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Vizcaya folk question mining permit approval

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizca­ya—Concerned officials and farmer cooperatives in a remote upland town of this province are urging the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) to explain the “mysterious” approval of a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) it awarded to a mining company.

On October 14 Councilor Peter Duyapat of Barangay Didipio demanded Jerrysal Mangaoang, the officer in charge of MGB in Cagayan Valley, to explain why he approved the mining permit of Oxiana Philippines Inc., which has allegedly been conducting exploration activities in Kasibu without the knowledge of local officials and residents.

Mayor Romeo Tayaban of Kasibu expressed the same sentiment on the issue and vowed to ask the town council to draft a resolution that would require the formation of an investigating committee to look into the alleged ongoing mining exploration of the company.

“The local government unit is not aware about the alleged mining exploration activities of Oxiana in our municipality. I was surprised to know that the regional office of the MGB approved an MPSA permit without our consent,” Tayaban said.

An MPSA permit can be converted into a Financial Technical Assistance Agreement  (FTAA) in accordance with Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining of 1995, and the promulgated Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations.

Another mining firm, the Climax-Arimco Mining Corp. (CAMC), has applied for an FTAA in Kasibu involving an exploration area of 37,000 hectares found in the Mamparang mountain range located in the boundaries of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino.

However, the Kasibu people, fearing irreparable damages to the environment as well as the sources of livelihood of the directly affected indigenous communities, opposed CAMC’s mining exploration permit.

Recently, Rep. Rodolfo Agbayani of Nueva Vizcaya saw the hastening of the country’s rich mineral resources as potential source of generating funds by the Philippine government to alleviate current fiscal crisis.

House Speaker Jose de Venecia also urged the Arroyo administration to revive the mining industry.

Duyapat said Oxiana’s exploration permit was issued by the regional MGB with an approved coverage area of 5,873.687 hectares. He said the permit includes a two-year period effective from date of the issuance

“The permit covers at least four blocks. We’re wondering where are these approved mining exploration areas of Oxiana because in the permit the MGB did not indicate the exact locations. The bureau only mentioned a total of 5,873.687 hectares exploration area of the company located within Kasibu municipality,” he said, citing excerpts from the MPSA Exploration Permit II-000014 of Oxiana, a copy of which was obtained by The Times.

Mangaoang issued the permit on June 9, 2003, to Oxiana through its exploration manager and attorney-in-fact Joey Nelson Ayson. It was signed in the presence of the MGB staff, Socrates Bosi and Ruben Quitoriano. He could not be reached for his side, at press time.

The exploration permit was filed on February 26, 1996, by the Baguio-based Oxiana at the MGB regional office in Tuguegarao, Cagayan.

Citing a letter from the Nueva Vizcaya office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Duyapat said the exploration permit of Oxiana could be a “midnight deal” as there was no certification precondition issued by the NCIP.

Gregorio Singangan, the NCIP provincial officer, noted in his letter that the NCIP certificate is a condition precedent before the issuance of an exploration permit, citing as basis Section 44(m) and Section 59 of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997.

Thus, Singangan deduced, the exploration permit of Oxiana was “not valid for being contrary to the law,” citing further the guidelines set forth in the NCIP Administrative Order 03 series of 2002 specifically Sections 6 to 11.

The letter further noted that NCIP had conducted a field base investigation in the exploration sites that led them to conclude that Oxiana’s permit was “irregular” because of the lack of a free and prior informed consent from the would-be stakeholders and from the local government unit. 

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