By JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG
MANILA — The community of Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya celebrates as the mining company Oceanagold temporarily suspended its gold and copper operations due to the recent decision of regional court denying the company’s appeal to continue its operations.
The recent victory was credited to the people’s barricade which started in early July after the expiration of Oceanagold’s permit. The local folk blocked the company’s exit and entry of supplies and raw materials. They have been supported by the provincial government, which issued a restraining order against the company.
Environmentalists applauded the people’s victory.
Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said in a statement,”We challenge the Duterte government to follow suit by rejecting Oceanagold’s contract renewal with finality and returning the mineralized lands to the indigenous communities who rightfully own the land.”
The group further explained that the expiration of Oceanagold’s financial and technical and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) last June 20 should have prompted the immediate return of the ownership of the occupied land to the State, which in turn is mandated to pass on to the Tuwali-Ifugao indigenous communities.
After its FTAA expiration, Oceanagold has applied for renewal and was promptly endorsed to President Rodrigo Duterte by Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources despite the lack of necessary documents such as free, prior, and, informed consent (FPIC) of the indigenous people.
Locals have long been complaining of the environmental destruction and human rights violations committed by Oceanagold. In 2016, the late Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez suspended its operation.
Still has a long way to go
Despite managing to stop the operations, Kalikasan-PNE believes that establishing a strict policy that would protect the environment would bring them more joy.