MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Villagers assert rejection of Royalco's mine plan in the Philippines

Published by MAC on 2009-09-14

Indigenous peoples in the Philippines province of Benguet are re-asserting their legal rejection of Australian Royalco's mining plan.

They claim that the relevant Government agency, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), is continually raising procedural issues in order to obstruct implementation of their rights.

 

NCIP ruling on validity of mining operations hit - Group vows to continue fight against mining

By DEXTER A. SEE,

Manila Bulletin

9 September 2009

BAKUN, Benguet — Hundreds of concerned villagers here have assailed a recent ruling of the central office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) which declared that Royalco Philippines did not violate the rule on the conduct of consultations with the affected indigenous peoples for it conducted mining explorations in Barangay Gambang here.

The group, which called itself the Bakun Aywanan, said the residents of sitios in Gambang where the company will conduct the third phase of its mining exploration had earlier rejected the issuance of a free and prior informed consent for the mining activity because there was alleged manipulation in the decision-making process.

The group hit the company for choosing elders as the representatives of the community.

Furthermore, the villagers said, the NCIP was involved in the manipulation, and so the issue was elevated to the central office.

However, an investigating team composed of lawyers ruled that there was no rule violated by the Cordillera NCIP office in the conduct of the FPIC process.

Although there were two resolutions passed by the affected communities rejecting the Royalco mining exploration, the Cordillera NCIP said that not all barangay officials affixed their signatures, and this cast doubt over the validity of the document.

On the rejection of the exploration at Sitios Mabuhay, Gold Star, Mugao, and Batanes, the NCIP said these communities are not part of the area covered by the exploration activities.

Moreover, the certificates of rejection by Sitios Bagtangan, Tacayan, Liwang, and Bolbolo were not considered by the NCIP because the documents did not conform with the required format. The rejection of Sitio Nametbet is under question because the signatories were not validated.

Royalco intends to explore at least 5,400 hectares of supposedly mineral-rich areas in Bakun, Kibungan and Mankayan, Benguet in preparation for the opening of a large-scale mining operation.

The people opposing the on-going activities of the company vowed to continue the fight against mining which, they said, could ruin tthe environment.

Also, they do not want to suffer the fate of other mining communities in the province which had not benefited from the extraction of tons of high-grade ores.

They said that the large-scale mining operation will surely affect the livelihood of the people because their farms would be owned by the company and their sources of potable water would be affected and eventually depleted.


CPA Supports BAKUN AYWANAN Vs. Royalco - Affirms need to strengthen sustainable agri

CPA Press Release

9 September 2009

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet—The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) extended continuing support and solidarity to BAKUN AYWANAN, a municipal wide organization of Bakun indigenous peoples on its recent picketlobby at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Provincial Office to stop any attempt of Memorandum Of Agreement (MOA) signing in Phase III, Bakun relative to the mining exploration by the Royalco Phils., an Australian mining corporation. The 250-strong mobilization was led by its Council of Leaders and Elders.

“We are alarmed at the turn of events in Bakun, where indigenous peoples’ rights to ancestral land and democratic participation to the FPIC process are ignored and violated. We support BAKUN AYWANAN’s continuing actions to save their ancestral lands against destructive mining and instead develop sustainable agriculture as their livelihood source,” said CPA Vice Chairperson for Internal Affairs Xavier Akien.

The Gambang mobilization that boarded 11 trucks was accompanied by local government officials of Bakun and Gambang headed by Municipal Mayor Marcelo B. Contada and Punong Barangay Alvaro Paquito. Delegations from nearby areas affected by Royalco’s application in Madaymen, Kibungan, headed by Punong Bgy. Homer Teliaken and Mankayan residents supported the Gambang mobilization.

Representatives from the Itogon Inter-Baranggay Association (IIB-A), Mankayan-Quirino-Tadian-Cervantes Danggayan a Gonglo (MAQUITACDG), and Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network (BMAAN) also signified support at the mobilization at the Provincial Capitol.

The picket-lobby was successful in frustrating the attempted MOA signing for Phase 3 of Royalco’s mining application, and further strengthened the communities’ resolve to assert their rights to the NCIP and provincial government. Dialogues were also reached with provincial officials, such as the board members and Gov. Nestor Fongwan.

The lobby and dialogue continued at the regional office of the NCIP, where recent petitions were also submitted. # CPA Public Information Commission

For the Defense of Ancestral Domain and for Self Determination



Residents of Benguet Town Stop Mining Firm’s Drilling, Sampling Activities

By ALDWIN QUITASOL, Northern Dispatch - Posted by Bulatlat.com

5 September 2009

BAKUN, Benguet (336 kms north of Manila) - Community members of Barangay (village) Gambang, Bakun reaffirmed their anti-mining stand and their vow to protect their homes from large-scale exploitation of their natural resources by stopping the drilling and mineral-sampling activities of Royalco Philippines

Ernesto Soriben, secretary-general of Bantay ken Kinabaknang ti Umili a Nagtaudan-Aywanan (Bakun Aywanan), said that upon learning of Royalco’s plan to bring its drilling equipment from its station in Sinipsip, Buguias to Bakun on the night of Aug. 10, they immediately called Bakun Mayor Marcelo Contada. They requested the mayor to send police officials to ensure order at the citizen’s barricade across the road to the municipality. Soriben said they were worried that something untoward might happen as the residents were determined not to let any mining equipment enter their territory.

On July 28, 2009, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued Royalco a certificate of compliance with the mandated free prior and informed consent process, stating the community had given its consent for the company to proceed with their exploration.

Earlier, the Gambang Indigenous Peoples and Community Organization, Inc. (Gipaco) filed a protest seeking to invalidate the FPIC process that the NCIP claimed was conducted by its FPIC team. The Gipaco members cited violations committed during the so-called FPIC process.

In its Resolution No. 077, the NCIP said the mineral exploration in Phase 3 of Royalco’s area of operations shall only be carried out by the company in lands owned by individuals who voted in favor of the exploration. Phase 3 includes Sitios (sub-villages) Basig, Nametbet, Lebeng, Dosdos-dicay, Leen, Ingaan, and Cagam-is and Mogao of Gambang.

Soriben said that in the so-called community meetings conducted by the NCIP’s FPIC team, only a few people were really informed about the issue. Many community members were not even given notice about these so-called meetings, he also said. He said the 60-80 individuals who are in favor of Royalco’s operations are few compared to the many families who do not like the entry of big mining companies into their municipality.

Soriben added that actually, only those who were known to be in favour of Royalco’s operations were invited to these meetings.

In contrast, Soriben said, a recent public meeting held by Bakun Aywanan in protest against Royalco’s operations yielded 700 signatures on the attendance sheet. “It…shows what the real sentiment of the people is,” Soriben said.

Soriben said that they have information that there is a proposed signing of a memorandum of agreement between Bakun residents and Royalco that will take place at the Provincial Capitol of Benguet.

Soriben said they will send a delegation to engage provincial officials in a dialogue to reiterate their stand against the entry of big mining corporations. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat.com)


Indigenous Peoples in Bakun Oppose Entry of Aussie Mining Firm

By ALDWIN QUITASOL, Northern Dispatch - http://www.bulatlat.com/main/2009/09/12/indigenous-peoples-in-bakun-oppose-entry-of-aussie-mining-firm/

12 September 2009

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Some 250 indigenous peoples, mostly of Kankana-ey-Bago tribe, from Gambang, Bakun successfully stopped the supposed signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that will pave the way for the entry of Australian mining firm Royalco Philippines Inc. into their ancestral territory.

The Bakun residents held a picket in front of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) provincial office here to protest the scheduled signing of the MOA between a couple of landowners in Bakun and representatives of Royalco particularly for the Phase 3 of Royalco’s mining application.

The protesters boarded 11 trucks and were accompanied by local government officials of Bakun and Gambang headed by Municipal Mayor Marcelo B. Contada and Punong Barangay Alvaro Paquito. Delegations from nearby areas affected by Royalco’s application in Madaymen, Kibungan, headed by Punong Bgy. Homer Teliaken and Mankayan residents also supported the protest action.

Trouble with NCIP

Ernesto Soriben, secretary general of the local group Bantay ken Kinabaknang ti Umili a Nagtaudan – Aywanan (Bakun Aywanan) said it seems it is not only the Royalco they are having trouble with, but also with the NCIP as well.

Soriben said that they have already registered their strong opposition to mining through petitions and letters and yet the NCIP continues to ignore them. He said they trooped to the NCIP office to assert the recognition of their rights as indigenous peoples out to preserve their birthright.

The group submitted a letter to NCIP-Cordillera Administrative Region Regional Director Amador Batay-an requesting him to stop the signing of the MOA for Phase III.

Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan who arrived at the picket protest called Batay-an through his phone and invited him to have a dialogue with the Bakun folk. Batay-an said there is already a final NCIP decision denying the petitions filed earlier by the residents.

The protesters proceeded to the NCIP regional office but were told by NCIP personnel that Batay-an was in the Mt. Province. One of the NCIP staff only promised the group that they will study their complaint and contact them soon on developments.

Bakun folks are protesting the issuance of the certificate of compliance to the FPIC by the NCIP to Royalco. “It seems the NCIP is no longer listening to us people of Bakun,” said Benny Alingdan of Gambang.

Weeks earlier, some of the Bakun elders were invited to a MOA signing that was scheduled on September 8. They said the MOA was for the few landowners who favored an exploration. The elders said this was a violation of the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) process.

They added that under the said process, it is the consensus of all members of the indigenous cultural community or indigenous peoples to be determined in accordance to their tradition without interference, coercion, and obtained after disclosing the intent and scope of the proposed activity.

“Our consensual agreement for MOA signing is necessary. We cannot be deliberately divided into phases, clusters and now as landowners for any FPIC certification,” the letter stated. A copy of the letter was also submitted or furnished to Fongwan and other provincial officials.

In a solidarity statement, Xavier Akien, vice chairperson for internal affairs of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) expressed concern with regard to the NCIP’s position.

“We are alarmed at the turn of events in Bakun, where indigenous peoples’ rights to ancestral land and democratic participation to the FPIC process are being ignored and violated,” Akien said.

Resistance


On the night of September 3, residents of Gambang stopped the planned drilling and mineral sampling activities of Royalco. They set up a barricade to block the entry of mining equipment of Royalco, while they contacted Bakun Mayor Marcelo Contada and requested police assistance.

At the same time they also asked Contada to inform the Royalco office at Sinipsip, Buguias not to push through with their plan.

The residents said that they have done all legal remedies, but still the NCIP’s decision of issuing such a certificate and the proposed MOA signing frustrated their efforts.

One of the residents, Silvano Baktaw, said they have no recourse but to assert their rights through holding such mass protest actions.

Former Benguet Provincial Board Member Joseph Cosente told the protesters that it is always right to fight for the preservation of their land and farming as their main source of livelihood.

Rima Libongen of the Itogon Inter Barangay Alliance (IIb-A), who joined the Bakun delegation said many of their forefathers came from Bakun. “If you look at Itogon, the land is so devastated because of so many years of bulk mining operations there. We should not let this happen to Bakun),” she said.

“We support Bakun Aywanan’s continuing actions to save their ancestral lands against destructive mining and instead develop sustainable agriculture as their livelihood source,” Akien said. Northern Dispatch/Posted by Bulatlat.com

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