By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
Compostela, Compostela Valley — Typhoon Pablo survivors here are opposing the entry of a mining firm owned by the uncle of Pres. Benigno Aquino,III.
Some 500 members of the Compostela Farmers Association (CFA) presented a petition after a march rally last Friday saying the entry of Agusan Petroleum and Minerals Corporation posed a threat to their livelihood even as they are still recovering from the dislocation brought about by Typhoon Pablo last year.
“The areas that the corporation is mining are also areas where we are mining. It is the area with the highest concentration of people – from small-scale miners to farmers,” said CFA leader Bello Pindasan. Residents are still in the process of having the area approved as a ‘Minahang Bayan’ (People’s Mining Area) for small-scale miners. Under Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, small-scale miners must have a Minahang Bayan to operate legally as declared by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR .
The Agusan Petroleum and Mineral Corporation was listed by the MGB as having two exploration permits in Compostela. Areas to be covered included the villages of Nursery, Bango, Pulang Lupa, Mambusao and Kantigbaw, all located in Brgy. Ngan. The company’s permits cover one area in Compostela spanning 9,999 hectares, while the other area spans the boundary of Compostela & New Bataan towns with a total of 2,400 hectares. Both were approved in April 18, 2012 and supposedly have expired last April 18 this year.
Tindasan said the entry of the Agusan Petroleum, a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation owned by Presidential uncle Danding Cojuangco, would affect the efforts made by the residents in rebuilding their farms, houses and schools.
“Big mining will not only have negative effects on the environment, it will also ruin our livelihood,” Pindasan lamented.
Though the company is no longer listed in the MGB list of permits released last May, Vice-Mayor Reynaldo Castillo confirmed that is it the same company that is now conducting local exploration.
Castillo said the council would weigh the petition of the farmers. The municipal council (Sangguniang Bayan) failed to convene on Friday while its special session last Saturday also did not push through.
He said he understands the residents’ concern over the detrimental effects of mining, but wonders if this would happen during the exploration stage, although he conceded that large-scale mining will have ill-effects in the long run.
“It becomes destructive. We’ve heard of so many incidents like what happed in Davao Oriental and in Surigao,” he said.
However, he said, ”(T)here are benefits with mining if you maintain the integrity of natural resources. You should not pollute the area, you provide security for the people and you provide for your social obligations.”
Pindasan also scored the presence of military units, namely the 10th Infantry Division’s 25th Infantry Battalion (IB), the 67th IB and the 72nd IB who are “securing” the mining area.
The CFA claimed in their petition that the military presence in the past led to human rights violations in the past years such as the burning of houses and a school of the Lumad Matigsalogs in Bermuda village, Brgy. Mangayon, the killing of former CFA chairperson Danny Qualvar in 2008 and the military encampment in a school in Brgy. Panansalan. (John Rizle L . Saligumba/ Reposted by )