By ACE ALEGRE
BAGUIO CITY – Tribal folks in barangay Balatoc, in Pasil town, Kalinga denied the entry of Carrascal Nickel Corporation (CNC) into their ancestral domain.
“There was no Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC),” said Balatoc villager Victoria Gumisa-Kaloci.
Barangay Balatoc is one of the 14 barangays in Pasil, which formerly hosted the Batong Buhay Gold Mines Inc. (BBGMI).
In 2007, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) granted the indigenous peoples of Balatoc, a sub-tribe of Kalinga, the priority rights to develop and exploit the natural resources located in their ancestral domain at Balatoc, Pasil, Kalinga covering the mineral land which was once covered by mineral rights granted to BGMI.
Batong Buhay was sequestered after the ouster of the late president Ferdinand Marcos.
Resolution number 017 series of 2007 by the NCIP provides priority rights to the indigenous peoples over the 10,670 hectares within the ancestral domain.
Villagers halted the alleged drilling activity in Balatoc February this year. Some residents cut off the water supply, prompting the operators of the drilling machines to cease their operations in the area.
“We do not want this to blow into a violent situation,” Kaloci said, citing that the mining company failed to conduct the necessary FPIC before commencing with any mining operation in the area.
Kaloci’s father Victor claimed that CNC entered into an agreement with two supposed tribal leaders, Arsenio Malannag Sr and Washington Bakidan for an exploration project without consulting the rest of the community.
The younger Kaloci claimed that the supposed Memorandum of Agreement between the CNC and the Malanag and Bakidan was hidden from the community. “We do not even know the content of their agreement, we were not shown a copy of it,” she added.
Kaloci said that before the exploration, the CNC conducted medical missions in the barangay and gathered signatures of the beneficiaries purportedly for attendance. Kaloci claimed that the signatures were used as approval attachments between the company and the Malanag Sr. and Bakidan who supposedly represented the Balatoc community.
Kaloci further explained that when they approached a company representative identified as Jacob Arroyo to explain, he claimed it was a government project. The company personnel told the residents to seek the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC), to which the CNC has a contract with.
Residents have already filed a complaint to the NCIP-Cordillera and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) regarding the issue. Northern Dispatch