By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
TUBLAY, Benguet — The free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process held in Ambassador here on January 18 left community folk confused and unsatisfied.
On the said date, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) facilitated the community consultative assembly (CCA) the first step of the FPIC process in response to the petitions of organizations and individuals in Ambassador and adjacent barangays regarding the small scale mining (SSM) application of Dennis Tan.
The said petitioners have been asking for consultations before the Tan could pursue his exploration.
It can be recalled that Ben Polig, a surface owner of several hectares of land entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Land wealth Mines Minerals Resources Inc. In the MOA, Polig gave Landwealth the right to explore, develop, and exploit his 13.57 hectares land.
Tan entered the picture when Landwealth through a deed of assignment gave him the rights over Polig’s land. Tan now is trying to implement what was stipulated in the MOA between Polig and Landwealth. He however is prevented by the persisting community opposition.
In an interview, Cruzo Daguioa, barangay chieftain of Ambassador said the community was not yet satisfied with the CCA held because there were many questions that were not satisfactorily answered by the proponent and the other agencies present like the NCIP, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and Environment and Natural Resources Office (ENRO).
Who is the proponent?
On the other hand, Segunda Posadas, a resident of Cagui-ing, Atok, an adjacent barangay of Ambassador who also participated in the CCA said she is not satisfied. She and other residents of Ambassador are confused who the real proponent of the project is.
On whether the proponent is Landwealth or Denis Tan? During the CCA, a representative from Landwealth and a representative of Tan were both present explaining the issue of whether the project is SSM or large scale mining. Landwealth accordingly belied the assumptions that the company is pursuing a large scale mining in the future. The representative explained that Landwealth is a company investing for SSM only.
However, Atty Nestor Caoili of the Community Volunteer Missioners (CVM) who was also an observer during the CCA said in an interview that Landwealth itself said during the assembly that it will take much time to undertake large scale mining therefore they are pursuing SSM.
“It appeared to me that there is a possibility for Landwealth to seek assistance from foreign companies in the future for them to undertake large scale mining”, Atty. Caoile said.
In the issue of who really is the proponent, Caoili said “…it seems the real proponent of the project is Landwealth and Tan is only a dummy”. This, he said “because if you are going to trace the documents, Landwealth was the one who acquired the mineral claim of KM 21 mining association headed by Delfin Balajadia and the MPSA 069 of Philex Mines. He added that the area that Landwealth had assigned to Tan is still a part of the company’s whole concession area.”
Caoili further added that there were a lot of issues raised that should have been resolved before the conduct of the FPIC like the confusion of who really is the proponent. He said that if those were addressed prior to the conduct of the FPIC, there should have been no confusion.
During the CCA, Polig showed before the community his letter dated October 7, 2010. It was a letter to Roberto Chan, the president of Landwealth regarding his decision to revoke the MOA that he and Landwealth entered into on April 30, 2009.
It was stipulated in his letter that his decision was influenced by the strong opposition of the Indigenous Peoples (IP) around and near the areas of the subject properties. Moreover, it was also stated that his MOA with the said company has caused extreme antagonism towards him by his neighbors and other people within the area thus, he has no other option except to withdraw the consent he has given the company as embodied in their MOA.
With this, the NCIP decided to reset the CCA on February 11 this year.
SSM regulation reiterated
Meanwhile, Daguioa told this writer that there were questions arose regarding the regulation of SSM in their barangay. He reiterated his stand that SSM should be regulated for the miners’ safety. The regulation according to him will include survey of the lands of surface owners so that buffer zones will be established. This according to him will prohibit miners to enter in the tunnels of other surface owners’.
Daguioa also added that the project will be focusing on the extraction of copper. According to him, this will be advantageous to small scale miners in their barangay because miners in their area are only extracting gold in the ore thus, copper and other minerals are being thrown away. Now, if the project will push through, miners can sell their waste materials to the proponent of the project. The proponent in turn will process the waste materials to extract the remaining minerals specially copper. # nordis.net