December 8, 2022

Residents of Bulalacao in Mankayan, Benguet continue their barricade against the drilling operations of Crescent Mining and Development Corporation (CMDC), as they also question the validity of the firm’s documents to operate.

Bulalacao Punong Barangay Romy Bayanes said they have asked the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera for a status quo pending the conduct of the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process among the affected residents and communities.

The barricade started on June 18 where residents stopped personnel of CMDC from entering the drilling site in the barangay. The CMDC is still in its exploratory stage.

On June 24, Bayanes received a letter from the CMDC lawyers stating the barricade caused delay and losses for their client.

“May we remind you that as a government official, it is your duty and obligation to uphold the law, and not to obstruct, impede, and prevent the lawful exercise of our client’s right to drill the areas covered by its MPSA (mineral production sharing agreement),” the letter reads.

In response, Bayanes alleged CMDC’s  MPSA 057-96-CAR was “illegally obtained” from the Mines Geosciences Bureau without fulfilling the requisite FPIC of the host community as per Section 59 of the RA 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.

Bayanes said despite the lack of FPIC process, CMDC already entered into an agreement with the landowners.

“The truth is, almost all of the people of Bulalacao are opposed to the mineral exploration activities of Crescent in their barangay,” the letter stated, which was also signed by Bulalacao Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative Marlo Pablo and municipal IPMR Toriano Organo.

On May 27, MGB-Cordillera Director Faye Apil informed the NCIP-Cordillera that her office has endorsed the company’s MPSA renewal.

The government has awarded CDMC with MPSA on Nov. 12, 1996 but its 25-year term expired on Nov. 11, 2021.

The MGB has renewed the contract for another 25 years on March 2.

Apil said they received a certification from the NCIP-CAR Director Atanacio Addog stating “no objection to the renewal” of the company providing that it “commits to complete the FPIC process.”

Bulalacao residents submitted a resolution on June 8, asking all concerned offices for the stoppage of the drilling operation of CMDC until an FPIC processis complied with by the company.

Addog, in his June 16 letter to Apil, stated the certification he earlier gave only certifies the “pendency of the FPIC process of the application for issuance of certification pre-condition for the renewal of the MPSA”’ of Crescent. Thus, the company still needs to undergo the FPIC process.

Addog also wrote to CMDC President Ronnie Siapno on June 17 reminding him their MPSA has expired and FPIC is needed prior to its renewal.

“Failure on your part to seek the FPIC as required by law is a sufficient ground for this office to cause the suspension of your ongoing exploration activities and as basis of the community to withhold their consent to the mining project,” Addog said.

He also advised Siapno to stop all exploration activities to show sincerity and good faith, pending the sorting out of the issues.

Also, Addog wrote to MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano on June 23 opposing the renewal of MPSA of Crescent mining.

He asked Moncano to recall the MPSA given to Crescent “pending the termination of the FPIC process for the issuance of the certification precondition”. – Ofelia C. Empian