Friday, February 24, 2006

Bitter Foes Finally Unite For Peaceful Cause In Zambo Norte

Back row, left to right: Lino Tii - SSAI Council of Elders (Anoy/Mato side), Oglen Tii - SSAI Council of Elders (Anoy/Mato side), Chirino Limpuson – TVI Liaison Officer and SSAI Secretary, Vic Bagasao – TVI Community Relations Manager, Onsino Mato – former SSAI Secretary General, Mayor Cesar Soriano, Col. Ramon Florece – 4th Infantry Battalion Commanding Officer, Jose Boy Anoy – former SSAI Chairman, Tabayo Barangay Captain Bonifacio Patoh, Subanon Virgie Tialan, Lydia Dandana – SSAI Council of Elders (Tumangkis side), and Perfecto Pantalita – DENR Forester.Front row, left to right: Danilo Bason – SSAI Vice President (Tumangkis side), Atty. Pablo Bernardo – Legal Counsel of SSAI (Tumangkis side), Rey Jalandoni – DENR Forester, Vicente Anoy – SSAI Council of Elders brother of Anoy but on Tumangkis side, and Crispin Lumantang – SSAI Council of Elders (Anoy/Mato Side).

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE (Rock Dimaculangan / 24 Feb) The scene, while tense, was inspiring. Current and former leaders of the Subanon indigenous people in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte province shook hands and agreed to work together for peace and progress.
They also vowed to end bitter disagreements within the tribe, exacerbated in recent years by conflicts as well as by differing opinions and principles pertaining to the administration of the gold-rich Subanon ancestral domain in Mount Canatuan.

Siocon town Mayor Ceasar Soriano recently called the meeting between the two Subanon factions and their opposing leaders: Juanito Tumangkis, and Jose “Boy” Anoy and Onsino Mato in the presence of representatives from the National Commission of Indigenous People (NCIP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The meeting followed the recommendation of the Congress Committee on National Cultural Communities, led by Rep. Solomon Chungalao, who called on the mayor during the Committee’s visit to Canatuan in late January to continue his efforts to get the two sides together to effect a reconciliation.
The parties were seeking to resolve questions on the leadership of the Siocon Subano Association, Inc. (SSAI); on benefits sharing; and on the 2002 ambushcade that killed 13 Subanon and TVIRD in Siocon.
Tumangkis chairs the 2000-strong SSAI, recognized by the NCIP as the legal representative of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) holders in Canatuan. He also heads the Subanon Council of Elders composed of 30 traditional tribal leaders whose legitimacy has been upheld by the NCIP as the policy-making body of the Subanon IPs of Siocon.
SSAI is represented by Anoy and Mato who were the group's former chairman and secretary. Since losing to Tumangkis in an election in November 2001, they formed and currently lead Apu’ Manglang Glupa’ Pusaka’, which is composed of Subanon members from the Zamboanga Peninsula.
“Sa tinoon lang lisod kaayo ang kahimtang sa LGU, apan mao mania tong responsibilidad nga hiusahon ang tanang nagkaaway (Truth is, this is difficult for the local government but it is our responsibility to unite all those who have conflicts),” Soriano said.
“Let this be a meeting where we can freely talk about our differences,” Mayor Soriano said, adding that the process will not be easy but assured the groups that the local government will be fair enough to listen both sides.
The six-hour meeting went through a three-step process: the opening statements before tribe members and observers; individual-group processing where members of each group separately and alternately discussed their concerns with a panel composed of representatives from NCIP, AFP and the municipality; and one-on-one talks between leaders of the opposing groups, i.e., Tumangkis and Mato; SSAI legal counsel Atty. Pablo Bernardo and Boy Anoy.
Of the total 8,213 hectares under the CADT, 508 hectares are covered by the Philippine government’s Mineral Production Share Agreement (MPSA) with TVI Resource Development Inc. (TVIRD). The company’s presence is supported by the current SSAI leaders and members.
TVIRD is the Philippine affiliate of Calgary-based TVI Pacific Inc., and focused on acquisition, exploration and development of polymetallic mineral deposits in China and the Philippines.
Prior to its operations, TVIRD received free and prior consent for its mining operations from the Subanon Council of Elders at a meeting officiated by the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP).
Hopeful of the reconciliation between the two groups, TVIRD welcomed the initiative of Mayor Soriano. The company views the leadership issue as internal to the IP community.
NCIP Resource Management Chief Noella Zunega believes that reconciliation is a possibility and that the unity meeting was a good start.
“Naniniwala po kami na sa pamamagitan sa ginawa natin ngayon, nagkaroon tayo ng simula tungo sa kauswagan. Tayo ay makakaiisa dahil tayo ay iisa ang atin lahi, bayan at mithiin. (We believe that because of what we achieved today, we have gained a fresh start towards development. Let us unite because we all belong to the same race and country, and we all share the same aspirations.)”
The two Subanon parties agreed to meet again next week in Siocon town.

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