NCIP exec seeks review of N. Vizcaya mining permits
SOLANO, Nueva Vizcaya–The commissioner of the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for Cagayan Valley has called for a review of the mining permits given to various foreign mining companies here.
In an interview, Commissioner Langley Segundo said a validation of the government-issued permits would resolve the long-drawn controversies here that foreign companies have failed to get consent for their mining projects from affected tribal communities.
“I believe this is the most prudent thing to do. A review of the processes undertaken shall be to the benefit of all sectors concerned because it would remove the doubts that had been the root of these controversies,” he said.
Segundo cited three mining projects by foreign mining companies OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. (OceanaGold), Metals Exploration Mineral Resources Corp. (MetEx), and Royalco Resources Limited (RoyalCo), which obtained permits from government.
Royalco’s suspended exploration project in Pao village sits in the middle of the Bugkalot ancestral domain in Kasibu. OceanaGold’s US$117 million (P5.9 billion) gold-copper project in Didipio village, also in Kasibu and Metex’s site of gold exploration in Runruno in nearby Quezon town are also occupied by Kalanguya, Ibaloi and Ifugao communities.
The three mining areas straddle the ore-rich Palali mountain range in eastern Nueva Vizcaya.
Segundo said there is a strong clamor for a review of the mining permits to determine if the companies really obtained genuine consent from affected villagers.
“From our initial consultations, we have known that many mining applications were approved through improper means–the FPIC process was rushed, the tribal groups who gave consent were fake,” said Segundo, who took oath as NCIP commissioner last month.
A review of the steps undertaken prior to the issuance of the mining permits would be beneficial to both mining proponents and the oppositors, as it would finally resolve the controversies, Segundo said.
“We [at the NCIP] will always the will of the people. If they say they want mining, then so be it. If they say they don’t like it, then we should respect that as well,” he said.
While the Mining Act of 1995 prohibits any form of mining activity in areas classified as ancestral land, it also provides exceptions to the effect that if companies obtain the “free, prior and informed” consent of the affected tribe, mining can be allowed.
It also mandates that in areas which are not declared as ancestral lands, companies must obtain “social acceptability” from the affected local communities.
Three tribal organizations, the Didipio EarthSavers’ Multi-Purpose Association (Desama), Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response to Ecological Development (Kired), and the Runruno Landowners’ Association (Rulanas) in Didipio, Pao and Runruno have questioned the issuance of the mining permits.
Our people are also confused because of the frequent changing of names of the foreign companies that they have to contend with. This only shows that the transfer (of rights) were not explained to them very well,” he said.
Australian firm OceanaGold, which attempts to start gold and copper production in 2009, has been using the mining permit transferred to it by Australasian Philippines Mining Inc., which, in turn obtained it from Climax Arimco Mining Corp. (CAMC).
CAMC was the original grantee of a financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA), one of the methods provided for in the mining law by which foreign companies can explore and develop and exploit mineral resources in the country.
In Runruno, Metex is using a renewed exploration permit issued in 2000 to Greenwater Mining Corp., which it transferred to FCF Mining Corp. in 2002.
In Pao, Royalco is also using a two-year exploration permit issued in June 2003 to Oxiana Philippines Inc. before RoyalCo’s purchase of the latter company.
Sought for comment, Albert Johann Jacildo, acting director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau for Cagayan Valley, said he would welcome any review of the mining permits.
“As of now, there is no official directive yet [that calls for a review]. I would also welcome [it] but I believe it is already within their [NCIP’s] jurisdiction,” he said.