Issue of June 11, 2017
Mt. Province

68th Courier Anniversary Issue
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Residents & advocates press for a mining–free Kibungan
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

Community representatives from Kibungan, Benguet and environment advocates in the Cordillera are appealing to the Committee on Ecology of the House of Representatives for the urgent passage of House Bill 4387 of Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan declaring Kibungan as a mining-free zone.

HB 4387 aims to uphold the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination to sustain their ancestral domain and ensure the future of the next generation, in the light of the continuous attempts of mining companies to conduct explorations and operations in Kibungan despite the long-time opposition of its communities led by its elders to mining dating back in 1933.

The bill has already been approved on third reading but so far has not moved for final approval.

The groups comprising the Philippine Misereor Partners Northern Luzon Cluster and the Social Action Center of the Apostolic Vicariate of Baguio led by Fr. Manny Flores made the call, as the main piece of action in their observance of the World Environment Day on June 5, in response to the Laudato Sior “Care for our common home” of Pope Francis.

Cristine Aban of the Agyaman Kami group said the call for the exemption of Kibungan from mining activities aims to jumpstart moves to protect all other environs in the country as part of their call for a swift and unified global action against environment degradation and global warming.

Oswaldo Panggayan, representing Barangay Palina in Kibungan and among those who have been lobbying for the passage of HB4387 said since 1933 when the first mining claim was made in Kibungan, its communities have never given their consent to such activity upon seeing its adverse effects, even through small scale mining activities.

Various applications and attempts by large mining firms to enter the municipality, some of which prospered by force, were made but all of which are against the will of the people who are opposed to mining up to the present.

“We do want mining in our area. We appeal for help in endorsing the bill so that it could reach the Senate and be finally approved,” said Panggayan, who, with documenter William Tudcor, presented a chronology of Kibungan’s 84 years of struggle against mining.

Panggayan said Kibungan has been an attractive venture for large mining companies due to its rich mineral deposits.

Residents and local government units have refused mining despite promises of income and livelihood for the communities.

The town, which is an ancestral domain for 16,000 Kankanaeys, along with its adjoining Bakun is presently the subject of a Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) application.

It is an agricultural town producing indigenous and high value crops and flowers that are supplied to Regions 1, 2 and National Capital Region.

It is also gifted with natural resources such as rocky and mountainous landscapes and three major river systems leading to Sudipen, San Gabriel, and Bangar in La Union; and Sugpon, Alilem, and Tagudin in Ilocos Sur.

Barangay Palina, the rice granary of the town for its rice terraces that were started by their ancestors, is also a subject of a mining exploration permit.

In their letter to the House Committee on Ecology Chair Estrelita Suansing, the groups said mining in Kibungan will adversely affect the socio-cultural life, economic resources, and environmental features of the municipality.

HB 4387 makes it unlawful for any person to engage in mining operation in Kibungan. Violators will be penalized with at least six to 12 years of imprisonment and P100,000 to P500,000 fine.

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