Tribal groups who favor Ipilan Nickel Corporation’s mining operations in Brooke’s Point have denounced their other leaders and members who oppose the mining business.

The BICAMM, Inc., made up of indigenous peoples (IPs) from Barongbarong, Ipilan, Calasaguen, Aribungos, Maasin, and Mambalot, released a statement on April 19 denouncing the alleged exploitation of their fellow IPs for “political interests.”

The group issued the statement after Ipilan Nickel security forces dispersed an assembly of rallyists made up of local people and tribal elders who had camped out near the premises of the business last week.

“Mariin naming kinokondena ang paggamit ng ilang mga lider at grupo sa aming mga kapatid na katutubo sa pagsusulong ng kanilang sarili at political na interes. Hindi katanggap-tanggap na ipinapain ang kapwa naming mga Indigenous Peoples (IPs) sa mga aktibidades ng mga grupong ito ng walang ibinibigay na tama at sapat na kaalaman tungkol sa mga isyung kanilang ipinaglalaban,” the statement  read.

(We condemn the use of some leaders and groups of our indigenous brothers and sisters in advancing their own political interests. It is unacceptable to involve our fellow Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the activities of these groups without giving them the proper and sufficient knowledge about the issues they are fighting for.)

BICAMM said it is not the custom of their indigenous brothers and sisters to participate in activities for political interests as this not in accordance with their culture and tradition.

The unity and strength of their organization, it claimed, are carefully guarded to maintain peace among each tribe and to become a way to achieve real change.

BICAMM also called for the utilization of their ancestral domain’s natural resources and its enrichment. The group said they acknowledge the sincerity of Ipilan Nickel in protecting the environment in all aspects of their operations and respecting their sacred lands. 

“Panahon na para magkaroon tayo ng pagkakataong linangin ang ating ancestral domain na matagal na nating hindi napapakinabangan. Pagyamanin natin ang mga likas na yaman na ipinagkaloob sa atin. Ramdaman namin ang sinseridad ng INC sa pag-iingat nito sa kalikasan sa lahat ng aspeto ng kanilang operasyon at pagbibigay respeto sa aming mga banal na lupa. Naniniwala kami na ng benepisyong maidudulot nito ay hindi lamang dadaloy para sa mga katutubong sumusuporta sa INC, kundi para na rin sa lahat ng mga katutubo sa aming lugar,” they said.

(It’s time for us to have the opportunity to develop our ancestral domain that we haven’t been able to benefit from for a long time. Let’s enrich the natural resources that have been bestowed upon us. We feel the sincerity of the INC in taking care of the environment in all aspects of their operations and respecting our sacred lands. We believe that the benefits of this will not only flow to the indigenous peoples who support the INC, but also to all the indigenous peoples in our area.)

The group also took a swipe at the NGOs and other organizations who, in their opinion, are not in line with the government’s efforts to combat the spread of misinformation about mining and science.

It added that mining is an agreement between the company and the government, and there are many laws and regulations surrounding it that are strictly enforced by those in charge

“Kami ay nananawagan sa lahat ng ating mga kapatid na katutubo na maging bukas ang isipan at huwag magpagamit sa ilang mga indibidwal na tila gahaman na sa kapangyarihan. Nawa ay magkaroon tayo ng matibay at tunay na pagkakaisa sa pag-unawa at pagtanggap sa mga bagay na magdudulot ng magandang kinabukasan para sa atin at sa ating mga anak,” they said.

(We are calling on all our fellow indigenous people to have an open mind and not allow themselves to be used by some individuals who seem to be greedy for power. May we have a strong and genuine unity in understanding and accepting things that will bring a better future for us and our children.)

The statement was signed by BICAMM president Julhadi Titte, along with tribal leaders Rosemari Delos Santos of Calasaguen, Jonito Lagan of Mambalot, Renila Dulay of Aribungos, tribal chieftain Julhakim Godoy of Ipilan, tribal panlima Ajer Asandy of Barongbarong, and Jeorelio Borots of Aribungos.