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Vizcaya tribal folk join barricade vs mine firm

/ 09:36 PM June 02, 2013

KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya—Tribal folk in this upland town are taking turns in watching two road barricades they have set up to block the entry of equipment and supplies for an Australian-owned mining firm.

“This show of resolve by our members is what keeps this movement going for the past weeks. The show of unity by our people is just inspiring,” said Santos Yonga-an, chair of the Kasibu Intertribal Response for Ecological Development (Kired).

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Residents, belonging to two people’s organizations in Kasibu, have been blocking roads in Barangay (village) Paquet here and in Barangay Binuangan in Dupax del Norte town in an effort to cut off a supply route and cripple the exploration activities of Royalco Philippines Inc. in Barangay Pa-o.

But Joey Nelson Ayson, Royalco country manager, said the barricades are illegal.

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Ayson said the roadblocks have started to disrupt Royalco’s operations, prompting company officials to consider filing charges against the protesting residents.

“We remain patient. But if the situation gets out of control, we will take legal remedies against these people,” he said.

On Saturday afternoon, residents manning the barricade in Binuangan turned back a passenger jeepney that was found to be carrying fuel and other provisions for Royalco’s operations.

The locals, who are Ibaloi, Kalanguya, Ifugao and Bugkalot, are opposing the presence of Royalco in the area, despite two exploration permits granted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to the firm.

They said the government issued the permits for two areas, totaling 22,073 hectares in Pa-o and Yabbi villages, even if residents earlier voted to reject the mining venture.

“We have agreed to unite to protect our land for ourselves and our children. If the government cannot do this for us, we will do it ourselves,” Yonga-an said.

Kired members have been maintaining a roadblock in Paquet since July 2012. This roadblock is a few kilometers from Royalco’s Pa-o exploration site.

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The company, however, managed to enter the area after it used an alternate mountain road in the southern side of its mining site, which passes through Belance and Binuangan villages in Dupax del Norte town.

This prompted anti-mining villagers to put up a second barricade in Binuangan in April.

Since then, the groups have been maintaining two teams, composed of 30 villagers each, to man the barricades.

Vegetable farmer Carlos Camlas, 52, said he did not mind leaving his farm for a full day if it meant showing his support for the cause of their group against the mining company.

“We cannot take chances [because] if we let our guard down, it will enable the company to strengthen its position and it may already be too late for us to eject them,” he said. Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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