By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY — Standing firm on the community’s united decision and indigenous political systems in protecting their homeland, members of the Sadanga tribe of Mountain Province opposed the latest move of a mining company to explore parts of the virgin forest within their ancestral domain, which serves as the watersource for the ricefields and downstream Chico River.
On the other hand, officials of the local government units of Sadanga said that the mining applicant should consult them to know whether the people are in favor or against the said exploration project.
Officers and members of the Yumaa-Soysoyan of Sadanga Association Inc. (YUSSAI) filed on Thursday at the regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR) their opposition to Malibato Mining Company, Inc. exploration plan over their ancestral land.
Malibato had just advertised, in a local paper, its exploration application in compliance to requirement of MGB information to adverse claimants or oppositors to the said mineral application.
“We oppose because the target (exploration) area for Malibato covers the vast watershed of the municipality and the nearby towns, including the lowlands of Tabuk, Kalinga and Cagayan,” stated the YUSSAI position.
YUSSAI added that the area serves as the sources of fresh water for their communities and their rivers which provide water for their ricefields that had sustained them from the past up to the present.
“The same area is one of the remaining virgin forests in the Cordillera which is very rich in biodiversity and forest resources,” the YUSSAI said.
Meanwhile, Sadanga Mayor Gabino Ganggangan said that the mining applicant Malibato should consult the stakeholders in the area first.
“They should consult the municipal, barangays, and the community residents. It is the (Sadanga) tribe that owns these lands so it is the tribe that should grant or deny the permit,” said Gangganan when reached for comment on Malibato’s proposed exploration.
Documents from the MGB-CAR showed that Malibato applied for an exploration permit, denominated as EXPA 062, over 2,025 hectares particularly located in villages Bekigan and Belwang, of Sadanga town. Gold and and copper are listed as the mineral materials targeted for exploration by Malibato, MGB records added.
Ignacio Pangket, YUSSAI secretary, said that the exploration covered areas are Tungil up to the Kamanlebeng, part of their forests and watersheds.
According to MGB-CAR documents, Malibato has two other applications for an exploration permit. Denominated as EXPA 064, this application covers 4,131 hectares over the municipilaties of Sadanga and Besao, both of Mountain Province. EXPA 65, on the other hand, covers 11,158 hectares of lands in Tubo, Abra and Ilocos Sur. These lack area clearance, according to MGB-CAR records.
Like EXPA 062, the two EXPA target gold and copper as revealed by documents from the MGB-CAR.
A check on the regional and provincial offices of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) show that Malibato, in relation to its EXPA 062, had not yet processed the acquisition of a free, prior and informed consent from the Sadanga tribe.
“As far as I am concerned, being the Community Development Officer for the area, I have not received any paper from the applicant to be acted upon,” said Andrew Magwilang of the NCIP Mountain Province.
Nordis learned that Noel V. Ferrer, president of Malibato, furnished Mountain Province ‘ Sangguniang Panlalawigan a copy of their proposed exploration program in support of its EXPA 062 application at the MGB-CAR.
But sources in Mountain Province said that the Malibato EXPA 062 application is a “kiss of death” as the SP passed Resolution No. 2011-147 opposing any large-scale mining exploration and operations in the province.
Earlier, the provincial government adopted a resolution opposing any grant of permit to large-scale mining exploration and operation within the territorial jurisdiction of Mountain Province.
“In the occasion of the Cordillera Administrative Day on July 15, we reiterate the historic indigenous people’s opposition against large-scale mining’s destruction of our land and plunder of our resources. We have this as an assertion of our right to self-determination and human rights,” the YUSSAI said.