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An article for the Cordillera based newspaper, Northern Dispatch, recounts the violent dispersal of a community barricade against the Lepanto Mining Company and South African mining conglomerate Goldfields 0n September 17:
According to Cupido Banias of the Save Mankayan Movement (SMM) and resident of Sitio Madaymen of Barangay Tabeo, Mankayan, Benguet, the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who served the court order and attempted to disperse their anti-drilling barricade on September 17 only confirmed where their loyalty lies by the actions and attitude they displayed toward the people at the barricade.
That day, more than 100 policemen belonging to the PNP where some of them were armed with shields and some with guns escorted nine provincial sheriffs to serve a court order directing the protesting people of Mankayan to cease and desist from stopping the drilling activities of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) and South African mining giant Gold Fields Ltd joint venture Far South East project.
Violence erupts when mine employees and company guards and the police tried to force their way through the human barricade of the Mankayan residents. According to reports, one resident and a cop suffered head lacerations and many others suffered from minor bruises.
The Mankayan elder also questioned why the police instead of going back to the municipality’s police headquarters the night after the incident, they went to the company compound and stationed themselves there. He revealed that some policemen even escorted company employees to bring packed food for the employees and guards at the drilling site. He said police vehicles were even used to ferry more company equipment.
“Awan, saan min a maitalek nga agpatulong kadagiti tattao a rumbeng lang a tumulong ta isu trabaho da, ti manamnama mi laengen ket ti determinasyon ken panagtitinnulong mi,” (We cannot trust anymore the people who should be helping us as it is their mandate, we can only rely on our determination and our unity) Banias sighed.
In a press release by the national democratic Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), which fights to defend the ancestral homeland of the Igorot peoples of the Cordilleras, CPA stated:
We support the continuing struggle of the people of Mankayan in opposition to the drilling operation of Goldfields and expansion of Lepanto. The resilience shown by the people of Tabeo, Mankayan and members of Save Mankayan Movement to keep their barricade standing for eight-long months despite all the efforts of Goldfields, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company and state armed forces to disperse the residents is an inspiration for all those are fighting for their land, life and livelihood against large scale and destructive mining.
We join the callof the people of Mankayan and all other communities to bring to an end Lepanto’s more than seven decades of operation and greed that destroyed scores of livelihood, poisoned the Abra River, and continue to threaten the health and safety of the residents of the people. Lepanto’s operation significantly contributes to the pollution of the AbraRiver – a critical ecosystem and wildlife habitat, a major source of irrigation, fish and other aquatic food for the communities from Benguet, to Abraand down to Ilocos Sur. The company’s Dam 5A which hold tens of thousands of toxic mining wastes is a clear and present danger to the communities along the Abra River given Lepanto’s history of dam leakage and collapse. The aforesaid destructions and risk will considerably increase Goldfields’ operation. We will neither be cowed nor silenced by brute force and deception perpetuated by the State, Lepanto and other large-scale and destructive mining companies. We shall continue to struggle – side by side with other communities and organizations against environmental plunder and abuse for we are bound not only by our commitment for environmental security and justice but also with our divine covenant to
be stewards of God’s creation.