KASIBU, NUEVA VIZCAYA – Nationwide members and partners of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) visit Barangay Didipio in solidarity with the barricade of DESAMA to call the immediate removal of OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) operations in the area.
A day after the expiration of the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of OGPI in 2019, farmers and indigenous peoples of DESAMA set up a people barricade in Brgy. Didipio on June 21, 2019, to prevent the illegal operations of OGPI.
"Since the 1990s, we have been fighting OceanaGold. We repeat we did not want mining before. We do not want mining now," asserted Lorenzo Pulido, DESAMA.
OGPI's FTAA expired on June 20, 2019, terminating their "legal rights" to extract copper and gold from the mountains of Nueva Vizcaya. Three months have passed since the expiration of the FTAA. Yet, the illegal operations of OGPI continue to operate, increasing the irreparable damage to the mountains and water source, not only in Nueva Vizcaya but also in the surrounding provinces.
"We stand with our brothers and sisters in demanding accountability from OGPI for the violations they committed and the environmental destruction they have caused," said Rene Pamplona, Chairperson, ATM.
OGPI has been operating in the province for 25 years. In 2011, the Commission on Human Rights Report accused OGPI of committing multiple violations that continue to threaten the safety and security of locals in Didipio. Several accounts narrated how OGPI utilizes intimidation tactics. They would visit the homes of community members and threatening legal suits against community members to coerce locals in surrendering their consent in the expansion of OGPI's operation. Local and international human rights organizations have also documented a multitude of violations perpetrated by OGPI.
The continued effort of DESAMA, together with the community of Nueva Vizcaya, has led to the delay of the renewal of OGPI's FTAA. The Nueva Vizcaya community utilized a multi-faceted front from the LGU's effort at lobbying and setting up checkpoints to community leaders leading the campaign and barricade against OGPI.
"We need to amplify the voice of the community, of the women and the youth, we should expose the violations of OGPI thus we in LILAK will continue to link indigenous women in Didipio to other communities who continue to resist destructive projects that threaten their rights, land, and life," stated Cheryl Polutan, LILAK – Purple Action for Indigenous Women
On October 15, 2019, Mick Wilkes, President, and CEO of Australia's OcenaGold Corp., the parent company of OGPI, issued a statement declaring that they will temporarily suspend production in Didipio. The delay of the FTAA renewal and the uncertainty of the injunction decision in the Court of Appeals led to the decision.
"This is proof that when communities affected by mining lead the fight against mining. Their unity inspires other partners and us nationwide in continuing the fight. We remain adamant in our mission to hold these companies accountable by working with our local community partners leading the way," echoed Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator, ATM.
ATM will continue to uphold and promote the rights of the environment and the people that defend it.