FPIC processes for Tampakan mine questioned

Published June 21, 2021, 6:30 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) was urged to be more transparent when it comes to getting the consent of Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICC) and Indigenous Peoples (IPs) for the $5.9-billion Tampakan gold and copper mine project in South Cotabato.  

In a phone interview, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) Chairperson Rene Pamplona raised concerns over what he called questionable Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) processes conducted by the NCIP for the Tampakan project, which is now the largest stalled mining venture in the country.

FPIC refers to the consensus of all members of the IP communities in a particular project within their ancestral lands.

In November last year, Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), the holder of the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) for Tampakan, obtained a Certification Precondition (CP) from NCIP upon the approval of the Danlag Tribal Council for the company to explore untapped minerals within their ancestral land.

Also last year, after restoring the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) for the Tampakan project, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Wilfredo Moncano said the only remaining obstacle for the project would be the South Cotabato’s ban on open-pit mining, which has been in place since 2010.  

However, Pamplona pointed out that NCIP is supposed to conduct several FPIC processes for the project for the other ICCs and IPs within the area, and that the CP obtained from the Danlag Tribal is just one of the 11 CPs that will complete the entire process. He said that SMI is yet to secure all the CPs needed for the project.

CP refers to the certification issued by the NCIP that the site covered and affected by any application for concession, license or lease, or production-sharing agreement does not overlap with any ancestral domain area of any ICC or IPs.

Pamplona said that several clans of the B’laan people are questioning how the NCIP was able to issue CP from their ancestral land even if there is still opposition against the project coming from their area.

He said that at one point, the B’laan people even told NCIP that there should be no FPIC processes until NCIP conducts an investigation about the human rights violations that took place there decades ago when Tampakan mine was just freshly identified as a mineral-rich area.

Still, NCIP pushed forward with some of the FPIC processes even without conducting an investigation, Pamplona said.

“Until now, there are legal questions about the FPIC process. They are saying the process has been perfected. But we are talking to the Office of the Vice Mayor of Tampakan and even them, they’re asking if the NCIP can release the result of the investigation, field-based investigation reports [about the human rights violations that happened here],” Pamplona told Business Bulletin.  

Pamplona said that if NCIP is confident about the FPIC processes it so far conducted for the project, it must conduct another series of dialogues with the IPs and ICCs in Tampakan without being accompanied by SMI and “any security force”. 

Regarding Moncano’s earlier statement about the local ban on open-pit mining in South Cotabato being the only remaining obstacle for the project to push through, Pamplona said, “he doesn’t live here to see what’s happening.” 

“Thousands of hectares of rice farm will be affected and thousands of IPs will be relocated, where will they go?” A lot of IPs here are against the project,” Pamplona said. 

“Does MGB already have the endorsement of all LGUs that will be directly affected by the project? Aside from South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, there are other provinces whose watershed will be affected because of the massive scale of this project. Did they already get an endorsement from these provinces?” he added. 

Earlier estimates showed that Tampakan’s final mine area will be around 10,000 hectares,  covering mostly forest areas in Sarangani and Davao del Sur.