General ignorance: more threats to Philippine indigenous peoples
The situation in Bayog, Zamboanga, seems to go from bad to worse (see:- Law and disorder: Justice for Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines?).
It has been clear for some time that powerful forces are behind the conflict that is endangering the lives of the Subanon caught between the forces.
However, now the two generals backing the security firms guarding the mining companies have started exchanging legal blows. Apparently, at least one of the Subanon leaders who are trying to get both parties to leave, are charged with committing "grave violations."
At the same time, those leaders have submitted a complaint, to the office of the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, about the continuing human rights violations by the companies themselves.
During the week where President Nonoy Aquino gave his second State of the Nation Address, indigenous peoples gathered once again to give their judgment on his time in office.
This year there was a focus on indigenous women, who once again pointed to the problems large-scale mining is causing in their communities.
Green groups have called for the passing of green legislation, including alternative mining bills currently in Congress. The foreign chambers of commerce also lobbied the President, for more favourable mining laws for their companies.
Finally, an international fact-finding mission has investigated mining in Nueva Vizcay, specifically operations proposed by OceanaGold, Royalco and Metals Exploration.
Mining dispute now a war between retired generals
By Julie Alipala, Tito Fiel
28 July 2011
PAGADIAN CITY, Philippines - A dispute between two mining companies in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur, appears to have developed into a war between two retired generals.
On Tuesday, retired Brigadier General Alexander Yapching sued retired Major General Jovito Palparan Jr. at the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao for alleged usurpation of authority, grave coercion, robbery and malicious mischief.
Yapching's 12-page suit stemmed from a June 22 raid conducted by personnel of Palparan's 24 Oras Security Agency on a compound being occupied by guards of his AY76 Security Specialists.
24 Oras works for Bayog 9 metals while AY76 provides security to Lupah Pigegetawan Mining.
The two mining companies have laid contesting mining claims over a portion of Conacon village in Bayog. Recently, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau declared Lupah's operation illegal and ordered the mining company to leave the area.
While Lupah has since ceased operation, AY76 continues to operate in the area in the guise of protecting the ancestral domain of the Subanens, who were being passed off as Lupah's owners under the Indigenous Peoples [Rights] Act.
On June 22, 24 Oras guards stormed the AY76 compound and seized high-powered firearms, including AK47s.
In his complaint to the Ombudsman, Yapching said Palparan and his men connived with some local officials when the raid was conducted.
He said the raid was illegal because it was not sanctioned by the proper authorities.
Yapching also charged that Palparan's men usurped authority when they introduced themselves as members of the provincial environment task force during the raid.
Palparan was not available for comment but Richard Lapira, Bayog 9 Metals representative, said they were still waiting for a copy of the complaint.
Lapira said they can only comment once they formally received the complaint from the Ombudsman.
In Zamboanga City, authorities have started summary proceedings against Palparan's security agency for reported violation of the provisions of the Firearms and Explosives, Security Agencies and Guards Supervision (Fesags), Chief Superintendent Elpidio de Asis, Western Mindanao police chief, said.
De Asis said that based on the results of an investigation, the raid was illegal as it was without proper coordination with the local police, the Fesags office and the Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies (Sosia).
"They (24 Oras guards) should not have done that," De Asis said.
Inspector Leonard Paredes, Fesags chief for Western Mindanao, said 24 Oras's license could be revoked.
Paredes said Palparan's men "committed grave violations."
"They operated, disarmed another security agency and confiscated the firearms of another security without proper coordination with our office or with the local police in the area and they didn't inform our office of their plans prior to going to the area," Paredes said.
He said the action was also usurpation of authority because only the Fesags office and the Sosia were authorized to do it.
"We are now weighing all the offenses committed by 24 Oras and there's a possibility of revocation of their license, we are hoping to conclude the summary hearing before the end of this month or first week of August," Paredes said.
He said the authorities were not singling out 24 Oras.
Paredes said AY76 was also penalized when the investigating team found out that its men were not wearing the proper uniforms.
"Their security guards were wearing or using black uniforms, which is also a violation of the Fesags and Sosia guidelines. It was the first time they committed an offense so the fine was only P50,000," he said.
As to the AK47s that were found in the possession of AY76 guards, Paredes said security agencies were "allowed and authorized to use and procure high-powered weapons if they are assigned and deployed within high risk areas like Bayog."
Bayog is one of Western Mindanao areas where the New People's Army operates.
Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples from Pigsalabukan Gukom de Bayog, Philippines
Office of the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples
22 July 2011
I, Timuay Lucenio M. Manda, Gonotan (Tribal Chieftain) of the Pigsalabukan Gukom de Bayog, a network of Subanen Tribal Organizations in the Municipality of Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines duly recognized by the Philippines' National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), and as duly elected Barangay (Village) Captain of Barangay Conacon, Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur would like to report on human rights violations against my people due to the growing tension between the security forces of two mining companies contesting a particular mining claim within our ancestral domain.
The conflict between the two mining companies Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Co. and Bayog 9 Metals Corporation and their respective security agencies: AY-76 owned by retired General Alexander Yapching and 24 Oras Bantay Security Agency owned by the son of retired General Jovito Palparan, has resulted to the evacuation of 33 families, predominantly Subanen indigenous peoples, and the closing down of the day care center and primary school. The conflict and tension caused by the two mining companies has displaced indigenous families, disrupted their economic activities and livelihoods and has resulted in grave threats against indigenous leaders, including me personally.
At 3 am on June 23, 2011, 33 families evacuated their homes due to escalating conflict and tension between the two heavily aforementioned armed security agencies The community, through its local village officials, filed a resolution requesting assistance from the Mayor through its Municipal Peace and Order Council to remove all security agencies personnel operating in the area immediately in June 24, 2011. This barangay resolution was supported by the Municipal Peace and Order Council and approved by Mayor Leonardo Babasa, Jr. The Mayor released the Municipal Executive Order No. 11-018 in June 25, 2011. To date the Philippine National Police of Bayog have merely handed the order to the two companies, and have not enforced the order. The two security agencies remain in the area. The 24 Oras Bantay Security Agency claimed they were willing to comply, but only if AY-76 also complied. AY-76 refused to obey the order, thus, 24 Oras remained in its position. To prevent bloodshed, the Philippine National Police, the military 53rd infantry battalion and the Civilian Auxiliary Army (CAA), also deployed their personnel, leading to increased militarisation in the community. To date, a stand off of five armed groups remains in the area.
Of the two mining companies, Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Company and its security agency, AY-76, are the cause of most concern for the Subanens in Bayog. They are operating illegally, without a proper mining permit from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), set up illegal checkpoints and have harassed and intimidated residents with their high-powered rifles. Both were declared "Persona-Non Grata" by the villagers of Barangay Conacon. Through the complaints of the indigenous leaders and local governments, the MGB, the state agency that regulates mining operations in the country, issued a Cease and Desist order to Lupa Pigigetawan on February 10, 2011. The first implementation of this was on April 15, 2011. Yet the mining company continued to operate. This prompted the Province of Zamboanga del Sur to serve a Closure Order in May 27, 2011, resulting in the withdrawal of mining equipment and the confiscation of the mine ores. Despite this, Lupa Pigigetawan maintained its armed security in the area and further increased the number of its security personnel.
Indigenous leaders, including myself and the local village leaders, are concerned that there will be reprisals because of the community actions in stopping the illegal operation of the mining company. The community filed a complaint against AY-76 personnel for grave threats and coercion at 12:20 am on June 23, 2011 because AY-76 threatened to return and ransack their homes. On July 4, 2011, as the Barangay Captain of Barangay Conacon, I filed a case with regard to grave threats and grave coercion against AY-76 and the President of Lupa Pigigetawan, Mr. Absalon Alcorin, Jr. As a consequence, there is a seriously increased security threat against my person.
More or less 158 families live in Barangay Conacon, Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur. It is the 30 families living within roughly 300-400 meters of the camps of the two mining companies who have evacuated to Barangay Bubuan and Barangay Datagan, about 3 kilometers away from the disputed area. The rest of the residents have experienced harassments at illegal checkpoints, and the daily sight of high-powered firearms has drastically affected economic and livelihood activities, due to these threats and harassments.
Attached is our organizational profile and affidavit of Complaints (submitted to the Department of Justice) for reference on the victims and communities affected.
Our communities have filed complaints to our local government units, from the local village to the Municipal Mayor and the Provincial Governor of Zamboanga del Sur. Our complaints were acted upon according to the letter of the law by some government agencies, and yet the two security agencies still remain in the area. We have asked for an investigation through the Commission on Human Rights, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, including the House Committee on National Cultural Communities. But the longer our petition is not acted upon, the greater is the security threat to Subanen Leaders including myself, the more economic and lack of livelihoods issues the Subanens of Bayog will continue to suffer. Our children are no longer going to school due to said conflict.
We have taken the actions open to us, and now believe that the failure of national remedies mean we must look to international mechanisms. The Subanen of Bayog, Zamboanga, were one of the communities whose issues were addressed in the 2009 Philippine Indigenous Peoples ICERD Shadow report. The issues included the following: Flawed Free and Prior Informed Consent process by mining companies wishing to extract iron ore and other minerals in the area, failure to uphold rulings under the customary law, and death threats to the leaders particularly myself, Timuay Lucenio Manda, which resulted in the intentional burning down of my house.
In line with this, I, Timuay Lucenio M. Manda together with my people, request for your good office to act on the human rights violations against my people, the Subanens of Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur.
Timuay Lucenio M. Manda
Barangay Conacon, Bayog
Zamboanga del Sur
Indigenous peoples dismayed by their absence in Sona
By Violeta M. Gloria
26 July 2011
KORONADAL CITY - Delegates to an assembly of indigenous peoples expressed dismay at their being not mentioned in the second State of the Nation Address of President Benigno S. Aquino III during the joint session of Congress on Monday.
They also lamented that Aquino did not say a thing about the peace process with rebel groups.
Jennifa Bat-ao of Cantilan, Surigao del Sur said the omission meant that they were still discriminated against and marginalized.
Bat-ao, speaking to 129 delegates to the State of Indigenous Peoples' Address at the Christ the King Retreat Center, said she voted for Aquino because she thought he represented changed.
Teresa dela Cruz, an Aeta from Zambales said it was an insult to see lawmakers applaud the pantawid gutom (conditional cash transfer) program because the indigenous peoples did not benefit from it.
Datu Tabunan from Agusan del Sur said Aquino should relate the issue of environment protection to the lives of indigenous peoples and their rights to their territories.
Rizaldo Anggay, a Teduray noted that Aquino did not mention a thing about the peace process. He said it is important for Lumads because they are affected by the conflict.
Roldan Babelon of Carmen, North Cotabato shared Anggay's concern on the peace process, adding he wanted the president to support their advocacy on mandatory representation in local legislative councils.
Judy Pasimio, executive director of Legal Rights and Natural Center-Kasama sa Kalisakasan (LRC-KsK), said: "What is glaring here is that he was silent on critical matters which he raised in his first SONA. He appointed credible persons to head the peace process and I wondered if he'd end there-only choosing the right people to raise hope. But hope is not enough; he should be serious for peace process to prosper."
"This is not quite a good signal. I'm beginning to doubt his sincerity on it," Pasimio added.
Carl Cesar Rebuta, program coordinator of SIPA said that Aquino had no clear agenda for the indigenous peoples. He said the president praised large plantations and corporations whose presence supposedly means displacement of people and human rights violations.
"Make us feel like Filipinos too," Leticia Gomez, an Aeta from Zambales asked Aquino.
"But we must not cry. We must not cry. Gagawa tayo ng paraan para marinig tayo ni PNoy bukas," Remedios Panganiban, an Aeta in her 80s said.
Rommel De Vera, international program coordinator of LRC-KsK, explained that SIPA is a venue where indigenous peoples assess whether government programs have served their interests.
In previous gatherings, they had assessed government response to their ancestral domain claims, right to self-determination and social services, as well as their position on mining and other development projects.
This year's SIPA was attended by 129 delegates representing most of the country's ethno-linguistic groups. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)
Tribes to hold SIPA Monday
24 July 2011
BUTUAN CITY, Philippines (PNA) - Leaders and members of the indigenous peoples (IPs) groups in Mindanao have started to gather at the Christ the King Retreat Center (CKRC) in Koronadal City in South Cotabato since Thursday to deliver their State-of-the-Indigenous-People Address (SIPA) - their own version of President Aquino's State-of-the-Nation Address (SoNA) Monday.
In a press statement, Legal Rights Center (LRC) official Cocoy Rebuta claimed that around 100 key leaders and chieftains from tribal groups - like the Manobo, Mamanwa, T'boli, B'laan, Subanen, Teduray, Higaonon, Talaandig, and Mandaya from the provinces of Surigao, Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato, Zamboanga Peninsula, Bukidnon, Davao; and Agta in Bukidnon have started to arrive in Koronadal since July 21 to attend the gathering.
Ati tribal group leaders of Negros provinces in the Visayas, the Aeta from Palawan, the Mangyan, Kankana-ey, Ibaloi, and Igorot tribes from Luzon were also expected to attend the event scheduled from July 23 to 28, 2011.
The statement said that the National IP Women Gathering and the SIPA will also take place from July 23 to 28.
The gathering of the Lumad communities will be held at the Christ the King Retreat Center (CKRC) in Koronadal.
The SIPA is a national gathering of indigenous peoples to present to the Filipino people their true state and plight, their issues and concerns, their aspirations, and their struggles to protect and promote their rights as communities and as people.
It was learned that this year's SIPA is the fourth to be organized.
"It is held every year since 2008 every July, parallel to the State-of-the- Nation Address of the President of the Philippines," the statement said.
The National IP Women gathering is being conducted right before the annual SIPA.
Most of the IP women coming for the gathering have attended at least one SIPA, and so know and have experienced participating in this big gathering of indigenous leaders.
This year's gathering is dubbed "IP Women: Weaving Desires Together, Forging Collective Strength Towards Solidarity and Genuine Changes."
The gathering hopes to assess the SIPA, whether that platform actually serves the interests of the IP women, whether their participation has been facilitated to make it meaningful and productive, and whether the SIPA itself reflects their own situation, and articulates their issues as well as dreams and ideas of solutions.
It also aims to facilitate their input in the coming SIPA - their specific conditions as women members of the IP communities, their own thoughts and assessment of the first year of the Aquino administration, and their own proposals of policy agenda.
The statement also said that results of the gathering will be formulated into an IP Women Agenda, which will be given to relevant agencies both at the national and local level, other policymakers, other women's groups, and women's right advocates.
The IP women agenda will also be shared to the SIPA assembly as contribution to the development of the SIPA 2011.
IP women to PNoy; Bagsak (FAILED)
SIPA Press Release
25 July 2011
Koronadal City - 45 Indigenous women leaders coming from 19 tribes and sub-tribes around the country gave the 1st year of PNoy administration a "BAGSAK" for failing to deliver promises made during campaign period and those he made during his first state of the nation address (SONA).
The high expectations by the people including Indigenous women stems from the fact that PNoy rose to power with high popularity and support hoping that he could deliver positive steps towards fundamental changes from the nine years of hated and corrupt GMA administration.
The anti corruption efforts of PNoy and appointing to cabinet positions leaders from civil society groups didn't help maintain his high ratings as latest surveys show. In October 2010 his popularity acceptance was 79%. It drastically went down to 64% in November and much lower this March at 51% (a sharp drop of 13% points).
In a National Gathering of Indigenous Peoples Women held at Christ the King Retreat Center in Koronadal City on 23-24 July 2011, women community leaders reflected and shared their thoughts of their specific conditions under the PNoy administration and agreed that the one year regime failed them of their expectations.
"In his speech in 2010, PNOY said ‘Ngayon, pwede na tayong mangarap.' (We can now dream.) As women who are in the forefront of struggles, we have always kept our dreams. The more critical question is - do we have an ally in PNOY in moving closer to the fulfilment of our dreams?" asked Judy A. Pasimio of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-Ksk/Friends of the Earth-Phils.), organizer of the gathering in behalf of the indigenous women.
Same fundamental issues
"Bagsak kay wala nya napugngan ang padayon nga pagtaas sa presyo sa mga palaliton, gasolina, bugas kag iban pa namon nga mga inadlaw-adlaw nga panginahanglan," said T'boli women Amihan Ambag in her local dialect. (He failed to stop the continuing increase of prices of goods, oil, rice and our other daily needs).
"Hanggang ngayon, hindi pa rin kinikilala ang aming mga karapatan sa aming mga lupang ninuno at wala pa ring tulong mula sa pamahalaan upang mapaunlad ang aming mga lupain," reported one workshop group during the gathering, adding that PNoy failed to stop the encroachment of large scale mining, logging, hydro dam projects and other extractive industries in their ancestral lands. (Until now, our right to our ancestral domains is not yet recognized and there is no help yet from the government so that we can develop our lands).
PNoy also failed to stop militarization in the country sides which resulted in various cases of human rights violations, according the group.
Keynote speaker Beverly Longid of Katribu Partylist explained "food on the table and other basic needs are among the main concerns of most indigenous women, and PNoy failed to address these basic problems one year after his assumption to power".
"Even PNoy's 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program), supposedly to address extreme poverty, perpetuate discrimination of indigenous women aside from becoming another source of corruption among officials," said Longid adding that until now, PNoy hasn't issued a clear cut policy on Indigenous People's concerns, much more on women.
Windows of hope
Judith Maranes of the Ibaloi-Kalunguya tribe from Baguio City expressed hope that the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) will deliver this time with the appointment of a progressive Chairperson. Bridgettte Hamada, or Manang Briggs among her peers in the indigenous communities, is an Ifugao who has been part of the struggle for the protection of IP rights.
The women leaders lauded the current leadership of the Commission on Human Rights, in the person of Ms. Etta Rosales, who is expected to act on issues raised by indigenous communities, especially of women who are discriminated and threatened both as an indigenous people and as woman.
It is also envisioned that the peace talks and discussions will open a venue where indigenous women groups can participate and be involved.
"We hope that the peace talks will not just solve these political problems but also address the very issue of the lack of basic social services provided in far-flung areas. We reaffirmed in the sessions that basic needs such as food, education and health needs are not delivered in the poorest of the poor communities," said.
With the theme "IP women weaving desires together, forging collective strength towards solidarity and genuine changes", the two-day discussion-workshop's expected outcome will be formulated into an IP women agenda, to be given to relevant agencies both at the national and local level.
Carl Cesar C. Rebuta
Foreign chambers seek unified rules on mining
Current laws ‘confusing,' groups say
Abigail L. Ho
Philippine Daily Inquirer
21 July 2011
Heads of foreign chambers with members that are active participants in the local mining sector are calling on the government to eliminate confusion among investors, by making a unified stand on mining issues on both the national and local levels.
Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines president Julian Payne noted that RA 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, was "very good'' and could even be considered a model for mining laws in other countries.
The big problem, however, was in the implementation, Payne said.
"One of the problems is that small-scale mining operations have brought the entire industry to disrepute. There's also a dichotomy between national government and local government policies. The problem is really with the implementation (of the law). The national government should be in coherent cooperation with local government units," he said in a briefing Wednesday by the Joint Foreign Chambers.
Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (Philippines) vice president Ian Porter added that this seeming disconnect between the positions of the national and local governments when it came to mining was causing "confusion" among investors.
He related that while Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo expressed the government's support for mining projects during the 3rd Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting in Canberra last month, local governments were giving mixed signals to the industry with their antimining policies.
"There has been some confusion on the part of investors with regard to the government's support for mining. There were even calls to increase royalty payments. These will have to be resolved. Statements that confuse investors will inhibit them from investing straight away," Porter said.
During the Canberra summit, both the Philippine and Australian governments recognized the potential of the mining sector as a key area of growth and cooperation.
The Philippines currently plays host to a number of Australian mining firms, all of which have plunked millions of dollars into their respective projects.
N. Vizcaya determined vs three mining giants
By Mary Lou Marigza
25 July 2011
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya - The people of Nueva Vizcaya, particularly the people of Kasibu and Quezon, are determined to oppose three mining giants exploring for gold and other minerals in their areas.
This was the finding of the International Study Tour to Mining Communities of Nueva Vizcaya (ISTNV) last July 10-11. The ISTNV visited the areas of Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. in Didipio, Kasibu; FCF Minerals in Runruno, Quezon; and Royalco Resources, Ltd in Belance, Kasibu.
The international delegates came from Australia and New Zealand where the three mining corporations are located and listed or have mining claims. Local delegates were organized from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Cagayan Valley, Clergy Laity Formation Program, Cagayan Valley Regional Ecumenical Assembly, Katinnulong daguiti Umili iti Amianan, Masipag, Defend Patrimony, Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment and Kabataan Party List.
The ISTNV findings show that Oceana Gold and FCF are already in the development phase of their application while Royalco is still in the exploration stage. Oceana and FCF intend to start commercial production in 2012.
The areas covering 19,363 hectares were applied for by Australian Climax-Arimco Mining Corporation which sold its concession to Oceana Gold when it could no longer proceed. Their mining operations was delayed by the fierce opposition put up by the affected people.
While the FCF Mining Corporation got its concession from the Greenwater Mining Corporation application covering 3,093 hectares in Runruno. The Royalco concession of 5,873 hectares was from the former exploration application made by Oxiana Philippines.
The opposition remains strong despite harassment and other ploys being resorted to by the three mining companies. Some of their leaders might have sold them out to the company but new ones took over and have remained steadfast in their opposition. In the study tour, the women have taken a very active role in their opposition to large scale, open pit mining.
The battle cry of the diocese of Nueva Vizcaya under Bishop Villena was displayed in many areas - No to mining, YES to Life!
The years 2007 to 2009 saw violent dispersals of people's barricades set up to protest mining and prevent company equipment from entering the areas. In 2009, a Congressional Hearing in aid of legislation was conducted by the Committee on National Cultural Communities which held an on-site investigation with the congressman from Nueva Vizcaya as member on June 2008.
The Congressional committee saw for themselves the destruction of the environment and livelihood of the people from the exploration of Oceana Gold in Didipio and Royalco in Kikidungen, Kasibu. They also heard reports of human rights violations from the people affected. The Committee was headed by then Ifugao Representative Solomon Chungalao, Nueva Vizcaya Representative Carlos Padilla, Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casino and Gabriela Women Partylist Representative Luz Ilagan.
In November 2009, the Commission on Human Rights conducted an investigation of human rights violations in the affected mining communities. The CHR was able to document many cases of illegal demolition, harassment, and shooting of residents who tried to stop the demolition of their homes. The CHR report cited Oceana Gold committed for violations against the right to property, right to adequate residence, freedom of movement and the right to security.
The tension in the mining areas eased a bit after the investigation of the CHR headed by then Commissioner Leila de Lima. The mining companies employed a new tack in their engagement with the people to push for their exploration.
Oceana Gold started to buy the lands of the people ostensibly to clear the mountains for their mine tailings. Some were offered money they could not refuse or worse their ricefarms were covered with rocks and soil, condemning it not fit for farming. Their citrus farms could not be watered since the creeks and rivers were diverted to make way for the construction of the mill and mine tailing containment dam.
In Belance, the community is now divided by armed, pro-mining Bugkalots and non-armed opposition to Royalco. Much like the experience of Bakun, Benguet Royalco has fomented divisiveness among the people causing the once peaceful community to be on the edge of tension and disarray.
In fact, the ISTNV team to Belance was prevented from going to Yabbi for an ocular survey and talks with the people at a checkpoint set up by pro-mining Bugkalots supported by Royalco for nearly the whole afternoon of Sunday. The persistence of the team to reach the area and talk to the people as well as the intervention of the barangay council and priests who were with the group finally got them to reach the elementary school in sitio Yabbi where they slept for the night.
FCF, like Oceana is buying lands of the people and preventing them from engaging in small scale mining which used to be their livelihood for a long long time as recounted by their elders. FCF has also allegedly bribed leaders of the opposition who have now turned pro-mining and are cajoling the people to sell their lands to the foreign mining company.
It is also a fact that nearly all anti-mining candidates lost in the recently conducted barangay elections. Most barangays officials of the areas are pro-mining and have received largesse from the mining companies like "ambulances."
The community people interviewed admit that small scale mining has increased when the mining companies tried to take over their lands. Informants admit this is a matter of survival since their once rich valleys planted to citrus, vegetables, rice and corn are now fenced off areas for the mining companies.
In Didipio, Oceana has fenced off a large area it has bought and placed guardhouses along the long fence to prevent "illegal entry" of people in their territory. In Runruno and Belance where there is only one road, FCF and Royalco placed guardhouses that check on people and vehicles going to the barrios.
In Didipio, there are 11 cases pending with the DENR of illegal cutting of trees in the citrus farms of the opposition farmers. These are citrus they have planted and which are providing for their daily needs even before martial law.
This year, two of the cases were dismissed when the two farmers decided to sell their citrus farms covering 32 hectares to Oceana. Now they are facing a new threat - the water source for the community will be diverted by Oceana for its mining operation. Even now, they have to buy drinking water from afar since their former household water supply is now polluted or is too muddy for household use.
The ISTNV presented their findings to the provincial government during their weekly sessions. Only the Didipio and Runruno team were able to proceed to the Provincial capitol since the Belance team were still on their way to Bayombong.
The Australian delegates promised to bring the case of the people of Kasibu and Quezon to the headquarters of Oceana, Royalco and FCF as well as the public to put pressure on the companies to stop destructive mining and respect the rights of the people. Later the group met with Governor Cuaresma and invited her to the forum in the afternoon. The Governor reiterated her commitment to oppose large scale mining in Nueva Vizcaya.
In the afternoon of July 11, the Belance, Didipio and Runruno teams presented their findings to the students, concerned advocates for the environment and teachers of the Nueva Vizcaya State University. The gym was jampacked and reverberated with cries of "No to Large Scale Mining" as the international team and the local advocates presented the findings. The students were challenged to support pro-people and pro-environment initiatives since they will eventually inherit the riches of Nueva Vizcaya.
Local government officials, Bishop Basilio Wandag of the Philippine Episcopal Church and representatives of Bishop Villena were there.
The international delegates pledged to bring the case of the people of Nueva Vizcaya to the Australian and New Zealand public so they would know that the foreign mining companies glowing financial reports are covering the truth about the mining aggression in Nueva Vizcaya.
"OceanaGold continues environmental and livelihood destruction, dislocation in Didipio, NV"-International study group
Kalikasan-PNE Press Release
11 July 2011
BAYOMBONG, NUEVA VIZCAYA-An international study tour recently held in large-scale mining affected communities in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya concluded that the mining development of foreign-owned Oceana Gold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) continue to cause environmental destruction, socio-economic damages and human rights violations.
The International Study Tour (IST) on July 10-11 was organized by Defend Patrimony, Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Cagayan Valley, Clergy Laity Formation Program, Cagayan Valley Regional Ecumenical Assembly and Kabataan Party List. International delegates from Auckland-Philippines Solidarity Group in New Zealand and Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines-Australia also joined the IST.
"The excavation of Dinkidi hill caused massive soil erosion. The siltation led to the disappearance of endemic fish, eel and snails species which were once abundant in the rivers. Several rice paddies and agricultural lands have lost their irrigation because of the water diversion made by OGPI to serve their mining operation. Farmers noted that their harvest decreased since the start of the mining operation of OGPI," said Marjorie Pamintuan, spokesperson of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment.
In 2007, a fact-finding mission to Nueva Vizcaya organized by anti-mining plunder group Defend Patrimony previously warned that the OGPI operations could lead to the destruction of agriculture, pollute the water supply and displace the thousands of indigenous peoples from their ancestral domains.
"Apart from environmental destruction and the negative effects on the livelihood of indigenous people, human rights violations have also been recorded. According to the residents, OGPI allegedly threatened families to bulldoze their homes even if they choose not sell their lands. The company's hired men also allegedly sneak inside villages and demolish homes when everybody is out in their fields. Fear forced some of the families to sell their lands to OGPI at a price not equal to the real value of their lands."
On March 2008, the team organized by OGPI violently demolished houses in Didipio on a Black Saturday. A resident was shot at close range while he and other residents were trying to stop the demolition team from dismantling a neighbor's house whose owner was still asleep inside. He was confined in a hospital in Ifugao for several days. On October 2009, combined elements from the regional Philippine National Police and OGPI guards conducted demolition operations in between Typhoon Ketsana and Typhoon Parma. The Regional Trial Court in Bayombong declared it illegal.
"These negative impacts of the exploration and mine development of OGPI are just for starters. They are nothing compared to the massive environmental destruction and more displacement of indigenous peoples when the actual mining operations will start, as experienced by natives from Benguet, Rapu-Rapu and Marinduque with the mining operations in their own provinces."
On January 2011, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) passed the verdict that OGPI is guilty of violating the human rights indigenous peoples and recommended that the mining company'S permit should be revoked. However, OGPI continued its operation and has moved from exploration to mine development.
"The Aquino government should make its own investigation regarding these violations. The mine development of OGPI should be immediately suspended. The House Committee on National Minorities, CHR and even the Governor of Nueva Vizcaya recommended the review of the mining agreement of OGPI. President Aquino should stop protecting big polluters and mining corporations which have been proven as human rights violators," ended Pamintuan.
Aside from Didipio, the IST also investigated mining in Runruno and Dupax del Norte. The group will use the study results to intensify their campaign both locally and internationally.
Reference: Marjorie Pamintuan (09175806990)