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Execs say mining firm is caught in ‘pangayaw’

/ 01:14 AM June 24, 2012

DIGOS CITY—Authorities yesterday said  a mining firm under attack by armed members of a tribal group was caught in the middle of a tribal war which they said was not directed at the mining company.

The underground National Democratic Front (NDF), however, said the tribal war’s target was specifically Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), which is preparing the groundwork for massive mining operations in the borders of Davao del Sur, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

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Marivic Diamante, mayor of Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, said the attacks by armed members of the B’laan tribe on SMI were related to a pangayaw, or tribal war, involving one group of B’laan against another.

The mayor said the war was not on SMI.

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Rita Dialang, sister of three brothers that authorities identified as leaders of the armed B’laan group that launched attacks against SMI, said her brothers were sacrificing themselves “in defense of the tribe’s ancestral land and in defense of our way of life.”

Earlier, authorities named the Capion brothers Dagil, Batas and Kitari as behind the attacks on SMI and its workers.

Dialang said Dagil was opposed to the entry of SMI, “but SMI did not respect his right.”

Mayor Diamante, however, said SMI was just caught in the middle of the war between groups of B’laan tribe members.

One of the B’laan clans involved in the war, the Salulis, is closely associated with SMI because many clan members are SMI employees, said the mayor.

Diamante said the Capion clan obviously begrudged the Saluli clan because the Capions failed to get employment in SMI.

John Arnaldo, SMI external communications manager, said the mining company had not favored any group in its hiring process.

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“SMI has always applied an open and fair selection process in hiring its employees, contractors and agency workers,” said Arnaldo.

“The hiring process has always been based on the candidate meeting the qualifications needed for the job vacancy,” he told Inquirer.

He said violence should have no place in the process of drawing the attention of SMI to complaints coming from the B’laan tribe.

“We have never, and will never, condone the use of violence as a means to resolve stakeholder issues and concerns,” he said.

Senior Insp. Francis Sonza, provincial director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Davao del Sur, said police were determined to arrest the B’laan natives responsible for the series of violence in the boundaries of Davao del Sur, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

The Capion brothers, he said, had allied themselves with the New People’s Army “that’s why it’s difficult for us to arrest them.”

The NDF said the attacks on SMI were justifiable actions by the B’laan people.

In a statement, the NDF said the Capion brothers, accused of being behind the attacks, “wanted to make their opposition to SMI noticed.”

The armed B’laan men, the rebel group said, also targeted policemen and soldiers because “they were instrumental” in paving the way for SMI operations. Aquiles Zonio, Orlando Dinoy and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Indigenous people, Mining, NDF, Tribal War
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