Subanen face eviction

February 24, 2005

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Several Subanen familes fear eviction from their ancestral land by the Canadian mining company, TVI. Three families have already received letters from the company threatening  court action and saying, 'We demand that you leave the company premises.' Nearly 100 families overall are threatened, including Visayans who have come into the area in more recent years.

Many Subanen have been campaigning for years to have TVI removed from their land. The company operates an open-pit gold mine there though under Philippine law it is illegal for anyone to enter the Subanen's land without their permission. The latest threats follow a series of violent attacks on the Subanen, including the wounding of four people in 2004.

The Subanen Timu-ays (leaders) have said, 'Our land is sacred. It is the source of our daily needs, and most of all our ancestors have been buried here. Land is the source of life for all creatures and things.'

The Subanen, or people of the river, are the most numerous of the Philippine tribal peoples, numbering 300,000. They are scattered across the mountains of the Zamboanga peninsula, which they believe was given to them by God. They live in small agricultural communities and practice shifting cultivation. Over the last century much of their land has been settled by outsiders; more recently, there has been a further invasion of logging and mining companies. The Subanen's protests have been brutally suppressed by the Philippine army, and many Subanen have been forced to leave their homes.