MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Royalco project proceeds in teeth of Indigenous opposition

Published by MAC on 2010-02-07
Source: Sun Star, Bulatlat (2010-01-28)

Indigenous peoples in the barangay (village) of Gambang in the Philippines province of Benguet continue to assert their legal rejection of Australian Royalco's proposed mine. (See http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9472).

Their simple, and repeated, rejection is being ignored thanks to an ever-more complex application of the law on free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). The source of the complexity often seems to be the Government's own body for the Indigenous Peoples, the NCIP, who seem more concerned to comp with the wishes of the company.

Royalco still obtains permits despite opposition

By Maria Elena Catajan, Sun Star Baguio

28 January 2010

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet - Elders of the Bakun-Aywanan people's organization are restless after finding out their opposition for phase II and III mining exploration has gone to waste.

The people's organizations continue to oppose Royalco's exploration in their town.

Royalco is an Australian mining company in Gambang.

Elders went to the Provincial Capitol [legislative building] Monday to submit yet another protest to the project before going to the Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB).

Mario Layugan of the Council of elders said exploration operations continued while the supposed memorandum of agreement with locals for the remaining phases II and III is still being processed.

Layugan, together with other elders, also got hold of documents confirming that permits for Royalco were already given as of October last year to explore the last two phases.

Last year the group submitted a letter to National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Cordillera Administrative Region Director Amador Batay-an requesting him to stop the signing of the MOA for Phase III.

An order from the central office allowed the mining firm to proceed, basing on the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) documents.

The elder's fear that since the NCIP as well as the MGB have given their permission to the Australian firm to continue, phases four, five, and six will soon follow expanding outside Barangay Gambang to neighboring Kibungan town.

The exploration has five phases covering a total of 5,400 hectares.

Layugan said "we believe that this is a continuing violation of our collective rights as one ancestral domain. Our efforts to of asserting our rights to free-and-prior-informed consent and to maintain and strengthen our distinctive spiritual relationship with our lands and other resources and to uphold our responsibilities for future generations were not recognized."

Elders from the group believe a flawed FPIC was conducted by the NCIP because majority of elders were not informed that a FPIC has eventually happened.


Bakun Folk Decry Gov't Inaction on Opposition to Mining Operations

By ALDWIN QUITASOL, Northern Dispatch

2 February 2010

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) - The people of Bakun deplored regional government agencies for inaction on their opposition to mining explorations in Bakun.

They decided not to have a forum with the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP or Provincial Council) of Benguet during their regular session last Monday. They declared it was hopeless after they were told that the SP has no power to order the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to fight for them against the entry of mining firm Royalco Philippines.

Dominga Gaspar of the Bakun and the Bantay ken Kinabaknang ti Umili a Nagtaudan-Aywanan (Bakun-Aywanan) said that, when they went to the Benguet Provincial Capitol to follow-up their resolution barring the entry of big mines, especially the Royalco Phil. Together with the Gambang Indigenous Peoples and Community Organization (Gipaco), also of Bakun, they submitted their opposition to the entry of Royalco on Sept. 6, 2009.

The SP secretary, Frenzel Ayong, advised them to file a case at the Supreme Court.

The resolution of the Bakun communities urges the SP to adopt measures for the protection of the indigenous peoples of Bakun against large-scale mining interests, including Royalco Philippines, in their area.

They asked the provincial government to abstain from any endorsement of such. Despite the Bakun people's opposition and rejection of Royalco Philippines's application for mining epxloration, the NCIP issued certificates of compliance in its en banc resolution.

"We also went to the office of the MGB to inquire why there are still permits being processed at their office even if they know that we are against these mines," said Gaspar.

She said that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) told them that they issued the permits based on the en banc Resolution from the NCIP national office and from the certificate of the local government unit.

Ernesto Soliben, also of Bakun Aywanan, said that they are urging the MGB to act in accordance with the findings of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) from its initial field investigation, especially on the violations committed by the issuing of such permits to Royalco.

According to the results,the requirement of acquiring the community's free prior and informed consent (FPIC) before any project approval was not observed by the NCIP. There were no legitimate consultations with the majority of the community, the findings showed.

"Many of our rights were violated. Why did they not consider these and make actions that are favorable to the majority?" said Soliben.

According to Benny Alingdan, a member of Bakun-Aywanan and a resident of Kagam-is (a barrio, or sub-village, in the disputed boundary of Kibungan and Bakun), many people there have no idea at all that their place is being applied for mineral exploration. "We were surprised when there were people coming to our place surveying and news spread that our place will be mined," Alingdan said.

Bakun Aywanan chairman Felipe Cayat said that their petitions against the mine exploration and their actions and protests are falling on deaf ears. "What do they want, that we settle this with our bolos [machetes]? They are not listening to us anyway," said Cayat.

Cayat said the Bakun people should unite since they have been abandoned by the very government agencies they expect will help them with their problem.

Cayat said their group found out that Royalco does not only have three phases of the exploration but six phases that will cover large parts of Bakun. "They will get the whole place - even our community small-scale mining area," said Cayat in dismay.

Engineer Vergel Aniceto of the Benguet Mining Action Alert Network said that the Bakun people have manifested the uselessness of the government agencies like the NCIP and MGB which are supposed to look after the plight of the people affected by destructive projects.

Aniceto lambasted the said agencies saying they are ignorant of their own laws and they ignore the rights of communities they should be serving.

Aniceto said that both the NCIP and the MGB only serve as mouthpieces of the mining companies, instead of representing the people in the preservation of their communities and the environment.

Meanwhile, Cordillera Peoples' Alliance (CPA) Deputy secretary-general Santos Mero said that the case of the Bakun people is not an isolated one, as there are over 1.2 million hectares of the Cordillera land covered by applications for mining exploration.

He said that in these areas, FPIC manipulation is rampant and under-the-table negotiation is the name of the game.

Santos added that whenever there are opposition from the communities affected, they experience militarization and all kinds of harassments.

Mero said that there are persistent calls of the communities to stop the issuing of mining exploration permits, stop mining expansions and the closure of existing abandoned mines. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat.com)

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