Opposition mounts vs Ned coal project; officials order probe

T’boli natives residing in the four sitios (villages) of Tawan Dagat, Tuburan, Segawit and Datal Bonglangon formally organized Tuesday into the T’boli-Manobo S’daf Claimants Organization (Tamasco) while settlers in Sitio Kibang will form a task force aimed to stop the coal explorations of Daguma Agro-Minerals, Inc. and MG Mining and Energy Corp.

Residents claim the companies conducted an exploration without their consent.

The South Cotabato provincial government and the Lake Sebu municipal government will conduct an investigation tentatively set before the middle of October to look into the complaints of the residents here.

The national government, through the Department of Energy, has issued coal operating contracts to both Daguma and MG Mining.b But residents, particularly the Lumads (indigenous peoples) claimed the documents were spurious, particularly that of Daguma Agro.

Victor Danyan, Tamasco chair, said the firm submitted a document whose signatories allegedly do not reflect the sentiments of the majority of the people in the affected area, on the Free Prior and Informed Consent certificate from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

The consent  of the Lumads is needed before firms can conduct exploration in the Lumad areas.

“They [coal firms] did not respect our rights. They bypassed us and used other people so they can operate in our area. There was no real consultation,” he said.

Representatives of the mining firms could not be reached for comment.

Barangay Ned is rich in coal deposit that even at the surface it can be seen, and villagers fear they would lose their livelihood and their communities because the method suitable to excavate the resources “require no other than open pit mining.”

Celso Caro, municipal agrarian reform officer said coal deposits are layered up to a depth of 120 meters. “In the future, we might have a lake in this mountain because the viable method to extract the coal is by open pit,” he said.

Ungil Labi, a tribal leader in the affected area, said he would not allow the firms to continue their activity because they would be displaced. He also expressed apprehension over the project’s impact on the environment.

“We are willing to use force just for the company to realize that we don’t want them. They operated without real consultation if the people in the affected area will back their project,” he said.

But Fr. Romeo Catedral, director of the Social Action Center for the Diocese of Marbel, appealed to the residents to refrain from using violence. “There are still legal remedies that can be exhausted. Using extra-legal means would not help but would only worsen the problem,” he said. (MindaNews)