TUBA, Benguet – Philex Mining Corp. has asked a regional trial court to order at least 24 men and women belonging to an “unincorporated group” who it also accused of not honoring the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by that court, to keep a distance of at least 10 kilometers away from its tailings pond, which they had barricaded earlier over misplaced demands for royalties.
In a 31-page urgent motion filed Tuesday, April 3, before RTC Benguet’s Branch 62, Philex Mining accused Erick “Erich” Pitelan, leader of the self-named “Damstream Indigenous Group,” and his companions of violating several provisions of the TRO, which is valid until April 12 when the injunction hearing of the case will be held.
“Wherefore, Philex respectfully prays that the Honorable Court issue an order directing the Respondents to disband and remove their vehicles and thereafter to refrain from coming to within ten (10) kilometres from any appurtenance of Philex’s TSF3, except those residing near the TSF3 Land Bridge, and to direct them not to go closer than that distance to prevent any further acts of disrupting Philex’s operations at TSF3 that are permitted by the Order,” the company said.
Philex Mining said Pitelan, his 23 companions, and several other “John Does” were again seen at the TSF3, in Itogon town’s Brgy. Ampucao, on several occasions during the Holy Week, preventing some employees and contract workers from carrying out their duties at the tailings pond and its open spillway. The affidavits of said workers were included in the complaint.
It added that at the hearing on Philex’s TRO application, Philex Mining had reached an agreement with Pitelan, et al. that the latter “would ensure, among other [things], the unimpeded backfilling of its dikes” at the TSF3.
The TRO was issued Tuesday, March 27, by Judge Emmanuel Cacho Rasing, of the RTC Branch 10, in La Trinidad, telling Pitelan, et al. to allow Philex Mining, which had petitioned the court for injunction and damages, to resume carrying out without delay its works on the TSF3 and its accompanying structures like the open spillway.
Rasing listed 10 items, such as the general cleaning of the open spillway and the backfilling of dikes no more than three meters high, which had stopped temporarily when Pitelan, et. al put up a barricade at the TSF3 and its open spillway on Thursday, March 22, and removed it only on Tuesday, March 27, following the issuance of a TRO.
Philex Mining earlier argued that should it fail to continue with its works on the backfilling of dikes at its TSF3 due to the barricade or any acts by Pitelan, et al., the tailings pond would overflow and adversely affect the nearby rivers and farmlands, as well as the livelihood of the surrounding residents.
Joan de Venecia, vice president at Philex Mining’s Legal Dept., and Guillermo Bandonill, an external co-counsel, told the court on March 27 of government regulations allowing the company to maintain a freeboard at its TSF3, otherwise this would overflow, putting its surroundings in danger and stopping the miner’s operations.
Philex Mining said demands for royalties by Pitelan, et al. were misplaced, as they had been duly paid by the company for their land claims, and are not entitled to receive royalty payments from Philex Mining, whether by law or contract.