September 18, 2021 | 4:00 p.m.
KORONADAL CITY, Philippines – Top royalty leaders T’boli and Blaan in southern Cotabato this week signed a manifesto urging Sangguniang Panlalawigan to lift a provincial ordinance preventing them from mining copper deposits in their ancestral estates.
The first to sign the document were Blaan and T’boli datus at a meeting Thursday at Barangay Tinago in Norala, south Cotabato.
The signatories of the manifesto jointly denounced the stubborn opposition of small foreign blocs to Blaans’ long-standing desire to have the copper deposits of Tampakan mined for their benefit.
Foreign and Filipino geologists had previously estimated the value of the copper deposits in Tampakan at no less than 5.8 billion euros (euro currency).
Tampakan is an ancestral land of the Blaans whose right to use the natural resources available in their tribal domains is guaranteed by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, or IPRA.
IPRA, also known as Republic Law 8371, grants indigenous peoples the right to self-determination and autonomy in the management of community affairs in their ancestral domains.
The Blaan Michael Malino, president of Barangay Tinago in Norala, said that although their villages are far from Tampakan, they support the call for the provincial council to lift the ban on mining in southern Cotabato.
“We hope our provincial lawmakers will listen to us,” said Malino.
A number of bays, or women of the noble Blaan and T’boli clans in Norala, also signed the manifesto urging members of the provincial council to amend the local anti-mine law.
The provincial council has launched consultations on the issue since last month.
Datu Edmund Ugal, a T’boli, said they were saddened by the annoying opposition to them from small groups of settlers, virtually non-Blaans, in the town of Koronadal and neighboring towns to any mining activity in Tampakan .
“They are foreigners. When their ancestors from outside Mindanao arrived, the Blaan and T’bolis were driven into the hills. The current generation of these outsiders want tribal communities to stay poor, ”Ugal said while in Barangay Tinago in Norala last Thursday.
Ugal is president of the South Cotabato Indigenous Peoples Council for Peace and Development.
He said Tampakan is an ancestral Blaan homeland recognized by the government and covered by the IPRA.
“Why can’t we let the Blaan exploit the resources available on their ancestral lands in Tampakan? We want them to have better lives, ”Ugal said.
On Friday, nearly 20 datus and bay t’boli put their signatures on the appeal to the southern provincial council of Cotabato to authorize copper mining in Tampakan during a dialogue in the upland municipality of T ‘ boli in the province.
Bai Dalena Samling, a tribal chief from Tampakan, told the T’boli Datus and Bays that a mining operation in their municipality would lift them out of widespread poverty and underdevelopment.
Datu Sanorio Abentong, who hosted Friday’s activity in T’boli town, said he and other datus in their municipality were in favor of mining activities in Tampakan.
Bai Silin Awed, a local tribal chief, said that only by allowing copper mining in the tribal enclaves of Tampakan can Blaan and non-Blaan settler communities be lifted out of extreme poverty due to long-standing neglect.
“We have to give them the respect they deserve. Let us help them progress in the spirit of autonomy guaranteed by IPRA, ”said Awed.