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Itogon Folk Unite Against Renewed Threats to their Ancestral Lands
With the once abundant ricefields lost due to highly-extractive mining operations, residents of several communities in Itogon have banded together to oppose the Kelly Special Economic Zone (KSEZ) -- Benguet Corporation's latest project in this once gold-rich municipality about 20 kilometers southeast of Baguio City.
In a recent press conference held by the Itogon Inter-Barangay Alliance (IIBA), leaders of Gumatdang, Loacan and Tuding barangays expressed their opposition to the said project as they fear the KSEZ will further disposses them of their lands
"We thought our problems were over after they (Benguet Corp.) mined the gold, but new problems are emerging," said Bing Sagamang, youth leader of the Kawa-Ducot-Sabdang-Batawil Neighborhood Association in Gumatdang. She added that KSEZ will displace at least 237 families in Gumatdang and Tuding whose residents are made up mostly of Ibaloys and a few Kankanaeys and Kalanguyas.
According to documents gathered by the group, the KSEZ sits on a 133-hectare land covered by Benguet Corp.'s mineral claims. It is envisioned to be an "information technology innovation and business center" by the year 2000. The KSEZ will house offices and laboratory facilities that can be used by industrial corporations for information technology research and electronic hardware and software design.
In 1998, the company succeeded in getting then President Fidel Ramos to issue Proclamation No. 1248 which designated the KSEZ. Now, Benguet Corp. is invoking the provisions of Administrative Order No. 20, series of 1992, to have its land conversion plan for the proposed KSEZ approved.

BENGUET CORP OPENS ECO-TOURISM SITES
Itogon, Benguet, Dec. 29, 1997 - Benguet Corporation, one of the country's oldest gold mining companies, has opened some of its old mining facilities to tourists, who see for themselves how the precious metal is extracted from the bowels of the Benguet mountains to become the most sought-after metal for investment and personal adornment.
In addition to the mine site tours, tourists many now visit two eco-tourism parks recently opened to the public by Benguet Corporation.
Crosby Park and Balatoc Lake, both only 30 minutes away from Baguio City, provide alternate tour destinations and activities for people who have grown tired of Baguio's attractions.
Crosby Park offers a hike-and-camp site, complete with playgrounds for children.
Balatoc Lake offers boating an fishing activities, as well as facilities for conferences, retreats and seminars.

Six hotsprings up for development
TRINIDAD, Benguet, Oct. 22 (PNA)--Priority tourist attractions up for development are six hot springs situated in different municipalities in Benguet, according to Provincial Tourism Officer Claire Prudencio.
They are the Asin hotspring in Tuba, Dalupirip hotspring in Itogon, Badekbek sulphuric hotspring in Daclan, Bokod; Kibungan Central hotspring, Tuel hotspring in Tublay, and Buguias central hotspring.
Prudencio said the tourist attractions need access and facility development plus proper promotion.
Tourism Secretary Mina T. Gabor has already been asked to help source out funds for facilities like viewdecks, waiting sheds resthouses, comfort rooms and flood control.
P3 million is needed for the tourism-enhancement program, with P500,000 to be alloted for every spring resort.