Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mining firm told to cease activities in Zamboanga del Sur town

ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 22, 2011) - The Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Western Mindanao has issued a "cease and desist order" against a mining firm claiming to be a representative of the Subanon indigenous people of Bayog town in Zamboanga del Sur province.

It said Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company Incorporated was ordered to stop all its mineral exploration activities in Bayog, particularly in areas where another mining company - Bayog 9 Metals Corporation - has an existing exploration permit.

Bayog town is rich in iron ore deposits.

Subanon villagers said the Lupa Pigigetawan Company also employs heavily armed security force whose agency is reportedly owned by former police and military generals.

Regional Director Director Alberto Johann Jacildo, of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company also “failed to comply with other mandatory and procedural requirements in order to carry out lawful mining activities.”

Jacildo said that after careful verification, they found out that the mining company “did encroach and perform mining exploratory works on the area of Bayog 9.”

Raul Calumpang, now the acting Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said they will form a team to investigate reports that Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company violated the government's cease and desist order.

"We have received reports that despite the cease and desist order, the Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company continued on with their exploration activities in Bayog towm," he told the Mindanao Examiner in a separate interview.

He said Jadilco is on an official leave and would report back to work next week. But he assured that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau would act on the complaints against Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company.

"They could lose their permit if the reports are true. We will investigate these reports," Calumpang said.

Village officials of Conacon, the host community where the Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company has been conducting illegal activities, have also issued a resolution declaring the company’s security agency, A-Y 76 Security Specialists Inc., as "persona non grata."

The resolution alleged that the agency’s heavily armed security personnel have set up an illegal boom and barrier on a public road and prevented village officials from accessing the area.

The resolution added that the security guards, “with finger on the trigger of their AK-47 caliber guns,” have caused people in the community “to worry and be afraid”.

Other sources also said that even Bayog town Mayor Jun Babasa was, at one point, allegedly barred by the security guards and company officials from inspecting the area.

Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company insisted that its activities in Bayog town are authorized under a so-called Special Ore Extraction Permit signed by former Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Jose Atienza a few days before he vacated his post in 2009.

The Special Ore Extraction Permit, however, states that the “mining operation authorized under this Permit shall not be undertaken in areas covered by valid and existing mining contracts and permits of other parties concerned.”

“Mining, environmental, and other relevant rules and regulations shall be complied with. Failure to comply with the foregoing and/or with the terms and conditions of this Permit shall give cause for its revocation.”

Sources from the Environmental Management Bureau said that, apart from encroaching within Bayog 9’s exploration area, Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company has a standing violation for conducting mining activities without an Environmental Compliance Certificate, a critical pre-requisite for all legal mining operations.

In the Special Ore Extraction Permit, Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company claims to be a representative of the Subanons of Bayog.

The firm’s president, Absalon Alcorin, Jr., however, hails from Davao. The two signatory witnesses of the permit, Gualberto Padilla and Rosemary Garrido, are also from Cebu.

Securities and Exchange Commission records show that Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company was incorporated in Cebu, and that only two of its nine incorporators, Mitubusan Casiano Edal and Timuay Alfredo Dingal, are Subanons.

A source from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples said Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company did not go through all necessary legal processes and procedures for it to legitimately claim to be an indigenous peoples representative and, therefore, is “not recognized by the NCIP.” (With a report from Ahlia Torres)

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