Cordillera Day in Abra town to call for mining pull outPublished by MAC on 2008-04-27
by Philippine Daily InquirerBAGUIO CITY:Participants in the Cordillera Day celebration on April 24 in Abra will discuss calls for the pullout of mining companies that have started exploration activities without the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) of their host communities.
Windel Bolinget, secretary general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, said two mining companies violated a government policy when it did not consult members of the Binongan tribe of Baay-Licuan, Abra, prior to exploration and drilling activities in Mt. Capcapo.
Bolinget said the residents submitted a resolution to the Baay-Licuan government asking its help in working for the pullout of the mining companies and the withdrawal of Army soldiers sent to their communities.
He said the Olympus Pacific Minerals and its local partners, Abra Mining Industrial Corp. (AMIC) and Jabel, continued their exploration activities in early 2007 despite opposition from the residents.
Olympus only stopped its operations in August 2007 when the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)-Cordillera issued an order to defer all exploration activities, he said.
"The company is rushing to complete the required FPIC, but the communities do not want mining," Bolinget said.
"Ignorance [on the] FPIC [process] is a violation of human rights. [The communities] also had no prior knowledge that there was a mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) approved. Aside from that, there were nine MPSA applications in the area," said Santos Mero, deputy secretary general of CPA.
Neoman de la Cruz, regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said Olympus had stopped its drilling operation last year because of strong opposition from residents.
But he said the firm was still working to get an FPIC and has applied for an MPSA.
Olympus, he said, signed a memorandum of agreement with AMIC and Jabel on Nov. 23, 2006, to explore the 300-hectare project site on Capcapo. AMIC and Jabel have mining claims in Baay-Licuan, through the MPSA approved by MGB.
But CPA leaders said the mining claims were among the alleged anomalous claims certified by the NCIP in April 1998.
These claims were approved by MGB after the NCIP certified that there were no pending applications for ancestral land and domain claims in the area.
In a resolution issued on Feb. 26, the Binongan tribe members and the group Balitok said they would not allow Olympus and other mining firms to operate in their villages because it would endanger their environment and resources.
"We believe that the entry of the large mining companies will ruin relationships that bind our community," they said.