By Janina C. Lim

Ancestral land occupied by mining, logging to return to lumad: DENR

Posted on August 08, 2016

THE Environment Department vows to return immediately to the lumad (indigenous peoples) their right to lands allegedly encroached upon by large-scale mining and logging companies.

Environment Undersecretary Leo L. Jasareno, head of the agency’s mining audit team, assured the lumad or indigenous peoples (IP) in Mindanao seeking refuge at the Haran compound of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines in Davao City that their ancestral lands occupied for the implementation of mine projects will be returned to them within the month.

“The DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) would return their lands to the lumad within August, as long as it is proven that the areas were occupied without the consent of the entire tribal community since it is illegal for mining companies to operate in ancestral lands,” Mr. Jasareno was quoted as saying in the agency’s statement sent over the weekend to reporters via e-mail.

Under Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, no ancestral land shall be turned over to miners for their operations “without prior consent of the indigenous cultural community concerned.”

The Haran camp had become an evacuation site for at least 300 lumad who fled their homes and farmlands in Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong in Davao del Norte and the village of White Kulaman in Bukidnon more than a year ago following complaints of harassment by paramilitary groups and of indiscriminate killings of their leaders.

IP leaders reported that military personnel and some of their fellow IPs whom they claim have turned against them after being enjoined to accept money have driven the IPs away from their lands to give way to large-scale mining and logging operations.

DENR Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez has vowed to bring back their homes to the lumad earlier than September.

She also said she will inspect permits of mining companies cited by the lumad leaders in the ongoing mining audit and will shut them down if proven to operate over an ancestral domain.

Among the first mining operations to undergo the audit were SR Metals Inc., Taganito Mining Corporation, Greenstone Resources, and Corporation Claver Mineral Development Corporation, whose mineral ore transport permit has been suspended by Ms. Lopez.

The audit of mining operations is scheduled to be completed and released this month.