Philippine residents object again to sell-out at Diwalwal
There has been a long-standing conflict over the future of the gold rich mountain of Diwalwal, on the Philippine island of Mindanao. (See previous article - Philippines Environmental Group decries conflict sown by foreign mining companies in Indigenous Communities).
Local people are now urging the country's new president , Benigno Aquino III, to forestall foreign-ownership of the area, which has been designated as one for small-scale miners since 1999.
1,000 petitioners troop vs Diwalwal sell-out anew
Kalikasan-PNE Press Release
3 September 2010
Davao City --- Leaders from the Nagkahiusang Katawhan sa Diwalwal (NAGKADIWA) again trooped to the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) today reiterated its opposition to Diwalwal sellout through a petition entitled, “Panalipdan ang Mt. Diwata, Pakigbisugan ang Katungod sa Yuta, Panginabuhian, ug Nasudnong Patrimonya.”
“Signed by nearly 1,000 Diwalwal residents and small scale miners, the petition opposes the private takeover in Diwalwal and urges the Aquino Administration to side with the people of Diwalwal, for national welfare, and national patrimony,” said Reynaldo Elejorde, Chairperson of NAGKADIWA who stressed that threats to the sell-out of Diwalwal prevail.
After the cancellation of the July 30 bidding, the PMDC, the corporate arm of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has been silent about the next date of the bidding and any future moves which will affect the livelihood of more than 40,000 small scale miners, tunnel operators, small entrepreneurs, farmers and residents.
LGU still indecisive
NAGKADIWA also said that although there is positive intention from the provincial government of Compostela Valley to intervene in the issue, the council’s moves have been “slow and indecisive.”
“After several sessions, the council has not yet come up with any firm or decisive resolution on the issue except for a few board members who were vocal about their opposition to the takeover of private mining corporations within the 729 – hectare minahang bayan,” said Elejorde.
Expressing their dismay, Elejorde along with other small scale miners and local residents have been attending the provincial board sessions, only to “go home without any positive news.”
Demand to end JBMMC’s monopoly
The past two sessions have also failed to make a resolution on the small scale miners’ demands to revoke the Joint Operations Agreement awarded to the Joel Brillantes Mining Corporation (JBMMC).
The controversial JOA has ignited rage among the small miners as this gives JBMMC exclusive right to mine within 452 hectares of land within the 729-hectare parcel that is supposedly allotted for the small scale miners.
In a session on August 4, Board Member Dexter Lopos, proposed to the council that all agreements within Diwalwal must be reviewed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, and stressed that for decades, Diwalwal has not given the province significant revenue.
For his part, Elejorde appealed to the provincial board to exclude incumbent board member Joselito B. Brillantes from deliberations on the JOA due to conflict of interest.
“As president of the JBMMC who signed the questionable JOA and as one who represents the interest of a large-scale private firm, BM Brillantes should make the dignified move of excusing himself from the sessions which will tackle the JOA,” urged Elejorde.
NAGKADIWA said the JOA has disenfranchised small scale miners the right to mine within the bigger portion of the minahang bayan and that over the years, the small scale mining industry in Diwalwal has remained to be monopolized by large-scale mining companies especially the Joel Brillantes Mineral Mining Corporation (JBMMC) and some foreign partners of the indigenous communities.
PANALIPDAN, an environmental rights group, said that the 729 –hectare Diwalwal Minahang Bayan was declared by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) of Compostela Valley since March 30, 1999 as the People’s Small-Scale Mining Area (PSSMA). It was approved by then Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Antonio Cerilles on September 20, 1999 which allowed the small scale miners to utilize the area for their own livelihood.