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Ncip Grants Balatoc Tribe Priority Right Over Ancestral Domain

Published by MAC on 2007-03-15
Source: INDIGENOUS PEOPLE'S WATCH ()

NCIP Grants Balatoc Tribe Priority Right over Ancestral Domain

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE'S WATCH

Through a resolution, the seven commissioners of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) have formally granted to the Balatoc sub-tribe of Kalinga the priority right to develop and exploit the natural resources located in their ancestral domain at Balatoc, Pasil, Kalinga. The priority right covers the mineral land which was once covered by the mineral rights granted to the Batong Buhay Gold Mines Inc. (BBGMI) before it was sequestered by the government following the ouster of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW, Northern Dispatch (Nordis), 18-24 March 2007

BAGUIO CITY - Through a resolution, the seven commissioners of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) have formally granted to the Balatoc sub-tribe of Kalinga the priority right to develop and exploit the natural resources located in their ancestral domain at Balatoc, Pasil, Kalinga.

The priority right covers the mineral land which was once covered by the mineral rights granted to the Batong Buhay Gold Mines Inc. (BBGMI) before it was sequestered by the government following the ouster of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

Signed by the NCIP commissioners last month, Resolution No. 017, series of 2007 provides that the Balatoc tribe has priority rights over the 10,670-hectare land within their ancestral domain.

It is the second priority right granted by the NCIP to indigenous peoples in the Philippines but is the first granted in Luzon.

The first priority right granted by the NCIP to indigenous peoples was that issued for the indigenous people of Diwalwal in Mindanao.

"The recognition by the Commission of the priority rights of the Balatoc is subject to any existing rights that may subsist within the ancestral domain, which may include resource use and land use permits among others, issued prior to Republic Act 8371," the resolution read.

"Respect is also accorded to individual, partnership or corporation who was/were issued certification precondition during the effectivity of RA 8371 where free and prior informed consent (FPIC) was duly granted by the community concerned," the resolution further stated.

Prior property rights?

The NCIP Resolution 017 includes at least 444 hectares which forms part of the BBGMI.

Nordis learned that during the latter part of the Marcos regime, businessman Antonio V. Tankiang was granted three lease contracts which was the go-signal for him to mine the area.

When People Power I broke out in 1986, the new government of Corazon Aquino sequestered the company and its assets were taken to the Privatization Management Office (PMO), the Balatoc Tribal Exploration and Mining Corporation (BTEMC) stated.

The new government offered former guerrilla leader Fr. Conrado Balweg an opportunity to revive the operation of the mine in the area under the Bodong Development Cooperative Inc. he created, but the Balatoc people opposed the move, according to the BTEMC, which was founded by the Balatoc people and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in March 2006. MGB denies NRMDC permit application

The contract of Tankiang with BBGMI expired on July 9, 2006, prompting the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-Cordillera to bid it out to corporate interests.

BTEMC allegedly submitted its application for exploration of the area at 8:00 a.m. on July 10. Nordis sources said that three minutes after, the Makilala Mines/Phelps Dodge went to the same office and applied for the same. At 3:21 p.m. that same day, the National Resource Mining Development Corporation (NRMDC) filed an application for an exploration permit before the MGB-CAR office. BTEMC insiders allege that despite their being the first to file an application for a permit, their application was rejected by the MGB regional office on July 6, 2006. The MGB-CAR processed the exploration permit of the NRMDC from July 10 to Aug. 23, 2006.

The Balatoc people, however, petitioned the NCIP to certify their priority rights invoking the area as a part of their ancestral domain.

Meanwhile, on March 2, the Guidance Management Corporation (GMC), which allegedly bought the 399.99 hectares for P8 million covered by BBGMI from nine Balatoc residents, executed a corporate declaration through their executive vice-president Ernesto San Jose to return the area to the Balatoc community. San Jose also promised to execute an affidavit for the cancellation of their tax declaration over the mineral lands.

The NCIP legal officer of Kalinga province also issued an opinion that the sale between the GMC and the nine residents is void since the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA) prohibits the sale of ancestral lands.

These developments further entitled the Balatoc tribe to priority rights to develop and exploit the area, a BTEMC officer explained. The resolution was received by BTEMC president Victor G. Gumisa on March 6 this year. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat

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