15th June 2016
Anti-mining residents launched a barricade in June 15 to stop the drilling operations of Oceana Gold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) in Sitio Camgat, Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya which started in the first week of June.
“They are greedy. Still not satisfied with the vast open pit they dug in our land they still want more while we residents are suffering from the negative effects they brought. We want them to pull-out. Stop their operations. Our lives are at stake,” Lholet Guimpayan, a resident in the barricade said.
Residents under peoples organizations of DESAMA (Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association) and SAPAKKMMI (Samahang Pangkarapatan ng Katutubong Mangagawa at Magsasaka Inc. ) joined forces to stop the 400 meter drilling operations which they believe will affect the potable water system of the community and pollute the rivers with the chemicals used in drilling operations.
“We have experienced this in the Sitio Magasin, just above the Dinkidi mining site, wherein the residents abandoned their homes because the groundwater source was depleted since the mining company started its operations in 2012,” Ernesto Bobola, chairperson of SAPPAKKMI narrated.
He added that the chemicals used in drilling exploration may affect the water systems even the downstream areas once it leaks through the soil and the river. Barangays that may be affected are Didipio, Alimit, Tubo, Alicia, Naguigui, San Benigno, Aglipay and barangays in Jones, Isabela.
According to Fernando Mangili, spokesperson of Amianan Salakniban, an Environment and Human Rights Network in Luzon, based on the experience of mining in his province in Benguet, all stages of mineral production from exploration to extraction have detrimental effects to the water systems of the land.
“Mines damage, deplete and pollute water systems at every stage of their lifecycle, from prospecting, operating to closure. And sometimes its effects are felt centuries after. My hometown, Benguet is a dead proof that mining is detrimental to our ecosystems.”
OGPI, a subsidiary of the Australian-Canadian transnational mining company, Oceana Gold was given a 5 year extension of their Free Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) exploration by the Mines Geosciences Bureau (MGB) last March. In their corporate press release, target areas for exploration which covers six kilometers of drilling are Upper Tucos, Mogambos and Papaya which are covered by the Free Technical Assistance Agreement FTAA-001 granted by the government in 1994. Their exploration methods include geologic mapping, soil sampling and ground geophysics has commenced but the drilling is yet to commence in the third quarter of 2016.
However, according to residents, OGPI is already drilling in the area with their machines. The residents immediately united to form a barricade to stop the exploration.
According to Myrna Duyan, one of the Board of Directors of DESAMA, all of the 10 families in Sitio Camgat that are directly affected by the drilling are opposed to the drilling operations. No consent from the community was ever given to the company to start the operations.
“In fact, we passed a Barangay Resolution in 2012 to the company that we will not allow mining and drilling operations in the remaining areas that Oceana Gold have not destroyed yet,” Duyan added. “Our free prior informed consent is being violated in this act.”
Residents claim all of them did not approve the entry of the mines in the first place but because of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the FTAA component of the law, their rights to their livelihood and water sources are continuously being violated because the company has all the rights to their land. And even though Nueva Vizcaya declared itself a no-mining zone under EO79, OGPI is still being allowed to operate and expand its operations.
“We also plead to the President-elect Duterte to change the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 which brought large-scale mining to our lives,” Duyan added.
“We call on President Duterte to help us stop the operations of Oceana Gold here in Didipio. It has brought nothing to the community but suffering to us residents. The continuous destruction of our environment is leaving us with no hope for the future generations,” Bobola pleaded.
Watch 2016 film In Defence of Life to learn more about the story of the Didipio community’s struggle against Oceana Gold.
Learn more about mining in the Philippines from human rights defender Sister Stella Matutina.