Philippines- On the 24th August more than 300 members of local communities from Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, and their allies gathered to demand that Australian mining multinational OceanaGold ceases operations at its Didipio mine and leaves the area.
OceanaGold (Philippines) (OGPI) has been operating its Didipio gold-copper mine in the area since 2013. Its activities have been dogged by controversy. In 2011 the Commission for Human Rights in the Philippines found that OGPI had violated numerous human rights in the area, including local peoples’ Right to Residence, Adequate Housing and Property Rights; to Freedom of Movement; to Security of Person and to Manifest Culture and Identity, amongst others.
During a recent learning and solidarity mission to the area, community members reported numerous continuing complaints about the mine to delegates from the International People’s Conference on Mining. The community alleged that OGPI’s operations are responsible for the pollution of local water sources resulting in agricultural losses; air pollution causing respiratory problems including bronchial-pneumonia; stress and property damage caused by mine-blasting and broken promises over compensation.
Responding to these continuing challenges, local people from Didipio and surrounding barangays are intensifying their resistance under the banner of SAPAKKMMI, a nascent local organisation. Since its founding just 5 months ago, SAPAKKMMI’s membership has grown from 12 to over 115 individuals.
On Monday 24th September, members of SAPAKKMMI staged their latest action, descending through Barangay Boulevard to gather outside OceanaGold’s gates in open protest. With banners drawing attention to OceanaGold’s alleged violations the people denounced the company’s activities in the area. With others reading ‘PALAYASIN’ (Get Out) they made their demand clear.
Despite the havoc caused by Typhoon Ineng just days before the protest the people of Didipio were joined by allies from Aglipay in neighbouring Quirino Province, who bolstered the protest and brought numbers to a reported 300 people.
Many of those gathered, and who now call Didipio home, are Ifugao Indigenous Peoples whose traditional territories lie further north in the Philippine Cordillera. During the late 20th Century many Ifugao were displaced by hydro dam projects and moved south to Didipio and other areas. At the protest both Ifugao elders and young leaders spoke out against the mine as yet another mega-project that threatens land they were re-settled on and which they have developed a close connection to.
Famed for their skills as terrace building rice farmers, the Ifugaos of Didipio also performed a Magasaka (peasant/farmer’s) dance to honour the agricultural heritage they fear the mine is damaging.
To see footage from the protest, more photos and to stay up to date, visit SAPAKKMMI’s Facebook page.