Tribal elders in 10 communities in Barangay Gambang, this town have voiced out their opposition to a mineral exploration project being pursued by a mining company in their villages.
They warned that the exploration activities would cause divisiveness in their communities.
The council of elders indicated their opposition to mining in the certificates of rejection which they forwarded to the barangay council of Gambang. The elders said they are vehemently opposing the controversial mining exploration being undertaken by Royalco Philippines Inc.
However, instead of acting on the certificates of rejection, the barangay council forwarded it to the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) as well as the offices of officials of Benguet and Bakun.
The elders said that farming is their preferred source of livelihood and employment.
They claimed that mining operations would automatically begin after the conduct of the exploration project to confirm the presence of substantial mineral deposits.
They said that once actual mining begins, their source of domestic water and irrigation would be adversely affected, if not depleted.
They also said they are conserving the land for the future generations, and for this reason, they are not ready to allow the land to be destroyed by large-scale mining.
The council of elders warned that mining could ruin the harmonious relationships among communities, fearing that this could lead to acrimonious debates, misunderstanding and even fighting between those who are in favour and those who are not in favour of exploiting the natural resources of their areas.
There are more than 500 elders at Sitios Mabuhay, Pulag, Gold Star, Mogao, Batanes, Nametbet, Bagtangan, Takayan, Liwang, and Bolbolo, all within the jurisdiction of Gambang.
The communities fall within the jurisdiction of Royalco’s Phase 3 mine-exploration areas.
Earlier, the company had drawn the support of the residents at Phase I of the exploration area in Gambang, but the company failed to get the support of the residents of the Phase 2 area which includes Barangay Tineg in Mankayan town.
Provincial and municipal officials challenged the mining company to widen its village-based consultation to include all the affected villagers, saying it should not concentrate its efforts on only one or two clans.
The Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) had earlier granted a two-year exploration permit to Royalco for the conduction of exploration activities in a 98-hectare mineral-rich area in Barangay Gambang.
But some residents questioned the mode of acquiring the endorsement from the affected communities because it was given at a meeting in Bangao, Buguias where the elders were reportedly forced to sign the agreement with the mining company.
Some residents said the company is not capable of pursuing its mining activity in the town because it has allegedly failed to comply with its commitments under the first agreement, and that’s the reason the elders in other areas opposed the project.