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PIA Press Release

Mt Diwata residents nix large-scale mining bid

By Jean Duron-Abangan

Mt. Diwata, Monkayo, Comval (7 May) -- Residents of gold-rush barangay Mt. Diwata in Monkayo, Compostela Valley made a resounding "no" to moves of bidding out their area to large-scale miners.

In a barangay assembly held on Tuesday at the barangay gym, emotions prompted heckling among resident-attendees to ensue, as they threw out their opposition to the impending bidding of the mining area 600-meter below their barangay territory.

Barangay Captain Francisco Tito, who presided over the assembly pacified and asked the residents to let the assembly run smoothly, giving due respect to the officers of the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) and other guests.

Attendees accused PMDC of failing to thoroughly inform them of all the issues and concerns surrounding the terms of reference (TOR) that it created in its bid to enter into a joint operating agreement (JOA) with a prospective partner to mine below the 600 meters above sea level (asl) under its jurisdiction.

Mt. Diwata purok leader Erlinda Jalbo said PMDC invited purok leaders to the pre-bidding conference on April 30, 2010 as observers, but "we were not allowed to speak out our views" and that they have yet to fully understand the TOR approved by PMDC Board of Directors on March 3, 2010.

The residents also asserted that they should be allowed to mine the area because they have been there for a long time, and that they have acquired mining skills and knowledge.

"Nganong ihatag pa man sa mga kwartahan, nga naa may taga-Diwalwal," Purok 8 leader Khernie Bajan said.

Residents asserted that Barangay Mt. Diwata miners be allowed to take part of the bidding if it is the legal process required to undertake a government project.

"Apan kinahanglan pa mi magtigum og P200 million aron makaapil mi sa bidding," said former barangay councilor Teodoro Duran.

As Diwata miners have yet to put the required P200 million capital to qualify to bid, Duran threw his appeal to postpone the scheduled bidding set next week, giving enough time for resident-miners to raise the needed capital investment.

After views were aired, assembly attendees came up with a resolution to oppose the TRO implementation in an effort to avert PMDC to bid out the area below 600-meter above sea level (ASL).

Tito emphasized during the assembly to follow the decision of his constituents and to stand by it even if it means putting his life at stake.

Stretching in a 729-hectare area, Barangay Mt. Diwata sits within the 8,100-hectare Diwalwal Mineral Reservation proclaimed under Presidential Proclamation No. 297.

Barangay Mt. Diwata is designated as the small-scale mining area per Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 66, PMDC website says.

Before presenting four salient points of the bidding TOR, PMDC community relations officer and project manager Eugene J. Canillas first explained PMDC's area of jurisdiction vis-a-vis the National Resources Development Corporation (NRDC).

PMDC says that through a memorandum issued by the Office of the President dated February 2, 2005, NRDC has been tasked to manage the 729 area above the 600 meter ASL while PMDC takes charge below the 600-meter ASL.

Canillas claimed that Barangay Mt. Diwata residents will not be displaced once large-scale mining operation below the 600 meter ASL which is an area placed under its jurisdiction.

Residents will continue with their daily walks of life at the surface of the 729-hectare area of their barangay while large-scale mining operation goes on below the 600 meter ASL.

Those attending the assembly took the scenario to mean putting their lives at a high risk. "Papahawaon man gani ta diri lang kay high risk area. Samot na kung may dagkong mina sa ilalom," an attendee was heard muttering to himself.

Canillas assured as he further explained the TOR that only Filipino companies will be allowed to take part in the bidding process which will require a capital of not less than P200 million.

PMDC also requires that interested bidders should have a credit line to avail of P500 million credit from a Philippine universal bank as added capital for mining operation.

Canillas assured residents of economic benefits they can reap because PMDC will require the winning bidder to set aside P20 million as social development fund for various Mt. Diwata community projects approved by the Barangay Council.

He also made it clear that the TRO had nothing to do with the upcoming national elections, and that all bidding document will be submitted to PMDC on May 14, after the May 10 elections.

In a separate interview at the PMDC office in Mt. Diwata, Canillas claimed that PMDC had made efforts to let barangay residents know and understand the four salient points of the TRO.

He showed a bulk of survey sheets filled out by youths that PMDC hired to do a house-to-house info drive, distributing info sheets discussing in vernacular the four-salient points of the TOR.

"We have found not much negative comments," he said.

Tito, however, said he will stand by his people's decision which came out during the assembly but he was keeping mum on his next move to push forward Mt. Diwata's opposition to entry of large-scale mining. (PIA XI) [top]

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