Tribal Folks Demand Right to be Consulted over Mining Claims
BY ACE ALEGRE
Contributed to Bulatlat
Learning from past transgressions on their rights by government agencies and private corporations made tribal folks more aware of their rights. Indigenous peoples are pushing that they be consulted first before projects start in their communities.
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. north of Manila) Learning from past transgressions on their rights by government agencies and private corporations made tribal folks more aware of their rights. Indigenous peoples are pushing that they be consulted first before projects start in their communities.
“We can be the best partners in development provided we participate and get involved in the process,” Kalinga tribal folks said during a recently-held public consultation held at Davidson Hotel in Tabuk, the capital town of Kalinga province, home of the fiercest warriors who fought and stopped the World Bank-funded Chico River Dam Project in the 70’s.
Jointly sponsored by the Guidance Management Corporation (GMC) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the consultation was held to clear the air in relation to past and future geothermal and mineral explorations in the area especially in Pasil town.
The NCIP is taking the lead role in consulting villagers affected by projects of multinational companies and those of government as part of the process of securing the First and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples.
The GMC and Aracorn Power and Energy Corporation (APEC) are among the mining and energy companies expressing their interest to operate in Kalinga province.
Villagers accused the GMC of arrogance and disrespect to their culture when the firm started explorations for sulfur and took mineral samples without getting the approval of the affected tribal communities.
Colayo tribal folks alleged that the company stole mineral samples from the area. They said that the GMC tried to deceive them because the company is actually interested in the minerals found in the area. They said that the sulfur exploration was just a ploy.
Begging for apology, Ernesto San Jose, GMC Executive Vice President, promised to correct its previous mistakes and vowed to faithfully follow the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) and other mining rules and regulations.
“This time, we have to heal the wounds committed in the past. We will strictly follow the process provided by law and consult the whole community when we get there,” he said, adding that his company supports the government’s responsible and friendly exploration and mining policy.
GMC is applying for a permit to explore the geothermal potentials of Kalinga.
It previously bought from the Balatoc tribe 399.99 hectares of land for sulfur exploration, but the project was shelved.
The purchase caused misunderstanding and divisiveness among the claimants. Thirteen individuals who have claims over the area earlier agreed with GMC to explore their lots for sulfur. GMC reportedly paid P4 million for the land but others claimed it was P8 million.
A group calling itself Gonzalo Sangngangao et. al. waived in favor of GMC their rights to the 399.99 hectares covered by the sulfur project. Balatoc Barangay Chairman Albert Maiyao certified the sale when the Sangngangao said their group consented to the transaction.
Mayor Artemio Dalsen also endorsed the waiver for taxation since he believed that the local government can collect taxes from GMC. But a segment of the Balatoc tribe petitioned the Provincial Assessor Office to nullify such sale.
NCIP Legal Officer William Puday Jr. explained that no sale took place since the land is not covered by title and the IPRA provides that the sale of ancestral lands to outsiders is not permitted.
The Register of Deeds did not also approve the alleged sale.
Ricardo Dang-iw, an official of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for Kalinga, said that GMC can not claim rights over the contested land since it is already covered by an exploration permit granted to Makilala Mining Company.
Mayor Dalsen said Henry Guyang of the Colayo tribe is demanding that GMC pays an indemnity for illegally encroaching on their ancestral domain to get mineral samples. In return, tribal folks will pay for the cash and cell phone allegedly stolen from GMC geologists.
San Jose promised to bring the matter to top management. He extended his apologies, in behalf of the company, for the lapses allegedly committed by GMC employees.
Meanwhile, in Benguet, the MGB assured the villagers that no mining permit will be issued without their consent despite various mining claims over areas covered by the villages in Kibungan and Atok towns.
MGB-Cordillera director Neoman dela Cruz allayed the fears of indigenous communities through the Community Volunteer Missioners, a group which raised concerns over the status of mining applications in Kibungan and Atok.
“Please be informed that this office cannot just issue permits or mineral agreements without the compliance of the applicants to the mandatory processing requirements. One of these is the certification of precondition (or) free and prior informed consent (FPIC), which could only be issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP),” dela Cruz said in his official letter to the group.
There are 170 mining claims in Boneng, Atok town and Lubo, Kibungan town, both in Benguet province.
The claims are registered at the MGB under the name of the Al Magan Mining Exploration Corporation. The applications for production sharing agreements are still up for publication, posting, broadcast and for endorsement to the NCIP for FPIC, MGB records show. contributed to Bulatlat
Indigenous Peoples are putting their bodies on the line and it's our responsibility to make sure you know why. That takes time, expertise and resources - and we're up against a constant tide of misinformation and distorted coverage. By supporting IC you're empowering the kind of journalism we need, at the moment we need it most.