QUEZON, Nueva Vizcaya – Indigenous peoples in this town were outraged over the purported claim of FCF Minerals Development Corporation that the proliferation of squatters in its exploration site have caused them over $6 million in losses, saying that the company should be blamed for their refusal to respect their rights over their ancestral domain.
Sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal and for security reasons, pointed out they are not squatters as alleged by the company because they are legitimate indigenous peoples living in their ancestral domain which they had inherited from their forefathers.
While the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued a certificate of non-overlap (CNO) over the area where the company intends to conduct mining exploration, the source clarified that the provisions of the CNO is very clear that when it will be found out that the area to be explored is within the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples, it will be mandatory for the company to comply with the requirement of free and prior informed consent (FPIC) from them before pursuing with the proposed mining exploration.
The sources criticized the company for trying to sow fear in their proposed exploration sites by bringing in the Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Army, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) to serve as its security to prevent the affected indigenous peoples from protesting the company’s forcible intrusion over their private properties without the completion of mandated negotiations between the parties.
According to them, the affected indigenous peoples are simply asserting their rights over their ancestral domain because they value the importance of the land they inherited from their ancestors which they intend to pass on to the upcoming generations.
The sources explained it is very clear in the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), that when the area to be developed by companies fall within the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples, it is mandatory for the proponents to secure the consent of the inhabitants through the prescribed guidelines governing the conduct of the FPIC.
Earlier, the provincial government, through the provincial legal office, reiterated to FCF Minerals Development Corporation to respect the status quo order in the proposed exploration site in barangay Runruno until such time that negotiations between the company and the affected indigenous peoples shall have commenced.
The sources claimed that the company should not have incurred such losses as being reported if their officers were sincere in negotiating with the affected indigenous peoples instead of harassing and intimidating them with the expectation that they will simply give up their rights over their properties which will not actually happen because they value the land they had inherited from their ancestors.
The sources appealed to the concerned government agencies not to allow themselves to be used by the mining company against the affected indigenous peoples wanting to preserve and protect their lands from destructive mining, especially to the state of the environment in the previously forested community.