Green group wants ‘sale’ of Diwalwal stopped

ENVIRONMENTAL activists and indigenous peoples groups called on the government to stop the looming privatization of gold-rich Mt. Diwalwal in Monkayo, Compostela Valley.

The Philippine Mining Development Corp., which manages the mining site, is set to bid the 729-hectare Mt. Diwalwal on July 30.

“Mt. Diwalwal is part of the rich patrimony of our nation. The government should protect, utilize and develop Mt. Diwalwal for the benefit of the people and the country,” said Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

The Diwalwal mine site sits within the 8,100-hectare mineral reservation area declared by the Arroyo government in 2002. It is believed to contain $14 billion worth of gold and $4.5 billion worth of silver.

Diwalwal is a village found on top of the mountain in Monkayo municipality in Compostela Valley province with a population of about 46,000. More than half of them are small-scale miners.

“Selling [the area] to private and foreign hands will bring massive displacement of small-scale miners and indigenous peoples, grave ecological degradation, fast depletion of our resources, and eventually extensive environmental disasters,” Bautista said.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas estimates that some P2 billion worth of gold is produced in Diwalwal yearly.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Diwalwal produces 25 percent of the country’s gold.

“The abuse of Diwalwal’s natural resources of private companies has long been the source of conflict and tragedy to the residents of Diwalwal,” said Rey Elijorde, spokesperson of a local peoples’ organization.

The government has already privatized 4,275 hectares of mineral lands to private and foreign mining companies, namely: Paraiso Consolidated Mining Corp., Carrascal Nickel Corp., and Blackstone Mineral Resources Inc.

“The management of PMDC… has not given harmony to Diwalwal’s mining industry but more environmental destruction and militarization,” Elijorde said.

In 2009, Governor Arturo Uy said that while mining firms earn from the province’s natural resources, they pay excise taxes directly to the national government. He lamented that in 10 years, the province’s revenue from mining was only P305,000. D’Jay Lazaro

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