THE impending cancellation of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) of the TVI Resource Development Inc. (TVIRD) in the gold-rich mountain of Balabag in Bayog town, Zamboanga del Sur, has caused worry to most members of the Subanen tribe.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez announced last February the cancellation of 75 MPSA in the country, but it was not received well by the tribe, tribal chieftain Casiano Edal said.
Edal was one of the tribal leaders who attended the mining forum held March 7 in Bayog town.
He said the company has the "trust of our tribe that they will protect the environment."
"We are one with the people of Bayog who look forward to economic opportunities that await us once the company starts its mining operations," said Edal, who is one of the 40 tribal chieftains in the area.
Edal added that TVIRD was instrumental in helping the government clean up Balabag from the contamination of toxic wastes.
He warned the return of destructive illegal small-scale mining operations in Sitio Balabag once the recommendation to cancel mining agreement TVIRD pushes through.
The tribal chieftain recalled how the regulatory bodies failed to control the destructive and reckless activities of the illegal miners in Bayog since the early 80s.
"The (small-scale miners) destroyed our mountains, farms, rivers and seas," Edal said.
The small-scale mining operations were stopped in October 2012 with the issuance and implementation of a cease-and-desist order by the Environmental Management Bureau and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
The Subanen tribe, said Edal, is looking forward to the day when they will have medical doctors, agriculturists, lawyers, engineers and career military officials among them.
He said this dream can be fulfilled if the mining company will invest in their mineral-rich land and provide educational support for their children.
"We now have a teacher," beamed Edal, adding that it is the only profession their tribe "can be proud of at present."
He said he knows their tribe will be prioritized by the company's scholarship program because even before its actual mining operation, it has been agreed as early as its exploration phase that TVIRD will provide a scholarship program for the tribe.
"Actually, even during its exploration stage, a scholarship program was already put in place and we already have scholars courtesy of TVIRD," he said.
Balabag is part of TVIRD's 4,779-hectare MPSA, which already received an approved Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) in 2013 and Declaration of Mine Project Feasibility in 2016. It also received an approval for its Social Development Management Program from the MGB in May 2014.
"The approval of the ECC confirms that the company has satisfied the requirements of Presidential Decree 1586 that will secure Bayog's environment," TVIRD in a statement said.
On February 14, though, the company was among the 75 MPSA holders recommended for cancellation by Lopez. (SunStar Philippines)