‘Ifugaos’ nature gods mad over mining project’

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Tribal leaders in a mining community in upland Kasibu town bewailed the supposed lack of reverence for nature gods by a foreign mining company in its construction activities, which, they said, caused the death of an official of one of its contractors.

Tolentino Inlab, president of the Didipio Earthsavers Multipurpose Association, said another life was lost due to the “aggressive behavior” of foreign mining companies, disregarding the “feelings” of tribal deities.

“The company must look at the warning conveyed by this tragedy very cautiously because it would seem that the tribal gods are angry; this project carries with it a curse,” he said, referring to a large-scale mining project in Didipio village being put up by Australian firm OceanaGold Philippines, Inc.

The ill-fated Mitsubishi Strada belonging to Delta Earthmoving, Inc.
that was recovered in remote Sitio Lower Alimit in Kasibu, Nueva
Vizcaya. Contributed photo

On Thursday, Joselito Raguini, the acting project manager of Delta Earthmoving, Inc., OceanaGold’s main contractor for the construction of the mining complex, drowned to death after his vehicle was swept away by rampaging river flow as it tried to cross an overflow bridge at the site in Sitio Dumpit.

Inlab said that while community members, most of whom belong to the Ifugao tribe, sympathized with the family of Raguini for his death, they “cannot close (their) eyes to the fact that all these were sacrifices for the sake of the interests of foreign mining companies”.

“They have been cutting trees, flattening the mountains, burying rivers and creeks without first asking permission from the deities, who have been taking care of Didipio’s environment since time immemorial,” he said in Filipino.

Marlon Martin, an indigenous knowledge expert, said the Didipio community members’ concern stems from the Ifugao belief in the “tinading” or nature gods.

“Before humans can intrude into the realm of the spirits, they must first conduct rituals to find out whether their presence is welcomed by the nature gods, or to appease them if there are indications that the gods are not happy, in a ritual known as ‘maminading’,” he said.

Edward Anyayahan, Delta’s executive vice president, said the company is open to Ifugao tribal leaders’ suggestions that they conduct rituals to appease the nature gods.

“We are–as we always have been–willing to take whatever steps are necessary so that this unfortunate incident will not happen again,” he said.

Citing the results of their own investigation, Anyayahan refuted a police report which disclosed that the incident happened at 5 p.m. Thursday, not 2 a.m. of Friday.

Quoting witness accounts, he said that Raguini, along with the two survivors, managed to get out of the vehicle just moments after it got swept off the bridge and rolled over twice.

“However, (Raguini) got knocked off unconscious as the vehicle overturned again, and was eventually engulfed by strong current,” the Delta official said.

For its part, OceanaGold expressed regret over Raguini’s death, which, it said, was caused by a “severe storm” that hit the mining site on Thursday.

“OceanaGold has arranged counseling and support services to be available for the family of the deceased, and affected fellow employees in relation to this incident,” the company said in its disclosure with the Australian, Toronto and New Zealand stock exchanges.


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