N. Vizcaya court halts mine firm’s activities

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–The Regional Trial Court here on Monday ordered the stoppage of land clearing operations of a foreign mining firm for its proposed gold-molybdenum project in an upland village in Quezon town here.

Judge Fernando Flor, RTC executive judge, also directed the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to desist from implementing the permit it gave to FCF Minerals, Inc., an Australian company, to enter private and forest lands at its proposed project site in Runruno village.

The court issued a three-day temporary restraining order (TRO) against the activities of FCF based on a complaint filed by Dolphy and Teresa Tindaan, whose house in the sub-village of Tayab, along with about 15 other dwellings, were allegedly set to be demolished by the company’s heavy equipment.In a statement, Craig Watkins, FCF country manager, questioned the court’s order, saying it violated the Mining Act of 1995.

“The (company as contractor) has easement rights and is entitled to enter and occupy the area,” he said, adding that the company has complied with all laws and regulations under its financial and technical assistance agreement with the Philippine government.

In their complaint, the Tindaan couple asked the court to issue an order permanently stopping the company’s earth-moving activities to prevent further violence that may erupt between residents and FCF security forces.

The couple, who are members of the Ifugao tribe, said that if unrestrained, FCF Minerals’ intrusion and continued digging and leveling of the land will oust them from their houses, destroy their orchards and disturb the burial grounds of their dead.

In Ifugao culture, tribal members bury their dead in their backyards, instead of public cemeteries.

FCF Minerals began its alleged “intrusion” into the properties of Tayab residents on Oct. 11 with bulldozers and excavators digging up and leveling the land there, guarded by about 100 security personnel.

This has reportedly prompted about 300 residents from Tayab and nearby villages to set up a human barricade around their properties, and prevent the entry of the company’s heavy equipment.

During Wednesday’s hearing on the case, Flor listened to oral arguments from the counsels of the opposing parties, before he rules on whether or not he would extend the TRO, which expires Thursday, to 20 days.

Lawyer Fidel Santos, counsel for the Tindaan couple, expressed concern that if the TRO will not be extended, violence will erupt again as the company was reportedly bent on pushing its earth-moving activities.

“I have always reminded the people in the barricade not to resort to violence, but if the company’s heavy equipment will again try to enter the property, I am afraid I can no longer control the people,” he told the court.

But FCF Minerals lead counsel John Michael Galauran opposed this, saying that the company stands to lose around P800,000 for each day that work at the site is stalled.

“As a compromise, we can give the assurance that if we will be allowed to enter the property, we will not touch the tombs,” he said.

The lawyer said the company has already complied with the requirements of the mining law to post a bond, which, he said, shall cover any damages that the landowners may suffer because of the company’s clearing activities.


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