Itogon folk nix talks
DESPITE the absence of residents from the lower downstream communities, the dialogue today, December 9, with the Benguet Corporation (BC) and other stakeholders will push trough.
The meeting will be held today sans the opposition on the plans of BC to raise the level of Tailings Storage Facility 2.
Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan held a meeting On December 7 with the barangay captains of the lower downstream communities, together with the members of Municipal Council and the mining firm. Palangdan said to the concerned parties to talk for another round.
Barangay Poblacion chief Albert Carantes
Jr. said he informed the chief executive and the mining firm that concerned stakeholders still opposed the project and do not want to meet for the upcoming dialogue today.
“We consider this company project as direct violation to our IP rights and may be the ‘last nail in the coffin’ of downstream inhabitants. Accordingly, we immediately responded to make a stop to these on- going earthmoving and dumping activities. We set up a monitoring camp at the site to avert any attempt by the company to continue, as they declared that they will proceed with the project by hook or by crook,” he stressed.
Cornel added back in 2014, a memorandum of agreement between the mining firm and downstream barangays paved way to the raising of BC’s Tailings dam 2 to two meters to extend the life span of the tailings pond.
In 2019, BC informed of its plan to again raise the dam to five meters. In their presentations, BC reported substantial compliance to their commitments under the 2014 MOA which were rebutted by the affected communities during some dialogues.
Cornel added the people feared raising again the dam will further threat or impact the life, properties and environment downstream.
On February 2, 2020, the lower downstream communities signed a petition and called for the immediate stop of any activities and abandon the dam raising project.
“While we have been very supportive of the corporate initiatives and mining operations of Benguet Corporation for the past decades, we nevertheless are deeply concerned about the structural integrity as well as social and environmental impacts of raising the Tailings dam no. 2 which constitute the reason for this petition,” the petitioners stated.
Petitioners further asked for the various agencies to provide appropriate actions including for the Environment and Management Bureau – Cordillera Administrative Region (EMB – CAR) to revoke the environment compliance certificate (ECC) for the project, for Mines and Geoscience Bureau – CAR to withdraw order requiring BC to increase the height of the structure, and for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples ( NCIP – CAR) to require and not to exempt the company in adhering the process of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for the project.
The mining firm was also asked to improve and construct the appropriate drain tunnels and penstocks to contain the volume of water and debris coming from Balatoc and
Ambalanga rivers, complete the unfinished TD 2 Spillway, to submit an approved Final Mine Rehabilitation and Abandonment Plan with the corresponding approved budget, fully settle unpaid legitimate claims attributed to the dam’s construction and to provide the funding requirement and implement the Social Development Management Programs backlogs due to the host communities.
The petition was also supported by the local government of Itogon, issuing a stoppage order on August 5 to the activities in TSF 2 until such time the company secures necessary documents including a building permit.
Carantes added most stakeholders of the barangay want the company to transfer their TSF adding BC has backlogs such as the completion of the spillway of the dam and the improvement of the tunnels.