By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — “The people do not like the construction of a tailings pond here as this will cause pollution and destruction to our lands,” said Ernesto Dalang Jr. of the Gold Creek Amty Association.
On the morning of September 19, more than 200 residents from different sitios of Ucab, Itogon, Benguet blocked the entry of trucks and other mining equipment of the Benguet Corporation (BC). According to Dalang, they are opposing the revival of the Balatoc tailings pond of BC in their community.
“Their plan is to put chemicals in the river between villages of Ucab and Gumatdang, then they will dam it and dump their mine wastes there,” he added.
Dalang shared that they talked with representatives of BC last September 5 about the dam site. He said they were shocked to learn that the company personnel were already starting construction of the tailings dam. Because of that, he said, they trooped to the site and demanded to stop it.
A heated verbal exchange erupted between the residents of the community people and the engineer and security guards of the company, Dalang said. The parties then agreed to settle the matter in a conciliation meeting last September 21.
Sonny Andres of Kabenguetan, Ilaban ti Daga, Biag ken Kinabaknang-Cordillera Peoples Alliance (Kaibang-CPA Benguet), representatives of BC during the conciliation meeting at Sitio Aleb of Barangay Ucab, suggested that a relocation survey will solve the issue. BC will identify the lots affected and summon the owners to negotiate for a possible settlement.
Present in the meeting are the village officials of Ucab, representatives of different sitios, a representative of the National Commision on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Benguet and Itogon councilor Alexander Fianza.
Andres said the community hesitates to agree to the company suggestion. “But the Barangay Captain accepted it saying he wants his land to be surveyed and relocated and no one can stop him,” he said.
Fianza. on the other hand, said he is with the people whatever their decision will be.