The Philippine unit of Canada’s TVI Pacific Inc. has cried foul over claims made by Advocates for Peace and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (AdPeace), accusing the company of committing a wanton of environmental and human rights violations in its Balabag gold-silver project in Zamboanga del Sur.
In a statement, TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD) said that it appreciates the thrust of AdPeace and its partners to “share compassion and love to the community.”
However, TVIRD said that allegations thrown by AdPeace—which includes degradation, displacement of Subanenes and extrajudicial killings—has put the company in a bad light and “unwittingly” misled by the proponents of the mission.
AdPeace and human rights group Karapatan held a three-day solidarity mission in Bayog to protest the mining activities being conducted by TVIRD, which would ravage the town’s richness.
AdPeace claimed that TVIRD’s open pit-mining activity—which allegedly runs seven days a week, 24 hours a day—has disrespected sacred sites of the indigenous peoples and greatly affected watersheds, forest reservations and farms.
TVIRD stressed that there is no truth to the allegations, saying that while the company is the holder of a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) covering 4,779 hectares, it has not begun its mining operations in Balabag hill.
“The company is still in its advance stage of exploration and is waiting for its Environmental Compliance Certificate [ECC] currently reviewed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR],” the company said.
“The allegation therefore that TVIRD has started its open pit mining operation in an ‘unending seven days a week, 24 hours a day’ is simply not true,” it added.
TVIRD also debunked claims that its operations have upset food security for the majority who depend on agriculture and small-scale mining.
“Although TVRD has not been operational, in 2011-2012 it has contributed significantly to various livelihood projects in Bayog and surrounding communities in partnership with local and provincial governments,” it said.
Recently, the company launched an Integrated Rice-Duck Farming System along with the provincial government to provide additional income to rice farmers.
Filipino religious leaders and human rights advocates have finished a solidarity mission in the town of Bayog and organizers called on President Benigno Aquino 3rd to look into the reports of unabated killings in the area.
Bishop Antonio Ablon, one of the conveners of the Advocates for Peace, said they have ended a three-day solidarity mission in the town and urged Aquino to act swiftly on reported cases of extrajudicial killings in the town.
“We are urging President Aquino and Mayor Leonard Babasa to immediately act on these reports of extrajudicial killings and investigate deeply so justice may be served to the families of the murdered victims,” he told The Manila Times.
The bishop, who belongs to the Diocese of Pagadian City of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, also urged for the protection of witnesses. He did not say how many cases of extrajudicial killings they have recorded, but claimed there are widespread fears among villagers.
He said they also sought a meeting with the town’s mayor, but the politician was busy.
The bishop said the purpose of their mission was “to share compassion and concrete love for the very least, exploited and disadvantaged sector particularly those suffering from the impact of large-scale mining operations.”
The bishop said they held a dialogue with villagers and interviewed some former small-scale miners in the gold rush town of Bayog, where TVI Resource Development (Phils.) Inc. also holds a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement covering some 4,779 hectares.
James Konstantin Galvez And Al Jacinto