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Zamboanga del Sur execs assail use of tribe by mining firm

/ 11:29 PM September 07, 2011

ZAMBOANGA CITY—Zamboanga del Sur Gov. Antonio Cerilles Wednesday debunked claims by Cebu City lawyer Manuel Go that Lupa Pigegitawan Mining Co., which has been accused of illegal mining operations in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur, is owned by Subanen natives.

Go had resented Inquirer reports naming him as one of Lupa’s owners, saying he is only the company’s lawyer.

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But Cerilles, citing records from the Securities and Exchange Commission, said in an e-mail to the Inquirer that Subanens only own 20 percent of the mining company.

“The biggest shares belong to the Go family of Cebu City,” he said. Cerilles’ claim was also backed by Bayog Mayor Leonardo Babasa Jr.

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Babasa said the Subanens, through their Council of Elders, only own P499,999 in stockholders’ contribution.

Most shares

“The P2 million worth of stockholders share is from the Go family of Banilad, Cebu City,” he said.

“If you would look at the distribution of stockholders’ shares, the Gos have more shares and are really the owners,” Babasa told Inquirer by phone.

Lupa’s general information sheet for 2010 showed that Go is indeed a company stockholder, albeit a minority one.

But a daughter of his, Kathryn Go, has 875,000 shares in the company. Kathryn is considered a majority stockholder, with 35-percent ownership of Lupa.

On Go’s assertion that Lupa has not been illegally operating, Cerilles said that the special ore extraction permit (Soep) issued on Nov. 16, 2009 by then Environment Secretary Lito Atienza to Lupa “was plain misrepresentation of a tribal corporation.”

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“The Seop was not issued to (the Council of Elders) but to Lupa Pigegitawan, a commercial corporation based in Banilad, Cebu City, of which Atty. Manuel Go is a stockholder,” Cerilles said.

No LGU permit

Cerilles, also former environment secretary, said a mining company could only operate if it has the proper documents.

In the case of Lupa, he said the company operated in Bayog without environmental compliance certificate and without a business permit from the local government.

Worse, he said, Lupa even encroached in areas of other mining companies such as the Bayog 9 Metals Corp.

“Manuel Go swore to uphold the law rather than circumvent or violate it. All mining companies in Bayog were required to submit their documents to the LGU if only to show the legitimacy of their operations, Lupa Pigegitawan never submitted its own, several invitations were made by the LGU in different occasions but Lupa never showed up,” he said.

Babasa, meanwhile, said they continue to question Lupa’s defiance of an order to pull out its security force—provided by AY76 Security Agency—from Conacon village.

He said Lupa should have withdrawn its security forces from the village because the Mines and Geosciences Bureau has already issued a cease and desist order against its operations there. Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Indigenous people, Mining, Regions, Zamboanga del Sur
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