• Rebels burn drilling rig in Ilocos Sur

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    BAGUIO CITY: The New People’s Army (NPA) burned the drilling rig at a mining firm in Quirino, Ilocos Sur on Friday as punishment for environmental destruction.

    NPA’s Ilocos Sur–based Alfredo Cesar Command spokesperson Armando Silva said a large diamond drilling machine of the Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge mining company in Patiacan, Quirino was torched at around 1 a.m. “to punish the said company for four years of destructive exploration and to support the community’s overwhelming rejection of the extension of the company’s exploration project.”

    Silva said a community referendum on April 2 rejected the extension of the exploration project.

    Phelps Dodge, in partnership with Northern Horizon, has an exploration permit covering 5,870 hectares in Quirino including Barangay Laylaya of Besao, Mountain Province. Exploration at Barangay Patiacan began in July 2010.

    During the voting in 2006 and 2009, the villagers rejected the exploration activities but on May 2010, the firm finally got the villagers’ nod.

    But Silva blamed the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for being “instrumental to the betrayal of the people’s interests when it supported Phelps Dodge’s maneuverings to get a Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the people in spite of their repeated rejections.”

    Silva explained, “the destruction of the diamond drilling machine of Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge in Patiacan is the NPA’s act of uniting with the widespread opposition of the people of Patiacan and the entire municipality of Quirino against the ongoing exploration project in Patiacan and sitio Maliten of Barangay Laylaya.”

    Based in the United States (US), Phelps Dodge is one of the world’s largest copper producers. It also operates in Chile and Australia.

    Phelps Dodge tried to start an exploration project in Patiacan in 2006 but was opposed by the elders and the community.

    But in May 2010, Phelps Dodge got a “yes” vote for a two-year contract and a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with three conditions (concreting of the road to the barangay, scholarships for the children of Patiacan and employment for the people of Patiacan) was signed between the company and the indigenous people’s organization created by the NCIP in Patiacan.

    Exploration activities started on July 2010, but the villagers complained about the company’s failure to meet the conditions under the MOA.

    On April 2, 2012, the referendum for a two-year extension of the exploration project resulted to a ‘no’ vote but five months later, Phelps Dodge in another referendum reportedly got a favorable result.

    But Silva said the firm never kept their promises.

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