BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Vol. VII, No. 29, August 26-September 1, 2007
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – The Kalanguya tribe, an ethno-linguistic group native to Tuba, Benguet has reiterated its clamor for the government to revoke the special permit Philex Mining Corporation obtained in January this year, citing what was described as the company’s failure to comply with the permit’s conditions.
Philex failed to acquire the consent of the communities for its mining operations, which cover some 98 hectares in Barangay (village) Camp 3, Tuba.
Horacio Ramos, national director of the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR), signed the special mines permit for Philex on Jan. 18 this year.
Rufo Gayaso, a Kalanguya leader from Brgy. Camp 3, said in an interview that the MGB should revoke the special mines permit since the community did not consent to the mining project. Gayaso said the MGB issued the special permit on the condition that the company would seek within one month from the issuance the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of the affected community among other conditions.
“We wonder why the MGB issued the special permit which led to Philex’s mine activities in the area,” Gayaso told Nordis. “Under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA), before any activities, they must first get the FPIC of the affected people. We urge them (MGB) to revoke this permit.”
A petition urging the MGB to revoke the special permit is being circulated in the community, Gayaso told Nordis. He said they plan to submit the petition to the MGB sometime this week.
“The IPRA provides that before any project affecting indigenous communities could be implemented, the FPIC must be acquired first from the affected communities,” explained Engr. Alberto Olsim, an official of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in the Cordillera Administrative Region (NCIP-CAR).
Certificate of non-consent
Olsim said a dialogue that the NCIP previously facilitated resulted in the communities’ refusal to endorse the mining project. As a result, the NCIP-CAR forwarded in May this year to then NCIP national chairperson Jeannette Serrano a request by the affected residents for certification of non-consent.
Philex reportedly appealed to the NCIP to clarify the issues being raised by the affected community, and as a result the NCIP national office issued in June this year an order for the NCIP-CAR to facilitate another consultation, Olsim said in a recent radio interview.
The NCIP-Benguet office scheduled the dialogue for Aug. 14, but company representatives failed to attend. Provincial officials led by Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan attended the Aug. 14 dialog. Tuba town officials did not show up although the affected communities had sought their presence in the meeting.
The NCIP-Benguet office is expected to schedule another dialogue after consultations with both parties.
Gayaso said that the community had been serious about participating in the past dialog. He blamed the company for the failed talks.
Compensation, a pre-dialogue condition
While open for another dialog, Gayaso added the company must show its sincerity by fulfilling its promises to pay land claimants for damaged properties.
“What we had been claiming earlier (is) compensation for the damaged properties of our people (as a condition to be fulfilled) before we sit to talk (about) their (89-hectare operations),” Gayaso said, adding the company failed to comply with their conditions.
He pointed out that these properties had been rendered useless due to Philex’s mine activities. He cited the 46-hectare land of the Bantasan heirs, which he said can no longer be utilized as it has been destroyed by mining.
“Philex’s history of not compensating us and not recognizing our rights despite the profits it has been raking from our land has taught us to defend our rights,” Gayaso said. Northern Dispatch / Posted by(Bulatlat.com)