LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Bakun folk who trooped to the provincial capitol here last July 21 were dismayed after the post-consultation meeting allegedly failed to tackle issues they were raising surrounding a January 25 agreement with the Royalco Philippines.
Speaking for Bakun residents, a resident of Upper Gambang in Bakun town said the consultation only tackled one of five issues left hanging after some elders representing the residents signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the company.
“The operations does not enjoy a favorable endorsement from the local government units (LGU) of Gambang and Bakun,” our informant who asked for anonymity told Nordis in an interview. He said the July 21 consultation did not even resolve the issue on local government endorsement, blaming Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan for asking Barangay Capt. Alvaro Paquito the wrong question.
The barangay captain said there was no favorable endorsement from the barangay, to which Fongwan queried if the barangay would ask for any favor from the company in exchange for an endorsement of the project.
The Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) representative, however, opined there is no need for such approval.
Besides the question on the absence of LGU endorsement, residents question the decision-making process, which the agreement and consent underwent. Because the community chose to undergo a referendum to get the community decision, they listed all legible voters, according to our informant.
The referendum, however, yielded only 779 out of the 2,899 voters as listed. “It is not even 50 percent plus one, or simple majority,” another Bakun resident said, questioning the representation obtained.
Residents also raised an issue over the process at the barangay-level consultative assembly where the MOA was supposed to have been discussed. It was in a hotel in Buguias town where it was allegedly signed by appointed elders, who could not represent the entire affected people and areas.
According to our informant, the elders came mostly from Sitio Gambang Proper, one of many sitios of Barangay Gambang.
Free prior and informed consent (FPIC) processes require that the community identify its elders and the community decision-making processes.
Royalco obtained an exploration permit (EP) over some 988 hectares of lands in Gambang following a Certification Precondition from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). The EP includes, among others, geological mapping; geochemical sampling; ground and aerial geophysical survey; diamond drilling and construction of living quarters, waterworks, drainage, waste disposal and electrification facilities.
Earlier, MGB Regional Director Neoman dela Cruz said the DENR might recall Royalco’s EP once the NCIP withdrew its certification.
Gambang residents, through Paquito, asked for another consultation to clarify the five issues. They went home empty-handed and dismayed, according to our informant.
The MOA signed January 25 this year covers only Phase 1 of the exploration project. It covers the four sitios Gambang Proper, Yugo, Tuwa-ok and Tood. Phase 2 covers areas at the boundary with Mankayan town; while Phase 3 is at Sitio Bagtangan. # Lyn V. Ramo