Surigao del Sur – Indigenous peoples (IPs) in Surigao del Sur claim that they are not aware if they are receiving their fair share of royalty payments and expenditures from mining companies operating in their areas.
IPs in Surigao del Sur claim that while they are aware that some amount have been released as their share from royalty payments through their tribal leaders, they don’t know the exact amount of these payments. Moreover, they do not have knowledge on how much they should receive in the first place.
Seventy three (73) members of the Manobo and Mamanwa tribes coming from nine (9) upland communities aired their grievances in a forum on environmental rights and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) organized by Paglilingkod Batas Pangkapatiran Foundation (PBPF) and Bantay Kita.
The communities represented 2 ancestral domains issued with Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title as they filed a petition in response to the unlawful intrusion of a local businessman and a former Sangguniang Bayan member of Lanuza to their ancestral domains.
According to the communities, the intrusions began in 2009. The Council of Elders of these tribes have tried to stop the said illegal activities through the enactment of their customary laws, but their efforts were in vain when it cost them the life of one of their tribal chieftains.
“Solving these disputes is not an easy task, but we have to start somewhere. First of all, they should be informed of their rights and they should have the means to defend them. They should also be involved in the transparency and accountability process in order to empower them in the management of their natural resources,” PBPF Executive Director Melvin Lamanilao said.
Lamanilao led a discussion on the findings from the first PH-EITI Country Report, specifically in the context of the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process. For the year 2012, the extractive industries contributed Php 52.8 billion as reported by 36 extractive companies and government agencies including the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
However, the report shows that NCIP could not account for Php 52.17 million worth of revenues composed of Php 51.71 million from mining royalties and Php 510,022 from FPIC expenditures.
Royalties are directly paid to IPs by companies through a trustee bank or through an account under the name of a duly appointed Indigenous Peoples Organization of the IPs concerned. On the other hand, FPIC expenditures are based on field-based investigation (FBI) fees that were incurred during the FPIC process. The FBI fees are remitted or paid by the proponent or applicant to a trust account established by the NCIP Regional Office.
NCIP was furnished with templates to gather information on the fees they monitor with respect to IP processes. Twenty-eight (28) out of the 36 companies were operating in ancestral domains. NCIP only provided information on 17 out of the 30 mining entities.
The findings from the EITI report that were presented showed the IPs how much they should receive from royalty payments and FPIC expenditures. This led them to question the existing benefit sharing system in their communities.
According to the participants in the forum, they do not have access to information regarding the amount of royalties they were entitled to. The tribal chieftain receives these payments, but there are no clear policies on benefit sharing. Moreover, there is no financial system to begin with.
They also observed that while some are beneficiaries of the royalty payments in Surigao del Sur, they have not occupied the ancestral domains for a long time, even before the mining operations began. According to them, this may be the reason why these beneficiaries do not care about the destruction that the open pit mining operations have caused.
In line with its advocacy, Bantay Kita, a coalition of organizations pushing for transparency and accountability in the extractive industries, shall assist the IP groups in the development of benefit sharing and financial systems that shall aid in transparent reporting on the receipt and the disbursement of payments to the IPs.