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Philippine tribal protest forces mine closure

Badjao people formed a human barricade

Philippine tribal protest forces mine closure
Protesters form a barricade in the village of Cabangahan (Jimmy Bat-ao)
Ronald O. Reyes, Manila

April 12, 2013

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A mining company announced today it has shut down operations at a nickel mine in the southern Philippine province of Surigao del Sur, after locals blocked the entrance, citing environmental concerns. 
Members of the Badjao tribe in the village of Cabangahan, Catilan town, formed a human barricade on Monday to prevent Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MDCC) from entering the area, a federally designated watershed. 
"We got support from the local police and military," said village leader Jimmy Bat-ao. The area is also a burial and hunting ground, he said. 
On Wednesday, a group of security guards tried to demolish the barricade and disperse the people, but about 300 tribesmen stood their ground. Bat-ao said no one was hurt in the incident.
The nickel mines, which started operation last year, cover about 4,779 hectares of land in the town. 
The mining company has a permit to operate, according to Roger de Dios, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in the region.  
"Based on our monitoring and inspection, no violation has been observed to warrant suspension," de Dios said. "The company voluntarily suspended its operation." 
Chito Trillanes, spokesman of the Catholic Church's Social Action Center in Cantilan town, however, said tribal people have reached an agreement with the local environmental bureau to look into alleged violations committed by the mining company.
Trillanes said the mining area is the source of irrigation for 3,000 hectares of land. 
The parish social action office earlier filed an appeal before a local court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the mining operation.
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