BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Six people suffered injuries when villagers clashed with work crews and policemen as they tried to block a clearing operation to make way for a mining project in upland Runruno village in Quezon town.
Witnesses told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday that the scuffles ensued on December 12 when bulldozers broke a human barricade composed of about 70 villagers. The crewmen were brought in to develop the site for a gold-molybdenum project of FCF Minerals Inc., an Australian firm.
FCF has not issued a statement about the incident despite requests made by the Inquirer. The firm’s country manager, Craig Watkins, did not respond to telephone calls and text messages.
“Those injured were shoved during the melee. Others were hit by police truncheons,” said a witness, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal from the authorities.
The villagers tried to prevent FCF’s entry into a 6,839-square meter property owned by Dolphy and Teresa Tindaan, who filed a lawsuit last year to stop the operation. The couple feared that their property would be affected by the operation.
On December 10, Judge Fernando Flor of the regional trial court here ordered the opening of a 20-meter access road that would allow FCF to start its clearing activities. The judge’s order was intended as an interim measure while the hearing of the Tindaans’ complaint continued.
“Some of those who were injured were treated for minor cuts, while others were brought to the hospital. A medical team from the police was said to be around but they did not trust the police because they were (supporting the) mining company,” said Jonathan Humiwat, president of the Bit-ang Runruno Residents Association, a people’s organization.
A number of villagers blocking the clearing operations found themselves half buried in loose soil, Humiwat said.
In his report, Senior Superintendent Valfrie Tabian, provincial police director, described the clearing operation as “generally peaceful and orderly” and “with successful results.”
When asked, Tabian said the police did not take sides and were at the clearing site to maintain order. Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon