LA TRINIDAD, Benguet - Board Member Johnny Waguis vowed to protect the rights of indigenous people (IP) involved in the mining mess in Kibungan town here.

The first neophyte board member volunteered to help the Committee on Mining and Environment as it tackles protests from residents of the town against Da Gama Minerals, a firm exploring the area for minable minerals.

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Waguis said "we will study the issues as long as there are IPs concerned, we will help."

Waguis was appointed head for the Committee on Indigenous Peoples last week. "I have to serve my responsibility as [its] chairman."

Recently the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), in a surprise decision, recalled permits of Da Gama resulting to maintain a status quo in Kibungan.

Residents of Barangay Palina and Poblacion have consistently opposed exploration activities in the areas and maintain a "no mining policy."

Waguis said a site inspection is needed for him to access the needs of the people involved. "If we have to go there, we will."

Weeks ago, the Philippine National Police was forced to mediate with residents and mining representatives to stop misunderstandings becoming full blown fights. They were assisted with members of the Philippine Army. (Maria Elena Catajan)