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February 4, 2008

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Licuan folk in Abra unite versus large scale mining

"Uray kaano man ket saan a masukatan iti ili tayo a Licuan. Saan tayo koma nga maalillaw ti kari dagiti daddakel nga minas nga pagdur-asan ti Licuan. Nasaysayaat nga uray napanglaw tayo ngem adda latta makuna nga ili nga pagsublian uray sadinno papanan ken saan pay nga mapunas ti puli ken ugali". (We should not be deceived by the promises of development or progress from these mining corporations. However poor we may be, it is still more important to have our land intact and protected, so that we will always have a place to come home to-a home where our customs, traditions will be nurtured and protected).

These words from an elder of the Banao tribe in Licuan-Baay, Abra province, captured the challenge to local residents of Licuan in an educational forum organized by concerned individuals last December in Poblacion, Licuan. Resource persons from the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and APIT TAKO (Peasant Alliance in the Cordillera Homeland) were invited to provide inputs on basic education large scale mining and its impacts to indigenous peoples, and on collective resource management and State concepts on land. Over 120 residents from the barangays of Lenneng, Kileng, Poblacion, Malnoog, Kawayan, Tamadi, Mogao, Masablang, Dumenlay, Sucao, Bunglo, Leng-as, Bulbula, Tumalip, Subagan, Mapisla and Nalbuan attended. The participants also represented the various sectors such as the church, elders, women, government employees, professionals and indigenous peasants.

It will be recalled that Licuan-Baay and 13 other municipalities of Abra fall within the scope of a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) applied for by Lindsay Resources Inc. This FTAA, which covers 1,725 hectares, also covers the municipalities of Pasil and Balbalan in the neighboring province of Kalinga. A Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) application between the government and Abra Mining and Industrial Corp., Jabel Corp., and Olympus Pacific Minerals Inc. This was applied for for the development of the Capcapo Project. Olympus Pacific Minerals is a Canadian-registered mining company.

Resisting development aggression
The forum aimed to equip participants with additional knowledge on large mining operations and to share their economic, social and environmental impacts as experienced by other communities in the Cordillera, other regions, and other countries where large mining companies previously or currently operate.

After the inputs, active and intense debate and discussions on the pros and cons of large mining followed. In summary, the contention of those in favor of large mining are the employment and development assistance to be provided by the companies such as roads, schools, hospitals/clinics and a shopping mall, not to mention the tax to be provided to the provincial and municipal governments.

On the other hand, those against contend that experiences have shown otherwise and in fact the positive aspects to a great extent outweighed the negative impacts in all aspects be it economic, environment, social and furthermore, the so-called development assistance are not sure to be provided. Towards the end, however, the participants agreed that large scale mining is not beneficial to the people of Licuan and as such united to defend their land against this.

To further firm-up their position, the participants formed a broad coalition they aptly named Ba-ay-Licuan Isalakan ken Salaknibandaka or BLIS. In a consensus, they appointed the convenors representing the various sectors and different barangays. A plan against the entry of large mining in Ba-ay Licuan was then approved which further unified BLIS. # Fernando Bagyan/APIT TAKO


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