KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya (Sept. 26) — Pro-environment activists today vowed to launch an “international shame campaign” against an Australian-owned mining firm for filing a lawsuit against Romeo Tayaban, mayor of Kasibu town in Nueva Vizcaya, who only supported his constituents’ opposition to the firm’s exploration project.
In a statement, Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) National Coordinator Clemente Bautista, Jr. slammed Oxiana’s “latest lawsuit against community leaders opposed to their exploration project”.
“We categorically condemn Oxiana for harassing Mayor Tayaban through this complaint and obstructing his duties as a duly-elected local government official. As a responsible government official, Mayor Tayaban has staunchly stood by the wishes of his constituents to reject Oxiana’s mining exploration project,” Bautista said.
Atty. Virgil Castrol, legal counsel for Oxiana Philippines and its foreign partner Royal Co., Ltd.of Australia, filed a petition at a local court in Nueva Vizcaya Wednesday, asking it to cite Mayor Tayaban for contempt.
According to their press release, Kalikasan-PNE revealed that Exploration Permit RO2-0014, was extended by the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR) up to June 2009 to the said mining company despite the opposition of the affected communities.
The impending mine exploration is said to affect five barangays of Kasibu: Pa-o, Kakidugen, Paquet, Dine and Katarawan. People of these barangays are presently manning a barricade set up on July 2, 2007 that has so far successfully blocked the entry of Oxiana’s drilling equipment into Pa-o, the press statement revealed.
“DENR Secretary Lito Atienza even had the temerity to tell Palawan Mayor Edward Hagedorn to reverse his declaration of a mining ban in Palawan. Other LGUs have also faced similar pressure but have asserted their constituencies’ rights to reject large-scale foreign mining. This year, North Cotabato Vice-Governor Manny Piñol declared a ‘no mining’ policy in his area of responsibility. In January 2002, the provincial government of Mindoro Oriental passed a resolution enforcing a 25-year mining moratorium,” Bautista said.
Bautista announced that Kalikasan PNE and its network organizations would be “embarking on an international shame campaign against Oxiana Philippine’s Australian partner, RoyalCo Resources of Australia”.
“We will be exhorting RoyalCo’s financial supporters and business partners to desist from supporting a mining firm which indiscriminately harasses local government officials and grassroots leaders and thereby causing human rights violations and disregarding the principle of free and informed prior consent from mining-affected communities. We will also be reaching out to pro-environment Australians who should be aware of how much environmental destruction and community displacements are being caused by Aussie firms such as RoyalCo,” Bautista said.
Bautista described Oxiana’s lawsuit as a “classic case of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP)”
“SLAPPs are lawsuits ranging from libel to conspiracy used by powerful corporate entities against non-governmental individuals or groups defending issues of marginalized sectors, such as human, labor, peasant or consumer rights, environmental protection, national patrimony and the like,” Bautista said.
“SLAPPs are a form of litigation filed by usually powerful entities against less financially-capable critics with the intention of intimidating and silencing them in the course of a lengthy and costly legal battle. Environmental groups in other countries have faced SLAPPs by commercial real estate developers, companies, and the like.
In the Philippines, these ‘powerful entities’ using SLAPPs are usually foreign-owned mining or logging firms or elite land-owning families who control and extract resources from vast tracts of lands,” Bautista explained.
According to Bautista, Tayaban is the 25th victim of a SLAPP suit by Oxiana in Kasibu. Oxiana earlier filed for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against 24 other indigenous people’s leaders representing the Ibaloi, Ifugao, Kalanguya, Bugkalot, Kankaney, and Bontoc communities in Kasibu for holding the anti-exploration barricade, including Lucas Buay, an Ifugao leader and chairperson of the Council of Leaders of the Kasibu Inter-tribal Response Towards Ecological Development.
Other Philippine environmental advocates currently facing SLAPP suits include Frances Quimpo, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC-Phils), a non-government organization (NGO) facing a P10-million libel suit from Australian-owned mining company Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI) which operates the Arroyo administration’s controversial flagship mining project in the environmentally-critical island of Rapu-Rapu in Albay, Bicol.
CEC-Phils is one of the non-government organizations (NGOs) actively involved in the campaign for LPI’s closure and a moratorium on mining operations in Rapu-Rapu.LPI’s Philippine partners, represented by Manuel Agcaoili, President of Rapu-Rapu Processing, Inc, and Bayani H. Agabin, Senior Vice-President of Rapu-Rapu Minerals, Inc., filed a complaint before the Pasig City Prosecutor’s Office on July 9 against CEC-Phils’ trustees, to answer for libel in their publication entitled “Rapu-Rapu A Struggle Against Mining Liberalization And Plunder In the Philippines”.
The publication was distributed when CEC-Phils visited and lobbied before Lafayette’s financial shareholders in Australia last June 8. # Via NORDIS