Fight over rights to Zambo mineral area steps upPhilippine Daily Inquirer
BAYOG, Zamboanga del Sur—The fight between Canadian mining firm TVI Resources Development Phils. (TVIRD) and small-scale miners over rights to the mineral-rich Sitio Balabag in Barangay Depore here intensified with the recent shooting incident that killed a small-scale miner, the police said.
The incident took place on Wednesday, about two weeks after the Court of Appeals issued a writ of amparo and protection order in favor of a Pagadian-based journalist, who is critical of TVIRD, and several officials of a small-scale mining association against TVI and other entities and personalities.
Superintendent Wiliam Mansan, Zamboanga del Sur police chief, said on Thursday that armed TVIRD employees fired on a group of small-scale miners, who were hauling equipment to their mining area in Purok 7 on Wednesday evening.
He identified the slain miner as Wilbert Catampungan. Two others, Mansan said, were injured as a result of the shooting.
The shooting “was due to the conflicting claims between TVIRD and the community of small-scale miners over the place,” Mansan said.
He said two suspects, who he identified as Godofredo Jr. and Jungoy Dingcong, had surrendered and were being detained. “Charges are being readied against them,” Mansan said.
The conflicting claims over gold and copper-rich areas in this town between the small-scale miners, who belong to Monte de Oro Small-Scale Miners Association (Mossma), and TVIRD have been going on for years.
Mossma, which started in the area in 1987, is banking on a law governing small-scale mining in the country. Besides, the group said its members came to the area 10 years before TVI set foot there.
TVIRD is an assignee of a mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) covering 4,779 hectares issued by the national government to Zamboanga Minerals Corp. on Nov. 20, 1997.
Mossma has proposed a “peaceful coexistence,” said Arandy Silva, one of Mossma’s officials, but TVIRD had always resorted to violence.
On July 12, the 21st Division of the Court of Appeals in Cagayan de Oro City issued a writ of amparo in favor of Joselito Pedrano, a Pagadian City-based broadcaster, along with members of Mossma, against the mining company and local and military officials.
In their petition, Pedrano and the Mossma members said since its arrival in Sitio Balabag in Bayog in 2006, TVIRD has resorted to various forms of violence and intimidation to drive away the community of small-scale miners and to silence critics of the mining firm.
Pedrano said in his case, he has been receiving threatening text messages because of his commentaries against TVIRD’s activities and harassments.
One of the text messages, he said, explicitly warned him of suffering the same fate as that of Jun Jalapit if Pedrano insisted on criticizing the mining company.
Jalapit was the Pagadian City broadcaster who was shot and killed on Nov. 17, 2000.
Pedrano said what alarmed him most were incidents like armed men tailing him.
The seven Mossma officials—Silva, Roselyn Silva, Edgar Baling, Dennis Paquit, Julieto Monding, Joel Cayabyab and Alex Cabug-os—also claimed to have experienced what Pedrano had gone through.
They have suspected that officials like Zamboanga del Sur Gov. Antonio Cerilles, Bayog Mayor Leonardo Babasa; and the Special Civilian Active Auxiliaries under the supervision of the 53rd Infantry Battalion, 102nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, had condoned TVI’s harassment of the small-scale miners.
Babasa said he wondered why he was included in the list of respondents. “I only became mayor in 2010. The case stemmed from 2005. We never issued any social acceptance certificate to TVIRD,” he said via a text message.
Cerilles did not reply to the Inquirer’s request for comment while Maj. Gen. Rainier Cruz, commander of the 1st ID, said he has to receive a copy of the order first before he can comment. “I haven’t gotten any,” he told the Inquirer by phone.
Gene Gregorio, TVIRD public affairs director, has deferred any comment on the writ saying he still has to consult their legal department. Tito Fiel, with reports from JB Deveza and Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao