By KIMBERLIE OLMAYA NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Making democracy work, villagers of Lacub responded to a municipal council resolution when more than 200 of them trooped to the municipal hall to participate in a final public dialogue on the holding of Cordillera Day next month.
The public dialogue was set by the municipal government to talk about the Sangguniang Bayan Resolution No. 07 dated March 1, 2011, entitled, “A joint resolution of the Sangguniang Bayan and all Barangay captains of Lacub declining the verbal request of TULBEK, a local NGO, to conduct the celebration of Cordillera Day for 2011 in Buneg, Lacub, Abra.”
A series of consultation meetings happened after that among both the people’s organization and the barangay officials, when in a meeting on March 6 the town’s officials recommended the holding of the March 12 public dialogue to draw the opinion of the larger population.
In the said resolution the Lacub municipal council stated, “while the request is in order, the Sangguniang Bayan deems it prudent and expedient to decline the request due to some compelling reasons, one of which, is the unstable peace and order in the area.”
It then, “Resolved to decline the verbal request of the Local NGO to hold the Cordillera Day Celebration for 2011 in barangay Buneg, Lacub. Abra.” It was signed and passed by all eight SB members, six barangay captains and the SK president on March 1.
To determine the people’s decision, Timpuyog dagiti Umili ti Lacub Bantayan Ekolohiya ken Kinabaknang (TULBEK), the NGO referred to in the SB resolution, launched a signature campaign. As of March 12, the signature campaign generated 794 signatures in favor of holding this year’s Cordillera Day in Barangay Buneg, Lacub, Abra which is more than half the number (1, 500) registered voters of the municipality.
According to TULBEK, even after the dialogue they continue to gather signatures for the peoples support to host the annual event. Lacub has a population of about 3000.
In a press conference here, Esteban Ferraren, secretary general of the Lacub peoples organization, TULBEK said that as early as November last year, the organization passed a resolution unanimously supporting the hosting of Cordillera Day in their locality.
They copy furnished and informed the municipal government of Lacub of the resolution and about their decision. The local officials had no opposition then. He said preparations for the event started right after.
He disclosed that on March 6, they went to the residence of Mayor Estelita Bersamina in Bangued where the latter stated that it is not yet time for Lacub to host Cordillera Day and that she supports the mining exploration application of Golden Lake Mineral Resources.
“We believe that our officials do not want us to host Cordillera Day because they support the mining explorations of large scale mining companies to push through,” Ferraren explained in Iloko.
Aside from Golden Lake, mining applications of two other companies the Grand Total Mineral Exploration and Titan Mining and Energy Corporation cover a large portion of Lacub.
Ferraren disclosed that TULBEK decided to host Cordillera Day 2011 to generate wider support to their struggle against the entry of large scale mining to their community.
Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) Chairperson Windel Bolinget pointed out that Cordillera Day is a peoples activity. He stressed that it is the people of Lacub who decided to host Cordiller Day 2011.
“We do not need the approval of the LGU. We just want their support. It (Cordillera Day) is the occasion of the people,” Bolinget reiterated.
He agreed that the true reason behind the LGU’s opposition to the hosting of the event is their outright support to the entry of large scale mining. He said the LGU is afraid that their pro mining stance would be exposed as opposed to the strong anti mining position of the majority of Lacub folk.
Bolinget further explained that while it is true that mining is needed for national industrialization, the present mining industry controlled by corporate mining firms backed by trans-national mining companies is not suitable nor is it the answer to industrialization.
He said that to ensure national industrialization, the government should establish a pro people mining industry that should be under the control of the government to ensure that the profits from this extractive industry would benefit the country.
“The government should impose strict restrictions to mining such as; no mining in watershed reserves, sacred places and in areas where the people does not allow it,” he stressed.
Municipal officials are seen to respect the democratic decision by the majority of the Lacub folk although, Mayor Bersamina and Vice Mayor Leo Baroña maintain that it is not feasible to hold Cordillera Day in Lacub this year.
The municipal resolution has in fact stated, “the request while declined or not granted this year can be accommodated in 2013, during the last year of the term of the present administration.”
Nordis contacted Vice Mayor Baroña for comments but he said he was busy at the moment and will give time for interview some other time.
After the dialogue with town officials, the people took the opportunity to meet on organizing themselves for work on the municipal road the next day as part of their preparations for Cordillera Day. # nordis.net