Issue of December 25, 2011
     
NEWS
Benguet
 
OPINION
 

102nd Baguio Day Anniversary Issue
 
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NCIP extends TRO against Lepanto mine site drillings
by Jimmy Laking

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples last week extended a temporary restraining order that compelled the cessation of exploration drilling activities inside an area considered within the premises of the Lepanto mines.

In his order, NCIP Regional Hearing Officer Brain Masweng extended by 17 days a TRO his office issued earlier against the drilling operations conducted by INDRODRILL Philippines inside Lepanto’s 900 level mine site.

At the same time, Masweng dropped Gold Fields Philippines Corp. as a defendant to the case since it may be considered as “other persons acting for and in behalf of the other defendants.”

Masweng issued the TRO on Dec. 9, based on a complaint filed by the heirs of two old-time families in Mankayan’s Barangay Paco who sought enforcement of their rights as indigenous peoples.

The heirs said there was lack of free and prior informed consent.

Paco Punong Barangay Paterno Lokino said the drilling operation is located between the CIP smelting plant and a mining portal of Lepanto “within company premises.”

“But with the TRO, drilling activities have stopped,” he said.

The heirs, in their complaint said the drilling began without their permission as the area falls within the ancestral land.

The complainants initially included Gold Fields, several members of a community development team, the drilling company as well as PB Lokino and members of his barangay council in the petition.

Far Southeast, which contracted INDODRILL to conduct the drilling, claimed the NCIP has no jurisdiction over the case since it does not involve an ancestral land.

But Masweng ruled otherwise, citing a provision of Republic Act 8371 that granted jurisdiction to NCIP of cases involving claims and disputes of indigenous peoples.

“Moreover, the drilling activities are considered  an exploration and it has an environmental impact in the total domain which mining companies must consider and it is unfortunate that Lepanto is within an ancestral domain,” Masweng added.

The TRO will lapse on Jan. 1.

The drillings were believed linked to Gold Fields intention to buy 60 percent of the Far Southeast Corporation’s share, which would put it into a position to be able to manage the corporation’s mining operations. The remaining 40 percent is controlled by Lepanto Mines.


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