By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
DAVAO CITY – A leader of a small-scale miners group complained that Army troops have harassed him to keep him out of a public consultation on open-pit mining operations.
Nationwide Development Corporation-St. Augustine Gold-Copper Ltd (NADECOR-SAGCL) and Napnapan Mineral Resources, Inc. (NMRI) in Pantukan conducted consultations last July 3.
Indug Kautawan (People Rise) in Pantukan Leader Rogel Otero said Army troops warned him that he was on their “OB (order of battle) list.” Indug is a group of farmers, indigenous peoples and small-scale miners formed in the wake of Typhoon Pablo that struck the province in December 2012.
Otero said soldiers belonging to the 71st IB were led by one Lieutenant (Ari Ben) Hernaez and a former New People’s Army member named Toralba confronted him on the morning of July 3.
“I ask a certain Toralba what OB means. He said that if they see me [downtown] they will blow my head up,” said Otero.
“It means I can no longer go to the consultation and to anywhere without the threat of death,” Otero explained.
Otero said Toralba also accused him of being a member of the communist group’s milisyang bayan (people’s militia).
“He asked me where I hid two Carbines; I dared him to search my house,” he said.
He shared that Toralba then tried to talk him into going with them into the (71st) battalion headquarters.
“I said I would only go with them if they would sign a paper signed by the purok leader and the barangay captain,” Otero said. He added that the soldiers then “borrowed” his phone. Later, he found it was lying shattered at a ditch.
Capt. Ernest Carolina, deputy chief of the 10th Infantry Division Philippine Army’s public affairs office, said an officer of 71st Infantry Battalion denied the accusation of Otero.
Carolina said Lt. Hernaez confronted Otero because of the statements of the alleged ex-NPAs.
Karapatan Spokesperson Hanimay Suazo said they are helping Otero in filing for a criminal case against Lt. Hernaez and “other responsible persons involved in the incident.”
Carolina said 71st IB Commander Lt. Colonel Dennis Tanzo “welcomed the filing of a case to answer inquiries regarding the incident.”
For Otero, the soldiers are in “tandem with the private guards of the company in silencing us who have been vocal against the open-pit mining of the company.”
February of this year, miners were surprised that they were allegedly required to acquire identification cards by Nadecor so they could continue to enter the company’s mining tenement.
Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau website show several mining applications in Pantukan such as NADECOR’s 2,025-hectares; 428.27 hectare by a certain Joseph P. Saucejo; 8,100 hectares by the Southern Horizon Mining Corporation; 8,100 by the Oro East Mining Corporation; and 1, 134 by Zetoza Mineral Reserves.
Based on estimates, Nadecor’s tenement alone could produce some 100,000 tons per year of copper and 500,000 ounces per year of gold for 22 years.