World Rainforest Movement

Philippines: The death toll of oil palm and mining

The community-based organization Pangalasag is a member organization of the regional alliance Kalumbay and an organization of Higaonon indigenous people in the municipality of Opol, Misamis Oriental. “Pangalasag”, which means indigenous shield, was created to become a driving force in the resurgence of Higaonon customary laws especially in decision-making and granting of consent, aside from its literal meaning to defend against aggressors.

Indeed, the Higaonon have had to defend themselves from decades of dispossession of their ancestral lands which have eroded their culture and customary laws. But some of their leaders stood up and formed the “Pangalasag”.

Now the fight is to resist the expansion of the oil palm plantation of A. Brown Company, which in the last two years has invaded the ancestral domain of the Higaonon occupying traditional lands of barangays (villages) Tingalan and Bagocboc.

Not only the indigenous people who reside in these areas have been suffering adverse effects on their health and the environment due to the chemical-intensive activities in the production of oil palm but also since the beginning of the plantation’s operations, Higaonons and other villagers have experienced severe human rights violations such as forced eviction, illegal arrest, strafing and harassment. This was denounced by an International Fact-Finding Mission carried out in May of this year, conducted by the Pesticide Action Network-Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP), the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), and the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization (see WRM Bulletin 180).

Gilbert Paborada,47, was the chairperson of Pangalasag. On October 3, at around 3 p.m., he was about to alight from a motorela (public tricycle) when he was shot at by two motorcycle-riding men, according to the initial data gathered by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP)-Northern Mindanao Region (NMR).

Witnesses said one of the men moved closer to Paborada and fired at him again in the head. Paborada sustained five gunshot wounds: two on his chest, one in the abdominal area and another on his hand. He was dead on the spot. The gunmen on board a white motocross-type motorcycle quickly sped away.

Since March 2011, Paborada had left Bagocboc and had relocated to Punto, Cagayan de Oro City to evade threats to his life though he still frequented their village to lead community-based campaigns of Pangalasag. On the day of the killing, Paborada had just come from Bagocboc.

Gilbert Paborada is said to be the fourth member of the indigenous people’s group Kalumbay who became a victim of extrajudicial killings in Northern Mindanao under President Benigno Aquino III administration.

Not only oil palm but also mining operations in the Philippines are leaving a death toll.

In the area of the towns of Kiblawan in Davao del Sur, Tampakan in South Cotabato and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI) is undertaking exploration activities.

In 2002, SMI acquired a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement from the Australia uranium mining corporation Western Mining Corporation (WMC) for mining. In partnership with the Anglo-Swiss company Xstrata, SMI develops the large-scale Tampakan Copper-Gold Project, which covers the areas of Columbio, Sultan Kudarat, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur and Tampakan, South Cotabato, encroaching the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples.

18 Blaan families or clans are strongly resisting mining for their impacts on their lives. A solidarity mission found that the Blaan of Bong Mal were prohibited from going to the forest and river to get food, herbal medicine or water.

Despite the food blockades, intimidation, harassment and vilification in these areas, they remain to be anti-mining. And because of the many human rights abuses in Bongmal, the Blaan clan tasked one of its members, Daguil Capion, to protect their ancestral domains. He declared a “pangayaw”(traditional warfare) against Xstrata-SMI.

In his community, Daguil is a warrior hero. However, he and other Blaan men who are in “pangayaw” are considered fugitives and now charged with criminal cases by the military.

On October 18, 2012, a military raid assaulted Daguil’s house killing his wife Juvy Capion and two of their three children – as well an unborn child. In a mobile phone interview with the Catholic radio network DxCP in General Santos City, Capion denied he was in the house when the soldiers rained it with heavy fire with his wife and children still sleeping inside.

Juvy Capion was known not only because of her husband’s Daguil Capion leading role in the pangayaw cause but because she herself was a woman fighter in her homeland. Juvy was one of the Blaan women in Bong Mal who strongly oppose the operations of Xstrata-SMI, being the frontlines during protest actions, barricades and dialogues. Juvy was a leader of Kalgad, an organization of Blaan indigenous peoples resisting the mining operations in their ancestral domains. She had said that they have been protesting against Xstrata-SMI but no actions were taken by the government to solve their issue.

Juvy had denounced that with the entry of the mining company in their territory they were hampered to ensure food for the family and community, they were restricted in their “uma” or upland farms, they could not longer neither freely plant crops in the mountains nor practice “aksafu” (sharing of food or any fruit of their labor with other Blaan families).

“Unless the SMI stops its operations and leaves, there will be no peace in our community”, Juvy had said in a focus group discussion held four days before the massacre that took her life and that of her children, John and Pop. She had accused the company of intimidating the people with the military so they give in to the mining project. She had added that almost every place in Bong Mal has a military detachment and there is one just near the school so children are sometimes afraid to go to school because of this.

Worse, mining has deteriorated the relationship among members of the community. As Juvy had explained, SMI induced fake tribal leaders appointed by the local government unit with material things such as four-wheel drive vehicles; they eventually gave the permission to the project. The company also hired community members as members of the Resettlement Committee (RC) which is being used to convince the people to agree to the project and discuss with them the resettlement plan and other “benefits”. “SMI causes disunity even among families,” Juvy had reiterated. The community is now divided into pro and anti-mining families.

Juvy had encouraged the Blaan to recover unity, to be one and help each other, like before when Xstrata-SMI had not yet encroached their ancestral territories. She also added that their struggle should inspire the next generation to preserve and protect their ancestral domains in the future. “Maganda na mapalakas ang pagtuturo sa kasaysayan ng tribo namin laban sa Xstrata-SMI (We should teach our young generation the history of our struggles against Xstrata-SMI),” were her words.

Article based on (1) Campaign Alert – Justice For Gilbert Paborada, byAldaw Indigenous Network, email:,; (2) “Juvy Capion, Blaan woman fighter”, by Philippine Task Force for Indigenous People’s Rights, sent by The ALDAW Team; (3) “Philippines: Another Indigenous Tribal Leader Slain In Misamis Oriental”, Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources,