KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya (Jan. 25) — Foreign mining companies Oceana Gold (Australia), Royalco (Australia) and Base Metals PLC (United Kingdom) are facing stiff resistance from communities in Nueva Vizcaya.
This January, battle of the nerves raged in three fronts – in Didipio, in Pao and in Malabing Valley, all of Kasibu town. The fight transcended from barricades on the ground to fresh petitions to the Supreme Court and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban, together with the Legal Rights Center (LRC), raised the mining issue in a higher plane, this time, to invoke Republic Act 7160’s provision on local government autonomy. In a press statement, LRC said, Tayaban petitioned the Supreme Court for a preliminary injunction against the operation of Oceana Gold mining company.
In the petition, Kasibu, represented by Tayaban, asks the high court to act on the company’s failure to get the local’s consent; and to prevent any further damage to the community. It also reminded Oceana Gold to respect and comply with clear demands and to prevent any clear violation of the local autonomy of local governments as guaranteed under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
The mayor also asked SC to avert the illegal implementation of the Oceana Gold’s FTAA that resulted in the displacement of indigenous peoples residents in Didipio and other communities, affecting livelihood and way of life.
In Didipio, Oceana Gold failed to hide its attempt to demolish houses during the Christmas and New Year break. Pilar Dulnuan and Mary Yogyog raised a howl when the company’s Surface Rights Acquisition (SRA) program miserably failed to settle unpaid balances contained in contracts granting full easement rights.
Dulnuan and Yogyog’s houses were the ones demolished second week of January.
Didipio Councilors Lorenzo Pulido and Roldan Cut-ing reported a total of 16 houses in Bacbacan and Dinaoyan were dismantled by a contractor hired by Oceana Gold while two households voluntarily dismantled theirs. It is also feared that the move to transfer existing power lines away from Sitio Dinaoyan is a maneuver to get rid of houses in the proposed tailings dam area.
Peter Duyapat of Didipio Earthsavers Multi-Purpose Association (Desama) warned that what happened to those who sold their rights is a bad sign. “How could they convince us to sell our rights when they cannot even settle their balances right away? That practice is not new, they have not settled their obligations when they disturbed people during the exploration period,” Duyapat said.
In Malabing Valley, hundreds of residents led by Ifugao elder Raymundo Bolhayon repelled Oceana Gold’s latest bid to bring in equipment in Mt. Ubon, a watershed located between barangays Papaya and Malabing. “We made sure the heavy equipment are out of the valley so we escorted them out,” said Priscilla Guillao, leader of the Papaya Farmer’s Association.
The citrus growers of Malabing Valley have strongly resolved to block Oceana Gold because mining threatens their industry, which is now producing 4,500 metric tons of fresh orange fruits annually.
In Pao, an ongoing standoff remains tense as drilling equipment commissioned by Royalco were brought in via a newly constructed road. Mariano Maddela and Renato Enggo led the setting up of a barricade to prevent Royalco from using the southern gate to Digyan, a mineralized hill eyed for exploration. Maddela is questioning Royalco’s use of NCIP’s Certificate of Precondition acquired by Oxiana. Royalco acquired Oxiana on June 20, 2006.
Maddela filed a “Petition for Revocation of Consent” to the NCIP Regional Office 02 but it was dismissed. His lawyer filed a motion for reconsideration because the petition was dismissed without the benefit of a hearing. Maddela also raised a technical question because the matter at hand is a statement of commitment. “Simple, Oxiana ang binigyan ng permit, hindi Royalco,” Maddela asserted.
Meanwhile, the UK-based Metals PLC’s Philippine subsidiary is changing its skin while it prepares for a new episode in its bid to mine in Runruno, Quezon town. The company now projects itself as FCF Mining Company, after its exploration arm MTL Philippines is nearing the completion of its exploration project.
While Mayor Tayaban of Kasibu stood resolutely against mining, Quezon Mayor Aurelio Salun-at chose the opposite path. He publicly admitted his support to the mining company because it is the only option the municipality has to increase its revenues.
Rice farmers depending on irrigation water from Runruno have grown wary. Irrigators tied up with the Roman Catholic church to undertake information dissemination on the impact of mining. # Abe Almirol for NORDIS