mining in the Philippines

Kankanaey officials, community remain barricaded against Benguet mine exploration

Sherwin de Vera
Kankanaey officials, community remain barricaded against Benguet mine exploration

VIGILANCE. Residents of Bulalacao village in Mankayan, Benguet watch over the drill site and equipment of the Crescent Mining and Development Corporation as their officials and elders set up the barricade against the firm's exploration activity.

Marlo Pablo

The Kakanaey community of Bulalacao are supported by their barangay captain and the mandatory indigenous peoples representative

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Indigenous folk of  Bulalacao village in the mining town of Mankayan in Benguet province remained at their mountainside barricade despite the government renewal of the mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) of Crescent Mining and Development Corporation (CMDC).

Not even the threat of legal action by the company’s lawyers will make Barangay Captain Romy Bayanes turn back on fellow Kankanaey’s, he told Rappler on Monday, June 27. Bayanes stressed that the indigenous community’ is right to protect their lands.

Bulalacao indigenous peoples’ mandatory representative Marlo Pablo also told Rappler in a separate interview that the village barricade erected on June 18 would stay.

“We will remain vigilant as we continue to assert our right over our land,” said Pablo, who was selected by the community according to the Department of Interior and Local Government rules under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA).

Bulalacao folk set up their barricade to stop CMDC’s drilling activities, asserting they had not given their consent.

The company is still at the exploration stage. It is not clear what minerals it targets but the area is known for rich gold and copper reserves.

Lawyers Cesar Oracion and Jason Barlis, representing CMDC, wrote Bayanes, warning him that the barricade could result in legal action.

“Kindly be reminded further that such obstruction can result (in) criminal, civil and administrative liabilities on your part,” the lawyers’ June 24 letter said. 

According to the lawyers, the barricade has caused “much delay and significant consequential losses to CMDC.” 

The government awarded CDMC with a mineral production and sharing agreement (MPSA) on November 12, 1996. Its 25-year term  expired on November 11, 2021.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) renewed the contract for another 25 years on March 2. 

MGB Cordillera Director Faye Apil on May 27 informed the National Commission on Indigenous People Cordillera that her office had endorsed the company’s contract renewal.

She said they received a certificate showing  NCIP Cordillera regional director Atanacio Addog posed “no objection,” provided that the CMDC “commits to complete the FPIC process.”

On June 8 the Kankanaey community issued a resolution, questioning the renewal without following the process for free prior and informed consent (FPIC). 

OBJECTION. The Kankanaey community of Bulalacao approve a resolution opposing the contract renewal of the Crescent Mining and Development Corporation’s (CMDC) Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) on land that requires their free, prior informed consent for development. (Courtesy of Barangay Bulalacao)

The resolution, written in the Kankanaey language, further claimed that the NCIP did not issue a Certificate of Pre-Condition; that the company entered the community without getting the consent of the people of the barangay council and only forged a memorandum of agreement with the private landowner of the area; and that the people of Bulalacao were against mining.

Addog reiterated the need to undergo FPIC in a June 17 letter to CMDC president Rinnie B. Siapno, citing IPRA’s Section 59. 

“Failure on your part to seek the FPIC as required by law is a sufficient ground for this office to cause the suspension of your ongoing exploration activities and as basis of the community to withhold their consent to the mining project,” Addog said. 

The NCIP-CAR director also wrote MGB chief Winfredo Moncano on June 23 to register opposition and urge the office to recall the renewed MPSA “pending the termination of the FPIC process for the issuance of the Certification Precondition (CP).

The MPSA is one of the three mineral agreements the government may enter under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

It gives the contracted party exclusive rights to conduct mining operations – from exploration, mine site development, and use of extracted minerals – within an approved contract area. 

As owner of the minerals, the government’s share in the operation is either in kind or value. The company provides funding, technology, management, and personnel for the project. 

IPRA guidelines require project proponents to apply for Certification Precondition (CP) from the NCIP. The commission en banc will issue the CP when the indigenous community consents to the project through the FPIC process. – Rappler.com

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