By Elmer James Bandol
MASBATE CITY, 23November2016 (BicolToday.com) – Group of farmers has belied reports on television and national newspapers that Filminera Mining Company in Aroroy, Masbate has stopped it’s operation despite pronouncements made by DENR Sec. Gina Lopez, who, in two separate occasions came to visit said mining firm charged by farmers lording over them.
This was bared Thursday by Mike Nogas, president of the Provincial Land Reform Farmers Multi-purpose Cooperative (PLRFMC), saying that “it was all publicity gimmick to make the people believed, in Masbate and other parts of the country, that the giant mining firm lording in our place has been suspended, but not even a single day it stopped”.
Sec Lopez went to the mining site on August and November this year allegedly to audit the giant firm to get first-hand information from the aggrieved farmers upon learning that the audit team that checked Filminera was not represented by the civil society organization (CSO).
According to Nogas, the DENR czar’s visits yielded no better result against farmers’ grievances but instead TV and newspaper reports came out that Filmenira is among the 10 firms under suspension out of the 20 big mining companies identified in media publicity. “This is a 64 dollar question, what happened? This should be made public”, he added.
Nogas’ group has small scale mining claims not covered by Filminera and had been in the agenda of the Provincial Mineral Resources Board (PMRB) since 1993 that remained unresolved by the Mines & Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
As an alternative, Nogas wrote a letter to Bert Buniales, president of Mindanao Federation of Small-Scale Miners (MFSSM), and with attached documents explained the sad plight of farmers in Masbate with seeming neglect from concerned officials in the government believed in the payrolls of the giant firms.
They believed that Filmenira has over abused and extended its jurisdiction over barangays that are not covered by their exploration permit limited up to 300 hectares and not included those barangays where small-scale mining operates even before Filminera’s operation started.
Nogas showed the contract of sale for ore materials executed by and between his group and Atlas Consolidated Mining Corp.,dated Feb. 8, 1994, as an evidence that his group has legitimate contract and has existed even before Filmenira came.
Two months ago, six small-scale miners including Nogas’ have filed a complaint of illegal detention by security personnel of the mining firm after shanties and mining tunnels were destroyed using heavy equipment of Filminera. The same group has filed human rights violation with the Commission on Human Rights in Legazpi City but still awaiting resolution.
Like the claim of the local farmers’ cooperative that under small-scale mining law they can mine the area given to them, however, failure on the part of certain government agencies to do their job, poverty in this rich gold town has worsened, as they pushed the Provincial Mineral Resources Board must function under the principle of transparency and not a handful persons only knew how much money transfers to few hands. [BicolToday.com]