Sagada folks close river-polluting mine
By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
SAGADA, Mountain Province — People’s power is effective in this town when barangay officials and elders in the eastern barangays stormed and closed a refinery plant where the mine wastes contaminated with cyanide were dumped in a river that waters centuries old ricefields of the Kiltepan (Kilong-Antadao-Tetep-an) tribe here.On July 7, elders and officials of the eastern barangays of Kilong, Tetep-an Sur, Tetep-an Norte and Antadao, went to the small scale mine in Pidlisan, a northern village of this town, and imposed a fine and closed a milling plant for the minewastes that pollute the waters of the river flowing downstream.
Barangay Captain Alas Bagsingit of Tetep-an Norte said that they traced the dumping of minewastes when the water of the river had turned red and the fish species in their ricefields, like the kaling or mud fish, died.
“We organized ourselves and went to Pidlisan and traced that the wastes were coming from the four story house of Awingan Bungid,” he explained in an interview.
They went inside the house. They discovered a ball mill where they used toxic chemicals, including cyanide, to segregate gold from the ore. Pipes from the said plant were used to move minewastes that find its way down the river.
Witnessed by the elders from Pidlisan and other barangays of Northern Sagada, they imposed a penalty of one million against Bungid, a penalty based on a Memorandum of Agreement signed by and between the organization of small scale miners of Pidlisan and the leaders of the Kiltepan.
Acoording to Bagsingit, Awingan is now given two months to raise the amount. He clarified that only the mine activity of Awingan was stopped and it was him solely who was penalized for violating their MOA.
Nordis learned that the MOA was signed by the parties in 2001. Prior to the MOA signing that year, some minewastes find their way to the river downstream. The river fed riceplants in the fields of the I-Kiltepan started to die as a result.
It was through the process of negotiations that they were able to come up with the Memorandum of Agreement, Bagsingit told Nordis.
Meanwhile, Sagada Sangguniang Bayan Kapon Gomgom-o said that it was due to the unity and cooperation of the leaders of eastern and northern barangays of the town that facilitated the fast resolution of the issue.
“Our indigenous system of settling disputes has proven again to be effective,” Gomgom-o added. He said that their concerns for the protection of their environment, the sources of their livelihood – their ricefields, and their villages moved them to punish perpetrators and that it would serve as deterent to dumping of minewastes in the river.
The river originating from the northern barangays of Sagada flows down to Kiltepan and joins the Chico River. The Chico River flows down to Kalinga and joins the Cagayan River where the water finds its way to the China Sea. # nordis.net