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Mining money splits Surigao tribal folk

By Lina Sagaral Reyes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:36:00 03/18/2010

Filed Under: indigenous people, Mining and quarrying

CLAVER, SURIGAO DEL NORTE?Disharmony in the Mamanwa tribe, an indigenous people of Surigao, has erupted soon after a nickel mining company here agreed to grant the one-percent royalty to the tribe whose ancestral domain the company has exploited for nickel-laden ore.

?It was better during the difficult, lean times, we were united. Now that there is money, we are quarreling,? Banzi Porogoy, a Mamanwa leader, told the Inquirer.

Porogoy added that this debate is more than just about mining money, which could reach more than P50 million a year.

?This is about our customary ways of leadership. This is about our tradition of sharing resources,? she said.

Porogoy?s group is contesting the leadership of Datu Joel Buklas, her cousin, as well as the composition of the tribal council. She said the Mamanwas have a genealogy that determines its leaders.

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples had tried to settle the leadership issue but no agreement has been finalized. The TMC supports Datu Joel Buklas? leadership over that of Datu Olorico.

The National Commission on Culture and the Arts, however, says that Mamanwa leadership is not inherited but earned and it is usually bestowed on the oldest of the clan or community.

Porogoy also said that the members seek for a just way of dividing the royalty. The council of elders, the tribe?s governing body, wants to give more funds to tribal council leaders and their families instead.

Weak and vulnerable

The fragile internal relationship among the tribes that, in turn, makes the organization weak and vulnerable, lacking the strength to negotiate with mining companies, is among the dimensions of resource-based conflict studied in the Caraga region recently.

The research findings on participatory conflict analysis were revealed among stakeholders like the Mamanwas last week.

The study, commissioned by the German-Philippine Development Cooperation team led by the German Technical Cooperation, will provide the basis for a four-year P434-million poverty alleviation and peace-building program in the region.

Last year, from January to March, the same Mamanwa groups barricaded the TMC ore route from the mine site to the pier, as they demanded for their right to the royalty from the gross output of the operations as provided for by the Philippine Mining Act of 2005.

The TMC managers agreed to sit down with the tribal leaders and agree on the terms of the royalty payments after a standoff of more than a month which affected the TMC?s operations and sales. The TMC exports the nickel ore to Japan and Australia. The TMC is a subsidiary of Nickel Asia Mining Corp., the country?s largest nickel mining consortium.



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