Sunday, January 23, 2011

Macroasia and the Plundering of Protected Areas: Unravelling the Roots of Illegality

ALDAW, Puerto Princesa - In spite of the growing outpour of international support and solidarity, it appears to be no end to the attempts of some government institutions to transform the Philippines “Last Frontier” (Palawan Island) into one of the most popular mining destinations (click on the map below to see the details!).

Click the map to enlarge it to its original size !
Indeed, the violation of indigenous ancestral land rights on Palawan Island (Philippines) has exacerbated towards the end of 2010, with the proliferation of street protests and peaceful demonstrations. On December 21, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) [in the absence of the chair, NGO representative, and with the vice governor opposing] affirmed the decision of the PCSD executive committee made last December 4, 2010, to issue Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearances to Macro Asia Mining Corporation and Ipilan Nickel Mining Corporation (INC).
According to the Environmental Legal Environmental Center (ELAC) such clearances would enable these mining corporations to conduct large-scale mining operations within natural forests, protected areas and within the ancestral domain of the Palawan indigenous peoples. According to the SEP, the affected areas are classified as ‘strict protection’ or ‘core zones’ and ‘restricted use zones’. “The PCSD decision overstepped the bounds of the law that it is mandated to uphold, and ultimately placed Palawan’s natural and cultural heritages at great risk” said ELAC Attorney Gerthie Mayo Anda.

Surprisingly, on July 30, the indigenous peoples of Palawan and the local NGOs had succeeded in obtaining from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) a deferment of a SEP endorsement to MacroAsia Corp. On that occasion Governor Baham Mitra agreed to defer the decision to endorse a SEP clearance to MacroAsia until a multipartite team composed of PCSD technical staff, local government officials, NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ representatives would have visited the proposed area to investigate indigenous peoples complaints. Sadly, since then, the PCSD has made no efforts in constituting the much-wanted “multipartite team”.

The PCSD is the government body in charge of implementing the “Strategic Environmental Plan”, a very special environmental law aiming at ensuring the sustainable development on the island. This ‘Strategic Plan’ was created and put into place through conspicuous financial resources coming from the European Union which culminated with the  implementation of the Palawan Tropical Forestry Protection Programme (PTFPP). “It would be tremendously useful if the European Commission itself would begin an in-depth evaluation on how its multi-million investments in the preservation of Palawan Island have been rather vilified by reckless mining policies and by short-sighted politicians. Somebody must be made accountable for these conservation failures” said Dario Novellino, International Coordinator of the ALDAW Network (Ancestral Land Domain Watch).

Palawan is well known as the bio-diversity richest province in the Philippines and, for this reason, in the eighties, the entire island was declared by the UNESCO as a Man and Biosphere Reserve. “We tried to approach UNESCO several times on this issue” said a spokesman of the ALDAW Network (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch). “Through its silent and inertia, the UNESCO has shown, once again, how these declarations bring little or no benefits to local communities, especially when there is no clear political commitment to uphold them. Overall UNESCO has revealed the general weakness of the entire United Nations system, that is a chronic incapacity to take unequivocal positions on urgent matters requiring unambiguous and concerted political efforts” he added.

The political squabbles underlying the mining saga on Palawan Island are clearly detected in the ambiguous behavior of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) - the official government body in charge of protecting the rights of tribal communities. As of now, the NCIP Palawan Provincial Office has bluntly violated all required procedures leading to transparent and genuine FPIC processes, siding instead with the mining companies. As a result, the indigenous communities of Brooke’s Point Municipality have bitterly rejected the so-called Certificates of Precondition issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), in favor of mining companies.

On January 2011, Alyansa Tigil Mina (“The Alliance Against Mining”) - the largest advocacy network in the Philippines - has asked clarifications to NCIP national office on the compilation of an investigation report allegedly prepared by NCIP Provincial Officer Roldan Parangue, in response to the complains raised by the indigenous people of Brookes’ Point. In a letter dated 11 January 2011 Myrna L. Caoagas, from NCIP National, stated that the NCIP main office has never received such report.
Obviously, while the NCIP is unable to provide evidences of Indigenous Peoples’ Free and Prior Informed Consent, MacroAsia Corporation and INC are working hard to prove that their operations have been favorably accepted by local communities.  Village people that are not from Brookes’ Point Municipality are “induced” by both companies to make positive statements in their favor. Specifically, Mrs. Apolonia “Onyang” De Las Alas, a councilor from Mabalot village - and originally from the Municipality of Agutaya, in the North of Palawan - was invited to talk on the behalf of the indigenous peoples of Brookes’ Point in a press conference jointly organized by MacroAsia and INC, on January 5.  This has raised a fierce reaction on the part of the traditional and legitimate indigenous leaders.  Meanwhile, the ALDAW network has decided to approach Congressman Teddy Brawner Baguilat  (chairperson of the National Cultural Committee) requesting a Congressional Investigation of these matters.However, time to save Palawan is running out: towards the end of this month, Baham Mitra, Governor of Palawan and chairman of the PCSD will express his own decision on whether to endorse a SEP clearance to MacroAsia, Ipilan Nickel Corporation and LEBACH. As of now, all these companies have failed to secure the needed social acceptability requirements and have bluntly violated the basic tenets of both the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEC) and of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA Law).

Once again, one of the government agencies to be blamed for these violations is the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (SEP). ELAC believes that “the Council overlooked the clear intent of the SEP law when it compromised its zoning policy to accommodate certain mining interests”. For the same reason, the ALDAW network has recently requested the PCSD to stop any further attempt of changing the definition of ‘core zones’ and other zones to allow mining activities in forested land.  It has already been established that some definitions such as those of “controlled use zones” found in the Strategic Environmental Plan have been amended by the Council to please extractive industries. For instance, according to the SEP law, in Controlled Use Area – (the outer protective barrier that encircles the core and restricted use areas): “strictly controlled mining and logging, which is not for profit… may be allowed”. Uncharacteristically, the “not for profit” specification has been eliminated, thus opening these zones to commercial extractive activities.

Clearly, the newly produced ALDAW video and additional geotagged evidences reveal that MacroAsia and INC have carried out exploration activities in ‘core zones’ (areas of maximum protection), as well as in ‘restricted zones’ and watershed areas. The locations of MacroAsia test-pits have been documented in areas of pristine virgin forest, and also at high altitudes (e.g. around and above 1,000 meters ASL) and specifically in those areas of primary forest where indigenous people harvest the resin of Almaciga trees (Agathis philippinensis), which is traded by the local communities for rice and other prime commodities.ALDAW geotagging-data further indicates that LEBACH drilling activities are also taking place out of the limits of its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) area.  Recently, the company has also harassed and intimidated local farmers by cutting their coconut palms, in the attempt of forcing them out of their own land. In conjunction with these field investigations, Artiso Mandawa, ALDAW national coordinator, has received persistent dead threats. “I will continue to fight for my people and my land, until the President of the Philippines puts a halt to all those mining investments that are genocidal to indigenous people” said Mandawa.

We are afraid that the pronunciation of the newly elected President and especially of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is that they would pursue mining as an economic policy, just like the previous Arroyo government. We cannot fight climate change if we will not prioritize sustainable development” added Alyansa Tigil Mina National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera.

It is rather ironic that President “Noynoy” Aquino’s centerpiece program is poverty alleviation and strict implementation of anti-corruption measures. Corruption, however, is not only about grafting, it is a state of mind, something that contradicts all ethical principles on which human coexistence and well being should be based.  Sacrificing watersheds, forests and people’s livelihood in favor of foreign profit is unethical; it is the most corrupted way of dealing with public welfare while jeopardizing the future of the coming generations.  Surely, “Noynoy” Aquino’s fight against corruption and poverty will not be credible, until the new administration comes up with a new mining policy to ban mining in Palawan, while revoking Executive Order 270-A or the revitalization of mining for the Philippines as a whole.

What you can do ...

Sign a Petition to Stop Mining in Palawan!

And address your concerns to:

For more information watch ALDAW videos on Vimeo and on YouTube or contact the ALDAW INDIGENOUS NETWORK (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch) , ELAC (Environmental Legal Assistance Center) or and or Alyansa Tigil Mina ( or )

Source: ALDAW, 22 January 2011

(Ancestral Land/Domain Watch)
is a Philippines-based advocacy campaign network of Indigenous Peoples
 defending their ancestral land and resources from mining corporations, oil palm companies, top-down conservation schemes and all forms of imposed development.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Looking Through a Mirror at our Past and Present: Account of a P3DM Exercise in Ethiopia

The leathery scent at the venue hall was nothing more than the confirmation that we were working in rural Ethiopia, in a village called Telecho, some 30 kilometres north of Holeta. We had just gathered with 20 delegates coming from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Uganda, Cameroon and Benin to co-facilitate a participatory mapping exercise implemented by more than 130 villagers coming from 28 kebeles located within the area and foothills of a mountain known as Foata.

The exercise – organised by MELCA-Ethiopia, a national NGO and supported by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), was a response to a call by the community for assistance in rehabilitating its environment which suffered heavy deforestation and soil degradation over the past decades. After several month of preparation, the exercise took place on 8-18 December 2010 in the village of Telecho amidst a golden landscape shimmering with wheat, teff and rye at maturity stage intersected by dark brown strips of ploughed land and exposed soil cloths weltering in the choking sun.

Close to 140 people worked in shifts on the model which covers – at a 1:10,000-scale - a total area of 672 sq km including portions of four woredas namely Welmera, Ejere, Adea berga and Mulo. Assisted by the trainers, 14 students, three teachers and the foreign delegates (the trainees) manufactured the blank model. Approximately 110 elders representing 28 kebeles contributed in overlapping groups to the elaboration of the map legend and the depicting of their mental maps onto the model. A number of representatives from local government units contributed to the exercise as well.

The assembling of the blank model using 3-mm thick sheets of carton board and measuring 2.8m x 2.4m, took three days while the depiction of the landscape and the location of features relevant to the community, took additional six days.

Selected elders introduced the first group of participants to the draft legend which was verified and further enriched in terms of items and their descriptors. Once completed, the model stored 48 layers of information including 25 point-, 5 line- and 18 area types. A count of point data done at the end of the exercise revealed that within the area there were 38 schools, 23 health posts, 113 sacred trees, 8 markets, 861 settlements and much more.

In terms of process, villagers from the first group introduced the second group to its task and the latter did the same with the third group. This ensured a full transfer of ownership of the entire process from the facilitators, who kick-started the process, to the informants, which proudly presented their output to the wider community and government representatives on the day of the inauguration and closing ceremony. Villagers worked with great attention and passion while depicting the landscape of their woredas. Animated discussions, exchanges, and negotiations characterised the process involving both men (the majority) and women. Traditional dances animated the start of the activities in the morning while work kept on rolling until night at the light of a generator.

A bull was slaughtered in anticipation of the closing ceremony which took place on 18 December 2010. The event signified the apotheosis of the process where elders (man and women) presented the legend and information featured on the 3D model and described the process which led to its production. The audience was composed of approximately 300 villagers originating from all 28 woredas, representatives from the parliament, local government, CTA, the Finnish Embassy and delegates coming from 9 African countries, representing NGOs and universities.

During the various phases of model making, participants were given the chance to express themselves and provide written feedback on the process using so called “democracy walls”. Democracy walls are large sheets of craft paper labelled as “I noticed”, “I learned”, “I discovered”, “I felt”, “I would like to suggest” where individuals can stick A5 sheets of paper where they have marked a statement related to the “label” and concerning the process experienced. In addition a professional media team documented the process and conducted interviews, and a group of youth was trained and assisted in producing a Participatory Video (PV).

Participating villagers reported that working on the model elicited powerful memories of a past landscape characterised by lush forests and permanent river courses, and made them realise how much the conversion of the matural habitat had impacted (negatively) on their life. Participants stated that through a self-reflection process they realised that their non-sustainable handling of the resources base had led to impoverishment of soils and decrease in crop yield, and that the present situation was threatening their livelihoods and mere subsistence. They stated that the process of model building created learning environment and gave them a sense of purpose. “The P3DM process enables the community to look at itself using the model as a mirror” wrote a villager on a card featuring on the “Democracy Walls”.

Written statements made by villagers (in Amharic) while working on the 3D model:

“I felt that - as we destroyed the natural resources in our surroundings, we lost the soil, the forest, wild animals and more. This in turn is harming ourselves and creating problems to coming generations”.
“I felt that I could compare what we did on the map with what existed in the past [in the real world], and this makes it clearer about what to do in the future”.
“I noticed that it [the process] helped me understanding the importance of participation. I also realized that the community has valuable knowledge that we were not aware of.” 
“I noticed that the P3DM process enables the community to look at itself using the model as a mirror. It builds capacities and that is important for the development of the country.”

Source: Democracy Walls, Telecho, 17 December 2010

The large gathering on 18 December reinforced the message as villagers involved in the mapmaking shared their realisations, increased awareness and statements of intentions. The presence of Government representatives who seemed bewildered by the view of the model at its unveiling, was much appreciated by the community members, and reinforced their perception of being considered and listen to in their pledge for working jointly for a better future. In this context villagers decided to convene a larger meeting to look into a series of actions which would help them rehabilitate their degraded land.

A few days after the completion of the exercise, MELCA was granted additional financial support by the Finnish Embassy to sustain follow-up activities related to the rehabilitation of the environment in the project area. The 3D model will play an important part in this process as it represents the most updated and most relevant repository of local spatial information and a planning tool which can be easily mastered at village level, as it is fully understood and endorsed by the local populace.

Last but not least, the national and international trainees expressed their intention to replicate the process in their areas.

Authors: Giacomo Rambaldi / CTA and Million Belay MELCA-Ethiopia
Images: G. Rambaldi / CTA© and Damian Prestidge / CTA©

Sunday, January 16, 2011

International Union for the Conservation of Nature to review and advance implementation of the ‘new conservation paradigm’, focusing on rights of indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples’ representatives met with Chairs of Commissions of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other conservation organizations, for a high-level dialogue during the Sharing Power conference, in Whakatane, New Zealand, on January 13th, 2011. IUCN agreed to review the implementation of resolutions related to indigenous peoples taken at the 4th World Conservation Congress (WCC4) in 2008, in Barcelona, Spain, and to advance their implementation.

These resolutions, along with the Durban Action Plan and the Programme of Work on Protected Areas of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), are often termed as the “new conservation paradigm”. They are crucial for ensuring that conservation practices respect the rights of indigenous peoples and their full and effective participation in policy and practice. Unfortunately, the actual implementation of these decisions in support of indigenous peoples has been very patchy. The information gathered by the IUCN review processes will feed into its 2013-2016 Programme, to be discussed and adopted in September 2012 in Jeju, Republic of Korea.

Specifically, the meeting participants agreed that IUCN will:
  • Reinforce its multi-level process (encompassing international, regional, national and local levels) to assess and advance the implementation of the “new conservation paradigm”. This process would focus on specific WCC4 resolutions relevant to indigenous peoples.
  • Implement pilot assessments of protected areas at the local level that should be carried out by teams composed of indigenous peoples, IUCN national and international offices, government officials and other relevant actors. The pilot assessments should specify recommendations to address gaps between the observed practices and the ‘new conservation paradigm’. The findings will be reported in national workshops, which will then explore ways to implement the recommendations from the assessments. The assessments would also bring examples of successful projects and best practices to the international community.
  • Carry out a review of the implementation of each of the WCC4 resolutions relevant to indigenous peoples, based on information from commissions and regional and global thematic programmes. This review will identify gaps and make recommendations to address them, which will be included in IUCN’s 2013-2016 Programme.
  • Submit reports on these matters to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the CBD.
  • Spread awareness of WCC4 resolutions on indigenous peoples to all national IUCN offices.
  • Improve the coordination between regional and national IUCN offices and indigenous peoples’ organizations.
  • The IUCN Council should be reminded that it was directed by a WCC4 resolution to form a task force to examine the application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to every aspect of the IUCN Programme (including Commissions’ Mandates), policies and practices, and to make recommendations for its implementation.
Udom Charoenniyomphrai, from the Inter Mountain Peoples’ Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT), said, “The agreements reached in the meeting are good. We are now hoping that they will be effectively implemented.”

Further Information:
  • Other documents on this topic can be found here
Source: Forest Peoples Programme, Press release

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Indigenous Peoples and the Collaborative Stewardship of Nature

Involving Indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge into natural resource management produces more equitable and successful outcomes. Unfortunately, argue Anne Ross and co-authors, even many “progressive” methods fail to produce truly equal partnerships. This book offers a comprehensive and global overview of the theoretical, methodological, and practical dimensions of co-management. The authors critically evaluate the range of management options that claim to have integrated Indigenous peoples and knowledge, and then outline an innovative, alternative model of co-management, the Indigenous Stewardship Model. They provide detailed case studies and concrete details for application in a variety of contexts. Broad in coverage and uniting robust theoretical insights with applied detail, this book is ideal for scholars and students as well as for professionals in resource management and policy.

Indigenous Peoples and the Collaborative Stewardship of Nature
Knowledge Binds and Institutional Conflicts
Anne Ross (Author); Kathleen Pickering Sherman (Author); Jeffrey G. Snodgrass (Author); Henry D. Delcore (Author); Richard Sherman (Author)
320 pp. / 6.00 x 9.00 / Dec, 2010
Hardback (978-1-59874-577-1)
Paperback (978-1-59874-578-8)