OLD AND WISE. Even senior citizen-members of Anislagan Bantay Kalikasan Task Force (ABAKATAF) endured the 45-minute ride aboard a truck to show their solidarity in the community's struggle against three mining giants wanting to encroach their otherwise agriculturally productive lands. Photo by Cong B. Corrales, campaigns paralegal, LRC-KsK Cagayan de Oro Regional Office

Unwavering spirit

ANISLAGAN, PLACER, SURIGAO DEL NORTE—Their resolve is unwavering as when they filed an environmental case in June 22. Three hearings since, they vowed to mobilize its members to monitor each hearing by trooping outside Surigao Hall of Justice in throngs. Tomorrow will be the fourth hearing of their case.

In an interview, Anislagan Bantay Kalikasan Task Force (ABAKATAF) Chair Ronnie P. Ormega said they pooled all their resources for these mobilizations—and they have pooled enough to hire at least two elf trucks to take members to Surigao City every hearing date.

The multi-sectoral environmental watchdog organization opposed to mining activities, ABAKATAF has been on the forefront in anti-mining struggle for almost 10 years.

Para ugma, aduna na kita’y nasabot nga duha ka elf para masakyan sa atong mga membro. Magdala kita og mga lingkuranan aron magbantay sa unsay mahitabo didto sa Bulwagan sa Hustisya (We already hired two elf trucks for tomorrow’s hearing to commute our members. We will also be carrying chairs with us so we can monitor our case right at the doorsteps of the Hall of Justice.),” said Ormega.

In June 22, ABAKATAF filed an environmental case against Manila Mining Corp. (MMC), Kalayaan Copper Gold Resources (KCGR), Silangan Mindanao Mining Company (SMMC) and the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and some of its top officials in Caraga Region. It was the first environmental case filed under the new Supreme Court-promulgated “Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases” in Mindanao and also the first to be granted with a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO).

Maya L. Ormega, a mother of three and a community paralegal team member said they were alarmed when, in an ocular inspection, one of the town’s natural water sources virtually dried up.

Pagkahuman adtong last hearing nangadto mi sa bukal sa Sungkoy og nabalaka kami kay hinay na kaayo ang tubod ini (Right after the last hearing, our team went to check on the spring at Sungkoy in Anislagan and we are concerned when we saw the once free flowing turned to trickles),” she said.

Grassroots lawyer Grace S. Villanueva of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth, Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE, Phils) said the community’s resoluteness is infectious.

Nakakahawa ang kanilang determinasyon at nakakahanga ang kanilang lakas ng loob. Nakakadagdag inspirasyon sa akin para ipagtuloy ang pagdepensa sa karapatan ng mga tao (Their determination is very infectious and their fighting spirit is admirable. These add inspiration to me to prod on in defending their rights)— people who are dependent to their critical watershed and thousand more communities in the Philippines of the same situation,” said Villanueva.

Villagers to barricade Philex Mining’s entry

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, February 15, 2010—Common, peaceful folks of the sleepy village of Anislagan in the municipality of Placer in Surigao department Norte will once again form a barricade tomorrow (Tuesday) to prevent the entry of the country’s largest mining company to their village.

"What we are fighting here is not only for our rich agricultural and watershed village but also for the sake of our children and our children’s' children,” said barangay councilor Merlyn Gamus, a mother of two.
Gamus is a member of the Anislagan Bantay Kalikasan Task Force (ABAKATAF), a multi-sectoral that successfully prevented the entry of Anglo American Plc and Manila Mining Corporation (MMC) in 2001.
This time, ABAKATAF, which count as members all the residents of Anislagan, will once again form a human barricade to prevent the entry of Philex Mining / Silangan Mindanao Mining Company (Philex/SMMC) to their village.
Philex Mining started its actual mining operation in the adjacent village of Timamana, Tubod, Surigao del Norte in the first quarter of 2009.
Philex’s exploration activities in Tubod, also known as the "Bayugo Project," started as early as 1999.
Strong opposition from the Tubod people prospered for awhile. Opposition, however, soon wavered when the mining company started their community relations projects like livelihood, drainage improvement and sports activities.
In the adjacent village of Anislagan, villagers, led ABAKATAF, have sustained their opposition to mining for almost ten years now.
Ten years ago, ABAKATAF members literally blocked with their bodies the mining workers of the second largest mining company in the world, Anglo American, from conducting exploration activity in their barangay.
Anislagan is an area very rich in natural resources. It has been identified by the government as priority area in mining because of its rich mineral resources. It has first–class nickel and gold minerals. Lakes, rivers and springs also surround it.
The Anislagan environment does not only provide attractive scenic spots to communities and tourists alike, but primarily it gives sufficient food and livelihood for the communities in order to survive for the coming years.
Anislagan provides potable water to the entire town of Placer. It also provides irrigation to rice fields in the village and to adjacent villages.
Philex is trying to win the hearts and minds of the village folks by establishing a Livelihood Training Center is a one hectare land it had bought.
"We don't need a livelihood training center inside our village from a mining company. What for? We have an existing self–sustaining and community livelihood here. The mining company already affected our irrigation, our rivers, and even to our water supply from their Bayugo Project and now they are proposing a livelihood center,” Gamus said.
During the December 11, 2009 session of the Barangay Council, village chairman Manuel Tejada informed Philex assistant manager for environment Eufronio A Ortiz Jr. about the barangay’s standing resolutions “against mining and any other activities related thereto” because of its being a critical watershed area.
Despite this information, Philex still tried to enter the barangay last January 9, 2010 presumably to inaugurate the Livelihood Training Center.
But its attempt was foiled when the residents, including women, children and the elderly, blocked its entry by establishing the roadblock.
Not accepting defeat, Philex will once again try to gain entry tomorrow (Tuesday) despite the locale's strong opposition.
And the villagers are not alone in their fight. The Municipal Council of Placer recently issued a resolution supporting the local measures of Anislagan prohibiting any mining project within the barangay.
"The Barangay Council already passed a resolution as early as 2002 not to allow any mining activities in our village. They should respect it,” said Gamus. (Bong D. Fabe)


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BARRICADE. This human barricade in Anislagan, Placer, Surigao del Norte, to stop mining firms from entering their village was set up by the Anislagan Bantay Kalikasan Task Force, a multi-sectoral group that has prevented the entry of Anglo American Plc and Manila Mining Corporation since 2001. Residents are now barricading against Philex Mining/ Silangan Mindanao Mining Company claiming they have a resolution banning mining in the area. Photo courtesy of LRC-CDO



In December 11, 2009, the Asst. Mgr. for Environment of Philex Mining/ Silangan Mindanao Mining Company (SMMC), MR. EUFRONIO A. ORTIZ, JR., wrote to the Bgy. Capt. Manuel Tejada of their intention to make a Livelihood Training Center within the 1 hectare land they purchased within the barangay.

The Barangay Council provided a venue to hear their planned project in a barangay session. It also informed the company officials that the barangay have standing resolutions pertaining to mining, and ANY OTHER ACTIVITIES RELATED THERETO, because of its being a critical watershed area, and that the people do not want such projects within their locality.

In Jan. 9, 2010, the company nevertheless pursued its way, and planned to celebrate its inaugration party in the area. But its attempt was foiled when the residents blocked it entry by establishing the roadblock. women, children and the elderly led the picket against the convoy of company's vehicles.

Not accepting their defeat, they will attempt again to gain entry, pushing its way despite the locale's strong opposition.

The Sangguniang Bayan of Placer recently issued a Resolution supporting the local measures of Bgy. Anislagan prohibiting any mining project within the barangay.

Philex is conducting mining operations affecting Bgy. Anislagan. the livelihood project is an attempt of the company to win the sentiments of the people to their mining project.