Several provincial and municipal officials in this province criticised yesterday executives of a mining company that wants to explore parts of northern Benguet for mineral deposits.
The officials said that the company should widen its village-based consultation to include all stakeholders and should not to concentrate its efforts on members of one or two clans.
Earlier, concerned residents of Barangay Gambang here expressed their disappointment over what they called a “railroaded village consultation” on the exploration project of the embattled mining firm in this town.
During a recent consultation, executives of Royalco Philippines Inc. agreed to incorporate several conditions into a draft agreement barangay officials will submit for consideration by the company.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in the Cordillera clarified that mining exploration does not need the endorsement of municipal officials, but said the endorsement is needed when the actual mining operation is conducted.
In a related development, officials of the National Commission on Indigenous (NCIP) in the Cordillera said due process was followed and consultations were conducted before a memorandum of agreement was signed between the residents and the mining company.
But some residents said the “so-called consultations” involved only a few representatives of families belonging to one or two clans, and the concern of the whole community was never considered when the final draft of the agreement was prepared.
A meeting held recently at the provincial capitol in La Trinidad, Benguet, which was brokered by some provincial officials, was dominated by members of a clan who are in favour of the exploration activities of the companies. People who were against the exploration activity were not invited to attend the meeting, it was learned.
Royalco is interested to explore some 5,000 hectares of areas at the boundaries of Bakun, Buguias, and Mankayan in preparation for the conduct of large-scale mining operations.
But the MGB office in the Cordillera issued only a two-year exploration permit to the company for an area of only 976 hectares in Lower Gambang because it has failed to secure free and prior informed consent of all the communities covered by their original exploration plan.
Consequently, the exploration permit issued to the company is being questioned by hundreds of villagers who said that the signing of the agreement was hastily done to suit the interest of a few families, and not the whole barangay.
For this reason, they said, there is a need for concerned government agencies to look into how the free and prior informed consent of the residents was secured.