By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Residents of Mankayan, Benguet fear that the ongoing municipal wide Barangay assemblies and meetings initiated by the resident mining company may turn to be part of the process for a Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) that will allow mining intrusions into their community.
Barangay Bulalacao Kagawad Denver Tongacan said representatives from Goldfields are conducting meeting and consultations among the 12 barangays of Mankayan.
He added that these representatives approached members of each Barangay to ask them what they think are the socio-economic needs of their community.
He further said that the company representatives are offering the people water projects, school improvements, livelihood and the likes.
According to Tongacan, they heard from other officials in the municipality that the company has alloted P43 Million as budget for the said consultations. “Kasla isu samet ti pagpondo da idiay iyaw-awis da kadagidiay tattao (Maybe they will use the amount to fund their offers to the people)”, said Tongacan.
Tongacan said that they suspect the real purpose of the company in conducting such consultations. He also mentioned that company representatives make community folk attending their meetings sign attendance papers.
He added that they are also making them sign acknowledgment papers stating that they received a certain amount or materials for community projects from Goldfields.
“Adda pay tugot da a kopya ti Memorandum of Understanding nu anya man ti linaon na diay,” (They have also with them a copy of an MoU whatever could its contents be) added Tongacan said.
On January 6, 2011, residents of Sitio Tabbac, Barangay Bulalacao with the rest of community folks of Mankayan set-up a barricade in a bid to stop the drilling operations conducted by Indodrill company hired by Goldfields.
The drilling is part of the first moves of the company to carry out their Far Southeast (FSE) mining Project. Prior to that, South-African mining company Goldfield entered into an agreement with the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) in acquiring 60 percent share on the FSE gold-copper deposit. Lepanto gave Goldfield 18 months to go on a surface drilling operations.
Despite the silence of the some municipal and barangay officials of Mankayan, the residents stood their ground and maintained the barricade until the the company withdrew its mining equipment from the area in March.
“Months passed and here again are the moves of the company to befriend the people,” Tongacan said. He said that if Goldfields is really sincere in helping them, at least they should be honest and disclose the real reason behind their actions.
He also said that if the company is trying to get the support of the residents to their mining plans, they should do the meetings in accordance to the proper process of conducting FPICs.
“Tapno ditoy kami kuma nga agsasabat nu anya ti pudno a kayat ti tattao nu agmayat da a maminas ken madadael ti lugar da weno anya man ti takder da,” (So that we will realize what the people really want. If they like their lands to be mined and destroyed, or whatever they stand for.) Tongacan stressed.
Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) Deputy Secretary-General Santos Mero Sr. said that Goldfields should be transparent and tell the people what their real objectives are in staging such consultations.
According to Mero, the company should follow the proper process of FPIC.
He added that in the FPIC, the demands and stand of the community should be the first to be considered and not offering then immediately of such things. He further said that this might create the impression that the company is luring the people into a deceptive tactic and might as well constitute divisiveness among the people. # nordis.net