Irate villagers block road to Tampakan mining siteBy Edwin Espejo Nov 17, 2008 12:00AM UTC
GENERAL SANTOS CITY (November 17) – For the third time in a little over a year, residents in Tampakan, South Cotabato have again barricaded the road in barangay (village) Liberty that leads to the core farm and the drill sites of Sagittarius Mines Inc.
Carrying placards and streamers demanding for work, the protesters prevented vehicles owned by SMI from ferrying employees and workers to their worksites.
Liberty village chief Virgilio Lastima said residents have to resort to barricading the road after SMI reportedly failed to show up for a dialogue to discuss employment openings at the mining firm.
He said the village council could no longer prevent the protesters from launching the mass action.
The village council is also reportedly demanding its share of the annual community development fund of SMI as it also plays host to the company’s core farm.
Lastima said three villages in Tampakan are receiving P1 million worth of development fund from the company for hosting the mineral development site of SMI.
“Our village is hosting the core farm of the company but we don’t get any,” Lastima told reporters.
Barangays Pulabato, Danlag, Tablu are the three Tampakan villages that have been receiving the community development fund for hosting the mineral development site of SMI.
Tampakan police chief Senior Inspector Cesar Vio said the protesters are allowing other vehicles to pass through the barricade.
Company officials said they are willing to sit down with the protesting villagers.
“SMI will continue to work closely with our host communities through regular consultations and dialogue,” SMI communications head John Arnaldo said in a text message.
Arnaldo however said he is not familiar with the demand of the Liberty village council as regards the community development fund of the company.
But he gave assurances that SMI “explore, appropriate, reasonable, practical and mutually-beneficial sustainable solutions” to the demands of the protesters.
Promises of job opportunities were given to residents in Tampakan if they will support the mining project.
The company however has still limited manpower requirement as it is still in the exploration stage.
Early this year, SMI announced it will release the result of its extended pre-feasibility studies this month.
But last week, Arnaldo said the company has not yet finished its pre-feasibility studies.
SMI is reportedly eyeing to begin its mining operations in 2012 at the earliest.
The mining firm, which is 62.5 per cent owned by Xstrata Copper, is exploring world-class copper and gold deposits in the towns of Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur and Tampakan.
The company has been wracked by protests from environmentalists and the Catholic Church here.
On New Year’s Day this year, communist guerrillas raided the main base camp of SMI in Barangay Tablu and burned down several administration building.
The rebel also disarmed company guards before leaving and left warnings of more armed attacks.