by Jimmy Laking
Barangay officials and community residents of Palina in Kibungan, Benguet have denounced a statement attributed to a mining company that tended to link villagers to the rebel group New People’s Army.
“This is damaging to the integrity and reputation of the community,” the officials said in a resolution addressed to Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan, the provincial board, and the Philippine National Police.
The barangay officials called on the PNP to investigate the “truth or falseness” of the statement attributed to the mining company.
The barangay officials said the statement was contained in a comment furnished by the company, through its legal counsel, Atty. Rodrigo Kito, to the municipal circuit trial court of Kapangan.
The barangay officials said Kito, in the comment, described Barangay Palina as “known to be an NPA infested area.”
In their resolution, the barangay officials and IPO officials denied knowledge of NPA presence in their community and that it is peaceful and free from the presence of NPAs.
They added they felt bad towards the statement because it tended to describe their place as a NPA haven and its residents protectors of the outlawed organization.
The barangay officials said Da Gama Minerals, Inc. or Kito have no authority to declare the barangay as infested with NPAs.
The company has filed charges for theft, robbery, and malicious mischief against several Palina residents after they prevented a mining crew from its attempt to bring equipment for exploration work in the community last year.
The people’s organization responded by filing a complaint for damages at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
The IPO has ruled out sitting down with the company to settle the cases out of court if the condition is to allow the company to continue with its exploration.
Galiano said the community has remained firm in its opposition to exploration and to any mining activity in the area.