Blog Entry

Letter to Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Republic of Philippines

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

Her Excellency
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President, Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
Metro Manila

January 16, 2002

Your Excellency,

I am writing to you on behalf of MiningWatch Canada regarding the tragic attack on 26 December 2002 upon community members from Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte. Madam President we wish to express through you our sympathy for the victims of this act of violence.

It is of great personal regret to me that this violence was related to the operations of a Canadian mining company, TVI Pacific. When I met you in Ottawa with Congressman Reyes from Marinduque, almost exactly a year ago, we discussed the ravages left behind by the Canadian mining company, Placer Dome Inc. Now I must write to you to urge your Government to act to address the sources of violence in the Canatuan area. It is clear to us that the presence of TVI has been a source of tragedy, tension and conflict since their first arrival in the area in 1994.

Since 1999 the people of Canatuan have reported to us that they have been suffering violence and intimidation at the hands of TVI personnel. In November of 2000, we hosted a local Subanon leader and a local Roman Catholic priest who visited Canada and met with Canadian government officials to try to raise awareness of their plight and to plead that Canadian officials insist that TVI respect the wishes of the Subanon to live without this mine in their midst.

There has been conflict and opposition to the plans of TVI to mine in Canatuan since the first arrival of the company in the area. It is clear that strong opposition continues. TVI have clearly failed to secure the necessary support in the local community. Their plans are opposed by the Siocon Subanon Association Inc., which is the local indigenous organisation in Canatuan, and by the majority of all Subanon organisations elsewhere in the vicinity of the proposed mine and across the region. The municipal authorities and other local community organisations also oppose company plans.

Past incidents have included other ambushes and hold-ups, the militarization of the community by the mining company, the imposition of checkpoints and blockades by company guards, shooting incidents by company employees and the wounding of local residents, the violent dispersal of peaceful protestors from the community, arrests, the bulldozing of local small scale mining operations and many other incidents.

Madam President, your Government's stated commitment to implement the 1997 Indigenous Peoples Rights Act has, we believe, given new hope to many indigenous communities in the Philippines and observers and friends of the Philippines around the world. The historic injustice perpetrated by successive Philippine Governments and developers at the expense of Indigenous Peoples and their lands has long been a source of suffering, internal conflict and has also done serious damage to the international reputation of the Philippines. We hope that your Government can take significant steps to change this situation. The clear and strong opposition of the Subanon to the operations and activities of TVI is well known around the world. This case is therefore one that many Indigenous Peoples and observers see as an indicator of your Government's stance and resolve in support of Indigenous Peoples' rights.

We therefore appeal to you to act with speed:

* To immediately withdraw all TVI personnel from the area
* To cancel the mining licences of TVI due to their failure to secure social acceptability and their disruptive and abusive presence in the community
* To find and bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26 December ambush

Yours respectfully,

Catherine Coumans, Ph.D.
MiningWatch Canada

Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0A2

David Kilgour
Secretary of State for Asia Pacific
Lester B. Pearson (Tower A), 8th Floor
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada K1A 0G2