Kibungan folk push for mining-free town

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — Members of the Palina Indigenous Peoples Community Association (PIPCA) urged President Rodrigo Duterte and Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu to endorse the immediate passage of House Bill 4387. The bill, authored by Benguet Representative Ronald Cosalan intends to declare Kibungan town a mining free zone.

“We are appealing for your urgent certification for the passing of the bill, which upholds our rights (to) self-determination,” said the letter signed by PICPA President Jose Gallano.

During a send-off program for the Northern Luzon delegates attending the ‘Sama-samang sakay, lakad at layag para sa sangnilikha (Salakyag) 2018, Oswaldo Panggayan, PICPA Vice-president explained that they see the legislation as an instrument to sustain their ancestral land and ensure its use for the future generations.

He also shared the long and arduous struggle of their community against destructive mining.

“Our struggle goes back in 1936, when then Governor Bado Dangwa tried to convinced our elders to allow mining companies to explore our lands,” shared Panggayan.

The PICPA leader described his village as the rice granary of Kibungan and known for its century-old rice terraces, stressing that mining will only destroy their livelihood.

In 2010, cases were filed against 35 residents of the village after they barricaded the road to prevent Da Gama Minerals, Inc. personnel from entering the site the company intends to explore. But the charges for malicious mischief slight physical injuries and breach of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 were dismissed by the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Kapangan-Kibungan.

“Everybody contributed for our legal need, those who have no money sold their harvest and livestock so they can give their share. Everyone had responsibility, watchful of any move of the company, ready to inform our kakailian and barricade the roads,” narrates Panggayan.

He said, while most of them are already old, they are confident that they have prepared the youth to continue their struggle to keep their community free from mining,

The letter containing their request was hand carried by their representative Lolita Bulsao, who attended the Salakayag 2018 program in Manila on June 5, as part of the World Environment Day commemoration.

The said bill is now pending before the House Committee on Ecology that has dominion on matter related to ecosystem management. The committee is currently chaired by Rep. Estrellita Suansing of Nueva Ecija. # nordis.net

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