By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY — Residents of the mining town of Mankayan, Benguet petitioned on Friday, January 27, the regional hearing officer of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP-CAR) for a total stop to the on-going drilling operations of one of world’s largest gold producer, in their community because they never gave their consent to the foreign company to operate in their community.The filing of the petition was done after the residents of Tabio, Mankayan established a barricade since Monday that halted the drilling operations of Gold Fields, a partner of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) in its Far Southeast (FSE) gold project that affects the said community.
Aside from the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) as an immediate remedy, they also sought for an injunction to totally ban the drilling and claimed damage as the drilling violated their rights over their ancestral land, the complaint stated. It was docketed as NCIP Case No. 03-CAR-12 by the NCIP Hearing Office.
Atty. Richard Kilaan, whom the residents sought help from, explained that they (residents) decided to keep-up their barricade and picket and filed the petition with the NCIP Hearing Officer until Gold Fields shall remove all their machines in Madaymen, Tabio of Mankayan.
Kilaan added that the petitioners are members of the Kankanaey Indigenous Peoples of Mankayan known as Teeng di Mankayan who worked for the acquisition of their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title which was issued as CADT No. CAR-MAN 1208-094.
In bringing their petition to the NCIP Hearing Office, residents invoke that the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 or RA 8371 mandates that before any project would be done in the ancestral land and domain of indigenous peoples, their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) must be sought first.
“We never gave our FPIC which is a requirement before the project,” a landowner said. They are joined by residents in the nearby barangays in their barricade in Madaymen that stopped the drilling operation of Gold Fields up to press time.
Reached to comment on the residents move, Marionne Molintas Ruiz, said that Gold Fields is conducting due diligence over the Far Southeast deposit in the area based on an option agreement they entered on September 20, 2010 with LCMCo, their partner on the Far Southeast project.
The agreement grant Gold Fields an 18 month option period to decide and invest on the project, said Ruiz adding: that she cannot comment on the petition filed by the residents at the NCIP-CAR as she did not yet see a copy.
She explained that the due diligence involves the feasibility study of the ore body of the Far Southeast gold project.
Ruiz added that they completed the process as required by law and they had conducted negotiations with stakeholders including the barangay council, elders, and indigenous organizations there.
Affected clans who own land where drilling activities are conducted and the residents questioned however the IP organization to whom the company dealt with as they added that they were not aware of the existence of Tabio Indigenous Peoples Organization (Taipo) and they did not authorize the said organization to deal in their behalf.
“The Taipo has no personality to represent the residents of Barangay Tabio, much more represent them in dealing with the Far Southeast regarding the drilling operation which they have opposed from the very start,” the residents said in their protest letter. # nordis.net