Benguet residents set round-the-clock watch against entry of mine company

By Alma B. Sinumlag
Northern Dispatch
Reposted by Bulatlat.com

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Residents of Phase 3, Gambang, Bakun are up in arms against mining companies Royalco and Vale. The residents have organized themselves against all attempts of the company to bring drilling machinery into the area, and families have taken it upon themselves to set up a round-the-clock vigil against the entry of the mining company.

Members of the community headed by their barangay captain and officers of Bakun Aywanan held a protest last March 16 against the reported plan of a certain Vale mining company to continue Royalco’s exploration in Phase 3.

The certification precondition for the said phase was earlier nullified by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) through En banc resolution No. 004 series of 2011.

According to Lazaro Moc-eg, barangay captain of Gambang, staff belonging to a group called Monkey Forest and other individuals suspected to be connected to the company had been frequenting the areas covered by Phase 3. They reportedly told residents that a new corporation, Vale mining, will continue the mining exploration project Royalco began. Monkey Forest is an organization hired by Vale to conduct the Information Education Campaign (IEC) for the exploration project.

The local official said that residents have already questioned the right of the Vale Corporation to continue Royalco’s project. “They told us that Vale and Royalco forged an agreement between themselves. No one in the community was consulted or informed regarding this,” he said.

Moc-eg also said that the staff of Monkey Forest insisted that Vale can and will continue Royalco’s exploration project without the process of the free prior and informed consent (FPIC).

“We are strongly against this. We’re very disappointed that these two companies blatantly disregarded what had already been agreed upon during the last congressional consultation,” he said. Moc-eg said that it was stated in the last meeting that certification precondition issued by the NCIP was already nullified.

In the meantime, a letter dated March 10, 2011 from the Gambang Exploration Project to Vice Mayor Paul Dalmones of Bakun stated that there is an upcoming exploration activity in phase 3 despite NCIP’s nullification of its certification precondition.

It was further stated that the company did not receive any notice from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) stating that the exploration permit of Royalco has been revoked. The said letter then asked the Local Government Unit (LGU) to facilitate a meeting between Gambang Exploration Project and stakeholders in Phase 3 regarding the upcoming exploration activities.

Dominga Gaspar, treasurer of the Bakun Aywanan and also one of the barangay councilors said that they are confused.
“Who or what is this “Gambang Exploration Project” and what is its relationship to the Vale company? It’s the first time that we’ve hear of it,” she said. She said that the mining companies have been deceiving residents by giving different names.

Gaspar said that residents were outraged when they heard reports that a drilling machine was to brought into their area,. She said that village officials and council of elders are concerned that if this problem is not settled soon, a clash might erupt between anti and pro-mining groups.

“This exploration project has damaged our cultural integrity. People are now divided between antis and pros, and this rift continues to worsen,” she said.

Gaspar called for an immediate action from the NCIP. “We cannot wait for blood to be shed. Everyone must respect what has been agreed upon during previous consultations. The NCIP must take immediate action,” she said.

Previously, NCIP Commissioner Zenaida Hamada-Pawid categorically stated that if the certification precondition is nullified, an exploration permit is automatically revoked.

“If this is the case, Royalco’s permit should have been revoked already and there should also be no exploration activities,” she said.

Residents also went to the NCIP regional office to seek a dialogue, but Regional Director Amador Batay-an was not around. It was revealed that local officials have not received a copy of the NCIP’s Enbanc resolution nullifying the certification precondition. This is said to be the reason why the permit to conduct exploration activities in Phase 3 had not been revoked. Reposted by (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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