Joint forces of the Philippine Army and the PNP have reportedly tried to dismantle the barricade in serving the TRO against the local leaders, but they have been foiled by “the strong and organized resistance of the people.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Locals opposed to mining in Nueva Vizcaya are threatened anew starting this week, said the environmentalist group Kalikasan-PNE. The group shared that the mining firm Royalco Philippines, Inc, whose mining project has encountered stiff local opposition at every turn, has recently filed a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). It named 10 local leaders who led in setting up and maintaining at least four separate barricades in two upland towns of Nueva Vizcaya namely Kasibu and Dupax Del Norte.
With the TRO, Kalikasan-PNE warned that the mining exploration company is hoping to threaten the people’s resolve against mining in the Nueva Vizcaya.
The 10 leaders named in the mining company’s TRO are anti-mining local leaders who have “boldly led their constituents” in campaigns since 2006 to stop the mining companies led by Royalco Resources Limited, an Australian based exploration company, Kalikasan-PNE said in a statement.
Royalco has been using the name of Royalco Philippines Inc. and Buena Suerte Mining Company in its operation. It secured an exploration permit from the Bureau of Mines and Geosciences for Nueva Vizcaya. The presence of the two mining companies is reportedly being felt in three villages of the town of Kasibu, namely Muta, Pao and Kakiduguen; in three villages of the town of Dupax Del Norte namely Binuangan, Giayan and Yabbi, and three villages of the town of Nagtipunan of the province of Quirino namely Keat, Giayan and Mataddi.
Village Captain Santos Yonga-an, one of the two defendants of a separate TRO case against their barricades in Pacquet and Katarawan villages Kasibu town, said: “There is nothing new with what the mining companies are doing as they are authorized by the state through RA 7942 popularly known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. The same thing was done to us by Royalco Resources Ltd. when we set up the barricade in 2006, (but) we are unfazed. No amount of threats, harassments or bribery has weakened the people’s stance on mining as proven by our organization KIRED (Kasibu Intertribal Response for Ecological Development). We remain resolute that’s why our barricades in Kasibu remain to be there”.
With roads strictly guarded by locals of Kasibu, explorations are made difficult compelling the mining companies to force an alternate route via Dupax del Norte. Such move was opposed also by residents there. Two separate barricades were set up — the first on May 9 at Binuangan of Dupax Del Norte and the second last May 20 in village Mataddi, Dupax Del Norte.
From then on the two new barricades have reportedly been well maintained and led by the local organizations AUBD (Alliance of Upland Baranggay for Sustainable Development) and ALMUSEGAM (Alliance of Multisectoral Groups Against Mining) comprising 14 upland Baranggays from Dupax Del Norte and Del Sur including nearby villages of Quirino. The other two previously set barricades are at the municipality of Kasibu led by KIRED which cover 6 villages.
According to Royalco, the setting up of these barricades had cost it P2 million ( $48.7 thousand) in losses as they are prevented from delivering supplies, equipment, personnel in Pao Kasibu village, plus payments to their legal counsel amounting to P150,000 ($3,658) per appearance in court, and other incurred expenses related to the cases filed.
Kalikasan-PNE said the people of Kasibu including those from Dupax Del Sur and Norte have consistently sought all legal means to prevent mining companies from intruding into their land. Most recent of which was a hearing called for by the provincial board of Nueva Vizcaya on May 6, after a complaint was filed by the people of village Yabbi, Dupax Del Norte regarding the intrusion of Royalco Philippines Inc into their town, in spite of the people’s clear stance on mining as manifested in their numerous resolutions and petitions.
From the said hearing, the Provincial Board reportedly assured those present that they will temporarily suspend the operation of Royalco mining company until the people’s complaints are addressed. But to this day, the people are still waiting for its fulfillment, Kalikasan-PNE said.
Last May 15, Oceana Gold, another of several foreign companies that had gained permits to mine the province, reportedly formally launched its mining operation in Nueva Vizcaya. The company’s mining had reportedly been based largely in Quezon. Oceana Gold’s launch was held “with grandeur,” and it reportedly “insulted the residents by inviting even anti-mining personalities.”
The event was described by Bishop Ramon Villena, the Bishop of the Diocese of Bayombong, as the “opening of destruction of Nueva Vizcaya.”
Kalikasan said Bishop Villena’s statement immediately proved true, as the mining companies reportedly employ the state’s armed troops to protect their interest at the expense of the people’s safety and welfare. Last June 11, truckloads of soldiers from the Phil. Army, approximately 300 from the 86th IB of the 5th ID, arrived in Giayan village, “sowing fear among the residents.”
The following day, soldiers reportedly threatened to enter and search the houses of the Bugkalots who are the dominant indigenous peoples in the area, even without search warrants. But the soldiers were prevented by the people through their strong resistance, as led by their tribal chieftain, the Kalikasan-PNE reported.
Joint forces of the Philippine Army and the PNP have reportedly tried to dismantle the barricade in serving the TRO against the local leaders, but they have been foiled by “the strong and organized resistance of the people,” said Mrs. Paz Balinggan, one of the defendants of the TRO and chairperson of ALMUSEGAM.
Balinggan explained that “These barricades that we set up against the foreign mining companies are for defending our land which is the source of life not just for us but also for our children, the next generation.”
She urged the public to remember their friends from Runruno, Quezon, “who are still in jail due to their resistance against FCF Minerals Corporations. Also, the leader who died from Didipio, Kasibu due to her anti-mining stance at Oceana Gold Philippines Inc.’s operations.” She said all these only prove that they are fighting the same struggle against destructive large-scale mining operation.