Nagsanib puersa ang indigenous communities, local government leaders, at mga environmental advocates sa nasabing lalawigan upang manawagan sa Palasyo na ikansila ang Financial o Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) license ng Australian-Canadian large-scale mining corporation Oceanagold, na nag ooperate para sa pagmimina ng copper at gold sa nabanggit na probinsiya.
Ito ang panawagan ng grupo sa isinagawang Press conference nitong June 18, 2019 na ginanap sa isang Restaurant sa Quezon City.
“Oceanagold’s destructive big mining has been barricaded by indigenous communities, recently opposed in a unanimous provincial council resolution, and is even currently investigated by nine United Nations special rapporteurs. It is high time for the Duterte government to cancel Oceanagold’s FTAA license and compel the destructive mine to answer for its various rights violations,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, one of the national support groups for the Nueva Vizcaya-wide campaign against the foreign mining company.
Oceanagold’s 25-year FTAA license is set to expire after 25 years on June 20, 2019.
Representatives from local people’s organizations SAPAKKMMI and DESAMA, provincial alliance Alyansa ng Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (ANVIK), Kalikasan PNE, Alyansa Tigil Mina, and the Greenthumb Coalition, together with Nueva Vizcaya governor Carlos Padilla and CBCP NASSA Secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez, raised the call for Oceanagold’s FTAA cancellation before DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu in a dialogue at the DENR Central Office.
“We believe that more than a decade of human rights violations and other negative impacts against communities and ecosystems in Nueva Vizcaya are a strong basis for denying the mining company’s extension,” explained Dulce.
In 2007, Oxfam Australia came out with a Mining Ombudsman Report narrating how villagers accused Oceanagold of engaging in “harassment and the use of strong arm tactics to pressure them to accept its plans to develop a large gold and copper mine.”
In 2011, the Commission on Human Rights found Oceanagold complicit in the forced evictions of indigenous and peasant families that included the indiscriminate burning of homes from
2008 to 2009.
A 2014 environmental investigation mission (EIM) led by independent scientist group AGHAM found damages to forests, air pollution from dusty roads and stockpiles, and massive water pollution, all affecting the health and livelihood of affected residents.
In 2017, former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered the suspension of Oceanagold’s operations, but the order was stayed by the Office of the President after the company made an appeal. In the same month, at least 133 families were forced to evacuate their homes and local community leaders experienced threats and intimidation, after military combat operations swooped across the mine’s operational and expansion areas.
“To date, villagers in Oceanagold’s host barangay of Didipio have yet to be given their due just compensation from the company. Worse, the villagers have been forced to pay with their rights and civil liberties for being vocal in demanding accountability,” said Dulce.
In response, actions have been mounting against the foreign mining operation over the past few years.
In 2016, a barricade was staged by people’s organizations SAPAKKMMI and DESAMA against the expansion activities of Oceanagold.
A communication last February 2019 by nine special rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council, including Special Rapporteur on Environment Prof. John Boyd and Chair-Rapporteur on Business and Human Rights Surya Deva, among others, have sought answers from the Duterte government on the series of violations involving the Didipio mine.
Just yesterday, the Provincial Council of Nueva Vizcaya came out with a unanimous resolution calling for the non-extension of Oceanagold’s FTAA.
“We will exercise constant vigilance to make sure DENR and the Duterte government revokes the pro-plunder, pro-polluter FTAA license of Oceanagold. Its license’s expiry will mark the start, not the end, of our watch,” Dulce ended.