July 25, 2024

Petitioners from Barangay Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet are asking for a dialogue with the Itogon-Suyoc Resources, Inc. (ISRI) regarding the latter’s application for Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA 103) that covers 581 hectares in the ancestral domain of Itogon. 

In a letter dated Aug. 24 addressed to the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera, ISRI President Luis Sarmiento and Itogon Indigenous Peoples Organization (IIPO) President Rosita Bargaso, and the Simpa-Dalicno community said the dialogue aims to foster open communication regarding the concerns on the proposed memorandum of agreement of the ancestral domain with the mining company.

Earlier, the signing of the MOA supposedly between the indigenous cultural communities of the ancestral domain of Itogon, NCIP, IIPO and ISRI on Aug. 18 was indefinitely halted to clarify concerns raised by the petitioners. 

Issues raised include the protection of livelihood and resources, particularly those engaged in small-scale mining and to ensure their water supply will not be affected by the mining operation.

Another issue raised is the mitigation of environmental impact of the proposed mining activities which needs to be “clearly stipulated in the proposed MOA”.

Also raised was the need for sustainable development to discuss how the proposed project aligns with their vision to ensure sustainable growth for the future generations.  

In an earlier petition letter of residents of sitio Dalicno and Simpa along with the Kankana-ey elders in Lolita on Aug. 16, they claimed they did not endorse the project, as they were not informed on the provisions of the MOA. 

Ampucao elder Juanito Arciba said he was expecting a continuous dialogue with the mining firm but was taken aback when there was already a scheduled MOA signing.

He claimed some elders did not attend some of the earlier consultations because of the lack of information dissemination on the scheduled meetings.  

“We also asked that before the MOA will be signed, the contents would be properly discussed to us. If possible, it will also be translated in our own local language so it will be understood by the affected residents before we sign it,” Arciba said.

He said they are also requesting ISRI to remove from its mining application the areas where the small-scale miners operate.

Close to 2,000 individuals operate a small-scale mining area within a portion of the 581 hectares of ISRI’s application. The small-scale miners, composed of five groups all under the umbrella of the Benguet Federation of Small Scale Miners, Inc., also have a pending minahang bayan application at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Cordillera.  

The petitioners said 80 percent of sitios Dalicno, Simpa, and Lolita, and nearby sitios in Barangay Ampucao, are working or benefitting from the small-scale mining operation in the area.

It was not the first time the communities petitioned the mining application. – Ofelia C. Empian