Pinatubo Aetas resist mining project
PORAC, Pampanga, Philippines—A mining firm met strong opposition from Aetas who attended the first public consultation that the company held on Saturday for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of its copper, gold and silver extraction project within the tribe’s ancestral domain in Barangay Camias here.
Edgardo David, a geologist leading the EIA team, said Shuley Mine Inc. (SMI) would need to conduct more consultations to address the negative impact that the Aetas have anticipated from the project that covers 1,160 hectares in their village.
Romeo Say, senior assistant to SMI president Antonio Co, said the consultation was done to “know the sentiments of the people.”
The company sent a team of anthropologists, led by Dr. Felixberto Roquia Jr., to understand the life and culture of the Aetas. Members of the Negrito tribe, the Aetas live at various slopes of Mt. Pinatubo at the boundary of Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales and survived the volcano’s 1991 eruptions and lahar flows.
Camias is at the boundary of San Marcelino, Zambales, where the Dizon Mines had been idled by the eruptions.
Some 300 Aetas live in the barangay (village). The Aetas did not sign registration forms but 135 Aetas, mostly elders and community leaders, attended the consultation.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) sent observers in Saturday’s EIA process that took four hours. The EIA is a requirement before the national government, through the EMB, issues SMI an environmental compliance certificate and allows it to mine deposits in the area.
Edwin Danan, secretary of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Ayta sa Camias, said it was not the best time for SMI to be talking of employment prospects.
“Let’s anchor everything on law and on what matters to us Aetas,” Danan said.
SMI has come in as the mining operator of the Dizon family-owned Pisumpan Copper Mines Inc. (PCMI). The latter has two mineral production sharing agreement applications with the MGB’s central and regional offices, SMI records showed.
SMI has set production at 7,000 metric tons daily or 2.520 million MT a year. The resource potential of the area is 40.036 million MT.
But the two sites, called by SMI as the Dagsa and Kundipit deposits, are considered by the Aetas as a “sacred place,” said Benny Capuno, a member of the provincial consultative body of the NCIP and vice chair of the Porac Aeta Ancestral Domain Federation Inc.
Citing information that Aeta elders gave for the consultations, Capuno said the two sites are the locations of the sub-villages of Kuyukot, Balunuban, Tapuak, Landas, Liplip, Tapi, Poon Abo, Apang and Patal Apalit before Mt. Pinatubo erupted. On this account, the same villages are burial grounds, he said.
Camias is covered by a certificate of ancestral domain title, spanning 18,659 ha. Approved in September, the issuance of the land title has been delayed by efforts to segregate private property from the ancestral domain, NCIP records showed.
The river—Pisumpan to PCMI, Lubod Tangley to Aetas—provides water for irrigation, drinking, washing and cooling animals.
Aeta elders, like Seling and Erning Abuque and Honorio Ruby, said lowlanders would be affected when wastes from the mines drain down to Gumain River toward Lubao and Sasmuan towns and Manila Bay.
The sites, they said, are used by Aetas for recreation, hunting, source of materials for weddings (tangan) and medicinal herbs.
“Those areas are important to us. Our elders have warned us against punishments (matandas) and curse (kapapa),” Capuno said. “I don’t know what anthropology means but these are what I know about our place.”
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