The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has decided against the best interest of the Balatoc tribe in Pasil town, Kalinga province by “allowing itself to be tricked” by a man purportedly masquerading as the tribe’s leader, so claims a lawyer.
In a statement, Enrique de la Cruz, legal counsel for Carrascal Nickel Corp. (CNC), private sector partner of the state-run Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) on the Batong Buhay mines development, questioned NCIP’s September 2013 resolution issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the mine operations, following the complaint of one Victor Gumisa.
“Gumisa represents himself as the tribe’s leader, but who, in reality, is not even authorized by the tribe . . . The NCIP overlooked the fact that the legitimacy of Gumisa’s supposed leadership was still unresolved in another case pending with the Supreme Court,” argued de la Cruz.
“The NCIP, whose task is to protect the interest of our indigenous people, sided with Gumisa and unwittingly allowed to be used in a scheme to rob the tribe of their lifeblood and the development of their ancestral lands,” he added.
Batong Buhay mines was a previously foreclosed property until the PMDC and the Balatoc tribe, through its recognized Indigenous People’s Organizations—the Balatoc (Kalinga) Tribe Inc. (BKTI) and Balatoc Tribe Exploration and Mining Corporation (BTEMC)—formally entered into an agreement for mining and exploration activities within the mines.
According to dela Cruz, having been “given the reins of the development of their ancestral lands,” the tribe through the BKTI/BTEMC, entered into a joint venture agreement (JOA) with CNC.
Later, a joint venture corporation, CNC-Faratuk Mining Inc. (CNC-Faratuk), was created, with 20 percent of its ownership, and free carry equity, belonging to BKTI/BTEMC.
“CNC-FARATUK, has been working closely with the members of the tribe, identifying critical areas for socio-economic amelioration. They have already commenced much needed infrastructure projects like the construction of bridges and water works as well as rehabilitation and widening of roads, and assisted in the health and livelihood programs of the community,” explained de la Cruz.
Under the arrangement, the Balatoc tribe will also be given “their just portion of the profit upon the successful commencement and operation of the mine by virtue of their free carry equity in the joint venture.
“This advantageous scenario was put to a halt by parties motivated by self-interest,” narrated CNC’s counsel.
Supposedly following the commencement of mining exploration activities, Gumisa had started filing cases against PMDC and CNC left and right.
Gumisa filed similar complaints with the NCIP and the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, seeking to be declared as the tribe’s legitimate leader, and seeking a restraining order on the exploration activities in Batong Buhay.
Unlike the NCIP, the Pasig court dismissed the complaint, “because of obvious forum shopping, and that the issue as to the disputed leadership pertains to an intra-corporate controversy, which falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the commercial courts. In other words, the Pasig RTC affirmed BKTI/BTEMC’s position that the Gumisa complaint involved an intra-corporate dispute,” explained de la Cruz.
“The NCIP took the frivolous contentions of Gumisa hook, line and sinker, despite the fact that the tribe has fully authorized BKTI/BTEMC as duly recognized representative and this was certified by NCIP itself,” he added.
“Is the NCIP really for the interest of our indigenous people?” he asked.