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January 27, 2013
Tribe members celebrate first year of barricade against mining

By ALDWIN QUITASOL
Northern Dispatch

BAGUIO CITY — On January 23, 2012, residents of sitio (subvillage) Madaymen, Tabio Mankayan set up their barricade against the drilling activities of Far Southeast Gold resources Inc. (FSGRI) and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC).

Determined to save the remaining natural resources, the indigenous people invoked their rights to their land, saying they were never consulted nor did they give any permit to any mining company to operate in their area. The struggle gave birth to Save Mankayan Movement (SMM) that has vowed not to allow any mining expansion, exploration and surface drilling.

On January 27 of the same year, the indigenous people of the municipality through the Teeng (natives) di Mankayan filed a petition of writ of preliminary injunction against the FSGRI before the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)-Cordillera.

On March 9, NCIP Hearing Officer Brain Masweng ordered Indodrill Philippines, Inc. (IPI) as contracted by FSGRI to cease and desist from their drilling operations in response to the petition of Mankayan residents. The NCIP hearing officer saw it evident that the people of Mankayan will suffer grave and irreparable damage or injury and justified in the issued TRO that “It would seriously affect their social and economic activities should the ongoing drilling and other related activities of the mining corporation within the ancestral lands and domain of the plaintiff if the TRO will not be issued.”

But on April 4, Masweng reversed his March 9 order when the FSGRI filed a motion for reconsideration. In his resolution, he denied the Mankayan residents’ petition for a writ of preliminary injunction. He said that FSGRI had established its prior rights over the covered area of their Far Southeast Project, saying that the covered areas were alienated by residents to the LCMCO as early as the 1960s.

SMM members defied the order and went on with their barricade.

On January 26, the Mankayan indigenous peoples, particularly of Tabio village, held a program at the barricade site to celebrate the anniversary of the start of their struggle against large-scale mining.

SMM President Marlo Pablo said they they reviewed the chronology of their struggle against the drilling, and culled the lessons from the hardships and challenges they experienced until FSGRI pulled out their drill rigs on January 7.

They also discussed on the present mining situation in the Cordillera Region and the rest of the Philippines.

Pablo recounted how the SMM members and Mankayan IPs stood their grounds despite attempts of the court sheriffs to carry out the order of the courts to lift their barricades. He said they will always remember how the Philippine National Police (PNP) served as escorts alongside with the security and personnel of FSGRI-LCMC and clashed with the people who were only defending their land from further devastation brought by mining.

On May 9, 2012, LCMC filed a criminal case based on a provision of RA 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 which sanctions any obstruction to mine contractors.

The original number of residents sued was 123 but it was reduced to 97 because some of the accused were already dead, one of them is already paralyzed thus making it impossible for him to have gone to the barricade and the others were not there at all. The case was filed at the Mankayan MTC in the sala of Judge Jonathan Segundo.

The case was dismissed in November 2012 due to lack of jurisdiction.

In October last year, SMM with members of the Mankayan Ancestral Domain Indigenous Peoples Organization (Madipo) protested the community consultative assembly (CCA) hosted by NCIP on the conversion of the existing Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) into a Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA). The Mankayan people deemed it would give more freedom to mining companies, especially FSGRI, to mine out their land.

That day, police padlocked the gate of the venue of the supposed CCA after SMM and Madipo members asserted their rights to be part of the consultation. The residents tried to break the lock using an iron pipe.

Days after, the police filed a criminal case against the residents, claiming they were assaulted and were injured. The case was dismissed on January 18 by Benguet Deputy Provincial Prosecutor Andres Gondayao because of the absence of probable cause and evidence, according to defense lawyer Richard Kilaan. Kilaan said it was proven that the people were just expressing their right to peaceful assembly.

During the anniversary program of the barricade, Kilaan said: “although the drill rigs were pulled out, it does not mean that the struggle is over. SMM will always stand by its main objective of guarding Mankayan against mining expansion until the total rejection of corporate mining in the municipality is respected.”

Katribu Party List president and first nominee Beverly Longid meanwhile congratulated SMM and the Mankayan people for their continuing struggle. She said that the struggle of the people of Mankayan is a shining example in perseverance and assertion of their rights to ancestral land and self-determination.

She said they shall serve as an inspiration as they were able to hurdle many obstacles in their fight that could have weakened them yet they showed the power of their collective actions. Northern Dispatch / Reposted by (http://bulatlat.com)

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