Bakun Folk Decry Gov’t Inaction on Opposition to Mining Operations

Northern Dispatch
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BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) — The people of Bakun deplored regional government agencies for inaction on their opposition to mining explorations in Bakun. They decided not to have a forum with the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP or Provincial Council) of Benguet during their regular session last Monday. They declared it was hopeless after they were told that the SP has no power to order the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to fight for them against the entry of mining firm Royalco Philippines.

Dominga Gaspar of the Bakun and the Bantay ken Kinabaknang ti Umili a Nagtaudan-Aywanan (Bakun-Aywanan) said that when they went to the Benguet Provincial Capitol to follow-up their resolution barring the entry of big mines, especially the Royalco Phil. Together with the Gambang Indigenous Peoples and Community Organization (Gipaco), also of Bakun, they submitted their opposition to the entry of Royalco on Sept. 6, 2009.

The SP secretary, Frenzel Ayong, advised them to file a case at the Supreme Court.

The resolution of the Bakun communities urges the SP to adopt measures for the protection of the indigenous peoples of Bakun against large-scale mining interests, including Royalco Philippines, in their area.

They asked the provincial government to abstain from any endorsement of such. Despite the Bakun people’s opposition and rejection of Royalco Philippines’s application for mining epxloration, the NCIP issued certificates of compliance in its en banc resolution.

“We also went to the office of the MGB to inquire why there are still permits being processed at their office even if they know that we are against these mines,” said Gaspar.

She said that the MGB told them that they issued the permits based on the en banc Resolution from the NCIP national office and from the certificate of the local government unit.

Ernesto Soliben, also of Bakun Aywanan, said that they are urging the MGB to act in accordance with the findings of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) from its initial field investigation, especially on the violations committed by the issuing of such permits to Royalco.

According to the results,the requirement of acquiring the community’s free prior and informed consent (FPIC) before any project approval was not observed by the NCIP. There were no legitimate consultations with the majority of the community, the findings showed.

“Many of our rights were violated. Why did they not consider these and make actions that are favorable to the majority?” said Soliben.

According to Benny Alingdan, a member of Bakun-Aywanan and a resident of Kagam-is (a barrio, or sub-village, in the disputed boundery of Kibungan and Bakun), many people there have no idea at all that their place is being applied for mineral exploration. “We were surprised when there were people coming to our place surveying and news spread that our place will be mined,” Alingdan said.

Bakun Aywanan chairman Felipe Cayat said that their petitions against the mine exploration and their actions and protests are falling on deaf ears. “What do they want, that we settle this with our bolos? They are not listening to us anyway,” said Cayat.

Cayat said the Bakun people should unite since they have been abandoned by the very government agencies they expect will help them with their problem.

Cayat said their group found out that Royalco does not only have three phases of the exploration but six phases that will cover large parts of Bakun. “They will get the whole place — even our community small-scale mining area,” said Cayat in dismay.

Engineer Vergel Aniceto of the Benguet Mining Action Alert Network said that the Bakun people have manifested the uselessness of the government agencies like the NCIP and MGB which are supposed to look after the plight of the people affected by destructive projects.

Aniceto lambasted the said agencies saying they are ignorant of their own laws and they ignore the rights of communities they should be serving.

Aniceto said that both the NCIP and the MGB only serve as mouthpieces of the mining companies, instead of representing the people in the preservation of their communities and the environment.

Meanwhile, Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) Deputy secretary-general Santos Mero said that the case of the Bakun people is not isolated one, as there are over 1.2 million hectares of the Cordillera land covered by applications for mining exploration.

He said that in these areas, FPIC manipulation is rampant and under-the-table negotiation is the name of the game.

Santos added that whenever there are opposition from the communities affected, they experience militarization and all kinds of harassments.

Mero said that there are persistent calls of the communities to stop the issuing of mining exploration permits, stop mining expansions and the closure of existing abandoned mines. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by

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