Government neglect pushed Bakun folk into allowing mining exploration

BAKUN, Benguet — The longing for proper access roads to and from their farms and vegetable gardens pushed some residents of barangay Gambang here to give their consent to the mine exploration project by Royalco Philippines.

During the turn-over ceremonies at the Tingbaoen-Galisen Elementary School where Royalco donated some 450 bags of portland cement for the concreting of the basketball court pavement, Yugo elder Willie Calixto said they had made several requests for the improvement of their dirt roads. “The provincial government has not prioritized the road funds for the said barangay,” he said.

In his speech, Paul Bagano, representing Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan, said barangay officials keep hounding the governor’s office for support to improve their road but there are no funds so that they keep returning to Gambang in vain.

The community aspires to open a new farm-to-market road from sitio Sookan to Balite and Liwang, which was reportedly programmed as a provincial road at the time of the exploration by Trans-Asia Mining Corporation in the early 1970’s.

Calixto said the road project was abandoned when the company left in 1978. “Adu a complain ti tao idi,” (People complained of many things) he said, citing the requests for piped water from the source to the residential homes and gardens, among others.

No new road in MOA

The Memorandum of Agreement the community entered into with Royalco in January cited only road maintenance of the existing road from sitio Sookan to sitio Gambang Proper, and Kil-ingan in sitio Taneg. It also included the rehabilitation of the road connecting sitio Liwang and Nasungyoan and the rehabilitation of two existing footbridges in sitios Gaddang and Labilab.

No construction of any new road was mentioned in the said MOA, however.

Another elder from Yugo Alex Soriano said the diamond drilling done in his farm paved the construction of a dirt road. Drilling equipment had to be brought down to the drilling site that required the opening of an access road.

The approved exploration work involves diamond drilling in several sampling sites in four sitios of Gambang, namely Gambang Proper, Yugo, Tuwa-ok and Tood. It also includes the gathering of rock samples along the river or on the road.

River stones, rocks and drilling core samples are then tested for mineral content in the core house in Sinipsip. Assay is done in Metro Manila, according to Engr. Ruben Quitoriano, Royalco senior mining engineer. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

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