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Kalinga's Buaya tribe rescinds earlier endorsement and is now set to oppose CEXCI exploration permit application

Kalinga’s Buaya tribe withdrew its decision allowing the Cordillera Exploration Co., Inc. (CEXCI) to explore 8,000 hectares covering Barangay Tawang in Balbalan; and Calafug, Cupiz, Puguin and a portion of Karikitan in Conner, Apayao. The CEXCI filed for a two-year renewable Exploration Permit Application (EXPA) with the office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB).

Starting April of this year, the offices of NCIP, MGB, and CEXCI have conducted three community consultations with the Buaya tribe. A Consensus Building Process has happened during a consultation with the tribe on May 8, 2005 wherein the tribe expressed consent to the proposed exploration of CEXCI to the place. However, the MGB and CEXCI were not present at that time. Thus, on June 5, the NCIP-Kalinga, MGB-Tuguegarao and CEXCI conducted another consultation with the tribe on what is to be contained in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) which is to be drafted by NCIP-Kalinga.

In the four affected barangays of Conner, Apayao, officials from the NCIP, MGB and CEXCI have also conducted series of consultations starting April of this year. In Barangay Karikitan, a referendum was held and the majority vote was NO. Because of this, CEXCI and NCIP agreed to excise Barangay Karikitan from the exploration area of the application.

In a meeting held in Brgy. Tawang, Balbalan, Kalinga, Buaya’s tribal leaders led a discussion on the exploration application of CEXCI to the area and its possible impacts to the community. As result, the tribe decided to rescind earlier decision and make a petition paper against the mining exploration application of CEXCI. This was signed by 191 members of the Buaya tribe and residents of Barangay Tawang, Balbalan, Kalinga.

In the petition, the tribe said that that the consultations facilitated by NCIP-Kalinga and MGB-Tuguegarao were not informative enough with regard basic information on mining exploration processes, its effects to the environment and the socio-cultural as well as political systems of the place. CEXCI has allegedly started conducting initial mining activities in Laocon, Balbalan. With this, the Buaya tribe accused them of illegal intrusion.

It was also stated that the NCIP, MGB, and CEXCI denied that the exploration process is the actual means of determining the depth and quality of mineral ores so to estimate the projected costs of ore extraction. In addition, the P200,000 amount which CEXCI promised to provide every barangay of the Buaya tribe as Community Development Assistance (CDA) is not sufficient to address what was earlier agreed upon by both parties such as construction and rehabilitation of roads, construction of school buildings, scholarship grants for four-year degree courses, micro hydro project, and rehabilitation of the exploration area.

Other reasons for the petition were based on what the communities perceive as the effects of mining which they have learned from the experiences of mining areas in the Philippines, such as massive environmental degradation, poisoning of irrigation sources such as rivers, water shortage due to logging and disturbance of underground water source, destruction of ginubat (forests), and disappearance of animals found in the forests such as pingao or birds that produce exotic nests which serve as one of their sources of living.

As of January 31, 2005, CEXCI has applied for another Exploration Permit Application (EXPA) covering 2,592 hectares in Mountain Province and Ifugao and one Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) covering 77,549 hectares in Benguet, Abra, Mountain Province, and part of Ilocos. CEXCI is just one of the many mining corporations that applied for EXPA and FTAA in the Cordillera region.
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) opposes the entry of such large mining corporations in the Cordillera because it is a direct assault and violation of the collective rights to ancestral land and self-determination. Likewise, its impacts to the environment as well as to the economy (livelihood sources), culture, and society of the Igorot people are highly intolerable. Much have been seen and experienced by the Cordillera people through the years of mining operations of different mining companies in the region especially in Benguet. The CPA calls for a stop to the exploitation of Cordillera land and resources. # Sarah Dekdeken/PIC-CPA, September 17, 2005

Published with financial contribution from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
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