MAC: Mines and Communities

Negotiations To Settle Mining Dispute Stalled

Published by MAC on 2007-08-22
Source: The Philippine Star

Negotiations to settle mining dispute stalled

By ARTEMIO DUMLAO, The Philippine Star -

22nd August 2007

TUBA, Benguet -- Trouble is brewing at the Tuba mining area of Philex Mining Corp. as negotiations between the company's representatives and the villagers reach a deadlock.

After getting dispersed from their picket last week, residents are filing a petition for injunction at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to compel the mining firm to comply with the July 30 order of NCIP Regional Director Amador Batay-an for Philex to stop operations due to its failure to get a "free prior and informed consent (FPIC)" for its open pit mining operation in the area.

The FPIC is a condition man­dated by the Mining Code of 1995.

Philex got a special permit issued early this year and said it continues to find ways to obtain a FPIC.

However, a government-initiated dialogue between Philex and indigenous residents of Tuba and nearby Itogon town to thresh out the issues last week failed. Philex claimed the inclement weather was the reason for the stalled talks.

Philex was accused of being "arrogant" for snubbing a meeting set by government representatives. Kalanguya leader Rufo Gayaso, a representative of the indigenous communities adversely affected by Philex's 50-year block-caving operations, said the firm did not respect government authorities.

An invitation for a meeting was sent to Philex by Legal Officer Severino Manuel Lumiqued, of the Benguet Provincial Office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan and members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan also came to attend the meeting but no Philex representatives reportedly came to the dialogue.

Instead they chose to go to another venue, which was criticized by the residents.

Victor Francisco, Philex manager for Corporate Environment and Community Relations, went to the open pit site to convince the residents to proceed to the Sunken Garden because their equipment for a powerpoint presentation could not be brought to the site due to bad weather.

The open pit is about 800 meters away from the Sunken Garden.

The residents berated Francisco for employing delaying tactics. They said the firm sends representatives who could not decide on their complaints and who are not familiar with the issues at hand.

Philex claims that it obtained a Special Mines Permit from the regional office of the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB-CAR) last Jan. 18 for a 98-hectare gold-rich area in Barangay Camp 3, Tuba town "while waiting for the approval of its application for mineral production-sharing agreement (MPSA) denominated as APSA 102."

The permit, however, included among its conditions getting a FPIC from the host communities, and the endorsement from the barangay or province one month from its issuance.

No FPIC had been issued by Camp 3 and the Ampucao indigenous communities. In fact, the villagers are petitioning MGB to revoke Philex's Special Permit.

Residents are also questioning an endorsement by Barangay Camp 3 officials through Resolution No. 3 on April 27, 2007, insisting that they were not consulted. They claimed officials duped them on the contents of the endorsement.

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