LA TRINIDAD -- Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan has ordered the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to listen to the sentiments of the people of Barangay Palina before allowing mining exploration in the area.

"Even if they say a Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) is not needed, the people should say 'yes' first," Fongwan said.

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The governor said he is set to formally write the NCIP, and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje through Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Executive Director Clarence Baguilat.

"Let us get to reality, there will be a problem with peace and order if they proceed, look at what happened before," he added.

Recently, Regional Director Amador Batay-an of the NCIP said even though the agency has recalled the mining permits of Da Gama Minerals, Gambang Mining and Development Corporation will come in.

Gambang Mining holds a 25-year Mining Lease Contract (MLC) Area, which expires only on 2012 without the need to conduct an FPIC, the NCIP head said.

Barangay officials met with the Provincial Board and Fongwan Monday morning to discuss about the problem of mining in their area with a slew of companies wanting to explore the town.

Residents, however, have consistently opposed exploration activities, maintaining a "no mining policy" in the area.

The governor said the peace and order situation in the area is crucial if there is no social acceptability. "Social acceptability is the most important," he said. (Ma. Elena Catajan)