Lumads ask Bayog officials to name mining firms with conflicting claims

BAYOG, Zamboanga del Sur (MindaNews/28 January) — Indigenous communities here have asked the local government to reveal the identities of companies that have conflicting mining claims in this town.

Inset map courtesy of Wikipedia.Timuay Lucenio Manda, barangay chairperson of Conacon, raised the question after municipal officials said that aside from failing to comply with legal requirements, some companies have conflicting mining claims that cover portions of the Lumads’ 30,000-hectare ancestral domain.

In a mining forum here Wednesday town officials warned they would declare various mining companies illegal for alleged arrogance, overlapping claims of mining areas, and disrespecting elected officials by refusing to submit company records.

None of the mining companies that attended the forum was able to provide all documents demanded by the municipal government.

Romeo Fernando, chief operating officer of 168 Ferrum Pacific Mining Corporation, said the company holds Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) 267-200A-X and has a memorandum of agreement with the indigenous community of Bayog.

They are currently undertaking exploration for iron extraction.

Ricky Sumallo of Bayog 9 Metals Mining Corporation said that they have “corporate relations” with 168 FPMC and that they have sought the IP’s free and prior informed consent.

But the two firms’ mine site overlaps with that of Glupa Pegegetawan Mining Company, a group that claimed to do “tribal mining”.

Both 168 FPMC and Bayog 9 had contracted Alpha First Asia Mining Corporation to assist them in initial geo-mapping activities.

“We are currently at the geo-mapping and will move for drilling soon if we’d confirm feasibility of large scale mining operation. We will bring machineries for production. We hope to cooperate with other mining companies and with humility hope to resolve our conflicts,” Sumallo said.

Melanie Wong of Alpha First appealed during the forum for a resolution of the overlapping mining claims of GPMC and Bayog 9 and 168 Ferrum.

GPMC, led by Casiano Edal, has claimed prior mining rights over the IP’s ancestral domain and asserted that Bayog 9, 168 Ferrum, and Alpha First should be extracted from the area.

GPMC got its Special Ore Extraction Permit from then environment secretary Jose L. Atienza Jr. on November 16, 2009 covering 15,501.545 hectares.

Abdul B. Puengan, regional director of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) showed documents that Atienza himself issued an order dated December 11, 2009 “excluding the area of Bayog 9 from the mine site of GPMC” but was only released January 10 last year.

Puengan said that Atienza asked Bayog 9 to get consent from the affected barangays of Conacon, Liba and Bubuan.

“We will leave the issue to government agencies to resolve this conflict of interest. We did not come here to debate and force our position,” Fernando said.

Data from Legal Rights and Natural Resource Center showed that 168 FPMC is controlled by Mikro-tech Capital Inc. owned by Dr. Michael Romero, chief executive officer of the country’s largest and most modern non-containerized port, Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)