By LINA SAGARAL REYES
Special Correspondent .
Third of a four parts
CLAVER, Surigao del Norte — The late Datu Rizal Buklas, the patriatrch of the previously 48-household clan in Barangay Taganito and father of incumbent leader Renante, had the prescience to demand from the Taganito Mining Corp. (TMC) that his constituents be taught functional literacy in adequate learning centers, and that its high school and college students be granted scholarships and other forms of educational assistance.
These expenditures used to be charged to the eight percent of the Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) previously allotted to the Mamanwa in the second cycle (2005-2010), as agreed upon in the first Memorandum of Agreement signed between TMC and Ampantrimtu, the association of Mamanwa in barangays Taganito and Urbiztondo in this municipality.
At that time the MOA was implemented, the educational support project formed part of the SDMP of the first and second cycles. The cycles were then governed by DAO 1999-57, which provided that “the 1% royalty for Indigenous Commmunities may include the allotment to implement the developmental projects.”
According to Ederlina Peraz, former volunteer literacy facilitator and now one of TMC’s focal persons for IP affairs, around 200 tribals had attended the non-formal classes during the first five-year cycle of the program. But she also noted that its lone college scholar shifted course then failed to graduate when he got married.
However, even as it later excluded the Mamanwa from its SDMP, the TMC’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds had been channeled to provide educational support to this IP community, as the company honored the stipulations in the 2006 MOA between TMC and Ampantrimtu.
According to Judy Urbiztondo, TMC senior community relations officer, the CSR is even a much bigger pie, meaning the Mamanwa as getting more funds for development projects.
Unlike the SDMP funds, however, CSR funds are discretionary and are not subject to public accountability. Moreover, CSR projects entitle the company to a 5-10 percent incentive on corporate taxes.
Based on TMC disclosures in the fourth EITI report, in 2015, TMC spent almost 41 percent of its P22-million CSR funds for more infrastructure at Punta Naga Elementary School, honoraria for its teaching and non-teaching staff, and educational equipment and facilities.
In 2016, TMC spent more than P3.6 million of its CSR funds for the construction of another school building, drainage system and perimeter fence, canteen and library and the honoraria of teachers and non-teaching staff as well as scholarships for seven Mamanwa scholars.
In contrast, also based on the PH-EITI database, Gold Star Daily learned that Rio Tuba Mining Corp., a sister company of TMC operating in Palawan, and which has gotten a Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the Palaweno in the towns of Bataraza and Rizal, has responded to the needs of 23 indigenous peoples communities in its 2015 and 2016 Annual Social Development and Management Plans (ASDMP).
So did Philex Mining in the Cordillera, which, according to the the fourth EITI country report, provided funds for the establishment and maintenance of Schools of Living Traditions for the Kankana-ey and Ibaloi in 2015, and sent to school some IP scholars. The Platinum Group Metals Corp. and Taganito THPAL Nickel Corp., both also located in Mamanwa communities, also provided SDMP funds for the Mamanwa in the same years.
But based on the first two PH-EITI reports, however, other mining companies also spent CSR funds for IP projects but there is no way to ascertain, based on the reporting template, whether these IP communities also got SDMP funds.
Explaining the seeming anomaly, Ronald Asignacion, TMC community relations manager, said “the SDMP implementation is mandated by law. You can put it as something of a gray area. It is a gray area.
“While there is the appropriation for the IP royalty, there exist areas where the IPs reside and they still belong to a barangay.
“Technically, they are still entitled to SDMP projects. So, we are legally bound to include them in the SDMP implementation.”
He narrated further, “However, during the streaming of or downloading of IP royalties, the IPs, specifically for the Ampantrimtu, found it very convenient to hold on to their royalties and for us (TMC) to lessen our intervention on their royalties. This way, they asserted their right to self-determination.”
This agreement, however, is only verbal and not documented, he said, adding that this matter has been communicated to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), which is mandated to have oersight functions over the evaluation, approval and implementation of the community development programs.
Asignacion added that this became the “trend” three to four years ago during the peak of nickel production in 2014, when TMC earnings reached more than P1 billion and one percent IP royalty hovered at almost P69 million.
“The bigger the income, the bigger the one percent,” he said. “In this sense, the Mamanwa exercised its right to self-determination and self-governance.”
But the Mamanwa did not need to make any compromise with TMC because guidelines in Administrative Order 3-2012 issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) governing royalties, give IPs sole management and utilization powers over the royalty funds they receive from mining companies.
Based on the NCIP guidelines, a mining permittee like TMC is only expected to release the amount — no more, no less – after the regional commissioner and the national chair of the NCIP have signed the release order after the IP group had accomplished liquidation reports and the Community Royalty Development Plan.
However, Judy Urbiztondo, senior TMC community relations officer who has been with the company for 15 years, traced the decision back to 2010, shortly after the IPs received the bulk of royalties that had accumulated since 2007.
It was not the Mamanwa leaders themselves who decided to opt out, she recalled. It was discussed, she said, by the community technical working group (CTWG), an internal monitoring mechanism composed of local government officials and civil society groups in the mining communities.
“The members agreed that it was rather unfair that the IP who were already getting huge sums from royalties would still be given a share of the SDMP.”
Urbiztondo, like Asignacion, has not seen any document nor resolution about the exclusion, saying she only learned about it through word of mouth.
Junjun “Joel” Hurod, a tribal council member and present tribal in-charge, like Urbiztondo, recalled that the decision was hatched way back in the previous decade, and said the Mamanwa, being an oral people, have a long tradition of honoring unwritten pacts. In hindsight though he said the tribe council felt their former elder was shortchanged. He, too, earlier maintained that there had been no document to justify the exclusion.
“We were told that our former elder, Datu Rizal Buklas, had committed to waive our rights to the SDMP once we get the royalty. They took advantage of the weakness of Datu Rizal!” he stressed, referring to the government agencies concerned, in particular the NCIP, MGB, the CTWG.
“He (Datu Buklas) does not know the law, but they who know the law should have done better and followed the law,” he said. He added that the tribal council will work to bring back their presence in the SDMP without having to wait for the fifth cycle to begin in 2021.
Roger de Dios, MGB Caraga director, says that “there is no policy to exclude the indigenous people from the SDMP.”
Former MGB-13 director Alilo Enciso, who approved the 2011-2015 SDMP cycle that excluded the Mamanwa, said the MOA signed between TMC in partnership with THPAL and Ampantrimtu in 2009 provided that the projects be implemented using CSR and not through the SDMP. But a check on the MOA showed that the projects were supposed to be implemented using SDMP funds, not CSR.
De Dios pointed out that if the Mamanwa are bent on asserting their right to a share of the SDMP, they can invoke Department Administrative Order 2010-13, which allows a review and revision of the SDMP at any time during the cycle.
Apart from their unexpected exclusion from the past two cycles of the SDMP, the Mamanwa are faced with a host of other crises, said Hurod, adding these have affected the education of the children in the past months: almost half a year’s delay of the release of their royalty, militarization brought about by martial law declaration in Mindanao, the recent storm that destroyed their crops in the mountains, and the many levels of internal conflicts that they face within their tribe.
The fourth part continues to take a look into the Mamanwa culture from the perspectives of a mining company official, a local historian and an anthropologist. (to be concluded)
(This four-part series was funded under the Covering the Extractive Industries fellowship program of the Philippine Press Institute in partnership with the Philippine Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiative.)