Diwalwal residents take to the streets to protest large-scale mining entry
By Jean D. Abangan
Tagum City (2 June) -- Small miners of gold-rush Mt. Diwata in Compostela Valley took the streets their calls to suspend the bidding of their area to large-scale miners.
They have vowed to defend by all means their small-scale mining area as they are calling for the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) to give way for the next presidential administration of president-elect Benigno Aquino to take actions regarding mining issues of Mt. Diwata.
In a press conference Monday at Lakan's Place, here, Barangay Captain Francisco Tito said the mass actions would start at the opening of the week-long Mt. Diwata foundation celebration starting June 01.
Upon checking as of this writing through phone call with Uldarico Duran, processing manager of small-scale mining Golden Harvest Mining Corporation (GHMC), a mass was being celebrated at Mt. Diwata Barangay Gym attended by more than 1,000 people who would also be joining the march rally.
Duran said the crowd could grow bigger as more people are expected to join a four-kilometer march from the barangay gym down to "Depot", a junction where the local office of the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) is located.
Parallel to mass actions, Tito said the barangay government would also be coming up with an open letter expressing opposition to bid out the area below the 600 above sea level.
The mass action succeeded the barangay general assembly held on May 4 during which residents made a resounding "no" to moves of bidding out their area to large-scale miners.
Residents were trying to block the bidding that PMDC set earlier on May 14 but was reset on June 07 as posted at PMDC website.
In a phone call, PMDC community relations officer Eugene Canillas revealed that PMDC human resource manager Marives Santos sent a text message Monday saying "the bidding of 729 area deferred to July 30, in deference to the new administration. For information."
"Because of the new administration. Di natin alam kung ano ang mga new directives," Canillas said.
Tito called for suspension of the bidding, and demanded to allow the next administration to take action regarding the mining issues hounding barangay Mt. Diwata.
"Ayaw na lang hilabti ang Diwata. Nganong dili taga-an ug tyansa ang bag-ong administrasyon? (Just leave Diwata out of touch. Why not give the next administration the chance.)," he said in a press conference.
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.
In its website, 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.
Mt.Diwata residents were stirred by moves of PMDC to bid out the area below the 600 asl when its Board of Directors approved on March 03, 2010 a terms of reference (TOR) regarding the bidding.
In separate earlier interviews Canillas said PMDC had made prior consultations with barangay officials particularly with Tito before the TOR was created.
PMDC went to the extent of doing community information and education campaign so residents would understand the objectives of bidding out the area below the 600 asl, and how this move would benefit them and their barangay.
But during the barangay assembly, small-mining residents turned down the TOR and thumbed down as nothing the P20 million worth of annual benefits that will accrue to the barangay from large-scale mining operation.
They cited environmental hazards that would befall on them once large-scale mining operation encroach beyond the 600 asl, and that they claimed rights to mine the area saying they now have the skills to do so.
But Canillas explained 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.
Tito, however, said he will stand by his people's decision which came out during the assembly.
Councilors support opposition
Meanwhile, Mt. Diwata Barangay councilors came in support of Tito's stand, citing a resolution which they said they came out on April 08, 2010, expressing their opposition to moves of bidding out Mt. Diwata.
Brgy councilors Rector Gardose, Gerbolingo Ismael, Augusto Cadigal, Rodolfo Boyles and Bonifacio Libres who joined Tito during the press conference stood up and aired opposition to the bidding.
Gardose belied reports saying the opposition to the bidding was a lone stand of Tito. "Ang council mismo ang dili uyon sa bidding. Dili tinuod nga si Kapitan lang ang wala mosugot," he said.
Claiming that he was once part of previous mass actions defending small-scale mining in Mt. Diwata, Herbolingo said he is willing to once again take the action if needed.
"Hugot ang among pagbabag niana. Ang gobyerno jud unta ang mo-develop uban ang mga existing miners," he said.
Boyles of the peace and order barangay committee appealed to spare Mt. Diwata from the bidding and allow the small-scale miners to go on with their means of livelihood.
"Hangyo mi nga dili na lang ibaligya ang (area) 729. Unsaon na lang wala na mi panginabuhian," he said.
Citing that small-scale miners have been in Mt. Diwata for almost 30 years, Cadigal appealed that they should be given a parcel solely for them to mine and develop.
"Ihatag namo ang ensaktong bahin sa gobyerno, hatagi lang mi ug awtoridad nga mo mina," he said. (PIA XI/JMDA) [top]