KIBUNGAN, Benguet – After several years of leading the community in opposing the entry of a mining company for mineral exploration in this town, leaders of indigenous peoples’ group here are bent on pushing for initiatives to defend the town’s ancestral domain.
Jose Gallano, president of the Palina Indigenous Peoples Community Association (PIPCA), disclosed that townsfolk will continue to petition Congress to enact a law exempting Kibungan from any mining application as the bill re-filed by Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan for this purpose could not be acted upon this time because the august body is already on recess for the election period.
Cosalan, in response to strong clamor from residents and town officials, filed a bill in the previous Congress declaring Kibungan a mining free zone, which was approved by the lower house but was not acted by the Senate before the 2016 national and local election.
The Benguet solon refiled this bill during the present congress and got the support of the members of the Committee on Natural Resources after conducting several hearings which Kibungan elders attended.
But with a new congress on June 30 this year, Gallano said their group will have to help lobby anew for a similar proposed bill as the legislative process will be back to square one.
He said town elders remain hopeful that whoever will succeed the third termer Cosalan as Benguet congressman will still support the move to declare Kibungan a mining-free zone.
“We will continue to lobby for the enactment of a law exempting Kibungan from any mining application so that we will be assured that our land and resources especially our water sources are protected for the benefit of future generations,” Gallano said.
He added that the collective position of townsfolk against large scale mining was based on sad lessons from mining devastated communities.
Gallano pointed out that agriculture and eco-tourism remain the potential sources of sustainable livelihood for the town populace.
As another means to protect their ancestral domain, the elder further revealed that PIPCA is also pushing for the declaration of the century-old Palina Rice Terraces as heritage site. If this will materialize, Gallano explained, the rice terraces and the whole of Palina barangay will be protected.
Gallano is thus appealing for incoming local officials to initiate measures for the possible heritage site recognition of Palina and other areas of the town apart from incorporating this under the town’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP).
By Macarthy Malanes