MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippine activists pressure human rights body over Oceana Gold mine

Published by MAC on 2010-11-08
Source: GMA News, statement

Almost a year ago, we reported that the head of the Philippine Human Rights Commission had visited the community at Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, to investigate a number of complaints (that have long been aired on this site). See: Philippines' Human Rights Commissioner investigates Didipio complaints

The affected community is still waiting for the report. While the mining company, Oceana Gold, since put the project on hold for economic reasons, it now appears to be raising funds to push it through.

What will be the cost to this divided and damaged community?

Already, one resident who suffered a heart attack when his home was bulldozed, has died.

This has spurred local activists once again to demand justice - so long delayed - and protection against any new clearances.

Activists want CHR's report on probe of mining ‘abuses' in Vizcaya

Floro Taguinod


2 November 2010

SANTIAGO CITY, Isabela - Anti-mining activists in Nueva Vizcaya have urged the Commission on Human Rights to come up with the report of the investigation the agency conducted last year on human rights violations allegedly committed by a mining firm in the upland mining town of Kasibu.

Resident holding out against mine in Didipio, Philippines
Resident holding out against mine in Didipio, Philippines - the sign reads
"keep out - project area" - Andy Whitmore/MAC

Prompted by the death last week of a supposed victim of aggressive mining operations there, members of a group of an environmental activists are demanding the CHR to submit its report on its probe on the operations of the Australia-based OceanaGold Philippines' (OGP).

The Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association (DESAMA) said Romeo Guimbangan, an Ifugao in his mid-50s, died due to a heart problem that supposedly had worsened since one of the mining firm's bulldozers shoved his house off a cliff in 2008.

A report from the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) showed that the incident happened despite Guimbangan's pleadings to the OGP wrecking team to defer the demolition until somebody could make him understand why his house would be demolished.

The OGP has since denied the allegations. At the height of the issue in 2008, it said the firm has continued to abide by the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) awarded by the government.

On November 2009, a CHR team that was headed by then CHR head and now Department of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and a team of human rights advocates along with Nueva Vizcaya-based media group, local and national non-government organizations, conducted an inquiry on the reported abuses by the OGP against the indigenous peoples (IP) in Kasibu town's Didipio village.

The allegations against OGP included the purported illegal demolition of houses, some of which were said to have been bulldozed off a cliff.

The group said De Lima acted on the request of the IPs to look into irregularities of OGP in the conduct of its exploration activities and land acquisition schemes, which allegedly included duping of residents.

According to the group, a year has passed after the probe but its members and Didipio residents have yet to see CHR's report.

According to Ronald Gregorio, team leader of LRC in Luzon, there are at least 180 indigenous residents who were victims of Oceana Gold's violent demolitions.

"Some have already left Didipio, while others remain and have set-up temporary shelters within the vicinity of the community. Their farm and vegetable plots are now fenced off by the mining company," He said.

On February 27, 2008, the Regional Trial Court of Bayombong issued an injunction against Oceana Gold's demolition activities. The Court ruled that OGP failed to secure a special order of demolition issued by a court of law thus the demolition activities were "tainted with irregularity and contrary to law."

On the other hand, the giant mining firm and the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government have since been locked up in court cases against each other.

The OGP has been accused of refusing to pay millions in taxes due from its quarrying activities. The firm retaliated by filing a case of abuse of authority against the governor.

The legal tussle is in a deadlock even as the OGP was forced to suspend all of its exploration activities in the area due to financial woes. - LBG, GMANews.TV

Owner of house OceanaGold pushed to the cliff in 2008 died

LRC Press Release

29 October 2010

Cabarroguis, Quirino. Mr. Romeo Guimbangan, a 50 plus year old Ifugao resident of Didipio died in Cabarrouguis town after suffering another heart attack last Wednesday, according to close friends of the family.

Mr. Guimbangan's house was pushed off a cliff by a bulldozer of OceanaGold's demolition team in February 19, 2008. This unfortunate incident happened while Mr. Guimbangan was away in Cabarroguis town, seeking legal advice on how to assert their rights and what he can do to prevent OceanaGold from demolishing their house.

Ironically, on February 27 -- the Regional Trial Court of Bayombong issued an injunction against OceanaGold's demolition activities. The Court ruled that OceanaGold failed to secure a special order of demolition issued by a court of law. In so ruling, the Court declared that the demolition activities are "tainted with irregularity and contrary to law." OceanaGold's illegal and violent demolitions has effectively deprived the indigenous residents their rights to property and due process of law.

The day before, while his family was having breakfast, they heard a bulldozer approaching their house. Mr. Guimbangan immediately confronted the demolition team and persuaded them to defer their planned action until he finds somebody to help and explain to him whether OceanaGold has the right to take away his family's property. He also said to the leader of the demolition team that the deferment of the demolition of his family's house will also allow them to secure their belongings and look for a place to resettle, in case he is satisfied that OceanaGold has the rightful claim to his property.

Mr. Guimbangan had a heart attack when he learned that his family's house, including all their personal belongings, was violently demolished by OceanaGold's wrecking crew. Since then their family were forced to move to Cabarroguis town in Quirino province.

There are at least 180 indigenous residents who have fallen victim to OceanaGold's violent demolitions. Some of whom have already left Didipio, while others remain and have set-up temporary shelters within the vicinity of the community. Their farm and vegetable plots are now fenced off by the mining company.

Secretary Leila De Lima, then the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), acted on the complaints of the indigenous residents. In November 2009, Secretary De Lima went to Didipio to verify if allegations of human rights violations were indeed committed against the indigenous peoples of Didipio. To-date, DESAMA, the people's organisation in Didipio and residents fervently await the Commission's report. DESAMA members will be trooping to Cabarroguis this week to extend their condolences to the family of Mr. Guimbangan.

For more information, please contact Ronald A. Gregorio/Legal Rights & Natural Resources Center-Luzon Regional Office
office: +632 926.44.09

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