Residents of Benguet Town Stop Mining Firm’s Drilling, Sampling Activities

Northern Dispatch
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BAKUN, Benguet (336 kms north of Manila) ? Community members of Barangay (village) Gambang, Bakun reaffirmed their anti-mining stand and their vow to protect their homes from large-scale exploitation of their natural resources by stopping the drilling and mineral-sampling activities of Royalco Philippines

Ernesto Soriben, secretary-general of Bantay ken Kinabaknang ti Umili a Nagtaudan-Aywanan (Bakun Aywanan), said that upon learning of Royalco’s plan to bring its drilling equipment from its station in Sinipsip, Buguias to Bakun on the night of Aug. 10, they immediately called Bakun Mayor Marcelo Contada. They requested the mayor to send police officials to ensure order at the citizen’s barricade across the road to the municipality. Soriben said they were worried that something untoward might happen as the residents were determined not to let any mining equipment enter their territory.

On July 28, 2009, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued Royalco a certificate of compliance with the mandated free prior and informed consent process, stating the community had given its consent for the company to proceed with their exploration.

Earlier, the Gambang Indigenous Peoples and Community Organization, Inc. (Gipaco) filed a protest seeking to invalidate the FPIC process that the NCIP claimed was conducted by its FPIC team. The Gipaco members cited violations committed during the so-called FPIC process.

In its Resolution No. 077, the NCIP said the mineral exploration in Phase 3 of Royalco’s area of operations shall only be carried out by the company in lands owned by individuals who voted in favor of the exploration. Phase 3 includes Sitios (sub-villages) Basig, Nametbet, Lebeng, Dosdos-dicay, Leen, Ingaan, and Cagam-is and Mogao of Gambang.

Soriben said that in the so-called community meetings conducted by the NCIP’s FPIC team, only a few people were really informed about the issue. Many community members were not even given notice about these so-called meetings, he also said. He said the 60-80 individuals who are in favor of Royalco’s operations are few compared to the many families who do not like the entry of big mining companies into their municipality.

Soriben added that actually, only those who were known to be in favour of Royalco’s operations were invited to these meetings.

In contrast, Soriben said, a recent public meeting held by Bakun Aywanan in protest against Royalco’s operations yielded 700 signatures on the attendance sheet. “It…shows what the real sentiment of the people is,” Soriben said.

Soriben said that they have information that there is a proposed signing of a memorandum of agreement between Bakun residents and Royalco that will take place at the Provincial Capitol of Benguet.

Soriben said they will send a delegation to engage provincial officials in a dialogue to reiterate their stand against the entry of big mining corporations. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by

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