Bantay Kita Mindanao organised a 2-day workshop on transparency in the extractive industry among B’laan cultural communities held last January 28-29 in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
The activity was attended by more than 50 participants.
The B’laan community in Barangay Fulobato is one of the communities engaged by Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI) which is the financial and technical assistance agreement contractor of the government for the Tampakan Project in Mindanao. The said project, if approved, will become the biggest mining operation in the Philippines and among the biggest one for copper in the world.
The company has recently slowed down its operations. SMI laid off 85% of its labour force in 2013 due to permitting delays and local opposition. In 2010, the province of South Cotabato placed a ban on open pit mining. Global trader Glencore used to hold 62.5% equity share of SMI until it withdrew in 2015 leaving its partner Australian miner Indophil owning 100% shares of the company and the Tampakan project.
Bae Sonia Dagangon, a woman leader of the tribe, shared how the community benefited from SMI’s operations since its exploration stage. Datu Amay Collado, one of the council members, claims that SMI has also provided the community social services far more than the local government and national agencies ever did. Other community members shared the rising cases of illegal and destructive hydraulic mining since SMI’s decision to lie-low. They also cited the need for government and civil society organisations to assist them.
As next steps, BK Mindanao proposed that a community-based research on perspectives on mining of various tribes affected be implemented. This is for BK to further provide relevant assistance needed especially in areas concerning transparency and accountability.