“The solid support showed by the church people, farmers and professionals shows the anti-mining sentiments of the people of Nueva Vizcaya.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA –Church leaders and bikers in Nueva Vizcaya add to the local supporters of Nueva Vizcaya residents who built barricades against the entry of Australian mining firm Royalco.
The province’s upland residents have reportedly voted to reject Royalco’s copper mining venture in their area, citing the destruction it threatens to bring to their water sources, farms and communities.But the government still gave Royalco mining permits.So the residents took to the barricades as their way of defending the environment and their children’s future, local leaders said.
“We have agreed to unite to protect our land for ourselves and our children. If the government cannot do this for us, we will do it ourselves,” said Santos Yonga-an, chairman of the Kasibu Intertribal Response for Ecological Development (Kired), one of the local organizations manning an anti-mining barricade.
Royalco Philippines Inc. is a subsidiary of Australian Royalco Resources Limited (Royalco). It is exploring mineral deposits throughout the Philippines. So far, it has ongoing gold and copper mining projects in the country. One of its projects is theGambang Project, located in central Cordillera of Northern Luzon;another is in the southern Sierra Madre range of Northern Luzon, adjoining the Didipio copper gold project of Oceana Gold Limited (with reserves of 23.7MT at 0.65 percent Cu and 1.8g/t Au).
In its website, Royalco saidit believes their Filipino tenement package “represents one of the most attractive porphyry copper targets globally available,” with their particular interests “being associated high grade epithermal gold systems.”
After successful explorations, Royalco discovered that the relatively still untapped rich deposits in the area “have been accumulated over a substantial period of time.”
But as it tries its best to mine the rich deposits in central Cordillera and southern Sierra Madre ranges, Royalco is encountering stiff opposition from the residents. Finding its way to the sites barred by the people, they acquired a TRO from the local courts, targeting the leaders of the anti-mining barricades.
Royalco reportedly filed an additional petition citing in contempt eight of the leaders from the Dupax towns its TRO had earlier named. The company reportedly also filed a separate case against two other local leaders, this time from KIRED (Kasibu Intertribal Response for Ecological Development), who also have their own anti-mining barricades.
Caravan, church support
Amid threats from the Royalco’s TRO and additional charges, members of the clergy of the Diocese of Bayombong of the Roman Catholic Church read during last Sunday masses a solidarity statement supporting those manning the barricades in upland villages of Nueva Vizcaya.
The next day, June 24, more than 500 residents of the province joined Bishop Ramon Villena in a caravan to visit the barricade sites in the town of Dupax Del Norte.
About 20 priests joined Bishop Villenawith several of them riding in bikes, said Elmer Bolusan, chairman of Samana-NV, one of the organizations whose members joined the caravan. Side by side with the bikers were the motor riders from Dupax, Bolusan added.
At one of the barricade sites in the upland village of Binuangan, the caravan held a prayer rally led by Bishop Ramon Villena, Monsignor Vicente Tugade and Fr. Jaime Noto, the parish priest of Belance, a central village of Dupax del Norte.
Bolusan said they listened again to the clergy’s solidarity statement, read for those in the barricade by Fr. Jocson Ugaya. After that, they heard more solidarity messages from the different organizations that joined the caravan.
The Alliance of Upland Baranggays for Sustainable Development (AUBD), one of the lead organizations maintaining the barricades, thanked the groups for their presence and support, saying it boosted the morale of the people who are fighting for their rights in the area and who are most affected by mining.
Bolusan said more than 50 supporters accompanied the eight leaders being charged by Royalco to the hearing at the Regional Trial Court of Bayombong, capital of Nueva Vizcaya.
“The solid support showed by the church people, farmers and professionals shows the anti-mining sentiments of the people of Nueva Vizcaya,” Elmer Bolusan of Samana-NV said.
The solidarity statement read last Sunday Mass by the Diocese of Bayombong of the Roman Catholic Church reportedly affirmed the church’s “strong solidarity with those groups affected by mining and those manning the barricades to prevent mining explorations.”
The church quoted St Paul’s Acts 18:9 telling the people “not to be afraid, but keep on speaking and do not give up”. The statement also mentioned Pope Francis’ encouragement for people to be protectors of life, of people and the environment.
Also, the priests urged the mining companies to stop the explorations. Appeals are raised to the different government agencies, the DENR, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, to “take a fresh look on this matter especially the bad effects of mining”.
The clergy’s solidarity statement also asked the NCIP to review and listen to the indigenous peoples affected by the explorations and to take their side and resolve to protect their rights. The Ibaloi, Kalanguya, Ifugao and Bugkalot reportedly comprise some of the indigenous peoples at the barricades who are to be directly affected by Royalco’s mining operations.
The clergy has also called on Nueva Vizcaya’s provincial and local government units “to take active stance regarding mining and to protect the people and the environment of the province.”It then appealed to all Novo Vizcayanos (“brothers and sisters of goodwill”) to help protect the environment, support those who are actively involved and mobilize others to help because “sooner or later, all of us will be affected if we do not act now.”
Bolusan of Samana-NV noted those who joined the caravan were inspired by the persistence and resoluteness of the people behind the barricades in protecting the land, livelihood and environment. He expressed hopes that it will draw more awareness and commitment from other people in the province to save the watershed haven of the north that is the province of Nueva Vizcaya.