Residents of a small village in Bakun town, Benguet province proved that there is power in numbers as their concerted action led the town mayor to act in their favor affirming their stand against the Royalco Philippines mineral exploration project.
BY LYN V. RAMO
Posted by Bulatlat
BAKUN, Benguet (336 kms. north of Manila) – Residents of Barangay (village) Gambang here proved that there is power in numbers as their concerted action led the town mayor to act in their favor affirming their stand against the Royalco Philippines mineral exploration project.
The same group, organized into Bakun Aywanan, earlier aired the popular clamor that pushed for the indefinite suspension of the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between ‘validated’ community elders and Royalco Philippines as a precondition to the issuance of a free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for the said mining venture covering some 5,400 hectares.
Representing sitios (sub-villages) grouped into Phase III of the proposed mineral exploration, residents aboard 18 vehicles, mostly vegetable delivery trucks, started early on December 1 for the scheduled dialogue with Mayor Marcelo B. Cuntada and the town council at the Alibacong Elementary school here.
“Gaputa sikgaan yo, tumulongak ta adi matuloy din exploration tan nay sya et di mailak ay panlalabanan yo.” (Because you oppose it, I will help so that the exploration will not push through because as I see it, it causes disunity) Cuntada said after Gambang residents took turns speaking their minds out for almost six hours.
Affirming the people’s position
Residents who braved the very cold Alibacong weather exchanged views in front of their barangay and town officials. In the end, Cuntada just affirmed their respective positions.
The MOA and eventual mining permit for Phase III has to be set aside in the face of people’s opposition, according to Cuntada. The Phase I and Phase II MOAs have to be reviewed to see how to deal with these inasmuch as some elders have signed it. “Kintaen yo nu kasano a maresolba daytoy,” (See how these could be resolved) the mayor told Gambang folk who agreed in the end not to allow any mining operations in the area.
Phase III, in the new clustering made since Royalco started its social acceptability bid in Gambang, includes sitios Basig, Nametbet, Lebeng, Dosdos-dicay, Le-in, Inga-an, and Cagam-is, according to Royalco in an earlier interview. Takayan, Bagtangan, Liwan and Bolbolo are also included, according to residents, although the ground relocation survey has not been conducted.
The company and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) did not include the small scale mining communities of Mabuhay, Batanes, Pulag, Dangkigan, Gold Star and Mogao.
“These have been excised from the application for mineral exploration because a Minahang Bayan is allegedly being applied for in the area,” Royalco’s Ruben Quitoriano told Nordis.