By KIMBERLIE OLMAYA NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAKUN, Benguet — The unity and concerted efforts of Gambang folks in their struggle to defend their land from destructive large scale mining once again prevailed in a recently concluded dialogue between them and the Monkey Forest, a consultancy firm hired by Vale Philippines Inc. facilitated by the municipal government here.
In the said dialogue, residents of Barangay Gambang reiterated their opposition to the mining exploration activities of then Royalco Philippines Inc. and now Vale Philippines Inc. and urged the mining company to respect their stand.
“Irespeto da kuma ti takder ti umili. Saanda kuma nga ipilit ti exploration ta saan nga kayat ti kaadwan nga umili,” ( The mining company should respect the position of the people. They should not force the exploration operations because majority of the people do not want it) Bantay ken Kinabaknang ti Umili a Nagtaudan (Bakun Aywanan) Secretary General and Barangay Council Member Dominga Gaspar, pointed out.
According to Gaspar, they asked for a written agreement for a status quo in phase 3 at the dialogue but the representatives from Monkey Forest declined as they have to ask the one who hired them. “The representative of Monkey Forest told us that they still need to ask their bosses about our recommendation,” Gaspar explained in Iloco.
Gaspar disclosed that they were disappointed as the dialogue did not give them assurance that the exploration activities will stop. She added that until there is no assurance the community monitoring will continue.
According to Lilian Falyao of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance Benguet, Monkey Forest requested the municipal officials to facilitate a dialogue with Gambang residents to present the drilling plans of the company as part of its exploration activity for phase 3. However, the community folk outrightly told representatives of Monkey Forest that they will not allow any drilling operations in the said area.
Falyao also said Gambang elders decided to continue the community monitoring to ensure that the company will not continue with their drilling plans in phase 3. She added that community folks are maintaining their 24-7 shifting at the possible entry and exit points despite the pronouncement of Mayor Marcelo Contada that the company should not pursue its drilling plans in the area.
It can be recalled that the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) in an en banc resolution recalled the certification precondition issued for phase 3. According to earlier reports, without the certification precondition the mining exploration permits issued to Royalco have no basis and therefore should be cancelled by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Earlier reports also showed that Gambang residents are calling for the cancellation of all permits issued to Royalco in Bakun. To this date the MGB has not recalled the exploration permit for phase 3 despite the NCIP resolution.
The said dialogue was held last May 17 at the municipal hall in Ampusungan, Bakun. Monkey Forest was hired by Vale for their community relations program. The said consultancy group is tasked to do the information and education campaign of Vale in Bakun. # nordis.net