By ALDWIN QUITASOL
MANKAYAN, Benguet — A day after observing their 6th “monthsary” on July 23, around 180 members of the Save the Mankayan Movement (SMM) and residents of Madaymen, Tabio of this municipality stood their ground against the demolition of their barricade by workers of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) escorted by more than 300 fully armed joint forces of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the 50th Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and security guards of LCMC.
According to SMM President Marlou Pablo, LCMC Vice President for operations of the Lepanto Mine Division (LMD) Ventotino Masendo accompanied by some staff of the Commission on Human Rights-Cordillera Administrative Region (CHR-CAR) and representatives of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) with the armed men arrived at past 7:00 in the morning. Pablo said when they learned that there will be a demolition that day, they gathered all the residents to guard the barricade.
On the last week of January of this year, residents of Tabio and other Barangays of Mankayan set up their barricade to stop the drilling operations of the Far Southeast Gold Resources Inc. (FSGRI), a project venture of LCMC and a South African mining corporation Goldfields Ltd.. Sixty percent of the FSGRI is owned by LCMC.
In April, NCIP Cordillera hearing officer Brain Masweng favored LCMC and FSGRI denying the Mankayan residents petition to stop the drilling.
On May 23, Branch 64 of the Regional Trial Court at Abatan, Bugias, Benguet Presiding Judge Agapito Laoagan Jr., issued a 20 day temporary restraining order (TRO) in response to the petition for Writ of Preliminary Injunction filed by LCMC resident manager Magellan Bagayao on May 15. The barricaders defied the TRO served to them by the court’ Sheriff.
Pablo continued that Masendo was ordering them to open the barricades so that his workers will enter and remove their makeshift tent and they will bring in the drilling equipment and other machines. He also said that with Masendo was Masweng who ordered them to vacate the area in 20 minutes for the demolition to push through. He narrated that they (barricaders) insisted that they will not let the demolition team in. Tension rose as the parties argued with each other.
According to SMM Vice-President Jacqueline Bolili, they noticed that many of the armed military and policemen were positioned on higher grounds surrounding them. She said that they did not know what the battle-ready government forces will do to them once either one from their ranks or LCMC personnel starts a scuffle.
“Agyaman kami ta awan ti naaramid a kasdiay ta baka addan ti natay kadakami,” (we are thankful that nothing untoward happened or else someone could have been killed among us) said Bolili.
Pablo said that due to their persistence and determination, Masendo and his party decided to leave the place. He said Masendo warned them that they will be back and he said they will soon know the result of their petition for Writ of Preliminary Injunction.
“Nu urayen mi diay Writ of Preliminary Injunction, sigurado a naaabak kami kasla met lang idi panakaisyu ti TRO laban kadakami. Adu nga ahensiya ti gobyerno ti napanan mi nagpatulongan ngem sabali met pinaboran da. Nakita met nu sino ti mas insakit ti NCIP. Nu kastoy a kanayon, anya garuden ngay a gobyerno ti pagkamangan mi? (If we wait for the injunction, we would surely lose, just like before when that TRO was issued against us. We approached many government agencies to ask for help but they favored the company. We saw which side the NCIP is. If it is always like this, what government should we ask for assistance?) according to Pablo.
In the morning of July 27, the barricaders were furnished a copy of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction granted by Judge Laoagan Jr. favoring the petition of the LCMC. The order was issued on July 23.
Pablo said that they have no choice but to wait for the next coming of the company representatives. He vowed that they will not give up the fight as they are exercising their rights over their ancestral land and their environment. He said that if the drilling continues and Goldfields will triumph, the future of their children and the whole of Mankayan is at stake. # nordis.net