KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya – Various people’s actions converged with a court decision and legislative initiatives that discontinued a foreign mining firm’s operations in Didipio, here. This coincided with a corporate decision to suspend contract work amid financial difficulties.
The Regional Trial Court issued a writ of preliminary injunction ordering OceanaGold and all other persons acting on its behalf to cease, desist and refrain from demolishing or dismantling [the complainants’] houses until further court orders.
Last June 24, Australian mining firm OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) said that it is suspending work at its $117-million gold-copper project amid the controversies hounding its operations over the past six months. In a company statement, OGPI said it is suspending a number of construction contracts as it tries to cut down on company expenses while looking for additional funding.
Environmental group Kalikasan-PNE, together with its partner non-government organization(NGO) in Northern Luzon, Katinnulong Daguiti Umili iti Amianan (RDC-Kaduami) said in their statements, “We want to congratulate the people and the local government units of Nueva Vizcaya for successfully halting the operations of OceanaGold.”
“Though temporary, this is a big tactical victory for the communities,” says Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of militant environmental group Kalikasan-PNE.
Based on the annual reports of OceanaGold, it lost US$23.43 million and US$69.04 million in 2006 and 2007 respectively. This was despite company’s additional capital of Canadian $90.00 million in its initial public offering in Toronto Stock Exchange last July 2007.
“It is not under the good grace and consideration of OceanaGold why it suspended its mining operation. For two consecutive years, this company is losing tens of millions of dollars while the opposition to the project becomes broader and stronger at the local, regional and national levels. These reasons forced the company to halt their operation. OceanaGold’s Didipio gold project is becoming more unsustainable and bankcrupt everyday,” Mr. Bautista adds.
Congressional action and prov’l board’s withdrawal of support
At the national level, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino authored House Resolutions 594 and 211 mandating the Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities to probe Australian mining firms OceanaGold and Royalco Resources, respectively, wanting to extract the mineral wealth of Nueva Vizcaya to the detriment of the indigenous peoples, remaining forestlands and the critical watershed areas in the region. These resolutions have resulted to on-site investigations held in June 7-9, 2008 in Brgy. Didipio and Brgy. Kakidugen.
In a statement, Casino said, “Reports reveal that OceanaGold has ‘suspended’ its operations – meaning their timetable to get into full swing mineral extraction and production is thrown off course. I am further galvanized by this positive initial victory to work harder to protect the long-term interests of the indigenous peoples and the environment in Nueva Vizcaya.”
Meanwhile, the provincial board withdrew its support to OcaenaGold June 25 with a 7:4 vote. One abstained and another absent.
The provincial government earlier issued a cease and desist order against the company because of its failure to pay local taxes worth P28 million. Also, Atty. Edu Balgos, a senior board member proposed an ordinance outlawing open-pit mining in the province.
The move is welcomed by different organizations as about 200 people rallied to the provincial capitol carrying placards calling for the pullout of Oceana Gold’s operation.
“However, our call is not based on the failure of the company to pay local taxes but because of the adverse impact it will bring on the lives of the people here,” said Allan Barnacha.
According to local leader Lucas Buay of the Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response for Ecological Development (KIRED) the people’s struggle would continue against OceanaGold and other foreign mining companies encroaching at indigenous people’s territories.
“We have no recourse but to fight back. The Arroyo administration, the DENR and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) have all shown their indifference to our rights as indigenous peoples. They disrespected and ignored our local officials,” Buay said.
Buay added the national government and its agencies have forsaken IPs for its pursuit of selling out their mineral and ancestral lands. “They have the same interest with foreign mining companies to plunder our patrimony,” he said. # Sherry Mae Soledad