ITOGON, Benguet

Villagers in Ampucao and Dalicno are shivering with the serious threats posed by the expansion of the ItogonSuyoc Resources, Inc.’s Sangilo Mines. Ampucao barangay council member Myline Sabiano, during a dialogue between Dalicno residents and Itogon Mayor Bernard Waclin on Monday said, they dream that their village Remains liveable still for the coming years even after this generation.‘Dalicno is the most affected community,’ the village official stressed. Itogon town is host to three large-scale mining operations: Benguet Corporation, Inc. established in 1903, ISRI that started in 1930, and Philex Mining Corporation.

Sabiano was with some 30 elders and community leaders voicing out their concerns to the town government about ISRI’s expansion they believe would negatively affect their watershed, water source, residential areas, and livelihood.
An appeal to Barangay officials of Población, Virac, and Ampucao to rescind their support for the three-party Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) forged last September in favor of ISRI’s expansion. They fear losing their control of their land and small-scale operations. Last year, affected communities and ISRI forged a MOA outlining the conditions and royalty shares of the indigenous peoples’ communities.

The third party is the chairperson of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), which has yet to sign the document. ISRI wants to mine 581 hectares via a Mineral Production and Sharing Agreement (MPSA). The applied MPSA also covered Dalicno’s water source. The mining agreement that lasts for 25 years would churn out 22 million tons of ore. ISRI has four Patented Claims covering 35 hectares in Sitio Sangilo in Poblacion. The application
intends to renew its Lease Mining Contract, which expired in 2012, and expand its mining area to 617 hectares. Dalicno villagers also frown at ISRI’s tact to fast-track its operation through a special mining permit (SMP), while it asked the Itogon town council first week of the month for its that will prompt ”to start rehabilitation of old tunnels, underground and surface development, ore block validation work and ore extraction in mining blocks outside of the patented claims.

SMP authorizes MPSA applicants to operate provided they have area status clearance from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Certificate of Pre-condition (CP) from the NCIP, endorsement from the concerned local governments, and no pending mining dispute. It is effective for one year and renewable for another year. Mayor Waclin has assured the LGU would be observe due process, while noting that the issue is divisive. In Iluko he vowed, “I will talk with them and try to resolve the matter. I scheduled it for this or next week and will also talk with the barangay officials.” The Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) process for ISRI’s expansion has been going on for more than 4 years. In January 2022, affected communities rejected it but reconsidered following the ISRI’s appeal in February 2023. The negotiations culminated during the September 20, 2023, MOA signing.

Artemio A. Dumlao/ABN

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