QUEZON, Nueva Vizcaya – Concerned Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in this remote town denounced the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) Region 2 for coming out with alleged misleading reports on the supposed proliferation of illegal small-scale mining activities in the areas covered by the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) it earlier approved where the same is designed to suit the interest of FCF Minerals Development Corporation, an Australian mining company eyeing to operate in the said area.
Sources, who requested anonymity for security reasons and for fear of reprisal from influential personalities in the area, claimed that the contention of the MGB Region 2 on the proliferation of informal settlers and small-scale miners in Bit-ang and Pasto in barangay Runruno is unfounded because the area where the government personnel were able to dismantle small-scale mining equipment were in a different area.
The sources disclosed that the sites where Stages 3 and 5 of the mining exploration is located are not area inhabited by informal settlers and the same are not also places where small-scale mining activities are being conducted, thus, the said sweeping and misleading accusations against them are clearly designed to suit the interest of the mining company intending to pursue its exploration activities in the area.
Further, the sources alleged that the recent developments in the sites of the mining explorations where enormous development had already been introduced amidst protests from affected IPs and families only shows the blatant disregard of the rule of law by the concerned government agencies and the FCF Minerals Development Corporation.
The sources also questioned the supposed issued certification of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) stating among others that the areas where the mining exploration will be conducted is not within the ancestral domain of IPs when most of the people inhabiting almost all of the areas in the municipality belong to various tribes not only from the Cordillera but also from Region 2.
According to them, concerned government agencies are supposed to spearhead the protection of the rights of the IPs over their land and not to tolerate the abuses being committed by multinational companies intending to develop certain portions of their properties but in their case, it seems that the involved agencies are allegedly backing the interest of the company that acquired the FTAA to conduct the lucrative mining operation in the once forested community.
The sources vowed that they will continue the fight against the abuses being committed against the IPs by the mining company so that their rights over their ancestral domain will be protected amidst efforts to forcibly enter into their private properties and for concerned government agencies and the involved mining company to respect the earlier status quo order that was issued for all parties to maintain law and order without any movement to develop the area until such time that negotiations between the concerned IPs and the company shall have been finalized and an agreement shall have been reached for the satisfaction of all concerned sectors.
Earlier, the provincial legal office directed FCF Minerals Development Corporation to respect the status quo order that was issued against all forms of development that it will be undertaking in the contested area.