44M kilos of fertilizer from South Korea shipped to Philippine landfill

It was intended as an ‘alternative daily cover’ for the sanitary landfill of Carrascal town in Surigao del Sur, but a local environment officer points out there is no study that it is suitable for such use. Rep. Prospero Pichay says it is not fertilizer but waste, and wants South Korea to take it all back.

BY CARMELA FONBUENA/Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

At a glance:

  • A huge volume of “CMP inorganic fertilizer” from South Korea was shipped to a landfill in Carrascal town in Surigao del Sur in June 2021. 
  • Cebu-based consignee Nano-Platanos Corp. bought the fertilizer for $660,000 or about P33 million, then donated it to the municipality of Carrascal.
  • Carrascal wants to use it as an ‘alternative daily cover’ for its sanitary landfill, but a local environment officer says there is no study that it is suitable for such use.
  • The chief of the Carrascal Municipal Environment and Natural Resources claims the fertilizer is also intended for the rehabilitation of mining areas.
  • Rep. Prospero Pichay says it is not fertilizer but waste, and wants South Korea to take it all back. 

Forty-four million kilos of “fertilizer” from South Korea were shipped to a sanitary landfill being built in Barangay Bon-ot of mining town Carrascal in Surigao del Sur, prompting a new foreign waste dumping investigation in the Philippines and calls to return it to South Korea.

Documents obtained by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) showed that Cebu-based Nano-Platanos Corp. bought a huge volume of “calcium magnesium phosphate (CMP) inorganic fertilizer” from South Korean company Korean Gypsum Inc. for $660,000 or about P33 million. The company then donated the entire volume to the Carrascal local government unit (LGU), which intended to use it as an “alternative daily cover” for its sanitary landfill.

It is not proven to be suitable for such a purpose, however.

“There was no existing study on the CMP as an alternative cover of residual waste,” read a June 22 report prepared by Kenneth Salvani of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) field office in nearby Cantilan town. 

The report recommended further study on its use on landfills.

The Environment and Management Bureau (EMB) Central Office of the DENR has begun an investigation into the shipment.

CMP inorganic fertilizer is a type of soil conditioner used to correct the acidity of soil. The shipment from South Korea received certification from the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), but the local field office of the DENR and Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. raised concerns about foreign waste dumping.

The DENR in Cantilan town cited the extraordinary volume of the shipment that was shipped to the landfill. Pichay was also suspicious of the “small company” from Cebu that donated the fertilizer.

“I cannot allow the Province of Surigao del Sur to be used as a dumping ground of the waste materials of Korea,” said Pichay. He said South Korea should take back the shipments. 

The chief of Carrascal’s Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (Menro), Lawrence Brion Cortes, said they accepted the donation thinking they could use it as soil cover. He told the PCIJ they would wait for the studies to be completed before using it in the landfill.

 ‘Low to moderate toxicity’ 

Mountains of the greyish powdered solid now sit on the grounds of the “Eco-park” inside the area of the sanitary landfill, drawing concerns that runoff from the huge volume of fertilizer during the rainy season will pollute nearby waterways.

The DENR tested samples from the shipment and found that the fertilizer was neither hazardous nor dangerous. However, a material safety data sheet issued by Farm Hannong in South Korea, the manufacturer of the fertilizer, gave instructions to “avoid contaminating waterways if possible.”

“Fertilizers, particularly those containing phosphorus, can stimulate weed and algae growth in static surface waters,” it said.

Cortes said they would cover the fertilizer to prevent leaching. 

The toxicity of the fertilizer is “low to moderate,” based on the safety data sheet. In an extreme scenario where it is inhaled at high levels, it “may cause methaemoglobinemia, where the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity is reduced.”

If stored in the open, a tarpaulin cover was recommended to reduce dust, although the landfill is far away from residential areas. 

The fertilizer will sit on the grounds of the landfill unless actions are taken to remove it or the municipality finds use for it.

Cortes told PCIJ they could also use the material to rehabilitate mining areas in the town, citing a similar shipment that arrived in October 2019. 

Hindi naman po soil cover lang ang purpose nito. Bale tinanggap po ito ng LGU kasi if ever na hindi ito suitable for soil cover e pwede naming ibigay sa mining company para magamit nila sa kanilang mining rehabilitation (Its use is not limited to being soil cover. The LGU accepted it because it can also be used to rehabilitate the mining companies if it is not suitable soil cover),” said Cortes. 

“Either way naman po  talagang magagamit. Hindi naman po talagang masasayang (Either way, we will use it. It will not be wasted),” he said.

The 2019 shipment, which was also donated by Nano Platanos Corp., was received by Marcventures Mining and Development Corp. It was one of the mining companies that the late Environment Secretary Regina “Gina” Lopez sought to close down.

The fertilizer received by Marcventures is unutilized or underutilized. 

“It is worthy to note that the first batch of the donated CMP given to the [Marcventures] last 2019 was allegedly unutilized until to date due to the Covid-19 pandemic based on the report of the [Marcventures] dated January 15, 2021. As of to date, there are still no updates relative to the utilization of the CMP,” based on a July 5 DENR report. The report also recommended returning the fertilizer to South Korea.

Pichay, who himself used to be president of nickel mining company Claver Mineral Development Corp., said there was no mining area that needed rehabilitation in the province “because most of the area is not yet mined out.”

‘UNUTILIZED.’ Weeds grow on a mountain of ‘CMP inorganic fertilizer’ sitting on the mining area of Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation in Surigal del Sur since late 2019. Photo taken in June 2021 courtesy of Rep. Prospero Pichay. 

 Foreign waste dumping 

The investigation underscores the challenges of policing international trade of waste between countries.

Some cases of foreign waste dumping are more obvious, such as the notorious “Canada waste” in 2015. The shipments of household wastes that arrived in the Philippines were declared as plastic recyclables. South Korea also figured in a waste controversy in 2018, when assorted wastes were declared as synthetic plastic flakes. Both countries eventually took back the waste shipments. 

Less obvious is the technical smuggling of agricultural wastes, said Bureau of Customs spokesperson Vicente Maronilla. 

“People have this impression that if it is organic or chemical based, if it relates to use in agriculture, then it is okay. It is less toxic. Apparently, hindi ganoon (it is not the case),” Maronilla told the PCIJ.

“Even the ones they claim are organic fertilizer, we’re now discovering through DENR that it also ruins certain balances [of the soil] if you don’t use it correctly,” he said.

These kinds of agricultural imports also fall under waste trade, Maronilla said. “It is technical smuggling. Because of multi-use products, nagiging technical na rin ang smuggling e (technical smuggling can happen)…. Sometimes it’s waste. Dina-dump na lang sa atin (They dump it in the country),” he said. 

Customs is also investigating the shipment in Carrascal, although Maronilla said the DENR was leading the probe. 

A July 5 report of the DENR field office in Cantilan took issue with the fertilizer going to a landfill. 

“The volume of the questioned ‘fertilizer’ does not justify their excuse that it will be used as ‘fertilizer.’ In fact, the alleged ‘fertilizer’ was only dumped in a landfill in Carrascal. Clearly, their intention is to make Carrascal, Surigao del Sur a dumping ground,” according to the report signed by environment officer Marslou Bonita.

The report cited communications between the DENR office and the South Korean supplier. “In fact, the Korean principal when asked if the said ‘fertilizer’ can be distributed to farmers, he alleged that it can only be used to cover landfills. Thus, the following circumstances strengthen the undersigned’s belief that they are only making Surigao del Sur a dumping ground,” the report added.

Roldan said fertilizer is a general term that does not necessarily involve farm use. CMP inorganic fertilizer is material intended to be a soil conditioner. “These are soil elements that can be used to amend the soil – if the soil is lacking in some texture,” he said.

Asked about issues raised against the volume of the fertilizer and the purpose for importing it, Roldan said those were no longer FPA’s concerns. 

“Number one, it (Nano-Platanos Corp.) is duly registered. Number two, the analysis is the same as what they have submitted to the FPA. Number three, there are no heavy metals in a level that is deleterious to environmental hazard,” Roldan said.

This attitude is problematic, however, and has made monitoring foreign waste shipments difficult, according to government officials privy to the investigation but were not authorized to speak publicly on the investigation.

Agencies in government cannot work in silos, they said. They said the DA should have alerted the EMB given the huge volume of the fertilizer, scrutinized how it was intended to be used, and anticipated possible problems.

The moment an agricultural product is certified by the DA, there’s little that can be done to stop the Bureau of Customs from releasing the shipments. 

Wala rin kami magawa kapag ganiyan kasi may permit e. (We can’t do anything in that case because it has a permit.) It was given the go signal,” Maronilla said.

 Pichay’s complaint 

On the ground, the investigation has become political because of Pichay’s involvement as complainant. The mayor of Carrascal, Vicentel Pimentel III, is the nephew of Surigao del Sur Gov. Alexander Pimentel.

Pichay filed a complaint with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Customs chief Leonardo Guerrero in a letter dated July 13.

He demanded immediate investigation. “[C]onsidering the volume of said fertilizers, it is obvious that these are wastes being dumped in our country,” he said. 

Pichay said the Cebu company, Nano-Platanos Corp., was suspicious. “Ikaw Filipino businessman, mag-import from Korea ng fertilizer. Tapos ido-donate niya? Ang liit-liit na kumpanya (You’re a Filipino business. You import fertilizer from Korea. You’ll donate it? It’s a very small company),” he said. 

PCIJ tried to reach the company through its office in Cebu twice, but was unable to reach its representatives. The author left her mobile number with two personnel from another company, which apparently shared the telephone number indicated in the customs papers. 

PCIJ also reached out to the South Korean embassy in Manila, but did not receive a response as of posting. Any comment from the embassy will be added to this report. 

Pichay said he was familiar with the fertilizer. He earlier helped the same Cebu company in persuading Marcventures to receive the first shipment in 2019, which he said was a mistake. 

The first shipment was reportedly about 20,000 tons or 20 million kilos, based on a 2019 DENR report, although PCIJ did not obtain documents on the shipment. 

Pichay said he was surprised that another shipment arrived in June when Marcventures had yet to utilize the first shipment.

While DENR laboratory tests showed that the samples were not hazardous or dangerous, Pichay echoed concerns about the volume of the shipment. 

Kapag uulan… sa dami ng volume, madami din ang toxic… (When it rains… given the huge volume, a significant amount of toxic [materials will be released]),” Pichay said. 

 20 million kilos in 2019 

Cortes said the LGU was surprised by the complaints. “Hindi po namin naiintindihan bakit maraming complaints e noong sa Marcventures na unang shipment e na-prove naman na hindi po ito toxic (We don’t understand why there are many complaints when it was proven from the first shipment with Marcventures that the material is not toxic),” he said. 

Kaya po tinanggap namin ito kasi ‘yung 2019 na fertilizer is na-prove naman na okay siya. Same source kaya po tinanggap namin (The reason we accepted it was because the fertilizer back in 2019 was proven to be okay. It came from the same source so we received it),” said Cortes.

The first shipment arrived in October 2019. It was the subject of a Facebook post that raised concerns against toxic wastes, prompting protests in the province and a succeeding DENR investigation. 

The material was found to be non-hazardous, but the circumstances surrounding the donation raised questions even then. 

A 2019 DENR report showed that the fertilizer was originally supposed to be delivered to Libjo Mining Corp., operating in the province of Dinagat Islands, for the purpose of rehabilitating its mining areas. Nano-Platanos was unable to provide a document to prove that the mining company, which was also in Lopez’s list of companies to be shut down, agreed to receive it. 

Pichay said several mining companies, including one operated by the incumbent mayor of Carrascal, were offered to receive the donation but they supposedly refused because they feared that their mining permits would be compromised if the shipment turned out to be problematic. (PCIJ sought the mayor to comment on the probe, but his staff referred us to the MENRO chief.)

Pichay said the shipment was eventually unloaded on a lot owned by his brother in Cantilan town. It prompted complaints from the neighborhood because of the dust, which caused itchiness, he said.

He then persuaded Marcventures to take the fertilizer, which was moved to its mining grounds in Brgy. Pili and Brgy. Sipangpang in Carrascal, where its reforestation activity and nursery are located. 

Pichay said the shipment must be returned to South Korea or more shipments of the fertilizer – he claimed seven more shipments were due to arrive – would be dumped in the province.

Following the complaints, Cortes said he would not recommend receiving more donations of the fertilizer. “Kung sa akin lang siguro, huwag na (If it were up to me, we shouldn’t receive more shipments).” END

*Top photo courtesy of Surigao Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. 

*This report was produced with the support of Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism had full editorial independence. Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines, their officers, and employees accept no liability for any loss, damage, or expense arising out of, or in connection with, any reliance on any omissions or inaccuracies in the material contained in the report. 

LIANGA MASSACRE 2: Karapatan reports military killed 3 Lumad-Manobo

The military massacred three Lumad-Manobo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on Tuesday, June 15, regional human rights group Karapatan-Caraga said.

In an alert, the group said Philippine Army 3rd Special Forces Battalion troopers indiscriminately fired at a group of farmers, killing Willy Rodriquez, Lenie Rivas and Angel Rivas in Sitio Panukmoan, Barangay Diatagon.

Angel was 12 years old and a Grade 6 student of the Lumad school Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur while Willy and Lenie were members of the Lumad organization Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU).

Karapatan Caraga said the victims and other farmers were harvesting abaca hemp at their farm when killed by government soldiers at about one o’clock in the afternoon.

Relatives told Karapatan Caraga that the group earlier asked permission from the military before going to the farm.

The soldiers reportedly brought the bodies of the three victims to their brigade headquarters at St. Christine, Lianga.

They troopers later claimed the victims were members of the New People’s Army.

Karapatan Caraga said the 3rd SFB, led by a certain Captain Aranas, as well as the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have encamped in the community of Manluy-a for several months.

They also established a military detachment in a civilian community called Kilometer 18 in the said town.

Tuesday’s incident was the second massacre to have happened in Barangay Diatagon.

In September 1, 2015, Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo of MAPASU, and Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) were killed by Magahat-Bagani men.

The Magahat-Bagani were then under the command of 36th and 75th infantry battalions of the Philippine Army who were also nearby when the first massacre happened.

The killings set off evacuations from Lumad communities, with 3,000 individuals seeking refuge in Tandag City that lasted months.

No charges were filed against the perpetrators of the first Lianga Massacre. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Itigil ang pangha-harass at interogasyon’

“Mariin kong kinokondena ang patuloy na military operations sa komunidad namin sa Lianga, Surigao del Sur ngayong panahon ng pandemya. Itigil ang pangha-harass at interogasyon sa mga tao sa komunidad ng Han-ayan at Km. 16. Matindi ang nilalabag ng pulisya at militar sa iligal na pagpasok nila sa komunidad.

Sa simula pa lang pagdating ng mga militar sa komunidad noong Agosto 2019, ginulo na ang maayos at mapayapang pamumuhay ng mga kapatid kong lumad. Nilabag din nila ang mga polisiya sa ilalim ng GCQ–walang naka-face mask at walang social distancing.”

Rep. Eufemia Cullamat
Bayan Muna Party

Jo Maline Mamangun

Army holds, harasses Lumad protesters in Surigao Sur

Nearly 200 Lumad are being held by the Philippine Army in Surigao del Sur to prevent them from participating in a rally on the occassion of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Tandag City today, human rights group Karapatan said in an alert.

The group said 36th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army soldiers in full battle gear put up a check point at Barangay Gamut, Tago town to prevent the Lumad from attending the local People’s SONA protests Surigao del Sur’s capital city today.

Rico Maca and 36th IBPA soldiers at this morning’s checkpoint. (Karapatan-Caraga photo)

Around 15 soldiers in full battle gear put up the check point and were joined by intelligence officers in civilian clothing and Philippine National Police officers, Karapatan’s Caraga chapter said in its alert.

The soldiers ordered the Lumad to alight from their habal-habal motorcycles and told to assemble on the side of the road from four to eight o’clock this morning, the group said.

Karapatan said the soldiers later called up controversial local Indigenous People Municipal Representative to the National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples Rico Maca who arrived on board a white van after just 30 minutes.

Maca confiscated the Lumad’s identification cards and proceeded to check each from his book of photos of alleged New People’s Army rebels.

“Ah, nakaila ko ani. Mga pulang araw man mo! Mga rebelde mo! Solid na sila didto sa Purok 8 [Tambonon, Bolhoon, San Miguel,” Maca reportedly exclaimed. [A, I know you people. You are “red suns”. You are rebels. You are already solid here in Area 8.)

Maca was alleged to be connected to the paramilitary group led by a Hasmin Acevedo operating in barangays Umalag, Saigao, Caromata in San Miguel town, Surigao del Sur.  He frequently joins patrol missions of the 36th IBPA that harasses Lumad communities in San Miguel.

He was among the three self-declared datus presented by Malacañan Palace to the media last September 2015.

Rico Maca (Second from left), with his fellow Malacañan-declared datus and their handler Arthur Tariman of the National Alliance for Democracy (Third from left). [File photo/R. Villanueva]

Photos and videos of the Lumad were taken and their names were listed in a military logbook, Karapatan said.

Many of the participants are still being held at the checkpoint while their motorcycles have been impounded, the group reported.

Progressive groups all over the country are conducting protest rallies against Duterte today. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

(This is a developing story. Refresh for updates.)

AFP, PNP enforce another food blockade against Lianga evacuees

The Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are enforcing another food blockade against the Lumad evacuees in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, a human rights group reported.

The 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (75th IBPA) as well as the local PNP blocked food aid brought by Church groups at around 11:30 AM, Karapatan Caraga said in an alert Wednesday, July 18.

Troopers have also been deployed around the Barangay Diatagon Gymnasium where the evacuees have stayed since their forced evacuation Monday, the group said.

“We should not tolerate the bakwit (evacuees) so that they will be forced to go back to their community,” the soldiers reportedly told the donors in Cebuano.

The soldiers erected a checkpoint by the national highway leading to Diatagon gym to prevent motorcycles carrying food items bought from the town market passing through the blockade, the group added.

“[The 75th IBPA and the PNP] threaten(ed) to arrest non-Lianga residents who are extending humanitarian support for about 1600 Manobo evacuees [are],” the group said.

The same army unit has also implemented a similar blockade when the Lumad evacuated last January.

The Lumad were forced to evacuate from their communities 33 days after the military put up detachments and encamped at Kilometer 9 of the said barangay.

Tandag Bishop Raul Dael (center, with pectoral cross) visit the Lumad evacuees at Diatagon. (Kasalo Caraga photo)

Bishop visits evacuees

In a separate announcement, Lumad organization Kasalo Caraga said Roman Catholic Bishop Raul Dael as well as nuns of the Diocese of Tandag visited Diatagon Wednesday night to offer support to the evacuees.

Kasalo said the prelate were able to talk to Barangay Diatagon Chairperson Metong and leaders of the local Lumad organization Mapasu during their visit.

The barangay captain admitted he was pressured by the military to sign Barangay Resolution 11-2018 allowing the establishment of a military detachment in Km 9, forcing the Lumad to eventually evacuate, Kasalo said.

The barangay leader promised to review the said resolution, the group added.

Lumad evacuees sleeping in very crowded conditions. (Photo by Chad Booc)


Karapatan Caraga said that aside from intimidating the evacuees, the army troopers also harassed the Manobo women, asking “Kinsa ang mga ababe nga pwedeng bayran diri?” (Who are the women that we can buy here?)

The evacuees also complain of lack of water and sanitation facilities at the gym arousing fears of a health crisis.

The Lumad said their resistance to five coal mining contracts in the Andap Valley Complex have made them targets of intense militarization of their communities. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP slams Army unit, LGU

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned a military unit that tried to prevent Davao City-based journalists from covering the evacuation of about 2,000 Lumad evacuees in Lianga, Surigao del Sur Monday, July 16.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the NUJP said it strongly condemns the 4th Civic Military Operation (4th CMO) Battalion of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that stopped the vehicle carrying five journalists from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Radyo ni Juan Network, Kilab Multimedia, The Breakaway Media and Davao Today at about 11 o’clock Monday at Kilometer 3, Sitio Neptune in Diatagon, Lianga.

A Major Jerson Igloria, battalion ground commander manning the checkpoint, told the reporters not to proceed to where the evacuees were gathered and was heard asking, “Sino yang nasa loob ng sasakyan? Mga illegal yan? ‘Di lumabas.” (Who are those inside the vehicles? Are they illegal? Why are they not alighting?)

Inquirer correspondent Barry Dacanay then alighted and tried to go near the approaching evacuees but was stopped by Igloria who told him, Sir, doon ka lang. Respetohay lang ta.” (Sir, just stay away. Let us respect each other.)

The Army officer then ordered the journalists to first secure a permit from the Lianga Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) Office before they would be allowed to cover the evacuation.

“Hintayin niyo yung MSWD kung papayagan kayo,” Maj. Igloria told them, claiming the place was an “ambush area” and therefore dangerous. (Just wait for the MSWD if it would allow you.)

A 4th CMO trooper interrogates a journalist at a checkpoint in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. (The Breakaway Media photo)

The journalists sought permission from the Lianga MSWD but were refused without explanation.

Asked later by local reporters about their refusal, Lianga MSWD officer Melita Encenzo denied forbidding the Davao journalists from proceeding to where the evacuees were.

“They just need to seek permission from the MSWDO or the barangays officials, just so we know who visits our area of responbility,” Encenzo reportedly said.

The journalists nevertheless managed to take photos and videos as well as conduct interviews when the evacuees reached the national highway.

The NUJP however said that both the military and the MSWD had no right in trying to prevent the Davao journalists from covering the Lumad evacuation.

“We stress that, in the absence of clear and present danger, neither the Army, MSWD, or any government agency has the authority to prevent any Filipino citizen from enjoying the freedom to travel and, in this case, stop journalists from covering what is clearly an event of utmost public interest and concern,” NUJP said.

The group said that even if it was dangerous, it is precisely the military’s mandate to protect civilians such as the journalists and the evacuees they were covering.

It also scored the MSWD for trying to prevent coverage of the evacuees’ plight and depriving them of assistance by withholding information that could help solicit more aid for the Lumad.

“Martial law [in Mindanao] does not justify the arbitrary restriction on coverage of the Lumad evacuation, unless, of course, we have ceased to be a democracy. What happened was a clearly unconstitutional violation of press freedom and, more importantly, of the people’s right to know,” the NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Military encampment forces Manobos to evacuate anew

Evacuees were confronted by the 74th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Military operations by the 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army drove more than a thousand Manobo Lumad to evacuate anew in Surigao del Sur Province Monday, July 16.

At least 1,607 Manobos from 11 communities of Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town and three communities from Barangay Buhisan, San Agustin town were forced to evacuate due to the encampment of the 75th IBPA in their communities since June 14, 2018, the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network said in an alert.

Alternative multimedia group The Breakaway Media also reported that the evacuees started their march from their communities at six o’clock in the morning and arrived at Barangay Diatogon’s Gymnasium at two o’clock in the afternoon.

A military checkpoint tried to prevent the evacuees from reaching the national highway as well as media workers from covering the evacuation, SOS said.

More than 1,600 Manobo evacuees fill the road to Barangay Diatagon Monday. (SOS Network photo)

In their fourth forced evacuation under the Rodrigo Duterte government, the Manobos complain of human rights abuses by the military, including sexual harassment of women and teenagers.

Lianga Manobos have also evacuated in July and November last year and January this year due to intensified military operations.

The Lumad also complain of forced recruitment of Manobo men to the military’s Civilian Auxiliary Geographical Unit as well as threats, harassments, and intimidation of Lumad school students in Sitio Simowao in Barangay Diatogon.

Among the evacuees are 568 learners of the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, award-winning alternative schools for the indigenous Lumad.

The Save Our Schools Network also said the military threatened to file criminal charges against the Lumad leaders if they pushed through with their evacuation.

The Lumad said heavy military presence at the Andap Valley complex is to pave the way for the extraction of coal from their ancestral domain by mining giants Benguet Corp., Great Wall Mining and Abacus Coal.

Andap Valley is said to hold the biggest bulk of coal reserves in the country.

The Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has yet to issue a statement on the incident. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

More than 1,600 Manobo evacuees fill the road to Barangay Diatagon Monday. (The Breakaway Media photo)

Manobo evacuees surprise Mar Roxas with blunt answers

TANDAG CITY, SURIGAO DEL SUR–Manobo evacuees surprised presidential aspirant Mar Roxas with blunt answers to his questions when he visited an evacuation site last September 8, his last day in office as interior and local government secretary.

Roxas visited his party-mate Governor Johnny T. Pimentel who brought him to the provincial sports center where about three thousand Manobos from 33 communities evacuated to escape the ongoing paramilitary operations that killed three of their leaders last September 1.

Pimentel was leading Roxas to the main grandstand where majority of the evacuees have pitched their tents when the Liberal Party standard-bearer unexpectedly turned around and instead proceeded to a small tent nearer the entrance.

The governor appeared surprised by Roxas’ move and stopped on his tracks before following his guest to the tent.

Backslapping an evacuee as he entered the tent, a smiling Roxas asked the Manobos, “Why aren’t you going back to Liang yet?” referring to the town of Lianga, the site of the massacre of three Lumad leaders.

“Because there are still soldiers there, sir,” came a swift reply in Visayan from an evacuee.

Roxas pressed on and asked, “So, aren’t soldiers supposed to protect you?”

A seated Manobo woman immediately retorted: “What protection? They (soldiers) are the ones killing our families there.”

Roxas again asked, “Soldiers?” to which the woman immediately asked back: “Who else? Bagani and the soldiers.”

Pimentel, who by this time caught up with Roxas, clarified, “Because the Bagani Forces arrive there wearing uniforms.”

The governor then asked Manobo leader Bertolo Garay to narrate to Roxas the massacre of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo in Barangay Diatagon in Lianga town this province.

Samarca was the executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), a secondary school for Manobo youth, while Campos was the chairperson of the Manobo people’s organization Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sa Sumusunod (Mapasu).

Samarca was taken by members of the so-called Magahat/Bagani Forces, an armed group Pimentel said were formed, armed and trained by the Philippine Army for its counter-insurgency operations against the New People’s Army.

Alcadev students and teachers later found Samarca dead in a room in the school, his throat slit and his heart pierced by a high caliber bullet.

Campos was shot on his forehead in front of dozens of witnesses in a nearby basketball court while Sinzo was shot several times by the paramilitary force.

“(We left our) Mapasu(-organized) communities because of the military belonging to the 36th and 75th Infantry Battalions, along with their bandits (Magahat/Bagani Forces),” Garay said.

“Before dawn of September 1, they roused the residents from sleep. They first took Alcadev’s director, Sir Emok (Samarca’s nickname) and they killed him by slitting his throat. Then they herded Alcadev’s staff to the village center,” he said.

Roxas then interrupted Garay and, with a pointed finger, challenged the journalists taking videos of the exchange.

“Teka muna. (Wait.) Who are you?” Roxas said.

He said Garay could be interviewed later but said he they were having a briefing so he could listen.

A woman staff of Roxas then placed herself between Roxas and the journalists and waved her hands in front of the camera to stop the filming.

Roxas spent about 15 more minutes inside the tent, mostly by calling Social Work and Development secretary Dinky Soliman, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles and health secretary Janette Garin.

He refused Pimentel’s offer for him to see more evacuees in the grandstands.

In a brief interview with journalists after emerging from the tent, Roxas promised help for the evacuees in light of the emerging health concerns such as chicken pox.

When asked about the evacuees’ complaint about militarisation, Roxas echoed the police line that the perpetrators of the massacre were not members of the AFP.

But when asked for his reaction to Pimentel’s repeated declaration that the Magahat/Bagani Forces were created by the military, Roxas said the matter should be left with the Philippine National Police, which he said was already conducting an investigation.

He refused to answer the question about the fate of the Lumad schools as he beat a hasty retreat to have lunch with the local journalists before heading for Bislig City in the southern part of this province.

United Church of Christ in the Philippines Bishop Modesto Villasanta for his part said Roxas should first help in disbanding the paramilitary groups.

“The services these evacuees need are already being addressed by Governor Pimentel. But disarming and disbanding these groups as well as giving justice to the victims by apprehending the suspects is the best way the government could help,” Villasanta said.

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