Issue of December 12, 2010
Mt. Province
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Abra town elders ask gov’t to nullify 11–year–old MPSA
by Liza Agoot

Elders and leaders of the Binongan tribe of the municipality of Licuan-Baay in Abra are petitioning the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in the Cordillera to nullify the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued in 1999.

The petition filed last Dec. 8 has as respondents Jabel Corporation and Abra Mining Industrial Corporation, who are in possession of two MPSAs issued by the central office of the DENR.

MPSA 144-99 and MPSA 141-99 were both entered into by the DENR and Jabel Corporation for it “to assist the government in the sustainable development and utilization for commercial purpose of gold, silver, and copper existing in the contract area and any other minerals which may be discovered in the same area.

The said MPSA runs on a 25-year contract. 

Antonio Valera, one of the leaders of the tribe who was in the city, said that they only learned of the MPSA in 2007 which later prompted the tribe members to come up with a resolution stating that they did not give any consent to the exploration and mining project of Jabel Corproation/ Olympus Pacific Minerals under the MPSA which came about after an alleged conduct of a free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process.

He said, “Nakigtot kami na lang idi simangpet da ket nagrugi dan nga nagdi-drill nga awan met iti pamalubos nga inted mi” (We were surprised when they arrived and started drilling without out consent).

In 2007, the tribe members petitioned the NCIP to issue a cease and desist order which it did in 2007 ordering the companies to undertake the mandatory FPIC as required by the IPRA law.

In the FPIC conducted, nine out of the 11 barangays of Licuan Baay voted a rejection of the exploration and operation which subsequently led to the signing by the tribe members of the resolution for non-consent.

The elders said that the mistakes of the Office of the Northern Cultural Communities which was abolished after the creation of the NCIP in issuing a certification of the non-existence of the IPs and ancestral lands in Licuan-Baay and of the DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau of approving the two mineral agreements remain.

Neither agency undertook moto proprio actions to revoke or cancel the approved agreements. Instead, the mineral agreements continue to appear in the record of the MGB that said agreements are approved and registered.

Atty. Nestor Caoile of the Northern Luzon Coalition for good governance said that it has been a procedure of the agencies concerned not to inform the affected communities in cases where there are agreements signed.

As such, the only recourse they do right now is to regularly get the list of applications for mining exploration and operations and on their own, informing the people about their existence.

The Ibinongans inhabit the domains of both Licuan-Baay and Lacub towns in Abra. The area of Licuan-Baay is approximately 31,160 hectares. There are more than 3,000 members of the tribe living in the 11 barangays.

The Ibinongans have ancestral lands located within the mineral areas affected by the two MPSAs.

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