ITOGON, Benguet – The petitioners against the Application for Production Sharing Agreement (APSA) 103 of the Itogon Suyoc Resources, Inc. (ISRI) snubbed a dialogue that was organized by the municipal government right in sitio Dalicno, barangay Ampucao to supposedly look into their rehashed issues and concerns that were earlier addressed during the conduct of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process for the said mine expansion project.
Mayor Bernard S. Waclin personally worked out the schedule of the dialogue last Thursday to bring together the oppositors who are said to be members of the Dalicno Indigenous Peoples Organization (DIPO) and those in favor of the mine expansion project to assess and evaluate the legitimacy of their issues and concerns but the petitioners apparently failed to appear and disregarded the said dialogue.
He claimed that if the oppositors are really armed with legitimate issues against ISRI’s mine expansion project, then they must be willing to extensively discuss the matter in any forum that will be organized for the said purpose such as the dialogue that was scheduled in Dalicno but it seems they opted to boycott the forum for reasons only known to them.
The local chief executive uncovered in his research that most of those who are claiming to be against the company’s project are the ones that actually benefited from various projects that had been extended by ISRI to its host and neighboring communities over the past several years.
Mayor Waclin expounded that legitimate oppositors to development projects that are being introduced in the municipality are those who did not directly or indirectly benefit from interventions and initiatives that had been provided by proponents of the said projects so that there are no insinuations and conclusions that such opposition is tainted with personal or selfish interests.
According to him, it is unfortunate that the opposition to ISRI’s mine expansion project are the ones that have benefitting from the company’s previous programs and that ISRI was not able to give in to some of their demands that prompted them to make noise to gain the attention of concerned government agencies on their obviously self-styled opposition.
The mayor asserted that the issues raised by the group have been actually extensively discussed and addressed by the company during the FPIC process that had been conducted over the past five years in relation to the company’s mine expansion project that is why such concerns are mere rehash of what had already been given the appropriate attention by the company, the concerned government agencies and the local government prior to the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the mining firm and the Itogon Indigenous Peoples Organization (IIPO), the umbrella organization of recognized IP groups in the municipality.
Last Monday, Waclin met with the DIPO members in his office where he decided to schedule the dialogue in Dalicno that will be attended by representatives from the said organization and those who are in favor of the project for them to be able to ventilate their issues and concerns.
However, the DIPO is not solidly against the company’s mine expansion project as there are more community members who are actually in favor of pursuing the said project.
IIPO asserted that substantial consultations were conducted with the affected residents from the three impact barangays of Ampucao, Virac and Poblacion in relation to the company’s mine expansion project and that the process of obtaining their consent adhered to all relevant rules and regulations crafted by the NCIP for the said purpose.
Waclin reiterated that appropriate processes will be observed in all transactions in relation to the said project pursuant to the mandate handed down by regulatory agencies.
He emphasized that the supposed dialogue was part of his efforts to make the discourse of the issues transparent to erase the notion being implied by the oppositors that there are issues that have not been addressed but it seems that the DIPO members are not inclined to such participatory dialogue to put an end to the problem.
The Itogon Indigenous Peoples Organization (IIPO) the umbrella organization of indigenous peoples groups in the municipality, disowned the purported Dalicno Indigenous Peoples Organization (DIPO) that recently filed a petition before the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) central office questioning the results of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process in relation to the Application for Production Sharing Agreement (APSA) 103 of the Itogon Suyoc Resources, Inc. (ISRI) covering barangays Ampucao, Virac and Poblacion.
In her letter to ISRI officer-in-charge Engr. Eric S. Andal, IIPO president Rosita M. Bargaso stated that the DIPO is not associated in any way with the umbrella organization.
Further, the DIPO is not also affiliated with the Ampucao Indigenous Peoples Organization (AIPO) which is the acknowledged IPO in barangay Ampucao under the umbrella organization. She pointed that as per the IIPO rules, the DIPO members should first be registered members of the AIPO before they could be members of the IIPO
DIPO is reportedly composed of disgruntled small scale miners whose contract under the ISRI’s big brother, small brother (BBSB) program were not renewed because of various violations. By Dexter A. See