September 11, 2019
KASIBU, NUEVA VIZCAYA– One hundred local members of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) together with Alyansa ng Magsasaka para sa Kalikasan ng Kasibu, and Didipio Earth Savers Movement (DESAMA) march in front of the OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI) gate in Didipio, ordering the immediate closure of their illegal mining operations.
"Hindi na dapat bigyan ng panibagong permit ang OceanaGold. Pagkasira lang na mga bundok namin ang dinala niyan dito. Tapos iiwanan pa kami ng maruming tubig at butas na bundok," said Rolando Pulido, Chairman, DESAMA.
(OceanaGold should not receive a renewed permit. They only brought destruction to our mountains. Leaving us with contaminated water and a hole in our mountain.)
The Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of OGPI expired on June 20, 2019. Since then, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has endorsed the renewal of their FTAA for another 25 years.
Violations of Indigenous RIghts
"Noong simula pa lamang ay hindi na nila na-isecure ang Free and Prior Informed Consent ng mga katutubo. Ngayon pa na kasama ang lokal sa pagpigil sa OceanaGold," stated Teresa Dela Cruz, Council of Leaders, LILAK-Purple Action for Indigenous Women's Rights.
(In the beginning, they were not able to secure the Free and Prior Informed Consent of the indigenous peoples. What more today when the local government is against OceanaGold.)
OGPI failed to obtain the community's Free and Prior Informed Consent per the indigenous practice and the local decision-making process. They continue to be endorsed by the DENR to the Office of the President.
"Dapat kasama namin kayo sa pag protekta ng kalikasan at pag sisiguro sa aming karapatan sa lupa. Huwag kayong maging parte ng problema [DENR]," she added.
(We are supposed to be partners in ensuring the protection of the environment and securing our rights to our land. Do not be part of the problem [DENR].)
Human Rights Violations
In 2011, the Commission on Human Rights Report accused OGPI of committing multiple violations of human rights that threatened the movement and safety of locals in Didipio. Several accounts narrated their inability to reach their homes anytime during the day due to interference from mining security. More so, intimidation tactics such as visiting homes and using strategic legal suits to coerce locals in surrendering their consent in favor of the mining company's expansion are amongst the threat to the locals' security.
"The number of deaths and increasing threats to environmental defenders is the result of this administration's massive disregard for human rights and continued vilification of rights defenders," stated Josua Mata, Convener, Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa.
Illegal Conversion and Biodiversity Degradation
OGPI has also been leading the charge in disregarding the provincial land-use plan set within the Provincial Comprehensive Land Use Plan of Nueva Vizcaya. Converting land and operating beyond its approved areas, which led to the depletion and contamination of the watershed downstream. Dramatically affecting the surrounding flora and fauna; more so, the water quality used in the irrigation of agricultural lands below.
"The rights of indigenous peoples to their land should always be respected. Studies have shown that ensuring indigenous communities land rights and respecting their right to self-determination has led to the recovery of the area," said Atty. Pochoy Labog, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center.
A Call To Action
OGPI, with its only goal of profiting, has violated both local environmental laws and its contractual obligations. Its operations have only led to the continued destruction of the mountains, displacement of indigenous peoples, and the death of the province's agricultural sector. Additionally, it will only intensify the global climate crisis we are currently facing.
"The DENR should withdraw their endorsement for the renewal of OceanaGold's FTAA to the President. More importantly, the President should order the closure and suspension of OceanaGold," said Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator, ATM.
ATM will remain steadfast in the fight against destructive and profit-seeking large-scale mining.