Alyansa Tigil Mina lauds the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) for releasing its report on the human rights situation in the Philippines. Working with mining-affected communities and as environmental rights defenders, we know full well the difficult situation rights defenders face in possibly the most dangerous country to be a green activist or a land rights defender.
Our alliance welcome the specific mention of the UN report about the case of a mining project in Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu town in Nueva Vizcaya province, owned and operated by Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI). The mine project was under Financial and/or Technical Assistance Agreement No. 1 (FTAA #1). OGPI’s mining contract expired last June 2019, and without a renewed agreement, it should not be allowed to operate. OGPI failed to properly secure the consent of communities around the mine and even the local government units and in 2011, was reported by the Commission of Human Rights of the Philippines to have illegally demolished and violently dispersed about 200 villagers.
OGPI was not welcome then, and is certainly not welcome now, as indigenous communities were violently dispersed during a peaceful sit-down strike last April 6, 2020, to prevent the illegal entry of fuel tankers to the mine site. This despicable action by OGPI was aided by about 100 elements of the local police, at the height of the lockdown of many parts in the country due to COVID19.
We note with alarm that similar cases of human rights abuse and human rights violations continue to occur in other mining areas in the Philippines.
The UN report comes at a crucial time when the Philippine Congress recently passed what it called as the “Anti-Terror Bill” (HB 3682). This newly enacted law is a direct threat to the already shrinking space for democracy and freedom in the Philippines. ATM believes that the Anti-Terror Bill is an additional threat and poses additional risks and dangers to green activists and land rights defenders.
ATM will continue to support and stand in solidarity with mining-affected communities, especially indigenous peoples and women defenders. The Philippine government must do everything in its power to fully implement the recommendations of the UN report.