MAC: Mines and Communities

Philex 'arrogance' Blamed For Failed Dialogue

Published by MAC on 2007-08-15
Source: Northern Dispatch ()

Philex 'Arrogance' Blamed for Failed Dialogue

The government-set dialogue between the Philex Mining Corporation and the indigenous residents of this town and Itogon failed due to the mining company's "arrogance," a community leader said. The dialogue was intended to address issues concerning indigenous communities' rejection of Philex's mining permit application.

BY LYN V. RAMO, Northern Dispatch, Posted by Bulatlat, Vol. VII, No. 28, http://www.bulatlat.com/2007/08/philex-arrogance-blamed-failed-dialogue

19-25 August 2007

TUBA, Benguet -- The government-set dialogue between the Philex Mining Corporation and the indigenous residents of this town and Itogon failed due to the mining company's "arrogance," a community leader said. The dialogue was intended to address issues concerning indigenous communities' rejection of Philex's mining permit application.

Appearing before Baguio-based media with several other leaders last week, Kalanguya leader Rufo Gayaso, a representative of the indigenous communities adversely affected by Philex's 50-year block-caving operations, said the company is at fault.

"The management did not respect government authorities," Gayaso said, referring to the invitation sent by Legal Officer Severino Manuel G. Lumiqued of the Benguyet Provincial Office, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

The failed dialogue was attended by Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan and members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Council).Lumiqued's letter specified the open pit site in Alang, Barangay (village) Camp 3 as the venue of the dialog but neither Philex nor the indigenous community members requested for a change in venue before the

August 14 dialogue. It turned out that Philex wanted it held at the covered Sunken Garden near the Philex Hospital because it prepared a PowerPoint presentation to "further clarify the issues."

"Apparently, it would be very hard for them to do it at the open pit site because there are no facilities there," Lumiqued explained. The company insisted on holding the dialogue inside the mining camp, while the indigenous communities stood their ground at the open pit site for everyone to see the actual condition of the area subject to the mining application APSA 102, he added.

Even Fongwan reportedly requested Philex authorities to give in to the request of the people but failed to convince them, Gayaso said, adding that the mining firm "has no respect for government authorities."

Despite strong rains, Fongwan was at the open pit site with Board Members Juan Nazarro, Leonardo Cayat, Eduardo Amuasen and Apolinario Camsol.

"We cannot accede to their demand because we are wary of the people they have mobilized to pressure us further into accepting their sweet talk," Gayaso explained. He said the residents of some 20 indigenous communities near the open pit and subsidence area have decided on rejecting further mining expansion, even the extension of the company's special mines permit.

Disregarding conditions in special permit

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

The said permit included in its conditions the acquisition of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from the indigenous communities, and the endorsement from the barangay or province one month from its issuance.

Up until the failed Aug.14 dialog, no FPIC had been issued by the Camp 3 and Ampucao indigenous communities, according to Gayaso. "In fact, a petition has been sent to government agencies for the revocation of the Special Mines Permit," he added.

Barangay Camp 3 officials made an endorsement on the project through Resolution No. 3 on April 27, 2007. But the endorsement was questioned by residents as no consultations were held before the resolution. Residents claimed that their signatures were solicited for the endorsement but the officials did not explain the resolution's contents.

Mining operations result in gross environmental damage

While mining operations continue, the subsidence area is leveled off daily, lest it creates a crater that will cause irreversible damage underground. This entails a massive quarrying of the adjoining mountains to backfill the block barred down in the course of ore extraction underground.

Raymundo Tindaan, another leader who used to work inside the mines, explained that the company through the years tried to negotiate settlements on compensation for damaged properties and improvements with affected communities, but lately it identified a buffer zone, which it claimed would not be touched by the operations.

"Ngem ti pudno, uray idiay ruar ti 50-meter allowance, adu ti crack ti daga" (But the truth is, even outside of the 50-meter buffer allowance, there are many cracks on the earth), Tindaan said.

Aside from damaged property, the people also noted a drastic depletion of their water sources.

"Sulsultupenda ti danum ta ipanda iti mill a pang-arasaw ti naba" (The company siphons water for use in the mill to wash ore) Tindaan continued. He added that Alang water is not enough that the company even accessed the water at Brgy. Sta. Fe in Ampucao and directed it through a tunnel to its mining site.

The community estimated that the damaged area, now referred to as an open pit, now measures about 100 hectares.

Santos Mero, deputy secretary-general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) said mining is President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's top priority. "With the government hell-bent on attracting foreign investments into the mining industry, expect more human rights violations against several other mining communities especially when indigenous peoples start to defend their rights," Mero said. "What more with the implementation of the Human Security Act?"

Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat

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