By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Barangays of the municipality of Tuba affected by the exploration application No. 78 (EXPA 78) of Philex Mining Corporation (PMC) asked for more time to decide on whether or not to allow the said mining exploration.
This was decided when the recently conducted free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process drew environmental fears from the affected communities. The said FPIC process begun on February 18 and was attended by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples’ (NCIP) FPIC team, representative of PMC, president of the Indigenous Peoples Organization (IPO) of Tuba, representatives from the governor’s office and Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) and several members of the affected communities.
According to board member Johnny Waguis who was an observer during the FPIC, the affected Indigenous Peoples (IPs) were not satisfied with the explanations of the proponent that is why they asked the NCIP to give them more time to decide. He added that the activity was a continuation of the FPIC process held sometime in 2008.
Blas Laruan Dalus, president of IPO Tuba said there is opposition to PMC’s mining exploration. This according to him is due to the common fear that their agricultural areas will be affected and disturbed and water sources would be depleted or diverted. These he added are the issues raised that were not satisfactorily answered.
“It’s a natural scenario that a community will oppose a certain project until such time that they are satisfied with the proponent’s explanation,” Dalus added.
Specifically in Ansagan, he said the IPs wanted to inform all community members first before the consensus building. Therefore, they set another community meeting on March 3. In Camp 1, Dalus said the community’s major concern is the assurance that their agricultural lands will be excluded from the exploration.
Personally, Dalus said if the company can assure them that they will only explore the non-agricultural lands then there would be no problem. This he said because accordingly, there are other areas in the municipality that are not suitable for agriculture and can be utilized for mineral exploration.
However, he is firm that the consensus decision of the IPs will be highly respected and will be the one to be recognized. The communities he said decided to have their decision making on March 29 this year.
PMC’s EXPA 78 as stated in the recent list of mining tenements in the Cordillera covers a total land area of 6,179 hectares and covers portions of Tuba and Itogon. It covers 4,000 hectares in Tuba alone. Moreover, the exploration covers all kinds of mineral deposits especially gold and copper. # nordis.net