Issue of January 14, 2018
     
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Role of IPMRs highlighted in extractive industries confab
by Rimaliza A. Opiña

The role of indigenous peoples mandatory representatives (IPMR) in settling disputes among IPs in communities that are beneficiaries of royalties from corporations took center stage in a seminar-workshop organized by the Philippine Press Institute and the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI).

Among the topics discussed was the conflict among members and leaders of an indigenous peoples organization in Tuba, Benguet and who have stakes in the royalties being paid by Philex Mining Corporation.

In 2012, the court handling the cases involving the conflict in leadership of the Indigenous Peoples Organization of Alang, Pokis, Sta. Fe, Sabian, Olibba and Loakan (IPO-APSSOL) dismissed the petition for the issuance of a declaratory relief filed by the first set of officers of the organization. The court then tasked the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to “troubleshoot” the conflict, but until today, the impasse has not been solved admitted Michael Umaming, chief of the Technical Management Services Division of the NCIP-CAR.

Alang, Pokis, Sta. Fe, Sabian, Olibba and Loakan are sitios affected by the operation of Philex Mines and hence are entitled to various compensatory benefits and fees as mandated by law.

Umaming said the long-drawn case not only deprived the beneficiaries of royalties, but it also resulted in the formation of more factions that further divided the group.

In compliance with an earlier directive of the NCIP, Philex Mines withheld payment of royalties to the IPO-APSSOL and deposited the same in escrow. The NCIP also cancelled the registration of IPO-APSSOL because of its officers’ alleged refusal to have themselves audited. 

Barangay Camp 3 IPMR and founder of the breakaway group IPO ALLUYON Minda Bantasan said the problem now is the affected communities are unaware of how much has already been deposited in the bank. “Our group does not have a juridical personality to check. And at present, IPO APSSOL also has lost its juridical personality,” Bantasan said, pointing out that Philex Mines should not be depositing royalties in an account whose recognition has been revoked by the NCIP.

The IPO ALLUYON is said to be representing the IPs and indigenous cultural communities in sitios Alang, Bal-ao, Pokis, Aguing, Torres, Bastian-Ligay, Kammbab, Camait, Binal-aw, Clifton, Alapang, Cabanosan, Camaring, Loakan, Kedit, Sabian, Olibba, Mansumang, Gagsuab, Don-oy, Agpay, Balayan, Liyang, Peril, and Sta. Fe. 

During the workshop attended by Luzon-based journalists, the participants stressed that the IPMRs of Benguet should meet and come up with a solid stand on the issue. They said the longer the case languishes in court, the more people are deprived of their rightful share from the royalties.

Some participants also urged the affected residents to write the Office of the President so it will “compel” the NCIP to act on and finally decide on which group to recognize and how royalties should be spent.

They said the NCIP should also be firm that no royalty should be released unless there is a community royalty development plan (CRDP).

Umaming said the NCIP has tried every means possible to solve the issue but the division among the IPs has contributed largely to the problem.

He also admitted that one lapse of the NCIP was when it gave the green light to Philex to release the earlier royalties to the officers of the organization that represented the IPs.

Bantasan said the practice before was for the IPO APSSOL to receive the royalty and distribute the money to clan leaders and for clan leaders to distribute to each affected family. A certain amount was reportedly set aside by officers for expenses that she said were not properly accounted for, and which resulted to infighting among the members. 

Umaming said the case of the IPO APSSOL was a learning lesson for the NCIP that beneficiaries of royalties have to be prepared on how to handle money. “There are those who lack social preparation. Imagine being given millions and you do not know how to manage the money.”

PPI Training Director Tess Bacalla said the same problem happens in other mining communities and the media, by interviewing affected IPs, can help contribute in educating them as well as influence policymakers on how  to draw up plans that will strengthen laws protecting IPs, IP communities and their ancestral domain.

The PH-EITI, on the other hand, said that as early as 2015, it has devised a monitoring tool that would help the NCIP track how IP communities manage their royalties. The same however, has yet to be implemented by the NCIP.

PH-EITI also conducts workshops to IPOs as part of the continuing education and information on financial management.

 
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