Mining firm gets nod of B?laans to explore Kiblawan villages

Sagittarius, which is also exploring the town of Tampakan in South Cotabato province, forged a memorandum of agreement with the tribesfolk when the tribal council agreed to a “Free and Prior Informed Consent” to the firm.


The company said the MOA signing was held at the Hotel de Crisbel in Digos City.


“For the next two years, Sagittarius can undertake exploration and all mining-related activities in the villages of Balasiao, Tacub, Bagong Negros, Kimlawis and BololSalo, except Sitio Atmorok,” said Rolando Doria, Sagittarius project coordinator.


Nine datus and a lady chief reportedly signed in behalf of the B’laan tribesmen.


Janette Serrano, chair of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, affirmed the FPIC granted to Sagittarius by signing in the MOA.


Republic Act 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, requires mining companies to first obtain the consent of the indigenous people before NCIP, which facilitates the FPIC process, can allow exploration of ancestral domain.


The B’laan tribesmen, as stated in the MOA, came up with their “collective decision” after a series of consultative meetings with Sagittarius and after a consensus building process in accordance with their customary laws and practices.


As part of the agreement, Sagittarius has obligations to give employment priority to the tribesmen and grant scholarships to a number of B’laan students.


Sagittarius mining operations is expected to go full blast in early 2011, with capital payback projected in five years.


Sagittarius’s mining operations are strongly being opposed by the Catholic church, particularly the dioceses of Digos and Marbel. The former has jurisdiction over Kiblawan and the latter, Tampakan.