We in environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) condemn the recently held public hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous People on the United Nations Special Rapporteurs communication regarding the human rights violations of large-scale mining corporation Oceanagold.
It was a rigged hearing from the beginning. Critics of Oceanagold’s Didipio gold mine in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya did not receive information of the hearing and its agenda. Only through the vigilance of Bayan Muna’s legislators, who were informed just four days before the event, were critics and oppositionists of the Oceanagold mine officially informed and invited.
The hearing was held inside the mine’s compound, against the ICC/IP Committee’s own rules of holding hearings in government facilities. The program was seemingly orchestrated by the Oceanagold from the looping CSR videos to the 45-minute business pitch of its general manager, David Way, full of sound bites, photo ops, 3D renderings of undelivered promises, and overall little substance.
In his speech, the Australian thanked the Philippine National Police for supposedly securing the event. The venue was peppered with PNP personnel in full battle gear. Security from what? The protesting anti-Oceanagold community members, local government leaders, and advocates outside the mine compound’s gates?
On the other hand, resource speakers from outside the company’s fold were restricted to just two minutes each. The Commission on Human Rights’ representation offered to also present its investigatory findings of Oceanagold’s human rights track record from 2011 to 2019 but was curtly noted by the ICC/IP Committee.
Oceanagold’s legal counsel and communications officers were allowed to counter each and every one of them with all the time they can get. The pro-Oceangold crowd was allowed to cheer and jeer, often at the expense of the dignity of Oceanagold’s critics, to their heart’s content.
With no substantive discussion on the broad array of Oceanagold’s rights violations of commission, ommission, and lack of due diligence, the hearing resulted into a sham proceeding that served as nothing but the latest stunt of Oceanagold to worm out of its track record of violations and injustices. It became their platform to call for the renewal of its Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement, which expired eight months ago and its renewal challenged precisely because of the mine’s plethora of violations.
We thus call for a genuinely independent investigation into the human rights crisis systematically created by Oceanagold. The ICC/IP Committee can and must do better. The CHR can also initiate a fair inquiry into the human rights problems raised by the UN.
Perhaps Malacanang can invite the UN Special Rapporteurs themselves who raised concern over the misdeeds of the foreign mine. The UN just may be the unlikely ally of the Duterte administration that has vowed hold accountable irresponsible mines such as Oceanagold.#