Mining Applications Cover 66% of Cordillera Region

In the Cordillera region, there are already 149 barrios (sub-villages) with mining applications that are under process. Even the grounds of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) are covered by an application for mining exploration. Mining applications cover 66 percent of the region.

BY ZOFIA LEAL
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 12, April 27-May 3, 2008

In the education forum that was part of the Cordillera Day 2008 celebrations, held April 22-24, in Baay-Licuan, Abra, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) deputy secretary-general Santos Mero explained that out of the 1.8 million hectares of the Cordillera region, 1,021,152.1 hectares are already covered by mining applications.

According to Mero, as of January 2008, there are already 262 mineral production agreements in the country.

In the Cordillera region, there are already 149 barrios (sub-villages) with mining applications that are under process. Even the grounds of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) are covered by an application for mining exploration.

In Benguet, there are already 43 mineral production pgreements (MPA) by 15 big mining companies which include Benguet Corporation, Lepanto Mining and Philex. Meanwhile, in Abra, there are 14 exploration permit applications under process, three approved MPAs and one Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA). The FTAA applied for by Lindsay Resources covers 14 municipalities in Abra and the municipalities of Balbalan and Pasal in Kalinga Province.

Recently, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 270 to “revitalize the mining industry”. EO 270 aims to expedite the mineral action plan, which pin points the President’s 23 priority mining areas, 5 of which are in the Cordillera. EO 469 meanwhile led to the creation of the Mining Development Council (MDC). The MDC is tasked to approve mining applications and other mining related issues. Under EO 636 the MDC is mandated to be under the jurisdiction of the Office of the President.

Mero explains that the steps being taken by the government to promote mining is in line with Arroyo’s goal of declaring the Philippines as a “mining country” by 2010.

A comparison of the small-scale mining and large-scale mining methods was then presented. The effects of large-scale mining, which include the destruction of mountains and rivers, air pollution which leads to illnesses in the respiratory and nervous system and cumulative poisoning of the people, were discussed.

Mero also discussed that the mining companies undergo a direct consultation with the municipal government to negotiate. In Apayao, there are five barangays with mining applications that did not undergo a consultation with the community. Since most of the mining exploration sites are ancestral lands of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera, the process of free prior and informed consent (FPIC) is violated.

The FPIC is a process under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) in which an outsider must first secure the permission of the indigenous cultural community before it conducts any activity within their ancestral land.

In a memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed Nov. 23, 2006 by the Abra Mining and Industrial Corporation (AMIC) and Jabel Corporation (JABEL) with Olympus Pacific Minerals, a 43-square kilometer area of Capcapo Mountain will be explored. By February 2007 the Olympus Pacific Minerals started its drilling operations.

Baay-Licuan, the host community of Cordillera Day is part of the ancestral domain of the Bingonan Indigenous peoples affected by the Capcapo mining.

When the communities learned of the mining exploration, they immediately made a petition stating that the non-compliance of the mining companies to the FPIC is a violation of their rights. The opposition of the communities led the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to defer all mining activities in Capcapo.

Although the exploration in Capcapo has temporarily stopped, the threat of mining in Baay-Licuan is still not over. According to Mero, the CPA will still continue with its information dissemination and community organizing so that the opposition to mining will continue to intensify not just in Abra but in the whole Cordillera region as well.

The deployment of military forces in the provinces was also discussed as being part of the entry of mining companies.

At the end of the forum, the participants approved a resolution and signed a petition opposing the “plunder of the Philippine resources and patrimony.” (Bulatlat.com)

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