MAC: Mines and Communities

Tribal Folk Block Mining Firm's Entry

Published by MAC on 2007-07-23
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Tribal folk block mining firm's entry

Inquirer -

23rd July 2007

BAMBANG, Nueva Vizcaya--Members of tribal communities in three upland villages in Kasibu town have set up barricades to prevent the entry of equipment and building materials that would be used for an Australian mining firm's exploration activities in the area.

About 80 villagers, composed of local officials and menfolk, blocked the road leading to a mine site in Barangay Pao on Saturday and vowed to stop the operations of Oxiana Philippines Inc.

"We just want to show proof that mining in our village is not acceptable to our people, contrary to what the company and some quarters in the government are claiming," Mariano Maddela, village chief of Pao, said.

Since July 12, groups of 25 men have been holding shifts in guarding the road leading to the site in Pao, which is part of a 5,873-hectare area covered by an exploration permit granted to Oxiana.

The site, which straddles the Mamparang mountain range, is within an ancestral land applied for by the Bugkalot of eastern Nueva Vizcaya.

"They can use force against us, but we will stand our ground," said Maddela, a Bugkalot.

Volunteers from the Dapon Indigenous Peoples Center Inc., a non-government organization, said the group was angry over the attempted entry of the company's drilling equipment and building materials into the site, despite resistance from the community.

The villagers from Barangays Pao, Paquet and Kakiduguen have been questioning the authenticity of the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) certification, which the company used in obtaining a permit from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

They said the FPIC was "fraudulently issued" by "bogus" tribal members.

The FPIC certification showed that 14 of the signatories were set to receive P4,000 monthly as Oxiana's "liaison officers" while 19 others were to get P3,000 a month.

MGB records showed that Oxiana's permit expired on Saturday, ending the four-month extension from March 17, 2007, the original expiry date.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried but failed to contact Oxiana officials for comment.

But Jerrysal Mangaoang, MGB director for Cagayan Valley, said he had granted a 20-month extension of the company's permit.

He said the number of villagers barricading was "negligible" and that Oxiana's FPIC was valid and granted by indigenous groups in the area.

"Also, the [people manning the barricades] are not from Pao or Kakiduguen. [To say that the FPIC was fraudulently given] was unfair to the indigenous groups that gave their consent," he said.

Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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