Village residents in land squabble-A A +A
Saturday, September 29, 2012
ITOGON, Benguet -- Who really owns the land?
This is the issue residents within Phase 3 of the Benguet Corporation tailings dam are squabbling about.
Several residents within Phase 3 area of the mining company and Benguet Corporation (BC) representatives met Wednesday to address complaints surrounding the proposed development.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the municipal police were also present during the consultation.
Residents of sitios Ba–ayan, Canog, Carayan, Poded, and Aleb of Barangay Ucab are up in arms against the Benguet Tailings Project (BTP) of BC, which aims to reprocess or recycle mine tailings, believing that the dam still contains some gold.
The corporation also plans to extend the dam an estimated seven meters with the project.
The community started its picket on September 8 when the company started its BTP. But both parties had a prior dialogue September 5 with the mining company presenting its plan. The picket resulted in a halt in BC operations.
The residents said the plan to extend the dam will destroy their source of water since they have a spring near it. They also claimed that the operation will greatly affect their environment and livelihood which is small-scale mining.
But behind the protest against BC’s proposed development are two groups squabbling over the land.
The first group claimed to be the direct claimants, while the other group claims to be indirect owners.
The heirs of Carantes Calixto and Fianza (C&F), namely: Edward Fianza, Maria Fianza, Paul Fianza, Jessie Fianza, Rhomela Sagubo, Gilda Golingab, Julius Fianza, Marco Fianza, Meldred Fianza, Laurano Carantes, and Franklin Alumit said they are the direct claimants because they reside within the surroundings of the dam.
They bared this during an exclusive group interview with Sun.Star Baguio also on Wednesday.
They also said that Phase 3 was originally owned by their forefathers, who were the first settlers of the dam. They said the picketers are indirect claimants as they reside along the upper portion of the dam.
They also told Sun.Star that they have an approved plan of the land signed by DENR and a certificate issued by the National Commission on Indigenous People that certify their application for ancestral domain. Their application is still being processed.
The heirs of C&F said they are amenable to the plan of BC to pay for their land and lamented the picket has kept the mine company from paying.
They also refuted the complaints of the other group on the environmental effect of the BTP and the expansion of the dam because they said the mismanagement of garbage by the alleged indirect claimants already contribute a lot to environmental degradation.
They added some picketers don’t even have claims on the land.
The BC started its operation in the area in 1986 when the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act was not yet formulated. The C&F clan said they allowed the operation because of the promised improvement of the roads that is ongoing at present.
The alleged property of these two clans is 72 hectares of which 42 hectares are subject to the development. They admitted they have around 10 houses and 10 camps and their main livelihood is small-scale mining.
Meanwhile, Juanito Pangaton, spokesperson of the other group, answered accusations of the heirs of C&F.
Pangaton’s group has around 247 residents who signed the petition to terminate the mineral processing permit of the corporation.
He said they are the rightful claimants because the C&F clans don’t have papers at all. He added the C&F heirs don’t have actual houses in the area.
Pangaton said they have tax declarations on the land disputed.
He revealed their forefathers were then fooled by the company technically, citing their ancestors allowed the operation because they were promised to be the one to dictate prices of their lands.
Pangaton said with this great opportunity, their ancestors allowed the corporation to mine the area. They then signed the memorandum of agreement. However, the company allegedly surveyed the lots and priced them as prescribed under the law. The natives then were not aware of such existence of the law.
The BC suggested to the community for it to conduct a land survey in order to determine the real and direct affected owners, but the Pangaton group refused. They wanted a total termination of the mineral processing permit of the corporation.
A case on the determination of the authentic owners was filed under the Regional Trial Court where the C&F are the defendants. Hearings are still ongoing.
Sun.Star Baguio tried to get the side of the BC. However, its management refused to comment presently on the issue.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 30, 2012.