Itogon residents sue Benguet Corporation

THREE civil cases were filed at the Regional Trial Court in La Trinidad against Benguet Corporation (BC), the country's oldest mining company, for its Tailings Dam 2 Raising Project in Itogon, Benguet.

Various sectors and residents from the downstream indigenous communities of Itogon represented by barangay captains Edwin Atumpag (Tinongdan), Paul Camantiles (Dalupirip) and Albert Carantes Jr. (Poblacion) filed the complaints against the company represented by mining firm's resident manager Engr. Valeriano Bongalos Jr.

The first complaint filed in court is for "enforcement/violation of environmental rights with prayer for the issuance of a temporary/permanent protection order" and "abatement of public nuisance with prayer for the issuance of temporary restraining order."

They also filed for "enforcement of environmental laws with prayer for a temporary environmental protection order."

BC has yet to issue an official statement regarding the three civil cases.

Lawyer Froilan Lawilao, BC administrative manager, told SunStar Baguio that they will issue a statement in due time regarding the civil cases.

In 2020, the mining firm notified the community and Itogon officials, saying there are no other hindrances to further delay the implementation of the project.

The company said it will resume the dam raising activities the soonest possible time before the onset of heavy rains and typhoons, pointing out the dam raising is vital for the protection, safety, and integrity for the safe impoundment of tailings materials to the TSF 2 to avoid overspill.

The planned dam raising is up to a maximum of 775 meters but it will use only up to 773 meters as the additional two meters will be maintained as a freeboard.

The mining company in December 2020 added the current level of the TSF Dam 2 is at 770 meters.

Residents last year also reiterated their stand against the plan of the

mining firm to raise the level of the dam, citing their concern and opposition to the implementation of the project and cited the absence of Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC).

The communities asked for the immediate suspension and nullification of environment licenses for the project, conduct of an FPIC, investigation of the irregularities in the issuance of licenses, compliance in securing other permits or clearances such as barangay, municipal and provincial government endorsement, secure Protected Area and Management Board clearance, building permit, quarry permit, comply to prior commitments and environmental responsibilities, complete the dam 2 spillway, enhance and maintain the old and new diversion tunnels, pay the unpaid claims affected by the dam construction, implement the Social Development Management Programs and pay natural wealth share to the localities.

Meanwhile, while waiting for the three cases to be raffled by RTC, different puroks, sectors and groups continue to monitor the movements within the dam.

Through voluntary donations and assistances of volunteer lawyers from the affected communities, the daily needs at the dam site, as well as the filing of civil cases were made possible.


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