The selected reporters from Philippine Press Institute member publications from Mindanao visited mining sites in Surigao Del Norte on Friday for their four-day seminar workshop on how to cover and report extractive industry in the country.
PPI executive director Ariel Sebellino said that the site visit on a mine operated by Nickel Asia Corporation , one of the biggest nickel miners in the country, in Claver town, Surigao del Norte is to orient journalists on recent efforts of both government and non-government organizations to establish transparency in the country’s extractive industry.
Claver also prides itself as the de facto mining capital of the Philippines.
The Tagnito Mining Corporation kicked off a brief welcome at their site and followed by a safety briefing prior to deployment to the mine site.
The group was shown the physical conditions of the mines and was presented with actual data of how the mine operations are impacting its host communities.
The local mining industry is proud about its role in the development of the town. Ronald Asignacion, community relations manager of TMC, said every month, their firm flows in P11.2 million to the local economy from the salaries and wages alone.
He said banks are starting to put up local branches as a sign of the town’s progress. But how it redounds to the welfare of the indigenous peoples has remained a question even to the mining industry players.
Based on the gathered information during the seminar and site visit the tribe receives millions of pesos every three months as royalty payments and as share of the national wealth from three companies which are currently mining in their ancestral domain in parts of the municipality of Claver.
This is aside from free hospitalization, education, livelihood opportunities and even housing provided by the mining companies.
“Sa una, nakadawatkoug P50,000, but now I only receive less than P4,000 kadatulokabulan” (Before, I received P50,000, but now, I only get less than P4,000 every three months),” said Virgilio Danapa, a 60-year old Mamanwa in Punta Naga, Claver. Danapa is one of the hundreds of IPs who lived in a village built for them by TMC.
According to figures from Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative that the Mamanwa, the indigenous peoples of Surigao del Norte, receive millions of royalty, a minimum of 1 percent from the firms’ gross production. In 2016 alone, they received a total of P188.81 million from TMC and Platinum Group Metals Corporation,
Danapa hinted that their present economic condition is getting worse because their supposed share of the national wealth is almost uncertain owing to their tribal chieftain’s non remittance to most of the tribal families.
The problem is not if the firms gave to the tribes but if their tribal leaders share it equitably with their members.
Danapa, said there are many things they could not understand about the distribution of the royalties and now there are back to the forest to hunt for wild boar and as wood gatherer for fuel to make ends meet.
As members of the Mamanwa community who own the ancestral lands rich in nickel and copper ore, each of them receive a portion of the windfall.
Ronald Asignacion, Community relations officer of TMC laments that despite their prodding for the tribe to be cohesive in planning towards the attainment of a sustainable economic existence, the tribe refused to take heed and instead its members have factionalized.
“They could have been well off, considering that we gave them millions of royalties but we couldn’t do anything more about it, we remit the payment through their chieftains because it is according to the agreement we signed,” Asignacion said.