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Wala pang permit! NCIP: Mining firms of Villars, Zamoras operating illegally in Mindanao

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By Ben Serrano

Mining companies owned by the Villars and Zamoras have been operating in the Caraga region for years without a document required under Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has found.

NCIP-Caraga regional director Ferdausi Sanila Cerna told Politiko that the Villar-owned Agata Mining Ventures Inc. (AMVI) and the Zamoras’ Nickel Asia were among the eight mining firms which he found to be lacking a Certification Precondition (CP).

The other mining companies which don’t have CPs are San Roque Metals Corporation (SRMI), Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC), Adnama Mining Resources Incorporated (AMRI), Taganito HPAL Nickel Corporation (THPAL) Platinum Group Metals Corporation (PGMC), and Greenstone Mining.

However, SRMI, TMC, THPAL, PGMC and Greenstone Mining have pending applications for CP.

Cerna said he discovered about the mining companies’ illegal operations when he asked for copies of their memoranda of agreement (MOA) with indigenous peoples from NCIP’s Ancestral Domain Office in Manila.

Michael Mamukid, bureau director of the NCIP’s Ancestral Domain Office, told Cerna in a letter obtained by Politiko that only SRMI, TMC, THPAL, PGMC Mining and Greenstone Mining have MOAs with IPs.

“AMVI, Nickel Asia and AMRI have not applied for a Certification Precondition,” read the letter dated October 22, 2019.

Free, informed consent needed

Under RA 8371, government agencies can’t issue any concession, license or lease, as well as enter into any production-sharing agreement, without prior certification from the NCIP that the area affected does not overlap with any ancestral domain.

NCIP will only provide the certification after getting the free and prior informed and written consent of IPs or indigenous cultural communities (ICC) concerned.

IPs and ICCs have the right to stop and suspend a project which don’t satisfy the requirement of the consultation process.

Cerna said mining firms must obtain a CP even if it already has a MOA with IPs and ICCs.

“The CP is proof that the FPIC (free and prior informed and written consent) process has been complied with. The applicant must not operate if it doesn’t have CP,” he said.

Gov’t, IPs get no share from mining

Cerna said the lack of CP means mining firms can get away with depriving IPs and the government of their fair share from their operations.

He believes the mining companies were able to operate for years despite failure to obtain a CP because of collusion with erring NCIP officials in previous administrations.

“Just imagine how many years the mining firms have been getting away with not giving the IPs and government what they are due under the law. Some of them have been operating for decades without CP,” Cerna said.

The NCIP official said he has written AMVI about its violation of the IPRA Law. He will send similar letters to the other erring mining companies.

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