January 23, 2011 in Cordillera
By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Commissioner Zenaida “Brigitte” Pawid of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) appeared before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) here on January 17 and requested the SP to pass a resolution relative to mega development projects in the province.
The commissioner was referring to development projects like mines, geothermal and dams. As a commissioner, she wants to know what really is the province’s position on the above mentioned projects. “Will you allow another Ambuklao, another Philex and another Lepanto?,” she asked. She iterated that she needs to know this for the NCIP to be guided. She explained that their position in the commission is the position of the people.
Pawid added that Benguet is the best example when it comes to large scale mining. She was referring to the economic situation of the province where despite the presence of mining, the province is still among the poorest provinces in the country and when mining is dead, it will get poorer.
This according to her was not experienced by any other province that is why she iterated that the province should seriously consider to have a policy on large mines. She also pointed out that in the next ten years, Philex and Lepanto will be high up in the province’s list when a policy will not be passed.
The policy Pawid said does not necessarily have to be yes or no. It can be a process on how these projects enter in the province. The NCIP she said will insist on the conduct of the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process and the SP can even improve the said process.
Board member Nelson Dangwa recommended that if they will make a policy regarding the issue, there should be a multi-stakeholder conference so that they can specifically pinpoint how these kinds of projects be addressed. He also pointed out that in as much as they want to effectively implement the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), there are conflicting provisions in the law that he thinks needed to be harmonized.
Pawid agreed with Dangwa and suggested that the August body with the Mayors and Vice Mayors hold a one-day-conference wherein the NCIP will provide them all information regarding the IPRA specially that the province of Benguet has all kinds of mega development projects. She stressed that the IPRA is a social justice law that is suppose to cure the 100 years violation of the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs). Therefore she said, IPRA should always be interpreted in favor of the IPs.
On the other hand, board member Johnny Waguis told the commissioner that the body is studying the possibility of passing an ordinance requiring all applicants to also get an endorsement from the SP because accordingly, the mining law only requires the applicants to get two endorsements from the Local Government Unit (LGU). Thus he said, if the applicants have already secured the said endorsement from the barangay and municipal level, it is already enough. “Ngem nu nagka-problema, umay da met laeng iti SP,” he added.
Moreover, there were problems regarding the FPIC guidelines like what board member Bernard Waclin shared that when the project is under the jurisdiction of two municipalities and the proponent is having difficulty getting the endorsement of one municipality, they will run to the other. This according to him should be studied because in his opinion, the project is a concern of both municipalities therefore both should be consulted.
In line with this, Waguis proposed for the review of the FPIC guidelines. He added that there might be additional provisions from the LGU and other sectors that can be incorporated.
Pawid then welcomed the suggestions and promised to relay the said critisms and recommendations to the commission. She also welcomed the recommendation of Vice Governor Crescencio Pacalso that the commission’s En Banc meeting regarding issues concerning the province be held here so that they can participate and talk in behalf of their constituents. # nordis.net