By KIMBERLIE OLMAYA NGABIT-QUITASOL
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Gambang folks in Bakun, Benguet call on the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to immediately revoke all mining exploration permits issued to Royalco.
They also called on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to recall the remaining certification precondition issued to Royalco.
Fausto Maliones of the Gambang Indigenous Peoples and Community Organization (GIPACO) who represented the residents of Barangay Gambang reiterated this during a consultation with the NCIP en banc and Benguet officials on March 25 at the Sanguniang Panlalawigan session hall here.
Maliones said they already forwarded a letter to the MGB asking for the immediate revocation of the mining exploration permit of Royalco in phase 3 on the basis that the NCIP already recalled the certification precondition. He added that the exploration permit issued for phase 1 should also be revoked as it was renewed without a certification precondition.
Gambang Barangay Captain Lazaro Moc-eg stressed that the MGB and NCIP should act immediately on their petition as Royalco, through its partner company Vale SA is forcing its way into the community. He added that the community folks remain on guard especially in phase three to prevent the impending entry of drilling equipment.
It can be recalled that the NCIP en banc issued resolution No. A-004 series 2011 last February 8 declaring Royalco’s certification precondition for phase 3 “null and void”. Also, earlier Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan questioned the renewal of Royalco’s exploration permit for phase 1 even without securing the people’s consent.
In a letter addressed to Bakun Vice Mayor Paul Dalmones signed by a certain Jonathan Pilien, the mining company stated that it will push through with its exploration activities in phase 3 despite the recall of its certification precondition.
“The company will continuously implement its exploration program for Phase 3 in spite of the issuance by the NCIP of En Banc Resolution A-004 Series of 2011, which nullifies the certification precondition for the said Phase,” the letter read.
“The company has not yet received any notice from the MGB stating that the permit has been revoked. Thus, the company is still obligated to implement its exploration program for phase 3 as it is required by the government to submit a report. Otherwise the company will be penalized by the government,” the letter further read.
NCIP Commissioner for Cordillera and Region 1 Brigitte Pawid reiterated that they are studying the case to determine the best resolution for Gambang concerns. She said the investigation team for the phase 2 and 3 permits has been convened and that they were already tasked to get all pertinent documents for study to draw the necessary actions from there.
NCIP Regional Director Amador Batay-an reiterated that with the recall of the certification precondition it is now incumbent on the MGB to revoke the mining exploration permit. “The Gambang folk should go to the MGB and ask them to revoke the mining permit as it is the MGB who issues permits,” he added.
Moreover, Batay-an claimed that the NCIP region has followed proper procedures in the conduct of free prior and informed consent (FPIC) consultations in Gambang. “As far as I am concerned my team went through the process. The irregularities in the conduct of the FPIC are allegations. We will be presenting our report on the conduct of the FPIC consultations when the en banc calls us to explain our side,” he added.
In the consultation conducted by the National Cultural Communities (NCC) of the House of Representatives last February 24, among the irregularities identified was dividing Gambang into phases for the conduct of the FPIC as Pawid said it has no legal basis. # nordis.net