Subanon of Mount Canatuan return to the United Nations


Task Force Canatuan

Date of publication: 
14 March 2008

The UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has issued a follow up letter to the Philippine Government
(letter dated March 7th 2008 attached available at

The following is a summary of the content of the letter:

Referring to its Early Warning Urgent Action letter of August 2007 the committee states that it ‘remains preoccupied by the situation of the community of the Subanon of Mount Canatuan. It notes with concern that the situation has not improved and … requests from the [Philippine Government] further clarification and additional information in relation to the following issues already raised in August 2007:

* the granting of a concession to a Canadian mining company (TVI Pacific) authorizing mining activities on Mt Canatuan a sacred site of the Subanon without having obtained their free, prior and informed consent in line with their traditional forms of decision making; * the continued recognition of the ‘Siocon Council of Elders’ as the representative body of the Subanon Community by the NCIP despite the repudiation of this body by the community concerned; * the measures taken by the State party to protect the members of the community from acts of violence and attacks on their property, sacred sites and institutions bearing in mind in particular that paramilitary forces deployed by TVI Pacific are accused of human rights violations, allegedly with the cooperation of the armed forces; * whether amendments introduced in 2002 and 2006 to the 1998 Implementation Rules and Regulations impose restrictions in relation to the time-frame and process required to obtain the free and prior informed consent of indigenous communities and * the failure to process all complaints and legal actions brought by the community.’

It goes on to say that the committee is concerned that the Subanon of the Mount Canatuan ‘is not an isolated case but that it is rather indicative of similar situations faced by other indigenous communities in the State Party’ and reminds the Government that FPIC is required for any developments on ancestral lands under IPRA.’

The government is required to respond by 30 June 2008 and also to provide its full state report by the same date. In the absence of a response it will adopt concluding observations in light of information received from other sources at its 73rd session to be held from 28th July to 15 August 2008.

The questions in this letter to the Government are much focused and raise the committee’s concerns. The letter also broadens the scope to other communities impacted by similar issues. It is a step in the direction of obtaining a decision. As is clear from the diplomatic nature of the committee’s dialogue and from the history of other cases this is a process which can take some time before a final decision is reached. However, even while waiting for a final decision the process increases the pressure on the Philippine Government to address the issues raised.

For further information:

Victoria Tauli Corpuz
Chairperson, United Nations (UN) Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Executive Director, Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education)
Convenor, Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN)
1 Roman Ayson Road , Baguio City , Philippines , 2600
telephone no: 63-74-4447703
fax no : 63-74-4439459
cellphone no : 63-9175317811
email: vicky [at] tebtebba [dot] org