By DELIA BAGNI and KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The bid of the indigenous people of Gambang, Bakun, Benguet for the declaration of a Minahan Bayan is still pending with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for over a decade now.
Engr. Alfredo Genetiano of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Mines Management Division said Bakun’s application was filed in 1997. He said pertinent documents were already submitted and they are just waiting for the decision of the national office.
Genetiano pointed out that the region does not have any area declared as Minahang Bayan yet. He added that the application of Bakun is the only existing application for a Minahang Bayan in the region.
He, however, could not say what was holding the national office from processing and approving the Bakun Application. He said maybe the national office is still checking the viability of the application. He explained that the declaration of a Minahang Bayan is among the provisions of Republic Act 7076 or the Small Scale Mining (SSM) Act that transferred the management of SSM to the local government.
He further said that the Minahang Bayan application is part of the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP) of the Gambang, Bakun folk.
ADSDPP as provided for in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) is the development plan of an Ancestral Domain to support the indigenous peoples manage their domain.
Santos Mero, deputy secretary general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in an interview said that the application of Bakun for the Minahang Bayan was not granted due to the opposition of Royalco Philippines saying that the peoples application falls within the company’s mining claims.
“The opposition of Royalco was the main reason why the application of the indigenous people of Bakun for the Minahang Bayan was not granted,” he reiterated. He added that Royalco on the other hand was able to push through with its mining exploration in Bakun despite the people’s opposition.
Mero highlighted that Royalco was able to secure certification precondition by circumventing the free prior and informed consent process in cohorts with officials of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP).
“The indigenous people should be given priority to develop their resources for their needs however government agencies tasked to ensure the protection of the peoples rights fail to do so,” Mero reiterated.
Earlier reports showed that irregularities in NCIP’s conduct of the FPIC for Royalco’s mine exploration permit were validated in a consultation conducted by the House Committee on National Cultural Communities (NCC) headed by NCC Committee Chair Ifugao Representative Teodoro Baguilat, Jr. together with Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño and Benguet Representative Ronald Cosalan. The consultation was held at Gambang, Bakun sometime February 2011.
MGB Regional Director Fay W. Apil during the regular session of the Benguet Provincial Board last July 17 disclosed that Executive Order (EO) 79 seeks to strengthen RA 7076 to regulate the SSM industry.
Apil said the mining EO reinforces RA 7076 provision that SSM should be operated within declared Minahang Bayan areas. “The EO also provides for the creation of a central tilling area to regulate the safety of the people and the environment,” she added.
She is hopeful that with the implementation of the EO the Bakun application would be granted. She added that her office is following up the application.
Apil together with Genetiano were invited by the provincial board to brief them on the new mining EO.
Benguet officials expressed apprehensions on the impact of the EO to the province’s SSM industry since there is no declared Minahang Bayan in the province. # nordis.net