Environmental activists under the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) stormed the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) today echoing the calls of an ongoing barricade by residents and officials of Barangay Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya to stop the operations of Australian-Canadian mining corporation Oceanagold.
“We are one with the people of Nueva Vizcaya calling for the stoppage of Oceanagold’s illegal mining operation. For the entire 25-year duration of Oceanagold’s mining contract, the indigenous people, farmers, and other citizens suffered human rights violations, land displacement, and environmental destruction. It would be nothing short of a humanitarian and ecological disaster if Oceanagold is allowed another 25 years to destroy the environment and plunder our national patrimony,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
Last Monday (July 1), residents and village officials of Brgy. Didipio, Oceanagold’s host barangay, set up a checkpoint barricade and a protest camp in response to Oceanagold’s continuous operations despite the expiration of its Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) last June 20. The lapse of Oceanagold’s FTAA prompted the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government’s order restraining the operations of Oceanagold.
Studies have shown that throughout the operations of Oceanagold, the Didipio river has heavy metal contamination that is twice the level for irrigation use and eight times the maximum level for the survival of organisms. As such, agricultural productivity downstream from the mine has been reportedly affected and access to clean water has become a health problem for 80% of the residents in Didipio.
A complaint submitted by Kalikasan PNE together with Didipio residents to the United Nations Special Procedures mechanism last December 2018 also showed that since 2007, environmental defenders in Vizcaya have recorded human rights violations such as violations to their right to residence, right to public participation without reprisal, right of indigenous people to manifest their culture and identity, and right to access to clean water, among others.
Despite all these problems, Oceanagold has reportedly secured endorsements from MGB and the Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) Central Office for its FTAA renewal application to the Office of the President. President Rodrigo Duterte now has the final say on the foreign mine’s FTAA.
“The MGB and DENR have been remiss in its duty to be a diligent regulator of Oceanagold’s operations. Oceanagold’s FTAA should have been outright cancelled instead of endorsed for renewal as the mining company has failed to comply with various obligations in its contract and with various national laws,” explained Dulce.
“The MGB and DENR must no longer turn a blind eye to the well-documented violations of Oceanagold and immediately issue a cease and desist order to this mine. They must also retract their endorsement of Oceanagold’s FTAA renewal. President Duterte should also not dilly-dally and immediately throw out Oceanagold’s FTAA renewal application out the window, if he is true to his word that he will close down irresponsible miners,” Dulce ended.#
Reference: Leon Dulce, national coordinator, Kalikasan PNE – 0917 562 6824