Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Development Agression,Last Quarter of 2010:Development, How Much is TOO Much?

When discussing Counterinsurgency anywhere in the world the one solution that will always enter the conversation is "Development." Simple enough for anyone to grasp, why is it then nearly impossible to implement effectively? A huge part of the problem is that sustainable development, development that will not dissipate over the short term, needs to be carefully tailored for each specific dynamic. For example, a Tilapia* Hatchery scheme that works very well in 1 place might be a disaster in a 2nd locale. Aside from very real environmental concerns, there are cultural, socio-economic and of course geo-political concerns to take into account. In Mindanao, neigh, the Philippines as a whole, there is a very real disconnect between the powers that be concerning viable, sustainable development and the means with which to wage an effective Counterinsurgency.

Without exception in both the poltical and military realms "Development" is absolutely equated with margins of profit. If a facet of development will not produce mid-term dividends it is consigned to the rubbish heap. GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) doesn't ponder the long term. It doesn't care what may or may not take place even one century ahead on the horizon. GRP is deeply concerned with posting short term solutions that cannot possibly sustain themselves over the long run. Instead if planting the seeds of a self-perpetuating economical facet such as Paper Production (excepting the clusterfuc* of a nightmare known as PICOP,the behemoth that went belly up in NE Mindanao some years ago), GRP instead implements a Governmental entity to more easily divvy up the island's mineral wealth. Make no mistake about it, there is nothing wrong with exploiting mineral deposits as long as it is done in a technologically, environmentally and culturally responsible manner. GRP has never done anything of the sort.

The type of "Development" GRP aims for will never serve to help neutralise the various insurgencies plaguing the island. It will merely serve to exacerbate and perpetuate the root causes and aggravate the acute facets there in. With this lovely and comforting realisation I thought it best to offer a running compendium on Developmental issues on Mindanao, most notably the aptly named variant, "Developmental Aggression," a neat little moniker that I aim to explore in another entry.

As I mentioned, Mining is being sold as "Development" and this is having some catastrophic environmental and cultural ramifications. Of course in a government revolving around sheer avarice one will always find appalling cases of sheer greed. A notable and relatively recent example is the debacle taking place on and around Mt.Pinukis on the Zamboangan Peninsula. Mt.Pinukis, like many notable mountains on Mindanao is a holy site for animist tribes, in this case. The Subanen Tribe, the tribe indigenous to Zamboanga. On October 05, 2010, in the town of Midsalip, in Zamboamga Sibugay Province, curious Subanen villagers discovered heavy equipment parked in the town's Barangay Sigapod. The equipment, used for testing claim sites, was registered to CDSI (Construction and Drilling Specialists Inc.), a mining equipment lessor based in El Salvador, Misamis Oriental Province. Upon investigation municipal officials discovered that the equipment had been leased. On October 03 to GAMI (Geotechniques and Minerals Inc.), Alpha Sibuco and Cebu Ore, 3 companies who planned to bring their leased testing equipment into the jungle on and around Mt.Pinukis.

Om October 09, in the town's Barangay Guinabor, Subanen villagers found a 2nd batch of testing equipment which sparked an impromptu demonstration, though Midsalip PNP (municipal detachment of Philippine National Police) prevented the angry villagers from destroying the equipment. By October 20 the demonstration had spread to the first site as well, in Barangay. Sigapod. On October 20 the 3 companies targetted by the demonstrators blinked and began to pull out all equipment (a process completed on October 26). When CDSI, the contractor, pulled out citing community opposition the equupment had made it to within 1 kilometer of the Test Site.

One would have thought that the equipment having been removed on October 20 would have caused the demonstrators to dissipate as well but instead, as municipal officials began uncovering more and more disturbing facts the protests continued. On October 28 almost 100 tribespeople laid prostrate on the ground in a symbolic, non-violent show of rancouer against the mining companies and the government that backs them.

The area to have been tested is a 529 hectare tract encompassed on an MPSA (Miner Production Share Agreement) issued to a consortium of the 3 afore mentioned mining companies:

GAMI (Geotechniques and Minerals Inc)

Alpha Sibuco

Cebu Ore

Issued by MGB (Mining and Geosciences Bureau) in 2009. Aside from the cultural and religious significance of Mt.Pinukis, the mountain is also the source of many wide and voluminous streams that feed the 3 main bays on the Zamboangan Peninsula and serves as a watershed fir most of Zamboanga Sibugay Province.

By November 20 the investigation into the attempted drilling on Mt.Pinukis had uncovered some startling facts. Prior to any issuance of Permits by MGB a prospective company must first obtain a FPIC (Free and Informed Prior Consent), a form signed by a tribe's "designated" leader(s) stating that the tribal leadership has been fully informed of the applicant's intentions and does not object in any notable way. It attests that this agreement was entirely free of coercion and entirely voluntarily in every way. Lumad Tribes ("Lumad" being a Cebuano/Bisaya word encompassing all non-Negrito animist tribes on Mindanao, analogous to the Tagalog term "Igorot" used correspondingly on Luzon) are by far the poorest and most under served demographic on the nation's poorest and most underserved island. Ergo, it is not difficult at all to stack the deck against Lumads when trying to wrangle their only concrete asset, land. I placed the word, "Leader" in apostrophes because in the vast bulk of FPICs Lumad leaders give away their inheritance for an absolute pittance. One cannot help hearkening back to the Dutch and their "purchase" of Manhattan Island for 24 US Dollars worth of glass beads and just as with Manhattan one finds it is inevitably a European based multi-national corporation doing the "wrangling."

IF Subanen leaders had merely traded away their birthright for glass beads that would be a great tragedy indeed. However, the Subanen of Midsalip claim that their leaders were not even consulted! The majority of protestors maintain that 1 4ubanen Timuay (where as most Lumad call chiefs by the Malay title, "Datu," Subanen use a wird in their own language, "Timuay," or, "Timway") wadnt even a Subanen, let alone a Timuay. The demonstrators claim that the man in question is a Cebuano TBisaya, a non-Lumad ethnicity).They also note with derision that 5 supposed Timuay were brothers and that Subanen Tribal Law mandates that a single generation in each family may not exceed a single Timuay. Clearly they say, the tribe has been duped. What's more they say, the entire FPIC process is supposed to be under the direct supervision of the NCIP (National Council on Indigenous Peoples). The NCIP is absolutely aware of Subanen Tribal Laws and so there has clearly been collusion during the FPIC process (or at the very least, extreme negligence).

To put the entire mining issue in the proper perspective, the entire Zamboanga Peninsula encompasses 1.7 million hectares of dry land. Using the most current MGB Tenement Map, dated December of 2008, 745,675 hectares, or 44% of the entire peninsula, is prospected. Of those 745,675 hectares, 433,801 hectares are bound in 90 Exploration Permits. Of the remaining area, 78,975 hectares are divided between 4 FTAAs (Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements) while all the rest (save roughly 500 hectares) is divvied up under MPSAs (Mineral Production Sharing Agreements). The 500 hectares excepted comprise a single working mine in Barangay Canatuan in the town of Siocon, also in the Province of Zamboanga Sibugay. Like Midsalip it is a Subanen community and just as what is now transpiring in terms0of opposition in Midsalip, Siocon faced extremely stiff opposition. Of course, in the end the Subanen there (and their supporters) lost their struggle to block the mine and did so after several of their number were tortured and murdered (the last case to my knowledge having taken place in 2004), but the demonstrators in Midsalip say they have studied Siocon intently and don't believe that their struggle will find the same pitfalls.

Of Midsalip's 28,000 hectares, 19,000 hectares are under 14 Applications for Exploration Permits. These 14 Applications cover 31 of the town's 33 barangays. 3 of those 14 Applications have already evolved into MPSAs, 1 of. Which is held by the consrtium led by GAMI, the company at the heart of the struggle in Midsalip. GAMI's MPSA was issued in 2009 amd covers 592 hectares in 3 barangays, Guinabot, Sigapod and Comarom. The struggle of course is far from over. Currently (as of December 16, 2010) the Supreme Court is waiting to docket the Motion for Reconsideration on the Petition by NGO, ASIN (Alliance to Save the Integrity of Nature) to revoke the consortium's MPSA. The Petition revolves around the accusations made by Subanen regarding the afore mentioned FPIC. It is worth noting that a 2nd MPSA holder in the town, "168 Ferrum Pacific Mining Corporation" is also under a similarly filed Petition alleging these same impropieties.

The saddest thing to me, is that in 1988 when (then) President Corazon"Cory"Aquino (late mother of our current President) was sitting in the hot seat a similar last minute action had to be taken to save this very same watertshed over LOGGING.

No comments:

Post a Comment