Romblon’s indigenous community cries foul on mining project

Posted By: Chris On:

ROMBLON, Jan. 24, 2011—The indigenous Ati community in Romblon’s Odiongan town has rejected a mining company’s claim that it had consented to a mining exploration in the community’s ancestral domain.

Ati chieftain Pabling Vallejo said his community is against the exploration project during a forum on Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and mining conducted by Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM).

Ivanhoe Philippines, a subsidiary of Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. Canada, has applied for mining exploration permit that would cover several towns in the island.

The Ati community who lives in the upland Aurora village asserts the project encroaches on their territorial domain.

“I have sent a letter to Ivanhoe that my community does not accept their exploration project, we will not allow them to operate even if they had already presented their project to us last year,” Vallejo said.

Ivanhoe, which allegedly conducted a Free Prior Informed Consent Process (FPIC) process in the last quarter of 2010 held in the indigenous village, averred that its exploration will not affect the Ati’s territory.

But the Ati leader maintained they did not give any consent to the mining company to conduct any exploration in the area.

“It should be clarified that what we signed during last year’s meeting with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and Ivanhoe was for attendance documentation purposes, not for any consent,” declared Vallejo.

NCIP Romblon service center officer Fernando Fante has assured the Ati community of the agency’s commitment to protect their rights.

He said the regional office has mobilized its technical team to assess the situation.

“A certificate of non-overlap may be granted to the mining company, however we still need to conduct technical assessment to determine the exact coordinates of the mining claim using global positioning system tracking and proper mapping,” said Fante.

But REFAM during a dialogue with Fante, presented maps of Ivanhoe’s exploration applications showing that Aurora village falls within the mining claim.

“This is my first time to encounter this kind of case, hence, legal and technical experts are needed to ensure the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and I am thankful that our regional office is sending assistance to solve this issue,” Fante further explained.

REFAM chairman Msgr. Ernie Fetalino expressed hopes their preliminary investigation will bring NCIP to safeguard the rights of the indigenous community.

“Our preliminary investigation shows that the indigenous peoples are vulnerable and we hope that NCIP will do its best to protect them within the principles of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and genuine FPIC,” he declared.

More than 15,000 hectares on Tablas Island comprising the municipalities of Odiongan, San Andres, Calatrava, San Agustin, Sta. Maria, Alcantara and Looc are being eyed for gold and copper exploration.

A mining moratorium is currently in effect in the entire province by virtue of a provincial executive order issued by Governor Eduardo Firmalo last January 10. (CBCPNews)

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