October 2, 2023

The elders of Bakun, Benguet issued a resolution of non-endorsement to the application of the Cordillera Exploration Company, Inc. (CEXCI) for a mining exploration project in the municipality.

In the resolution signed Aug. 16, the Bakun Indigenous Tribe Organization (BITO) stated there is a consensus among the municipality’s domain not to give consent to the company due to the division caused by the project.

Since the start of the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process for the proposed mining exploration, there have been reports reaching the elders of in-fighting among members of the communities “due to collective as well as personal convictions or stand on mining and exploration issues.”

This led to “animosities, disunity and misunderstanding” in the residents and communities during the FPIC being conducted to obtain the consent of the affected indigenous cultural communities, the resolution stated.   

CEXCI has applied for a mining exploration permit with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of to conduct an exploration project in Dalipey, Sinacbat, and Bagu in the domain of Bakun for six years, which covers an area of 2,117 hectares.

To prevent disunity among the communities, the resolution stated the elders and leaders, with the barangay officials of Dalipey and Bagu, conducted the “ngal-ngalat” system or the traditional way of settling dispute among the Kankana-ey-Bago ethnic groups.

What followed was the unanimous decision of the group not to endorse CEXCI’s exploration and to “immediately refrain from participating in the pending FPIC process.”

The elders stated in the resolution they fully support the primacy of customary laws in settling disputes between and among the people, which is also in the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Administrative Order 3 or the Revised Guidelines on FPIC and Related Processes of 2012.

“It is the prevailing practice of the domain that in giving a consent to a certain project to be undertaken within, the domain follows and or supports whatever is the consensus among the affected barangay community, whether against or favorable,” the resolution stated.

The resolution also terminated the domain’s participation in the FPIC processes, including the revocation of all issued authority to any elder or leader, whether as a member of the FPIC team or as a member of the negotiating panel.

The resolution was unanimously signed by the board of trustees and executive officers of BITO during its special joint meeting at Sitio Timpugan, Gambang.

Copies of the resolution were forwarded to the NCIP-CAR, the  CEXCI office in Taguig City, and the MGB-Cordillera for their information and reference. – Ofelia C. Empian