Conflict among Tagbanuas in Berong rises due to royalty share


By Cheryl A. Galili

INTERNAL DISPUTE due to alleged misappropriation of around P15 million turned over to them by Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC) as 1% royalty share from its large scale mining operation in barangay Berong, Quezon is threatening to break the relationship among members of the Berong Aramaywan Tagbanua Association (BATA).

The information was disclosed by Vice Governor David A. Ponce de Leon during the session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last week. He said leaders and members of the BATA are quarreling with one another because of alleged illegal withdrawals and irregular disbursements of a large portion of the royalty fund released by the BNC from 2007.

The BATA is composed of Tagbanua families from barangays Berong and Aramaywan, recognized by the BNC as rightful IP communities living near the area it is mining.

Ponce de Leon said he has also obtained documents from reliable sources that can prove the leaders of the BATA have set up their own mining corporation, registered in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under the name West Coast of Palawan Mining Corporation (WCPMC) without consulting the general membership of the BATA.

The mining corporation, according to the documents, has an investment totaling to P2.5 million which might have allegedly come from the royalty fund.

Ponce de Leon told members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that complaints have reached him that the BATA leaders are slowly depleting the royalty fund deposited in the Palawan Development Bank (PDB).

One million pesos, he related, was withdrawn from PDB to pay Virto Daso for 14,000 pieces of coconut seedlings. Daso, according to sources by Palawan Times, is formerly connected with the Palawan Tropical Forestry Protection Program (PTFPP) and has a farm in barangay San Jose.

Ponce de Leon is baffled why the BATA would choose to pay such large amount to an individual who is not accredited to sell coconut seedlings by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) that is in fact, distributing them for free to encourage the sprout of more coconut tree farmers.

“The supplier is not accredited by the PCA and surprisingly, he is also an incorporator in this mining corporation that some of the BATA leaders have set up,” he said.

He is also curious, he said, by the fact that the personalities that set up the mining corporation is Efifanio Marcelo, a member of the board of BATA, and its manager is his son Mike Marcelo. Another daughter is reportedly holding an important position in the WSPMC.

“They must be able to explain why this (the mining corporation) happened without the members of the BATA being consulted,” he stated.

Ponce de Leon said that because of the current situation in the BATA, Governor Joel T. Reyes has already called on the Advisory Board (AB) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to intervene. He has also requested the leaders of the association to submit their liquidation, as well as receipts of their incurred expenses.

“Illegal withdrawal is like estafa,” Ponce de Leon, who is himself a lawyer, said.

During the last meeting of the Advisory Board (AB), a body that was created to guide and assist the BATA in its development decisions and management of their royalty fund, the leaders reportedly denied the establishment of the WCPMC which was contrary to the documents he obtained.

When inquired about how much money they still have in the bank, the leaders claimed they still have around P9 million in PDB. But unverified information reaching Palawan Times claimed that the BATA’s fund has been reduced to a mere P4.5 million.

On July 16, Quezon Mayor Ronilo Caputilla called a general assembly for the BATA members to hear their grievances. From this assembly, Ponce de Leon was allegedly informed that the members have signified intention to call for a new election to change the board members of the BATA.

Prior to the meeting, Caputilla, when interviewed by the media, said he called the meeting due to numerous complaints from members of the Tagbanua association who doubt the honesty and integrity of their leaders. He said his mediation was called to mend the conflict as all remain hopeful of future developments that can help them.

“The AB has ordered the leaders of the BATA to make a liquidation of their expenses,” Ponce de Leon furthered, saying that if they fail to do so, as per a supplemental memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed earlier, the BNC will not release their 2008 royalty fund.

Believed to be already amounting to P6 million, the royalty share from the current year can be instead deposited in a trust fund under the BATA.

Should intervention fail to repair the conflict within the Tagbanua association in Quezon town, the BNC, as a last resort, can initiate an action called “Interpleader” in order to compel two or more parties to litigate a dispute.

Interpleader is a form of action originally developed under equity jurisprudence. An interpleader action originates when the plaintiff holds property on behalf of another, but does not know to whom the property should be transferred.

In the case of BNC, if the conflict within the BATA takes long to resolve, it can choose to do this action so parties can fight over the royalty share in court.

“As a last resort, BNC can file a petition to the court, this is called interpleader, and deposit the money to a clerk of court so parties fighting over it can let the court resolve the issue,” he said.

“Illegal withdrawal is like estafa,” he said, claiming he is thoroughly disappointed about how the BATA has turned out following BNC’s release of their 1% share from 2007.

“The BATA could have been part of history because this is the first time in Palawan that an indigenous group of people has received shares that’s mandated under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act,” he said.(PalawanTimes)

2 Responses to “Conflict among Tagbanuas in Berong rises due to royalty share”

  1. ASHELON JOYA Says:

    i think the proper term is syndicated estafa… kahit sa traditional laws and practices eh wala na sa set of officers ng BATA eh.. they no longer conform sa traditional law ng Tagbanua… ang totoong katutubong tagbanua may pagpapahalaga sa dignidad… KARANGALAN…..

    BarangayRP:

    Tumpak!

    Pero ang karanasang ito’y nagpapakita ng reyalidad na wala nang ligtas sa korapsyon ngayon, maliban sa mga organisadong lakas at kilusan na may matibay na paninidigan laban sa korapsyon.

  2. hulog ng langit Says:

    mga tanga kasi amputa

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