Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) reported that the milling plant of Australian-Canadian corporation Oceanagold has temporarily halted operations as of 6:48 AM today, after Nueva Vizcaya Governor Carlos Padilla previously led police forces augmented by village officials and people’s organizations in setting up a checkpoint in the host community of Barangay Didipio, Kasibu Town.

“We laud Gov. Padilla and the people of Nueva Vizcaya’s enforcement of the suspension order against Oceanagold’s destructive mine operations. It is a clear pushback against the deception and railroading made by DENR and MGB officials to let Oceanagold operate with impunity. The stoppage of Oceanagold’s operations will relieve the polluted and degraded forests and rivers of Kasibu from the continuous environmental stresses of large-scale mining plunder,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

Oceanagold has been continuing commercial operations despite the expiry of its Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) last June 20, 2019, citing a letter from Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Wilfredo Moncano on the same date expressing its legal opinion that the foreign mine can continue operations as both the MGB and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have already endorsed the mine’s FTAA renewal to the Office of President, which is mandated to decide on the renewal.

According to the MGB letter, the Administrative Code allows Oceanagold to operate as it has allegedly made a “timely and sufficient application for the renewal of a license.”

The office of Gov. Padilla disputed this claim with the order they released on June 25, 2019, stating that the “said provision is not applicable to OGPI (Oceanagold) as the FTAA entered into by them is not a license but a contract entered into by the Government through the President in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.”

“The buck now stops at President Rodrigo Duterte as Oceanagold’s FTAA renewal application is now pending in his office. Duterte has no reason not to immediately cancel Oceanagold’s FTAA and thereby fully dismissing Oceanagold’s legal loopholes,” said Dulce.

The environment group asserted that the Duterte administration has failed to seriously consider and take action on the various damning evidences of “environmental and social sins” raised against Oceanagold.

“A number of studies over the past years have shown how rivers emanating from the mine site are constantly heavily silted. Not surprisingly, clean water is now inaccessible to 80% of residents in the host barangay. This is on top of a whole range of environmental, civil-political, and socio-economic rights violations suffered by affected communities and especially by the critics and dissenters against Oceanagold,” explained Dulce.

“Oceanagold’s suspension must immediately be followed not only with its FTAA cancellation, but with a full-blown investigation of its various violations. Oceanagold must be compelled to immediately rehabilitate the extremely damaged landscape wrought by its mining operations, and to immediately pay just compensation due for the various damages suffered by the people of Nueva Vizcaya,” ended Dulce.#

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