by Jimmy K. Laking
An estimated P500 million in royalty funds arising from the operation of the Philex Mines remained untouched in the banks unused and their fates stuck in limbo.
Indigenous peoples’ representative Blas L. Dalus, who sits as ex-officio board member, said last week there was no certainty on whether or not the funds will be released to the beneficiary communities.
Equally uncertain was the probability that the disputing parties coming from beneficiary communities would settle their differences, said Dalus.
“There are no negotiations to settle their differences so far,” said Dalus, adding that the efforts of Commissioner Brigitte Zenaida H. Pawid of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to bring the parties to an agreement have been unsuccessful so far.
Last year, the NCIP took steps to reorganize the indigenous people’s organization affected by the operation of the Philex Mines but discontinued it after two groups opposed it on the ground that the NCIP had no authority to undertake reorganization.
Then NCIP acting regional director John Ray Libiran told the board that the groups in fact filed a case at the Ombudsman against Pawid and the regional director to firm up their opposition.
He said this was unfortunate considering that per en banc resolution of the NCIP, only Pawid was authorized to transact with Philex and the IPO in a bid to settle the conflict.
Dalus said intended beneficiaries have not been paid since 2009 after the NCIP sought court order that barred the banks from releasing the funds.
Four indigenous peoples’ groups, each claiming to be the real representative of the affected communities, wanted a share in the royalties.
Attempts to validate the council of elders of the four IPOs were opposed even as cases were filed in court directed against the disbursement of the royalties.
The NCIP has been barred from acting on an appeal to set up an umbrella organization to manage the royalty funds because of the cases pending in court.