By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The community tension caused by the entry of the small scale mining (SSM) application of Dennis Tan in Ambassador, Tublay since 2009 still persists. A number of community petitions expressing opposition to the said application had been forwarded to the provincial government of Benguet and several relevant government agencies, but to no avail.
Members of the opposition group fear that the SSM which covers 13.57 hectares once operational will adversely affect their environment and livelihood. They specially fear that the application would affect their water resources like what happened during the operation of Sto. Nino Mines which greatly depleted their water and mineral resources.
Their experience with the said mining firm was, according to them, a great lesson that should not happen again. That is why they are always reiterating their opposition to every large scale mining exploration or operation in their area. Ambassador is one of the barangay in Tublay that is very near the area applied for by Sto Nino Mines.
Their opposition to large scale mining is evident in their strong rejection of the mining exploration of Horizon Resources Corporation September this year that covered lands in several areas of Benguet, Mountain Province and Ifugao.
On the other hand, some residents in Ambassador chose not to meddle in the issue of Tan’s SSM because what they understand about the tension is just a misunderstnading between two individuals. These are Joseph Cosente, the head of the opposition and Ben Polig, the resident who signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Tan and owns the said 13.57 hectares lot. Polig claimed in an interview that Cosente is opposing Tan’s SSM application because of envy. He explained that Cosente’s lot had been subjected to mineral assessment but it failed, while his lot passed the assessment that is why the MOA with Tan materialized.
However, a non government organization, the Community Volunteer Missioners’ (CVM), claims that the SSM application of Dennis Tan in Ambassador is just a small portion of a large scale mining application of Landwealth Mines Minerals Resources Inc. The mining application, CVM claims, covers a total land area of 2, 430 hectares. According to their research, the mining application does not only cover barangay Ambassador, but also more barangays and sitios in Tublay, Atok, Bokod and portions of Itogon and La Trinidad.
Pablo Abluyen, CVM field coordinator, told this writer that the people in Ambassador must unite in order to see the bigger picture behind the issue of Tan’s SSM application. “This is not only about personal issues of certain people but this is about a bigger threat not only to their barangay, but even beyond” he said.
Landwealth’s existence in Tublay
Documents made availabe by CVM shows that the KM 21 Mining Exploration Corporation has a mining claim in Brgy. Ambassador with a total land area of 423.5 hectares. On August 16, 1964, the corporation then known as KM 21 Mining Association entered into an agreement with Baguio Gold Mining Company for the latter to explore, develop, exploit and operate the former’s mining claim.
Moreover, on November 3, 1982, through a “compromise with dacion in payment”, Baguio Gold assigned its operating rights to Philex Mining Corporation. The contract was renewed by Philex and KM 21 Mining Exploration Corporation on November 3, 1988.
In February 2009 before Philex cancelled its rights to the mining claim, it applied for a new Mineral Sharing Production Agreement (MPSA 069) in behalf of KM 21 making the original mining claim to expand up to 2, 430 hectares. But for unknown reason, the MOA between KM 21 and Philex expired by virtue of a cancellation letter of Philex dated February 20, 2009.
Landwealth now entered the scene in the person of its president, Robert Chan. He proposed to KM 21 that they will explore, develop, and operate their mining claims. Thus, the MOA between KM 21 in the person of Delfin Balajadia and Robert Chan of Landwealth was done and registered in the Mines and Geosciences Bureau – Cordillera Administrative Region (MGB-CAR) on March 5, 2009. The MOA stated that the rights and interest of KM 21 over the MPSA 069 and their original mining claim will be transferred to Landwealth.
The dangerous thing in the MOA, Abluyen said, is the part where it is stated that “the claims shall also include all mining surface, water and timber rights, roadway rights, properties and priveleges of any kind of nature within the claims which now belong or may hereafter be acquired by KM 21 Mining Exploration Corporation directly or indirectly”.
The MOA also includes a condition that KM 21 shall secure a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) from the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) against current small scale miners within the claims of KM 21. Also, Landwealth shall assist proper government agencies in enforcing the CDO. This according to Abluyen would be unfair to the residents who are venturing into small scale mining in the area considering that SSM is an alternative livelihood of the community.
Relationship of landwealth to Dennis Tan
Within the applied concession area of Landwealth under MPSA 069, Polig owns a lot which his family is using for both farming and SSM. In the mineral assessment done by Landwealth, his lot passed. Thus, on April 30, 2009, Chan and Polig signed a MOA and in the said MOA, Landwealth was granted the exclusive right to prospect, explore, develop, mine, operate, own and sell mineral deposits within Polig’s property in sitio Salaksak along the Labey-Bokod provincial road. It was also stipulated that Landwealth shall exclude 10 tunnels for Polig to maintain.
Abluyen said “kulang na lang sinabi sa MOA na bahala na kayo kung ano’ng gagawin niyo sa lupa basta bigyan niyo lang ako ng sampung tunnels”.
On the other hand, documents showed that Tan submitted an application for SSM permit in the offices of PMRB in May 2009.
Moreover, On June 21, 2010, Chan of Landwealth granted Tan authority to operate SSM in Landwealth’s claim specifically in Polig’s lot.
Abluyen said, they found out that Tan and Chan have their offices in the same building that is located in Atlanta Centre, Annapolis St., Greenhills, San Juan City. Because of this, he alleged that Tan’s existence in Landwealth’s mining claim is a strategy to divert the attention of the community. “They did that in order for the community to be mislead,” he said. He further claimed that the community conflict would be beneficial to Landwealth because according to him, their attention will be focused on Tan’s SSM without seeing the bigger threat which is Landwealth.
Abluyen further said that because Landwealth is knowledgeable that Tublay folks are against large scale mining, they are entering the community through small scale mining or SSM. He added that Landwealth will possibly enter into several MOAs in its claim using different individuals like the case of Tan. # nordis.net