Editor’s Note: Last week, Nordis Weekly carried a story with the same title, which is supposedly the First of a two-part article on the Itogon people’s opposition to the Anvil Mining, Ltd., which is conducting a mineral exploration on Itogon-Suyoc Resources Inc. mining claims. After a 6-month study period, Anvil tried to get the people’s sentiments on its activities, in a dialog at Dalicno Elementary School on August 11, 2007.
Only the village of Dalicno will likely be spared from excavation. A good part of the village sits on a patented mineral location that does not belong to ISRI but to local villagers who inherited this from the original owner, Kid-ing (who, however, registered it under the name “Kating”; thus ISRI’s references to it as the Kating Claim).
But after Anvil has excavated all the land around her, Dalicno will be left sitting alone, in the middle of a desert, lonely for the company of all the villages she birthed, and as thirsty for water as her surroundings.
Dalicno was the first permanent village founded by the Kankanaey in Ampucao. It is the mother of all the Kankanaey villages that sit on the surface of ISRI’s mineral tenements. It is from Dalicno that the people of Manganese, Station, Tangke, Tipong, and Upper Lolita originated. In fact, the people of Manganese, Tangke, and Tipong still consider themselves part of Dalicno, just like the people of Dalicno’s sub-sitios, Daycong, Demang, and Dontog. And in fact the people of all the villages mentioned still regard Dalicno as the center of the kinship and ritual network to which they belong. Their eviction from the land on which their villages sit will dismember this network.
Although established only within the last century, the complex of villages centered on Dalicno is widely acknowledged as an ancestral domain of the Kankanaey who have settled in Itogon. Even the Ibaloy and the Kalanguya, who preceded the Kankanaey in founding permanent settlements here, recognize the ancestral proprietary and territorial rights of the Dalicno network of communities to the lands they now occupy. After all, even the predecessors of the Ibaloy and Kalanguya communities of Ampucao remained semi-sedentary well into the twentieth century. Historical records and oral traditions indicate that the Ibaloy and the Kankanaey came and went to and from the Itogon area, mining gold ore, cultivating swiddens, and raising livestock for at least three-and-a-half centuries, from the 1570s to the 1930s.
ISRI may be able to argue prior rights to its patented mining claims because these were located before the opening of the Sangilo mine in the 1920s. But artifacts discovered in 1991 by anthropologist Evelyn Caballero in an archaeological dig at Tangke clearly show prior exploitation of the mineral deposits at the Sangilo minesite by people who used tools and methods of small-scale gold production peculiar to Benguet culture.
Unless ISRI is granted the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement and Exploration Permit it has applied for, Ampucao Proper and Cruz might also be spared from excavation. But like the Dalicno network of Kankanaey communities, the Ibaloy-Kalanguya communities of Cruz and Ampucao rely on the Pitang springs for their water. They will be especially hard-hit because they are chiefly agricultural.
Once grazing ground for the cattle of a prominent Ibaloy clan, Busoy, some 25 hectares of Cruz and Ampucao are now used for vegetable production. Anvil has offered to employ the Busoy clan member who is currently in charge of the land, in exchange for his consent to its exploration activities. But the man has refused. “This is the last of our ancestral lands that has not been taken by the big corporations,” he told an APIT TAKO organizer who spoke with him before the 11 August consultation.
Benguet Corporation and Omico have mined the other properties of the clan in barangays Virac and Ampucao. The clan has accepted compensation for these properties. But it will not enter into any deal for the land that is now occupied by the vegetable gardens of Cruz and Ampucao.
“We will not give it up.” the man in charge of the land said. It is their last stand.
Recourse to Law?
Some of the people of Ampucao think it may be possible for their communities to get help from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), whose quasi-judicial functions empower it to issue an injunction on exploration and mining activities conducted within ancestral domains. But the people are not very hopeful because the NCIP has not yet validated any claim of ancestral domain over any part of Itogon.
Also, Section 56 of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) protects the property rights that big corporations like ISRI already enjoyed prior to 1998, when the IPRA took effect. Arguing prior property rights based on the principle of native title would entail a long and expensive legal battle.
Section 56 of the IPRA is precisely the reason why the NCIP has not been able to demand that Anvil obtain a Certificate of Free and Prior Informed Consent from the indigenous communities of Ampucao for its exploration of the mineral tenements it is buying from ISRI.
Can local government units (LGUs) help? More than a thousand signatories to two petitions against Anvil’s activities certainly hope so. LGU endorsement of mining projects is required by the Local Government Code of 1991.
The signatories to the said petitions urge that, instead of endorsing Anvil’s exploration project, their local government officials at the barangay, municipal, and provincial levels instead endorse their opposition to it. They secured the endorsement of the Barangay Council of Ampucao just today, 16 August. They are, however, worried that the Municipal Council of Itogon and the Provincial Board of Benguet might not heed their call.
The meta-legal option
Still, the people threatened by Anvil’s exploration plans are undaunted. They are quite experienced in defending their communities by means of meta-legal action. In the 1990s, they saved these communities by barricading against the entry of ISMI’s bulk-mining equipment into the Dalicno area. More recently, in 2005, they thwarted ISRI’s attempt to evict Station villagers by mounting another barricade and chasing off the company’s heavily armed security force, wielding nothing but their farm tools and walking sticks.
It is apparently at Station that Anvil plans to start drilling. But Station farmers and small-scale miners have already encircled the area with signs painted on galvanized iron sheets nailed to the trees, saying “No to diamond drilling!” # Lulu A. Gimenez/APIT TAKO Benguet Committee/Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance