THE local affiliate of Canadian miner TVI Pacific Inc. has secured the consent of the Subanen tribe of Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur for the development of the Balabag mining project.
In a statement, TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD) said it has concluded its free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) process following two months of “exhaustive” public consultations with tribal communities to be affected by the proposed mining operations.
Under the supervision of the National Commission on Indigenous People, TVIRD entered into a memorandum of agreement with tribal leaders Lucenio Manda and Casiano Edal, who represent the collective Subanen people in the Municipality of Bayog.
“Nearly two years after the dismantling of illegal mining operations in the area – an initiative spearheaded by Provincial Governor Antonio Cerilles – the tribe now has clear reason to hope for the remediation of prior environmental destruction from exploitive artisanal mining and a transparent roadmap for mutual development with TVIRD,” the company said.
Bayog encompasses TVIRD’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) area covering 4,779 hectares in Sitio Balabag in Barangay Depore where it is primed to bring its gold and silver project on stream.
Timuay Manda, who is also a member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Bayog, expressed confidence with TVIRD, saying that the entire municipality supports the sustainable development of the mining area.
“We are exercising our right to keep illegal mining from returning to our town,” he said.
Earlier, Sitio Balabag was the center of disaccord between illegal miners and the tribal leaders who support TVIRD. The agreement signed by the Subanens is a prerequisite for a Certification Precondition to be issued by the NCIP Commission En Banc in order for the company to operate its Balabag Mining Project.
“Based on its success in Canatuan, we believe in TVIRD’s capability to implement development (in Bayog),” said Manda, who succeeded his father, Rosendo, as one of the leaders of the ancestral domain.
Another basis for their approval, Manda said, was the company’s flagship gold and silver project that came on stream in the town of Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte in 2004. In early 2014, the company concluded its successful 10-year run in Canatuan with its final copper and zinc concentrate shipments.
Manda places priority on his people above all else and said that consultation with his tribe will always take precedence. He explained that while various NGOs do not support mining, he believes in transparency and maintaining a critical balance between the tribe and the government that he serves.
Given its mineral-rich environment, the Subanens of Bayog are likewise confident that mining will enhance economic activity in the town while royalties are direct benefits that they can invest in the tribe’s future. Similarly, they look forward to prosperity experienced by their fellow lumads in Siocon who witnessed its rise from a fourth-class municipality to first-class status.
“The MOA signing is significant to us. Employees (of TVIRD) may change, but the commitment on both sides would remain. That is legacy building. When mining is done, there will still be sustainable development – there will be infrastructure left behind to support local trade and economy,” Manda said.
“We want the TVIRD-Subanen partnership to be a model for development – a testament that securing the tribe’s free, prior and informed consent is a transparent process that can bring social and economic benefits. And by consulting with everyone involved, each will have ownership over the process,” he explained, citing the consultative relationship he shares with his contemporary, Timuay Casiano Edal, and the development of a consensus over the past two months.
Last June 18, the NCIP held a conference to explain the process of securing free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) to Subanen tribal leaders, key TVIRD personnel and representatives from the Municipality of Bayog. The agency coordinated with all stakeholders before proceeding with the FPIC process.
A Community Consultative Assembly was then conducted from July 8 to 11 in which TVIRD explained all the necessary components of the Balabag Mining Project, including Company Profile, Mining and Milling Process, Environmental Enhancement and Protection Plan (EPEP), and the Social Development Management Plan (SDMP). At the same congregation, the DENR-MGB presented the Philippine Mining Act (RA7942) and its implementing rules and regulations, while the NCIP presented the IPRA Law and the FPIC process itself.
On July 23 and July 28, the Ancestral Domain Council and the NCIP were engaged in consensus building, which is one of the final parts of the consultation process prior to unanimously deciding to pursue TVIRD’s Balabag mining project. While the law requires consultation among the four affected barangays, the process nonetheless engaged the Subanen leadership in all their 22 barangays.
TVI Pacific Inc. is a Canadian resource company focused on the production, development, exploration, and acquisition of resource projects in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.
TVI’s affiliate, TVIRD, produces copper and zinc concentrates from its Canatuan mine and is advancing its Balabag Gold-Silver project. TVI is a direct or indirect participant and operator in several joint venture projects in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea and also has an interest in an offshore Philippine oil property.