By KYLE EDWARD FRANCISCO
VIGAN CITY — A member of the Sangguniang Panlunsod of Ilocos Sur called on his colleagues to investigate the National Commission on Indigenous People’s (NCIP) conduct of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).
In his privilege speech before the body on February 20, SP Member Christopher Baterina urged the body to “conduct an investigation on how the NCIP is taking the FPIC of the indigenous people of Cervantes.”
He also expressed his surprised and alarm over the claim of NCIP’s investigation report that “that there was fraud and misinformation with the latest vote, so therefore, the original 6-3 in favor of the Application should stand.” Baterina pointed that to the board that big corporations with big resources can inveigle people with little means.
He reminded that the provincial board already passed a resolution supporting the objection of Cervantes to CEXCI’s application.
“We have supported the objection of the municipality of Cervantes to the exploration permit because we understand the impact of mining on the health and safety of the people and the environment,” he said.
Asked for comment, Rev. Marcelino Mariano, spokesperson of Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) said that the conduct of an investigation is “apt and timely”.
“NCIP is known for its collusion with mining companies. I also read from the report that NCIP even served as the mouthpiece of CEXCI, using technicalities to blur the connection between exploration and mining operation. Indeed, the provincial board must intervene,” said Mariano.
The IP agency started the FPIC process early last year and was able to secure a vote favoring the conduct of the exploration. However, a local group, Cervantes Ipateg, Salakniban! Movement (CISM) launched a massive education and information campaign. They also mounted petition signing and were able to convince some of the communities to retract their “Yes” votes. This resulted in a resounding 8-1 “No” vote.
The validation team headed by Engr. Luis Andres of NCIP Region I reported that “names and signature are not authentic” and “children, persons considered no-read, no-write, and even those abroad have names and signatures in the petition or the resolution of non-consent.”
However, Baterina and CISM members disagree.
The legislator claimed that he and SPM Pablito Sanidad, Jr. witnessed the overwhelming opposition of the people against the project when they attended the Cervantes People’s Summit in May 2017.
“Pumirma nga halos lahat ng mga leaders eh, pati si former mayor Maggay e pumirma sa unang petisyon nai-file, ininvite nga kayo ng CISM nung general convention e pumunta naman kayo,” (Most of our leaders signed the petition, even former mayor Maggay signed the fisrt petition we submitted. CISM even invited you [NCIP] during the general convention and you attended.) a CISM member posted in his Facebook page.
Mariano said that NCIP’s statement is “callous and discriminatory”.
“Such statement coming from an agency established to protect IP rights is appalling. It further exposes that NCIP is but a tool to legitimize land-grabbing of IP lands by big businesses,” adds Mariano.
He stressed that children and those who lack formal education deserves respect and recognition. Adding that IPs who have no opportunity to study because of poverty and lack of government support in far-flung communities where IP communities are located.
“Children and even those who failed to attend schools are entitled to their own views on matters affecting them and their community. In fact, it is the mandate of NCIP to make sure that they participate and empowered in such matters,” the minister said.
Mariano lamented that the government has already failed to provide education “now they even want to take away their voice in a proceeding that will have an irreversible impact to their lives, livelihood and ancestral lands.”
Baterina emphasized that it is insanity to allow mining corporations to “pulvarized mountains” and “dump toxic materials” in bodies of water.
“CEXCI will say that previous mining incidents will not happen to Ilocos Sur because they will ensure safeguards. It would be insanity to believe this… and that any of the so-called financial benefits of mining can make up for the destruction it will cause,” ending his speech.
Defend Ilocos’ Mariano shared the same sentiment. He said that the collusion of NCIP and CEXCI will cause the people of Cervantes and adjacent towns their lives and livelihood.
Based on the groups study, if the mining pushes through, 7,241 hectares of productive farmlands will be affected. The said area is valued at P374 million and produce P62.13 million worth of palay in a single cropping. He also noted that the Chico-Paduquit Watershed will be affected. The river system irrigates 1,888 hectares in Suyo, Sta. Cruz, Tagudin benefiting 2,337 farmers. # nordis.net