By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
BAGUIO CITY — The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) urged the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to issue the certificate of rejection of the people in Gambang, Bakun with reference to the Royalco Philippines Incorporated’s mining exploration, as it also called the attention of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Benguet to file a pro-people environment code.
Santos Mero, the deputy secretary of CPA in an inteview said “we are calling for the scrapping of the mining application of Royalco in Bakun because from the very start, the people in Bakun has rejected their first mining exploration application”. He added that amid the resistance of the community, the NCIP and the mining company continue to push for the company’s operation.
Mero also pointed out that the NCIP and Royalco have manipulated the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process. He said, because the resistance in the community is very strong, the agency and the mining company identified the land owners who are in favor of the exploration and forged a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with them that is why the said company was granted permit by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to pursue their mining activities.
Mero also said that the CPA is questioning NCIP’s action of dividing one mine application into three phases. “We have forwarded our opposition regarding MGB’s issuance of several permits to only one application.
They should issue only one permit to one application but they did otherwise. This alone has violated the collective rights of the Indigenous People (IP) in Bakun”, Mero said.
He explained that as one community, they have the right to decide consensualy and that right was violated by dividing them into three phases for the mining company to be able to manipulate a consent.
The Local Government Units (LGU) from the baranggay level up to the provincial level, Mero said maintained a consistent stand in their petitions and opposition letters that the rights of the community in Gambang, Bakun as a people was violated and the FPIC process was manipulated.
He added that even the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) who made an investigation regarding the issue had findings that the FPIC process was really manipulated and violated.
Mero said, the NCIP and MGB must scrap the exploration permit and immediately issue the certificate of rejection of the people in Gambang against the mining exploration of the Royalco instead of having a series of dialogues that will only result to conflict within the community.
He reiterated that dialogue is no longer necessary because the position of the community is clear and they want the Royalco out of their community. For one reason, that mining is not their main livelihood, and instead it is agriculture.
Mero added that they are just conducting dialogues because they want to point out that there are people in Bakun who are favorable of the exploration but he stressed that in reality, the people favorable to the said exploration are few and those who were paid by the company.
Moreover, Mero said that the CPA is challeging the LGU of Bakun to take a stand on the issue. He said they should make a resolution or an ordinance banning mining exploration and application in their municipality.
Mero also called the attention of the Benguet SP to study the mining history of Benguet. “It’s time that our provincial board members file for a moratorium from the entry of mining corporations in the province. It is time to give our province a period of time to recover from more than a century of devastation from the largescale mining operations”, he said.
Aside from the moratorium, Mero said CPA is challenging the Benguet leadership to pass a pro-people environment code like what the provincial board members of South Cotabato did.
It is recalled that in June this year, the outgoing provincial board members of South Cotabato approved with finality the environment code that bans all forms of mining activities in their province.
Mero said CPA is challenging the SP to do the same action. “Haan laeng nga gapu ta madin ti umili ti minas no di ket agserbi met laeng nga eye-opener koma kadagiti amin nga umili iti Benguet dagiti didigra nga napasamak karkaro tatta ta sumangsango tayo iti ibagbaga da nga panagbaliw ti klima”, (It is not only because the people are against mining but also the devastation that has hit Benguet should serve as an eye-opener to everyone of us specially that we are now facing what they call climate change) he said.
Mero stated that, “we should not sacrifice our environment for the sake of the development that mining can give because as you can see, in more than a century of mining in Benguet, it has not been developed. Instead, Benguet is now suffering from environmental disasters.” # nordis.net