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Ilocos OFWs oppose entry of mining firm

16 May 2017

Ilocos Sur and Cordillera OFW groups show their opposition to mining, saying it is the people who will lose out in the future.

By Vir B. Lumicao

People of Cervantes in Ilocos Sur are up in arms against the entry of a mining company in their quiet agricultural highland town to explore and mine for gold and minerals in its mountains bordering the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Hong Kong-based OFWs from Cervantes voiced their opposition to plans by Cordillera Exploration Inc, or CEXCI, to mine the mountains in their town during festivities celebrating Cordillera Day on Chater Road on April 30.

CEXCI, a subsidiary of Nickel Asia, is planning to expand its mining operations to Cervantes and Suyo in Ilocos Sur and parts of Benguet and Mountain Province.

The company said it had applied for a financial and technical assistance agreement over its property in Mankayan, part of which is in the process of conversion to an exploration permit.

“We were surprised when people from the company visited our town starting in 2012 and consulted us residents about its exploration plans in our localities,” Norma Ayala, president of Cervantes Association of Hong Kong, said during the Chater event.

She said the company representatives returned every year until 2016 when the issue blew up because six out of the town’s barangay captains voted in favor of the company’s exploration plan while three others who understood the impact of mining opposed it.

The six village leaders approved the plan because they did not understand the issue as the company did not explain it very clearly, she said. The townspeople were also surprised when they heard that the municipal mayor also approved it, Ayala said.

“We oppose the project because it will destroy our Paradise which is Cervantes,” Ayala said.
She said the company had already carried out explorations in the adjoining town of Mankayan and is planning to extend this to the Ilocos Sur town of Suyo.

Ayala said the river in Cervantes that irrigates its farmlands come from the highlands of Mankayan, Tadian and Bakun, and flows down to Suyo. The mine tailings from the explorations would reportedly drift and poison the water and lands downriver, killing the fish and ruining the farms.
Ayala appealed for support from Hong Kong-based OFWs for the Cervantes people’s signature campaign expressing their opposition to the CEXCI’s exploration plans.  

 Genie Sacla, president of the Suyo, Ilocos Sur Association and Cervantes Group, said people in the adjoining towns of Suyo and Cervantes are divided over the mining issue because of their lack of understanding and explanation of its ill-effects.

She said residents were attracted to the company’s promises of development, such as building roads, a hospital and other projects, because the two towns were so poor and neglected. Now the roads have been built, but the company has gained entry, she said.

“We had a national road, but it was so dilapidated that AFreight didn’t want to deliver to our towns because the road was so bad,” Sacla said.

She urged the people of the affected towns and the Filipino nation to oppose mining and exploration “because there are no winners in mining but the mining companies and their top officials who move to other places after doing damage to a locality,” she said.

She said she was able to go to school because her father was a miner working for mining companies in Benguet and Zambales, but she saw how the industry poisoned waterways and laid waste to farmlands.

“Sa bandang huli, walang panalo, talo tayong lahat sa mining,” she said.

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