April 2, 2023

Indigenous peoples of Sison, Pangasinan opposes the claim of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples that they agreed for the issuance of certificate of non-overlap to the Northern Cement Corporation (NCC) to renew and expand its operation in Barangay Labayug.

In a resolution, the Sison Federated Tribal Council stated that based on the field-based investigation report of NCIP, the area applied for by the NCC falls within the ancestral domain in Sison. Thus, the cement firm needs to undergo the mandatory free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process.

The IP resolution stated the FPIC, which is facilitated by the NCIP, is still ongoing. The elders said that in a series of consultation, the IPs were consulted by the NCC representatives, NCIP Commissioner Gaspar Cayat and then NCIP Region 1 Director Manuel Jaramilla to seek their support for the issuance of the certificate of non-overlap over the NCC’s expansion of its cement plant.

Also, the IPs sta-ted that NCC’s representatives offered them P3 million and other livelihood projects.

On April 30, 2021, another consultation was conducted with the IP leaders and the NCIP represented by Cayat and Jaramilla.

“In said consultation meeting, we vehemently deny giving our support for the issuance of CNO to proponent NCC/San Miguel Northern Cement, Inc. because we know the area applied for by the firm for its Line A and Line B cement manufacturing project and even its MPSA (mineral production sharing agreement) is patently and publicly known to be within our ancestral domain,” the IPs stated.

“Even our water sources are being utilized by NCC for its operation resulting in the drying out of our irrigation canals,” the resolution, unanimously signed on July 21, 2022 stated. 

The IP elders in Nov. 2022 also tried to ask help from the national government using the 8888 citizens’ complaint hotline, which is under the Office of the President. However, the IPs received no action from the OP regarding their plight.   

The IPs have assailed the May 7, 2021 certificate of non-overlap issued by Jaramilla and concurred by Cayat. The CNO certifies that the areas being applied by NCC in Barangay Labayug are “patently and publicly known to be outside any ancestral domain.”

The CNO also stated the IP leaders and elders of Sison unanimously supported the issuance of the CNO during the consultation meeting on April 30, 2021.     

NCIP Region 1 Director Atty. Harriet Abyadang, in a text message, said their office has submitted a comprehensive report on the matter to the NCIP Chairperson Allen Capuyan for appropriate and necessary action. She said the chairperson has the right to make the decision since the CNO was issued by a former regional director and a sitting commissioner.

“We have been writing NCC to respect the IPs’ right to FPIC and required them to undergo FPIC,” Abyadang, who formerly served at the NCIP Benguet and Cordillera prior to her designation in Region 1, said.

Further, Abyadang said they have written the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Region 1 on the cement firm’s non-compliance to the FPIC process. The NCIP also requested for the revocation of the newly-issued MPSA in favor of NCC upon the expiration of the term of the original MPSA on March 15, 2023.

She said NCIP has asked the MGB to also order NCC to cease and desist its operation pursuant to the MPSA.

NCIP-Benguet Admin Officer IV Rocky Ngalob, meanwhile, said they have received information that the exploration permit application of NCC in Sison overlaps with the Tuba ancestral domain, particularly in Barangay Ansagan.

He said NCIP is also waiting for the MGB Region 1 to furnish the office a copy of the specific metes and bounds of the MPSA of the cement firm. – Ofelia C. Empian