December 6, 2023

KIBUNGAN, Benguet – The Palina Indigenous Peoples’ Community Association (Pipca) in Barangay Palina, this town renewed its call for residents to remain vigilant in safeguarding their ancestral domain amid the continuing threat of mining exploration.

Pipca, through its president and elder Jose Gallano, recently issued a strongly-worded statement reminding the residents especially at the sitios Tabbac and Lamagan to remain united in opposing the entry of any large or small-scale mining entities in their ancestral domain.

“We must continue to protect our ancestral land/domain that our forefathers protected for us and for our children. They did not want our land to be destroyed by mining, be it large scale or small-scale mining companies,” reads part of the statement.

The statement cited their negative experiences of land erosion, siltation, and depletion of water sources when Philex Mining Company explored and initially operated in Tabbac in the 1960s to 1970s and later abandoned the area due to alleged loss of venture.  

“It is enough to us what we experienced during the exploration and operation of the Philex Mining Company which caused land erosion, siltation, and depletion of our water sources,” the statement said.

The statement was issued in the wake of recent reports that unidentified individuals, suspected as representatives of mining companies with pending applications for exploration, continue to exert efforts in wooing the residents to consider mining by promising benefits for the communities.

The Pipca president warned the residents not to be fooled by such empty promises.

“Do not be tempted if a company will promise to give good jobs, scholarship, improvement of roads, and pay compensation. This was the strategy they (companies) did before just for them to enter our ancestral domain,” Gallano said.

“Bear in mind that we are just stewards of Mother Earth and we need to protect our environment especially our land and water resources to ensure that our livelihood, mainly agriculture, will last long,” Gallano said.

Gallano and other IP elders in Palina led the struggles of their communities against renewed mining exploration in the area since 2010 to the extent of having been charged for various cases in court, which were all dismissed for lack of merit.

Several companies have pending applications at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau for Mineral Production Sharing Agreement in Palina and in other areas in Kibungan. Pipca is lobbying for a bill in Congress to declare Kibungan as a mining-free zone. – Macarthy B. Malanes