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March 9, 2008

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No mining in Baay-Licuan-BALITOK

BAAY-LICUAN, Abra (February 26)-Some 150 representatives of people's organizations in this municipality gathered in Poblacion Licuan on February 26 to form the Baay-Licuan Takderan Omnu a Karbengan (BALITOK, meaning gold), a multisectoral alliance primarily concerned with the promotion of human rights and the preservation and defense of their ancestral land. Baay-Licuan is part of the ancestral domain of the Binongan indigenous peoples.

BALITOK has been formed at a time when Canadian mining company Olympus Pacific Minerals Inc. is aggressively pursuing its mining interests here. One highlight of the founding assembly has been the passage of a resolution banning Olympus and other mining entities from pursuing any activity in Baay-Licuan.

BALITOK includes in its membership sitios Sucao, Domenglay, Masablang, Diangay, Magatutong, Mugao, Tamadi, Maney,Caguyen, Cawayan, Malnoog, Poblacion, Lenneng, Killeng, Bonglo, Lengas, Bakiro, Subagan, Nalbuan, Tumalip, Bulbulala, Mapisla, Nagpawayan, Agat, Capcapo, Gammak, Liwes,Gangit, Bugas, Madala-ag and Talaay.

Olympus' Capcapo Project

Olympus entered into an agreement with its Philippine partners Abra Mining and Industrial Corporation (AMIC) and Jabel Corporation (JABEL) on November 23, 2006 for the 43-square kilometer Capcapo Project. Olympus started its drilling operations in February 2007. The said project is at Capcapo mountain in the sitio of the same name, where seven holes have already been drilled. Sustained opposition from the affected communities resulted in a stop to the drillings.

Recently, the mining company held "consultations" in barangays Mogaw, Domenglay, and Poblacion Licuan. Reports from the mining company's website ( reveal that Olympus has intersected "significant gold and copper at Capcapo, Northern Philippines", and that the copper-gold system there is significant. Olympus likens the profile to the Baguio-Mankayan Gold-Copper District.

What will become of us?
Flordeliza Sannadan, 67, has heard of stories of Mankayan in Benguet with over 70 years of large-scale mining by Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company. Her gaze follows the team of soldiers passing by, detached, as of this writing, to Poblacion Licuan.

"Olympus wants to mine our mountains and our lands…what will become of us if these are mined out?", she said, while questioning the purported improvement of the quality of life with the acceptance of mining in the community. "After years and years of mining in Lepanto, did the lives of the people improve?"

During BALITOK's founding assembly, soldiers approached the venue, asked for the owners of the house and what kind of activity was going on. Local sources cite that since February some 30-40 elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly the 41st Infantry Battalion's Alpha and Bravo Companies, have been roving Baay-Licuan. Prior to the BALITOK activity, the military made themselves comfortable under the residents' houses in Poblacion Licuan. Earlier, they were reportedly seen in barangays Mogaw and Masablang.

"We do not even know why they (the military) are here, or what they plan to do here. There is nothing illegal going on in our community", one resident commented.

As in other provinces in the region encroached by mining, or even in other regions, the entry of destructive projects such as large-scale mining is always accompanied by militarization.

The BALITOK founding assembly passed a resolution calling for a stop to military deployment in the municipality, asserting that military presence in a peaceful community sows fear and terror among the locals and will result in human rights violations. In the resolution, BALITOK asserted that indigenous peacekeeping systems still work for the communities.

The resolutions will be submitted to concerned government units and agencies. BALITOK has recently affiliated with KASTAN (Kakailyan Salakniban tay Amin a Nagtaudan)-Cordillera Peoples Alliance Abra. A discussion on the regional and provincial mining situation was given by CPA Deputy Secretary General Santos Mero. # AT Bengwayan/Cordillera Peoples Alliance Public Information Commission

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