By BRANDON LEE / GREEN YOUTH IFUGAO
During the second day of the Basic Restoration Ecology Workshop, the Green Youth Ifugao (GYI) visited barangay Didipio in Nueva Vizcaya for their community immersion. They visibly were able to experience what were discussed during the 1st day of the workshop on how vulnerable our planet is because of destructive mining.
On the way to Barangay Didipio, the group expected nice and developed roads since it is one of the mining areas operated by Oceana Gold, a big foreign company. Unfortunately the road was rocky, dusty and underdeveloped. When the group arrived at the main mining site they immediately observed the scarring effects of mining on the community people, land, water, and air.
From the high school ground where students and children play, members of the immersion team were shocked to see how devastated the whole mountain of Didipio was. What should have been a lush and green mountain transformed to a sickly stone mound. Aloud they wondered how the environment looked like before the mining company operated.
They were stunned to see how wide the company’s tailings dam was. According to the guide, the tailings dam bottom was not made with preventive linings. The poisonous tailings seep into the ground, most likely polluting anything underground including the clean water. The tailings dam smelled like rotten boiled eggs, and it is worst when it was windy.
Observable and noted by several members was how Oceana Gold attempts to hide the destructive nature of its mining operation by dropping soil with grass on top of the stones. However, the withered trees and plants that were submerged into the dam water could not be hidden from the public.
They saw the company’s giant trucks with wheels as big as the jeep they took for the visit. One of them described, “the truck was loud as thunder and fast as lightning” as it headed into the underground tunnel for their operation. They also wondered how big and long the tunnel was.
The guide showed them Oceana Gold’s drainage system where the company’s septic tank drained into the river. Expectedly, it looked dirty and it smelled bad. None of the group could not imagine how any living thing can live in that polluted river.
The GYI was also given the chance to interview and integrate with some of the residents. In the beginning the local people were reluctant to talk and were suspicious of the intentions of the Green Youth, the guide and facilitators helped explain their motives. When they gained their trust and they shared openly and answered each other’s inquiries.
Here are some of their stories shared on the promises of the mine development:
“Para sa akin na isang store owner, noong una, dumami ang kostumer ng store lalo na’t malapit ito sa gate papasok sa loob pero naglaon, naging suki-suki system na, at kadalasan, sa labas sila kumukuha ng gamit. Kapag lang talagang importante at wala silang choice saka da umay gumatang dituy. Nagadu ti nagging epecton ti minas ditoy, minsan maganda, at kadalasan hindi. Meron yung, nag aaway-away na ang mga magkakapamilya at magkakaibigan because of malice yun ay merong may gusto ng pagmimina at yung iba ayaw nila kasi mawawalan sila ng lupang tatamnan at marami pang iba. Saka minsan din dahil may ilan na nabigyan ng scholarship at educational assistance ang kanilang mga anak, ito ay na nagiging sanhi din ng pagkakaroon ng di pagkakaintindihan.” (For me as a sari-sari store owner, in the begining customers to my store increased especially because it is located by the entrance gate but as time passed my store catered to suki-suki and most of the time the people just go out -to town proper- to buy all they need. It is only when there is something they really need and have no other choice but the buy from here. The mines has had a lot of effect here, some good and most bad. Families and friends fight over pro and anti mines, there are those against minin because they lose the land to tilland many more. There are those whose children are given, scholarships and education assistance, these are sources of misunderstandings.)
“Idi damu kayat ti daduma ta adu ti inkarkarin ti kompanya nga pagmayatan kanu, ngem enganna tata awan man-manu lang ti nagnumar dita nga minas, adu pay ti saan nga nabayadan ti daga na dita.” (In the beginning some liked the mines to enter because the company promised may good things, but until now just a few received benefits from that mines, many have not yet been paid for their land.)
Another one shared that the residents are not the main work force of the company. Most of the workers were hired outside barangay Didipio since there’s a very big gap between the wage of the local and the outsiders. Locals earn less than the outsiders. The company did not pay the landowners what was promised to them. Some believe that Oceana Gold recruited around 200 new miners from the outside prior to the underground mining operations.
From the community integration, the group learned about the destructive and massive extraction operation of copper and gold from the Oceana Gold Corporation and also realized the worsening effects of irresponsible mining on our only Earth.
One of the GYI said in his solidarity message to the residents of Didipio, “ada kami ditoy nga estudyante ken youth nga makipagrikna ken sumuporta met iti anya man nga programa winu actibidad you tapnu mapapanaw dagita nalalastug nga kompanya ken mapasardeng ti makadadael nga panagminas!”
The participants during the community immersion program were from nearby schools and state universities. # nordis.net