GOCC bid to mine tribal land questioned

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BAGUIO CITY—A tribe in Kalinga province has complained that a government-owned company tried to start mining in the tribe’s communal landholdings without government clearance and the tribe’s permission.

Victor Gumisa, the designated leader of the Balatoc tribe, told the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) that the Philippine Mining Development Corp. (PMDC) had shipped exploration equipment to the Batong Buhay mines in Pasil, Kalinga, which is part of the tribe’s domain claim in Barangay (village) Balatoc.

The Balatoc tribe has applied for an ancestral domain title spanning areas in Pasil that includes the Balatoc village.

PMDC (formerly the Natural Resources Mining Development Corp.) shipped its equipment to Pasil in February but was unable to proceed because Balatoc residents refused to provide the firm access to its waters.

Gumisa asked MGB to issue a cease-and-desist order against PMDC because it had not acquired an exploration permit.

On Thursday, Gumisa petitioned the NCIP Cordillera office to stop PMDC from pursuing exploration at Sitio Ganatil after the firm failed to secure the tribe’s free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

Fay Apil, director of MGB in Cordillera, said PMDC had notified the agency about its plans to explore Batong Buhay mines, which had been sequestered and then transferred to the company.

Apil said she was also informed that PMDC operates under the assumption that its mandate to rehabilitate and revive sequestered mine properties exempts it from securing permits, such as a mandatory exploration permit that is issued by MGB.

This procedural question is being addressed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, now that the Balatoc tribe has questioned PMDC’s operations in Pasil, she said.

According to the 2008 PMDC audit report, the firm has a November 2009 joint operating agreement  with the Balatoc tribe. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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