ITOGON, Benguet – The municipal government urged the environment department to allow the use of a portion of the P1.2 billion penalty paid by the Philex Mining Corporation to the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) for the damages caused by the accidental leak of its tailings pond in 2012 for the compensation of the indigenous peoples living downstream of the company’s mining operations because they also suffered damages due to the aforesaid fortuitous event.
Mayor Victorio T. Palangdan stated he intends to appeal to the Office of the President the earlier decision of the environment department to deny his request to use a portion of the paid penalty purposely for the benefit of indigenous peoples living downstream the mine camp for them to recover from the impact of the accidental tailings pond leak in 2012.
He said it is unfortunate that the environment department, in the agency’s reply to his previous request, stipulated that the penalty paid by the mining company to the PAB will be used for its research, thus, the proposed use of a portion of the funds for the benefit of indigenous peoples cannot be granted.
The municipal chief executive argued that it is just a portion of the fund that the local government is requesting from the environment department for the payment of the damages sustained by the indigenous cultural communities living downstream the mining camp heavily impacted by the accidental tailings pond leak but it is disheartening to be informed that such funds will be used for the agency’s research.
According to him, the indigenous peoples deserve to be given just compensation for the damages they suffered from the unforeseen event in the history of the operation of one of the country’s major producer of copper and gold thus the municipal government is extending the needed assistance for them to be able to be appropriately compensated.
Earlier, Palangdan proposed to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu that a portion of the P1.2 billion penalty paid by Philex Mining Corporation to the PAB for the damages to the environment inflicted by its accidental tailings pond leak in August 2012 will be used to compensate the IPs living downstream who were also heavily impacted by the said incident.
The mayor pointed out that the unfortunate denial of his earlier request, in behalf of the IPs, is a serious setback in the enforcement of the pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) to advance the interest of the IPs over their ancestral domain.
Palangdan expressed confidence that President Rodrigo Duterte will see the wisdom of his request and will reverse the earlier decision of the environment department on the matter because what the municipal government is fighting for is the greater interest of the IPs living in their domain. By HENT