Indigenous people file case vs DENR secretary Cimatu at Quezon City RTC
15 November 2019, Quezon City, Philippines — The T’boli-Manobo indigenous people has filed a special civil action today at the Regional Trial Court, Quezon City Hall against environment secretary Roy Cimatu for neglect of duty to cancel a permit for a coffee plantation illegally operating in their ancestral domain.
M&S Company operates Dawang Coffee Plantation, a part of which has encroached on the ancestral domain of the T’boli-Manobo S’daf Claimants Organization (TAMASCO) in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. M&S operates the plantation under an IFMA, or Integrated Forest Management Agreement, authorized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The IFMA had expired in 2016 but was renewed by the DENR by integrating it into another approved IFMA given to M&S Company — without the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of TAMASCO. This was a violation of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA), which requires that any activity in an ancestral domain must seek the FPIC of the indigenous people from that domain.
“We urge DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to perform his legal government obligation and cancel the agreement that allows M&S Company to operate in our ancestral domain. For indigenous people, land is life. For 28 years, we have not been able to farm and make a living because of the plantation. This is unfair, unjust, and undemocratic,” said Datu Dande Danyan, the chairman of TAMASCO.
“The merger of the two IFMAs awarded to M&S Company by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is a gross violation of the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of the indigenous people as provided for in the law. The merger was a sleight of hand that skirted the expiration of the agreement to favor a big company over a marginalized indigenous people. We are filing this petition for continuing mandamus to ask the court to compel Secretary Cimatu to cancel the IFMA awarded to M&S Company,” said Atty. Pochoy Labog, legal counsel of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) for TAMASCO.
In 2017 eight members of TAMASCO, including their leader, Victor Danyan, were killed in what the military described as a military operation against rebels. A report from international organization Global Witness, however, found that the killings were connected to TAMASCO’s struggle for their land.
The case versus Secretary Cimatu was filed today at the Regional Trial Court, Hall of Justice, Quezon City Hall by TAMASCO, with support from Task Force TAMASCO, a group of non-governmental organizations supporting the legal claim of the T’boli-Manobo indigenous people.
Task Force TAMASCO is composed of non-governmental organizations Convergence of Initiative for Environmental Justice, OND Hesed, Inc., Lilak Purple Action for Women, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, SANLAKAS, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights and Advocates, and LRC. // ENDS
 This is the link to the report of Global Witness: https://www.globalwitness.org/fr/campaigns/environmental-activists/their-faces-defenders-frontline/?accessible=true#the-philippines