By SANDRA FERWELO
KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya — Around 50 indigenous peoples from Nueva Vizcaya and Ifugao staged a protest action in front of the gates of the open pit mining site of Oceana Gold Philippines Incorporated (OGPI) in Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya last October 8 to call for the company’s expulsion from the Philippines and El Salvador.
Led by Samahang Pangkarapatan ng mga Katutubong Magsasaka at Mangagawa Inc. (Sapakkmmi) Didipio, Amianan Salakniban, Green Youth, Ifugao Peasant Movement, Tignayan dagiti Mannalon ti Quirino (Timeq) and Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo-Vizcayanos para sa Kalikasan (Annvik), the group marched down the Sitio Boulevard to the gates of Oceana Gold and shouted out the company’s violations against the community and their environment and called for their immediate suspension as recommended by the DENR.
“We are here to express our calls to the company and to the community of Didipio that this fight is not just our fight. This is a fight of all the people of the world against corporate greed,” En Ramel of Annvik said.
The international protest action was set through the coordination of anti-mining groups from the Philippines, El Salvador, Canada, US and Australia, following the set schedule of the verdict of the World Bank tribunal on the case of Pacific Rim/Oceana Gold vs. El Salvador this October.
Not just in Didipio
For 7 years, the El Salvadoran social movement has been fighting to stop the Pacific Rim (now Oceana Gold) mining corporation from opening a gold mine in Cabañas, El Salvador, including their battle against a $300 million lawsuit at the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
Oceana Gold used unjust investment laws under pro-corporate trade agreements to sue the Salvadoran government in 2009 for not approving its application for a mining permit.
Through solidarity actions all over the world, the anti-mining international community demands World Bank to immediately release a favorable decision that will finally vindicate the people of El Salvador and will allow their government to recover all legal expenses. They also call for OceanaGold to immediately discontinue all of its operations in El Salvador.
Following the mining audit and the recommendation for suspension from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the share price of OceanaGold has been hammered down to at least 19%.
The Didipio mines provide the multi-national mining company, 40% of its gold and 30% of its copper production. Its closure is deemed to be disastrous for the company but relief to the community.
“We continue to unite with other countries being plundered by mining giants. Our protest actions may be small but the people’s solidarity with our global plight is our biggest ally in this fight,” Brgy. Councilor Celia Bahag, a board member of Sapakkmi said.
In the rally, an unidentified man kept taking pictures of all the people who participated. When the protesters apprehended the man, he refused to say his name but said he was part of the security force of OGPI.
After the rally, OGPI put up check points in the entry and exit points around the Barangay. Supporters from Quirino aboard a van, were stopped and asked to write their names in the logbook. The residents say this is the first time they did this. They fear that what happened in Zinundungan Valley, where 70 innocent men and women were sued for trumped-up charges because they signed in the attendance sheets of the police, might also happen to them.
“We and our guests were always free to enter and exit the barangay without ever signing the logbook of OGPI’s security. We just rallied peacefully in front of their gates to express our beliefs. They have no right to harass us and our supporters,” Bahag said. # nordis.net