By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Residents of Didipio village in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, and groups opposing the continued operation of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. foiled the company’s attempt to dismantle the people’s barricade today, December 19.
In a statement, the United People’s Organization of Didipio (United) said OGPI and supporters of the mining giant tried to dismantle the blockade put up by the locals and environmental groups.
“Nagtipon ang United sa tapat ng barikada ng mamamayan para ipakita ang kanilang patuloy na paglaban at pagtutol sa [Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement] renewal ng dayuhang minahan na OceanaGold kasabay ng pagkilos ng mga taga-suporta ng minahan (Members of United gathered at the people’s barricade to show their continuing fight and opposition against the FTAA renewal of OceanaGold simultaneously with the action of those who support the mining company),” the group said.
According to Kagawad (village council member), Celia Bahag, OGPI hauled individuals outside the community and brought them to the barricade site.
“Nagprotesta dagiti pabor ti pagminasan ditoy sango ti barikada, ngem adu kanyada ket saan a tagaditoy tapno pagparangen nga adaddu dagiti mangayat ti OceanaGold (Those in favor of the mine protested in front of the barricade but most of them are not from here, they just want to make an illusion that many are in favor of OceanaGold),” she said.
She explained that while the people at the barricade were smaller in number, they stood their grounds because many of them were from Didipio that experienced the real effects of OGPI’s operation.
“Madi daytoy talaga inaramid ti OceanaGold kanyami ta nasina-sinan ti umili no sino ti pro ken against ket nalawag met nga expired ti permitnan ken awan pammalubos to local government (What OceanaGold did to us is not good, it has divided the people between the pro and against even though the permit of the company already lapsed and the local government did not consent to their operation),” she added.
United said that despite the tension created when company employees and supporters arrived in numbers at the site, they peacefully defended the barricade. They also held a program where speakers explained the reasons for preventing the company from receiving supplies and opposing its FTAA renewal.
In her speech, Samahang Pangkarapatan ng Katutubong Manggagawa at Magsasaka, Inc. (SAPAKMMI) leader Minda Dumang explained that the barricade is the symbol of the people’s fight against the company’s illegal operation, human rights violations and plunder of the environment.
“May karapatan kaming ipaglaban ang barikada ng mamamayan dahil expired na ang FTAA ng OceanaGold at ayaw naming na magatuloy pa ang mapanirang pagmimina sa Didipio (We have the right to fight for the people’s barricade because the FTAA of CeanaGold already expired) and we do not want the destructive mining in Didipio to continue),” she said.
On Wednesday evening, December 18, Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayanos para sa Kalikasan (ANNVIK) posted on Facebook appealed to the people and local governments to join the people’s barricade. According to the group, the barangay officials received information that OGPI and its paid thugs plan to dismantle the blockade set-up by the people the following day. This came after the residents foiled two consecutive attempts of OGPI to bring fuel for its operation.
Backed by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Region 2 and members of the 21st Maneuver Company of the Regional Mobile Force, OGPI tried to bring in three tankers on December 16 to the mine site. Employees and the police used the order issued by the Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año to talk their way in. Still, the people at the barricade did not budge.
The following day, Didipio Community Development Corporation (DiCorp), the service provider of OGPI, tried to deliver eight drums containing 2,000 liters of fuel. Police from the same unit, onboard an unmarked SUV and without plates, again escorted the delivery. However, the people successfully held them at the barricade.
“Ipinapakita nito na wala silang respeto sa naging desisyon ng hudikatura at pilit pang nilulusutan upang magsilbi sa kanilang makasariling inetres na patuloy na dambungin ang likas-yaman ng Nueva Vizcaya,” ANNVIK said.
Residents and environmental groups believe the intervention of the DILG encouraged the company, leading to the incident.
On November 22, Año ordered the provincial government to dismantle the barricades put up the people to prevent OGPI’s operation. The DILG intervened despite an earlier court ruling that denied the injunction case filed by OGPI against the province for setting up the checkpoints and canceling its local permits.
Governor Carlos Padilla said that the DILG has no jurisdiction over the matter. According to him, the issue is already in court. He also noted the earlier decision of the court means all their actions are within the bounds of the law.
The FTAA of OGPI lapsed on June 20, followed by the June 25 cease and desist order from the provincial government. However, the company continued its operation, forcing the residents, with support from local officials, to put up the checkpoints and barricade. # nordis.net