanwhile, members of Philippine and foreign workers’ groups will also start today a week-long fact-finding mission on mining-related issues in the Caraga Region.

Foreign delegates coming from labor groups in South Korea, United States, Belgium, Australia, Japan and Germany will join their counterparts from the Metal Workers Alliance of the Philippines, integrated Philippine Electronics Network (iPEN) and other local groups.

The mission in Caraga will look into the mining methods being used by transnational companies and find ways to protect communities and workers “from the destruction engendered by mining operations.”

The mission will also assess the impact of mining operations on employment, environment, and work conditions in the mine sites.

Caraga Region comprises the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Island. (Bong Sarmiento with reports from H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews