LA TRINIDAD, Benguet - Elders of the Bakun-Aywanan people's organization are restless after finding out their opposition for phase II and III mining exploration has gone to waste.

The people's organizations continue to oppose Royalco's exploration in their town.

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Royalco is an Australian mining company in Gambang.

Elders went to the Provincial Capitol Monday to submit yet another protest to the project before going to the Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB).

Mario Layugan of the Council of elders said exploration operations continued while the supposed memorandum of agreement with locals for the remaining phases II and III is still being processed.

Layugan, together with other elders, also got hold of documents confirming that permits for Royalco were already given as of October last year to explore the last two phases.

Last year the group submitted a letter to National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Cordillera Administrative Region Director Amador Batay-an requesting him to stop the signing of the MOA for Phase III.

An order from the central office allowed the mining firm to proceed, basing on the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) documents.

The elder's fear that since the NCIP as well as the MGB have given their permission to the Australian firm to continue, phases four, five, and six will soon follow expanding outside Barangay Gambang to neighboring Kibungan town.

The exploration has five phases covering a total of 5,400 hectares.

Layugan said "we believe that this is a continuing violation of our collective rights as one ancestral domain. Our efforts to of asserting our rights to free-and-prior-informed consent and to maintain and strengthen our distinctive spiritual relationship with our lands and other resources and to uphold our responsibilities for future generations were not recognized."

Elders from the group believe a flawed FPIC was conducted by the NCIP because majority of elders were not informed that a FPIC has eventually happened.