Pantukan small-scale miners slam town council’s backing of mining firm application

“In the public hearing, we strongly opposed the entry of Nadecor and its planned operations here. Now, we’re surprised why this resolution is approved through a special session.” — Rogelio Simbajon, a small-scale miner in Pantukan town

By ALEX D. LOPEZ
Davao Today

PANTUKAN, Compostela Valley, Philippines — Around 50 small-scale miners mostly from Gumayan village in this town trooped to the office of the Sangguniang Bayan or municipal council on Wednesday to denounce the passage of a resolution endorsing the mining application of the Nationwide Development Corporation (Nadecor).

In the public hearing, we strongly opposed the entry of Nadecor and its planned operations here. Now, we’re surprised why this resolution is approved through a special session),” Rogelio Simbajon, one of the leaders of small-scale miners, told davaotoday.com.

According to Save Pantukan Alliance, an association of small-scale miners of Pantukan, Nadecor is one of the five foreign-based large-scale mining firms currently claiming portions of this town’s vast deposits of gold, copper and silver for open-pit mining.

Nadecor’s mining claim, the group said, covers 1,663 hectares where some 3,000 families of small-scale miners, indigenous peoples, farmers and small traders have established a living.

In a special session on July 2, the municipal council of Pantukan endorsed the application of Nadecor to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) through Resolution No. 55, Series of 2012. It was unanimously affirmed by the council members and signed by Vice Mayor Hajarah Ranain on July 17.

In the resolution, the municipal councilors stated that Nadecor’s operation will boost the town’s economic growth and progress by bringing more employment to the indigenous peoples and local residents.

It also stipulated Nadecor’s plan to address the so-called “apprehensions” of small-scale miners, such as the provision of relocation area and housing for those who will be affected directly by its operations; giving priority in terms of employment to affected small-scale miners; and the setting aside of 486 hectares within the mining claim to be utilized as “working areas” for the displaced miners.

“We didn’t ask anything from Nadecor. During the public hearing, we firmly opposed their entry and we never agreed to their proposals,” Simbajon said.

Ricky Macusa, a Mansaka youth leader, said, “We were not born to become the slaves of foreigners. We were not born to be evicted from our homeland.”

Macusa, also a miner, told davaotoday.com that they neither ask the municipal council for relocation nor any job from Nadecor. He added: “small-scale miners have made it clear that they totally reject the entry of any big and foreign mining corporations in their area during the public hearing.”

But the municipal council’s resolution failed to get the nod of Mayor JC Celso Sarenas, Pantukan town’s chief executive.

Sarenas, in his veto statement on July 27, called the resolution “ultra vires,” which means that the municipal council concerned had acted beyond its power and authority when it convened for a special session last July 2.

He reiterated the violation committed by the members of the Sanggunian (Council) in relation to their adopted internal rules in the conduct of special sessions.

Section 9 of the internal rules and procedures of the Pantukan’s municipal council provides that “a special session may be called by the Mayor or a majority of the members of the Sanggunian” as often as necessary, or when public interest so demands.

He said, his office nor any of the councilors “did not call and/or request the Sanggunian” for a special session “to discuss the request of Nadecor to endorse its project to the MGB.”

In his veto statement, the Mayor also mentioned the plight of small-scale miners in the area.

It said that the town “is not at all adverse to the inflow of capital investments brought about by large-scale miners” but must also ensure that small-scale miners are at all times protected.

A veto is a constitutional right of one branch or department of government to refuse approval of measures proposed by another department, or as in the case of the recent controversy in Pantukan town, it is the power of the Mayor to reject a legislative measure enacted or passed by the Sangguniang Bayan.

Pantukan councilors refused to comment when asked about their reaction to the veto of Mayor Sarenas.

In a regular session on Wednesday which was attended by small-scale miners, Sarenas’s veto was not included in the agenda.

“Under our rule, it would take 10 days before we could tackle the Mayor’s veto in our session,” Councilor Joepent Acedillo told davaotoday.com.

The office of the Sanggunian received the veto letter afternoon of July 27.

Acedillo said they have yet to discuss if they are going to override the Mayor’s veto or not.

An override is an action of the council members to declare null and void or to set aside the said veto.

“We asked why was it a closed door meeting? Why were the people not invited to witness the said session? They must be hiding something,” Juland Suazo of environmental rights group said, referring to the July 21 special session.

He added, an endorsement to MGB is tantamount to supporting Nadecor’s project. He urged the councilors to listen to the veto message of Mayor Sarenas. Reposted by ()

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