MAC: Mines and Communities

Court Order Won’t Stop Tribes’ Fight Vs Mining Firm

Published by MAC on 2007-07-30
Source: NORDIS

Court order won’t stop tribes’ fight vs mining firm

By Melvin Gascon, Northern Luzon Bureau

30th July 2007

KASIBU, NUEVA VIZCAYA -- Opposition against the planned mining exploration in a village continued to grow as tribal residents from six villages here trooped to the site of a road blockade to prevent the entry of a mining firm in their community.

On Wednesday, more than 500 villagers belonging to different tribes stood guard at the road entrance to Pao Village here.

The villagers made the move despite a court order that prohibited their leaders from stopping the transport of equipment and construction materials of Oxiana Philippines Inc. (OPI) to the exploration site.

Villagers, who declined to be named for fear of being cited in contempt by the court, said more people went to the barricade site upon learning that their three village chiefs and 22 others had been barred by the court from joining the blockade.

For the second week, men, women and teenagers set up makeshift tents on top of a ridge, surrounding a boom laid across the road.

The boom was raised and lowered every time vehicles passed by.

Acting on the complaint of OPI, Judge Jose Godofredo Naui of the regional trial court here on July 23 issued a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) against 22 respondents, who were identified in the complaint as having led the road blockade since July 12.

Since Monday’s issuance of the TRO, however, not one of the respondents had since showed up at the barricade site, the Philippine Daily Inquirer learned.

“We were told that policemen would handcuff us immediately if one of us showed up at the site,” said Benito Cudiam, one of the respondents.

Tension grew when villagers saw on Wednesday soldiers and policemen set up camp in Paquet, about 200 meters from the barricade site.

But the villagers, composed of Bugkalot, Ibaloi, Kalanguya and Ifugao farmers, said they would block the entry of the company “whatever the consequences may be.”

“We are not a violent people. We just want to be respected. If violence will erupt, you can be assured that it did not start from our group,” another Bugkalot farmer said.

“We do not want to lose the fertile lands that we till [because] it is the only wealth that we have,” said another farmer.

The villagers and other environment groups have been questioning the issuance of the company’s exploration permit, which, documents showed, was given in 2003 and was never renewed but was extended twice for four years.

The Mining Act states that exploration permits shall only last two years, and shall be allowed three renewals.

They also assailed the company for supposedly failing to disclose that OPI had been sold to Royalco Resources Ltd., an Australian firm, in June 2006.

The Inquirer tried to reach Lourdes Dolinen, OPI representative, but she did not respond to queries made through her mobile phone. In an earlier interview, she dismissed claims that OPI no longer existed.

Jerrysal Mangaoang, Cagayan Valley director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said he granted the extension to the company due to its failure to use the permit because of “force majeure.”

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