By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY — As part of the dispersed celebration of the Cordillera Day, residents of the mining town of Mankayan, Benguet reiterate to continue their three-month old barricade at the drilling site until the mining companies will remove their equipments.
Their act was done despite the new order of the Hearing Officer of the National Commission on Indigenous Population (NCIP-CAR) who denied the residents petition for a writ of preliminary injunction and reversed its earlier order to the mining corporations to stop their drilling in Tabio, Mankayan.
Marlou Pablo, president of the Save the Mankayan Movement, said that the barricade that they had launched since January, and which is heightened at present, is an expression of their rights to self-determination and to their ancestral land against corporate interests that is fast turning their lands to be agriculturally unproductive.
In a phone interview, he claimed that they never consented to the drilling and the mining expansion of the Far Southeast Gold Resources Inc., a company sixty-percent controlled by the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCO) and fourty-percent by Gold Fields.
“Uray man no nadeny ti injunction me, tuloy latta ti barikada enggana ikkaten da ti drilling machine ken pumanaw da (Even if the petition for injuntion that we filed was denied, we will continue the barricade until the companies removed their drilling machines and leave the area),” Pablo said in Iloco.
It can be recalled that on March 9, NCIP Hearing Officer Brain Masweng ordered Indodrill Philippines, Inc. (IPI), hired to do the drilling, and the FSGRI to cease and desist from their on-going drilling and related activities in the ancestral lands of the residents of Madaymen, Barangay Tabio of Mankayan.
In the (March 9) order, Masweng justified his issued TRO as the plaintiffs will suffer grave and irreparable damage or injury. “It (drilling) would seriously affect their social and economic activities should the on-going drilling and other relative activities of the mining corporations within the ancestral lands and domains of the plaintiff if the TRO will not be issued.”
On April 4, however, Masweng reversed his March 9 order when the FSGRI filed motion for reconsideration. In his April 4 Resolution, he denied the Mankayan residents petition for a writ of preliminary injunction.
He said that FSGRI had established its prior rights over the covered area of their Far Southeast Project pointing that the covered areas were alienated by residents to the LCMCO as early as the 1960s.
A Mineral Production Sharing Agreement or MPSA was issued by the government to Lepanto in 1990, earlier than the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 which requires free, prior and informed consent from indigenous communities, Masweng explained in his resolution.
Masweng also directed the respondents FSGRI and the drilling company Indodrill Philippines Inc. to file P500,000 as commitment bond to answer for any adverse environmental impact of the drilling activity.
“This commitment bond is however, persuasive and not mandatory to encourage respondents to show their commitment to respect and promote the rights of the indigenous cultural communities of Mankayan, Benguet and in order to balance the interest of the parties and for peaceful and harmonious relationship between the community and the respondents,” the Masweng resolution stated.
Residents branded the April 4 resolution as a 360-degrees turned around from Masweng’s March 9 order. They asserted that the IPRA law mandates that any projects that would be done in the indigenous communities requires the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples.
“In asserting our rights over our ancestral domain, we will continue the barricade as we never issued our consent,” a resident said. # nordis.net