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Canadian mining firm agrees to atone for violations against local tribe

/ 01:14 PM May 21, 2011

SIOCON, Zamboanga del Norte – Canadian mining firm TVI Resources this week finally agreed to take penance for violating the rights of the Subanens and had agreed to pay fines, the tribal way.

TVI’s compensation for its “faults” came nearly 15 years after it started operating here.

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During the start of the seven-day “boklug,” the Subanens way of atonement for sins, on Tuesday, TVI officials also publicly acknowledged the authority and leadership of Timuay Jose “Boy” Anoy.

“This is our way of penance for desecrating the sacred Mt. Canatuan. It’s an atonement for our sins,” Joel Alasco, manager of TVI’s community relations and development office (Credo), said.

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Prior to the start of the boklug, a “bintungan nog gasip bu doladjat,” or a meeting with elders, was called for.

It was hosted by the “Gukom sog Pito ko Dolungan “(council of chieftains of the Seven Rivers).
During the bintungan, TVI was informed of its sins. Company representatives were made to drink rice wine for spiritual cleansing.

The boklug, which featured more rice wine drinking, was then conducted.

“The boklug that TVIRDI had conducted is called the Gumpia nog Bunwa sog Canatuan. It is TVIRDI’s spiritual cleansing ritual and act of offering reconciliation to the people of Canatuan and our ancestors after the company admitted violating the Subanen customs and traditions, which resulted in the damages to our ancestral domain,” Timuay Noval Lambo, the chief elder of the Gukom sog Pito ko Dolungan, said.

But while the boklug aims to cleanse the spiritual aspects of the violations, it could “not absolve the violator from all other responsibilities resulting in personal or physical damages,” Lambo said.

He said the Subanens hoped that at the end of the buklog on Monday next week, TVI would change its ways and aspire for a harmonious relationship with the Subanens.

“The boklug also encourages the victim to extend forgiveness,” Lambo said.

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TVI arrived in Canatuan in 1997 and Anoy’s group has opposed its operation since.

Anoy had accused TVI of operating without community consent, destruction of their ancestral domain and employing tactics to polarize the Subanens.

He said what was worst was that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), which was supposed to help protect the Subanen’s customs, traditions and rights, collaborated with TVI by organizing the pro-mining Siocon Council of Elders.

“It was the NCIP, which organized the Siocon Council of Elders despite the fact that I existed as Timuay of Canatuan,” Anoy said.

In July 2007, Anoy filed a complaint against the Philippine government before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Uncerd) and at the same time, asked the Gukom to intervene.

In December of that year, the Gukom summoned TVI but it was ignored by the company.

The Gukom eventually imposed a Kosolaan (penalty) of So Pulo bu Duwa Bolos (Twelve Bolos) per cubic unit of land within the ancestral domain destroyed or impacted by TVI’s mining activity.

The unit of measurement to be used is Anoy’s dupa or the length between the tips of the middle fingers of his stretched arms.

Bolos refers to the roll of cotton cloth, the monetary value of which, is traditionally used as a measure in imposing penalties by the Subanens.

A bolos is currently pegged at P1,200.

It was not until August 2009 that TVI formally recognized Anoy’s authority and agreed to the Subanen ritual, including the payment of bolos.

The payment of bolos will be formalized during the boklug, or two years after the Gukom made the decision against TVI.

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