Fongwan backs Mankayan picket-A A +A
Thursday, September 27, 2012
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet - Pickets at the Mankayan area continues despite dispersal efforts by Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation and the Philippine National Police.
Fongwan said the move of LCMC to disperse picketers last week was against an agreement made in June with LCMC lawyers and picketers who flocked to the province stronghold. “We thought that we agreed no action was to take place before the Free, Prior and Informed Consent proceedings.”
Fongwan stressed the agreement was to allow peace to ensue in the area until the impending FPIC process was to begin. The governor rued the impasse on the agreement and said the LCMC was not showing fairness and good faith.
FPIC proceedings in the area are set to commence for LCMC’s newest investor Goldfields to continue with exploration of the Far South East ore body.
Lawyer Richard Kilaan said despite the dispersal last week, the picket line at the Mankayan area is ongoing, with the people steadfast in their resolve to guard the area.
Kilaan met with Fongwan last week said the mere fact LCMC was able to bring in equipment inside the picketed area is proof the people have complied with the order released by the courts to allow LCMC to drill the contested area. “What is not allowed is the fencing. It is not stated in the order.”
The dispersal team had with them a Writ of Preliminary Injunction issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 64 Presiding Judge Agapito Laoagan allowing LCMC to fence the area. However, no fencing permit was issued by the Mankayan government.
Fongwan said fencing permits should be first set in place before any structural perimeters will be installed. The governor likewise condemned the violence in the dispersal both inflicted by police and residents.
Both the PNP, residents and media were injured in the dispersal.
The Cordillera People’s Alliance and BAMPIS Mining Watch has condemned violence committed to Mankayan residents by LCMC as well as the PNP.
The CPA reported there were at least 115 PNP elements, 50 LCMC security guards and 40 members of the Armed Forces who nearly swept through the picket line in spite of negotiations by community elders.
Save Mankayan Movement (SMM) vice president Tony Ugalde was handcuffed and arrested during the attempted dispersal, the barricade is now on its 8th month in assertion of indigenous communities’ ancestral land rights.
Around 300 men, women, elderly and even children were at the barricade at the time of the incident. Towards morning, almost 600 community residents from other Mankayan barangays were at the barricade, in support of Tabeo residents, being victims as well of large mining impacts of Lepanto and the impending drilling of Goldfields.
On the day of the dispersal LCMC also called on a media group from Baguio City to witness the event, the mining firm armed the covering media pool with hard hats but failed to give security to the team resulting to members of the press being caught in the crossfire of residents and dispersal units.
Sun.Star Baguio called on Joan Gatchelian, designated information officer of LCMC to comment on the incident last week. A company statement on the dispersal as well as the lax safety for the media team has yet to be released as of press time.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 27, 2012.