By DELIA BAGNI
BAGUIO CITY — The heavy rains brought about by typhoon Dindo did not stop the determined residents of Gumaddang, Springhills, Kadaklan Village and Happy Hallow from removing the fence set up by a certain Bernardo Valdez over a portion of Happy Hallow and Loakan-Apugan.The residents of the said barangays assembled early morning on June 28 and dismantled barbed wires surrounding a 22 hectare portion of Happy Hallow set up by the Valdez camp. Valdez alleged that he has a mining claim over the area. Residents said that Valdez alleged mining claim cavers a watershed and forested area which the affected communities have protected ever since.
According to the residents, Valdez men of more or less a hundred in number assessed and cleared the area for housing purposes in June 26 Tuesday. On June 27 Wednesday, the residents confronted Valdez and he allegedly told the residents that he will not stop unless the city mayor tells him to do so.
The residents claimed that the Valdez camp started fencing the area three weeks ago when a portion of the circumferential road was closed for rehabilitation and only a few nearby residents would notice the advance of their work.
They removed wires and documents are taken to the barangay hall for safe keeping.
According to Vernie Yocogan-Diano, a resident of Purok 2, Happy Hallow and the executive director of the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center, Inc. (CWEARC), Valdez’ alleged mining claims issued in 1957 do not exist.
Yocogan explained that Felizardo Gacad, the chief of the Mining Environment and Safety Division of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera Administrative Region (MGB-DENR-CAR), certified that the the mining claims of Valdez namely “Selecta” and “Silica” were issued a lease contract in 1962 which was suspended in 1977, expired in 1987 and then abandoned by the Valdez. She added that Valdez left the area with no evidence of possession/occupation over any portion thereof.
She also pointed out that existing documents show that it was a certain “Caguioa” and “Flores” which first mined the Kadaklan Village.
In early 2012, the affected ancestral land claimants and residents alerted the Baguio Legal Section Office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera Administrative Region (NCIP-CAR) that Valdez conducted a survey on this watershed area which he claims to have mining claims which was issued then in 1957. The ancestral land claimants of Happy Hallow however asserted that way before the alleged mining claims of Valdez, they were already occupying Happy Hallow.
In their complaint to NCIP, the clan leaders and barangay officials led by Barangay Captain Soriano Palunan reiterated that Valdez do not have valid mining claims; that the special working order of the DENR is a blanket authority to conduct a relocation survey for a non-existent mining claim and that the survey would overlap an existing approved survey which are covered by ancestral land claims of the Heirs of Songayen Bugnay, Heirs of Tangod Canuto and Saturnino Fianza.
The complaint further pointed out that the survey would overlap the ancestral domain of Happy Hallow which is already a titled property having been issued with a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title by NCIP and that Valdez did not get vested rights over the alleged mining claims. The complainants cited that in Civil Case No. 2204-R, the court has denied Valdez’s application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction against EPZA because they have no private rights to be protected by the writ.
In a letter of Atty. Bernadette Badecao of the NCIP Baguio Office dated March 16, 2012, she called the attention of DENR Regional Director Clarence Baguilat to cancel the survey work issued by his office in November 15, 2011 saying that the survey has no basis as the area is already occupied and developed. # nordis.net