The Philippines Chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Phils) stands in solidarity with the indigenous communities of Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, 335 km. north of Manila, in standing up to the mining giant OceanaGold.
OceanaGold is a multinational gold producer with multimillion dollar mining stakes in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, El Salvador and the Philippines. OceanGold/Pacific Rim even sued the El Salvadorian government in 2009 for US$301 million in the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) at the World Bank.
Currently there is community barricade to stop the expansion of OceanaGold in the Philippines.
We laud the anti-mining residents under the mass organizations of DESAMA (Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association) and SAPAKKMMI (Samahang Pangkarapatan ng Katutubong Mangagawa at Magsasaka Inc.) and their Barangay (Village) Council.
We support the on-going petition led by local organizations asking the new Philippine President Duterte to stop OceanaGold operation. We urge the international community to support an international case against OceanaGold to pursue accountability for its violations.
In the Philippines, several anti-mining activist and indigenous people leaders have been killed in the course of the anti-mining struggle in Nueva Vizcaya. Hundreds of individuals have been displaced in their communities. Rights violations continue on the indigenous peoples, mine workers, community residents and the environment.
OceanaGold Philippines Inc. pulled out their drilling operations in Sitio Camgat, Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu Nueva Vizcaya last Saturday, June 18, three days after anti-mining residents barricaded the entrance to the site.
Residents stopped the 400 meter drilling operations which will affect the potable water system of the community and pollute the rivers with the chemicals used in drilling operations.
Two of their barangays were already wiped out, illegally demolished by the company in 2008 and the area was converted into a tailings pond that leaks toxic chemicals to the Didipio River and all rivers connected to it. Their cattle die upon drinking the water from the rivers connected to OceanaGold’s tailings pond.
The pollution of Didipio’s river systems that provide water for farmland irrigations were repeatedly proven by several fact-finding missions of scientists under AGHAM and Kalikasan PNE and international groups since 2013 to 2015.
Chemicals used in drilling exploration imperils 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.
Blasting operations also caused the community’s potable water supply from the springs to dry up. Several sitios were abandoned because of this. Entire families were displaced. No rehabilitation or relocation was ever set up by the company.
The Barangay Health Center has reported an increase in cases of respiratory diseases ever since OceanaGold started its operations. More than a thousand residents complaining of respiratory problems were documented by the Barangay health workers in Didipio.
Existing forests in the hills and mountains surrounding the once Dinkidi Hill, are being threatened to be denuded and excavated as the company plans to expand its operations. Last March, the government’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) granted a five-year extension to its mining contract, legalizing their exploration works in the region surrounding Didipio.
Since its full scale operations in 2013, none of its promises to the community were delivered. Schools remained as they were before the entry of the mines, lacking in teachers, school facilities, computers, chairs and school buildings. The hospital is still non-existent.
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 people and the land.
An important part of the Indigenous Peoples Agenda recommends to the Duterte administration to re-orient the domestic mining industry, and repeal the neoliberal Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
We urge the global community to uphold the Filipino people’s struggle in asserting their collective rights to their land and environment against destructive mining.