DAVAO CITY -- Sensing that the Aquino administration supports large-scale mining companies, small-scale miners in the gold-rich mountain of Diwalwal in Compostela Valley will push through Wednesday their massive protest action.
Towards the end of the term of former President Gloria Arroyo, the Diwalwal miners planned to stage a massive protest against the plan to hand over a chunk of the mining area to big mining companies. The plan, however, was staved off to give the administration of President Benigno Aquino III a chance to set things right.
Mt. Diwata village chief Franco Tito said they decided to proceed with the protest rally after sensing that the administration of President Benigno Aquino III could not help them in their problem with the entry of multinational mining corporations in Diwalwal.
Tito said they will first meet with Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy in Nabunturan before they will proceed to a still undisclosed location to hold their protest action.
But Uy, who expressed dismay on the planned protest action, said Tuesday that he will not be able to meet the local miners because he is in Manila.
Tito said it is highly possible that they will again block a bridge anywhere in the region to air their sentiments to the National Government.
In the past, Diwalwal miners blocked bridges in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte during their protest actions, which resulted in violent dispersals. Miners also placed caskets of dead miners on the bridge as a symbol of their protest.
Tito vowed that the National Government would have no other choice but to listen to them once they hold their protest action.
Tito personally delivered the Diwalwal miners' plea to the Office of the President last week but he said it seems that President Aquino could not do anything to help them due to the pressure from big corporations.
More than 40,000 small-scale miners opposed the reported plan of the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) to bid out the 600-meter area of the 729-hectare gold site, which is directly below the site where small-scale miners are operating now.
The miners have called Aquino to intervene and prevent renewed chaos in Diwalwal that is considered to contain the richest gold deposit in the area with estimated gold reserves of over $18 billion.
Tito also raised howl upon discovering that almost two thirds of the area of the small-scale miners in Diwalwal was "sold" to the JB Management Mining Corporation (JBMMC) owned by the family of Monkayo Mayor Manuel Brillantes Jr.
The joint operating agreement (JOA) entered into by the government's Natural Resources Development Corporation (NRDC) with the JBMMC was for the 452.29 hectares out of the 729 hectare Diwalwal area.
Tito said the JOA was forged and made effective starting March 15, 2010 and will last for 25 years.
The signatories to the agreement were NRDC president Melchor Monsod and Provincial Board Member and JBMMC president Joselito Brillantes.
The village head appealed to the National Government to give priority to the small-scale miners who only want to make an honest livelihood in mining. He said that contrary to large-scale mining, small-scale mining has benefited many poor miners.
"Mining in Diwalwal has made miners multi-millionaires and powerful politicians. Where do you think former governor Jose Caballero, Governor Arturo Uy, Tagum City Mayor Uy, and Representative Manuel Zamora started from? They all benefited from the small-scale mining in Diwalwal. Now tell me who among the workers in a large-scale mining got rich? No one, because they remain to be lowly workers while the capitalists get rich," Tito said.
He said it is also only in Diwalwal that communist rebels and government soldiers get to work alongside with each other without killing each other.
Tito revealed that rebels who also work in Diwalwal have formed a mining corporation and decided not to return to the rebel movement.
Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte earlier declared that the gold-rich mountain in Monkayo, Compostela Valley is better left for the local miners than for multinational mining corporations.
When informed of the planned protest action of the miners, Duterte said he would not interfere on the problem. (Ben O. Tesiorna of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)