“The ongoing barricade by the affected citizens in Nueva Vizcaya echoes the battle that we’ve been long fighting. We want them gone and be held liable for their atrocities…”
By JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG
MANILA — The continuous operation of mining company Oceanagold, despite the expiration of its financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) , forced the residents and village officials of Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya to set up a barricade, July 1.
A day before the expiration of its FTAA, Oceanagold sent a letter to Didipio’s village council, June 21, citing Section 18 of Executive Order 292 or the Administrative Code. It states that existing licenses shall not expire until the application for renewal has been finally determined.
But before setting up the barricade, the provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya already issued June 27 an order restraining the operation of the Australian-Canadian mining corporation.
Environmental activists headed by Kalikasan People’s Network Alliance for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) trooped to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) July 2 to support the ongoing barricade.
“In the past, they [Oceanagold] were saying that the people should respect the legality of their operation and just let them operate in accordance with the law. But now that their “legality” has expired, who is it that couldn’t follow the law? Who’s the one who couldn’t respect it?” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
“We are one with the people of Nueva Vizcaya calling for the stoppage of Oceanagold’s illegal mining operation. For the entire 25-year duration of Oceanagold’s mining contract, the indigenous people, farmers and other citizens suffered human rights violations, land displacement, and environmental destruction,” said Dulce.
The checkpoint barricade was placed in the access road of Oceanagold. It will continue until the operations are permanently suspended. About 50 to 100 residents guard the barricade 24/7.
Dulce said that since July 1, no trucks transporting supplies or carrying out things from the company have passed.
Dulce also appealed to nearby municipalities, church organizations, and other environmental advocates to support the barricade.
Negligence of the national government
In 2014, an environmental investigation mission led by scientist group Agham found damages to forests, air pollution from dusty roads and stockpiles, and massive water pollution, all affecting the health and livelihood of affected residents.
In 2016, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) then headed by former Secretary Gina Lopez ordered for Oceangold’s suspension after conducting a mining audit and listed the following violations such as: violation of the Mineral Production and Sharing Agreement (MPSA), violation of the environmental compliance certificate, operating within a watershed, dust emission, discoloration and siltation of coastal waters, failure to comply with tree planting requirements, non-payment of mine waste and tailings fee and siltation fee, absence of permit for cutting trees, absence of water permit, use of provincial road as mine road, failure to mitigate erosion, operating silt ponds without valid permit for discharge, absence of ISO 14001 Certification.
“The ongoing barricade by the affected citizens in Nueva Vizcaya echoes the battle that we’ve been long fighting. We want them gone and be held liable for their atrocities! Twenty-years of corruption in our environmental resources are enough. Foreign companies don’t just exploit our resources but also the indigenous people that live within the affected area,” said Joan Jaime of Katribu said during the protest at the gate of MGB.
But despite all the mining company’s reported offenses and violations, it was reported that MGB and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have already endorsed Oceanagold’s application for FTAA renewal to the office of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“We cannot accept how government regulators have been willfully blind to these violations and demand that they close down Ocenagold’s mine immediately,” Dulce said.
The group said in a statement that they would mobilize its provincial and national multi-sectoral member organizations to support the people’s barricade until Duterte, who has been outspoken against mining throughout his presidency, cancels the FTAA of Oceanagold.