MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Violent dispersal of peoples’ barricade in Nueva Vizcaya

Published by MAC on 2020-04-07
Source: Statement, Mongabay

While Oceana Gold’s FTAA expired

Condemn the police dispersal of the people’s barricade against the Oceanagold mine!

Kalikasan PNE Press Statement

6 April 2020

We condemn in the highest terms the Philippine National Police for its violent dispersal of barricading villagers in Barangay Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya to pave the way for a fuel tanker targeting to refuel the operations of the Oceanagold large-scale mine.

At least 29 barricaders were present at the barricade area while maintaining physical distancing when the estimated 100 PNP personnel from the provincial and municipal offices enforced the dispersal. Rolando Pulido, chairperson of the Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association (DESAMA), was arrested and brought to the PNP Kasibu station.

The PNP, citing a letter from the Office of the President signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, is enforcing an illegal large-scale mining operation amid a time when government should be addressing its failing governance over the widespread COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

The facts of the matter are as follows:

1. All activities by the Oceanagold mine after June 20, 2019 is illegal since its Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) expired on said date. In response to the expiry, Nueva Vizcaya governor Carlos Padilla came out with a June 20, 2019 advisory to Oceanagold enjoining the company to restrain its operations and subsequently a June 25, 2019 Executive Order ordering the Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Office of the Philippine National Police, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, the Kasibu Municipal Government, and the Barangay Didipio Government to enforce the restraint of the mining operations.

2. Oceanagold’s FTAA expired in the face of a full rejection by all local government units from the barangay to the provincial and Congressial representation level, and from people’s organizations, communities, and social movements from the barangay to the provincial and even the international level. It is on this overwhelming sentiment aside from the legal basis why the local government and people’s movements mounted a people’s barricade from July 1, 2019 up to the present to stop the mine’s operations.

3. Despite attempts by the mine to file petitions for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the local government, this has been denied by the Regional Trial Court of Nueva Vizcaya.

4. On January 21, 2020, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea sent a directive to DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu granting authority to the mining company to bring fuel allegedly for the dewatering activities of the mine project. This is the same letter the PNP is citing in its dispersal operation.

5. The local barangay officials and members of local people’s organizations disputed this, reiterating that all operations of Oceanagold beyond June 20, 2019 are illegal and that the company should have already proceeded with its Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan last year. If any, it should be the government who conducts any care and maintenance activity as the mineralized lands should have reverted back to the public commons after the FTAA expired.

6. Even considering the process of the alleged dewatering, Oceanagold failed to ensure free, prior and informed consent and social acceptability for this new activity that was not yet declared in its existing Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program. It failed to secure any FPIC and social acceptability from the local communities for all of its activities beyond June 20, 2019.

Despite these incontrovertible facts, Oceanagold has lobbied various government agencies—from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to the Department of Interior and Local Government, and up to the Office of the President itself—to exploit various legal loopholes to push through with the refueling.

National Coordinator
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
(Kalikasan PNE)

Standoff over Philippines’ Didipio mines escalates despite COVID-19 lockdown

by -

6 April 2020

NUEVA VIZCAYA, Philippines — The ongoing lockdown in the Philippines due to the novel coronavirus pandemic has failed to defuse a standoff between a local community and OceanaGold Philippines Inc (OGPI) over a controversial gold and copper mine in the province of Nueva Vizcaya.

The situation escalated on April 6 when an estimated 100 personnel from the provincial and municipal police forces dispersed the community’s “people barricade,” composed of 29 community leaders and members of peasant groups.

The barricade was an extralegal measure supported by the provincial government after OGPI’s permit to operate the Didipio mines lapsed on June 20, 2019.

The latest escalation comes after President Rodrigo Duterte’s office authorized in January the entry of 63,000 liters (16,600 gallons) of fuel to the Didipio mining site. After the dispersal, the police detained Rolando Pulido, chair of the Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association (DESAMA).

The 27,000-hectare (66,700-acre) Didipio mine straddles the border between the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino, some 270 kilometers (170 miles) northeast of Manila. It’s believed to hold 1.41 million ounces of gold and 169,400 tons of copper.

The standoff comes at a time when gold prices, stabilizing at $1,600 per ounce since February this year, are expected to peak amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On July 1, 2019, local communities in Didipio and Alimit, hosts to the underground mines, set up a blockade to stop the entry of fuel tankers and service vehicles to the mining site. After a series of confrontations in the streets and in the courts, OceanaGold formally suspended its operations on Oct. 15, 2019, while it processes its application for an extension.

The community took over abandoned checkpoints, and with members working on shifts, maintained the blockade until the COVID-19 pandemic placed Metro Manila and the whole island of Luzon under an “enhanced community quarantine” — a lockdown that has suspended all domestic land, sea and air travel from March 15 until April 14.

Prior to the lockdown, residents blocked OGPI’s efforts to send in trucks carrying 630,000 liters (166,400 gallons) of fuel to run generators for its dewatering activities, which includes removing or pumping out groundwater from the mine site.

Governor Carlos Padilla clarified that the president’s letter allowing the delivery of fuel does not authorize the mining giant to continue its mining operations, which stalled for a lack of an extension.

“The provincial government recognizes the authority granted by the Office of the President to OGPI to transport fuel for its dewatering activities,” Padilla wrote in a letter dated March 10 to Eduardo Año, the secretary of the interior and local government. “We have reservations, however, as to the amount of fuel to be transported to the mine site.”

Padilla said that 630,000 liters is “excessive if the same is to be used only for the dewatering activities,” adding that a tank of fuel, with a capacity of about 20,000 liters (5,300 gallons), can run generators for 50 hours during a power outage, which seldom transpires in the area.

Three tanker trucks, carrying roughly 60,000 liters, were delivered to the site.

Environmental groups have questioned the timing of the move as it comes while the country is under a state of calamity (a state of emergency during which the government has access to extra funds) due to a rising number of coronavirus cases. There were 3,660 confirmed infections in the Philippines and 163 deaths as of April 6.

“The national government violates its own pronouncements and orders … to give way for large-scale mining interests,” said Leon Dulce of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. “OceanaGold must be held accountable if the pandemic spreads in the villages affected by its operations.”

Condemnation of violent dispersal of peoples’ barricade in Nueva Vizcaya

ATM Statement

6 April 2020

Quezon City - Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) strongly condemns the violent dispersal by the police against indigenous community leaders in Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, late afternoon today.

More than 100 personnel of the Philippine National Police from the regional and Quirino provincial units escorted a diesel tanker and forcibly entered the premises of the Didipio mine of Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI).

Violence erupted when local residents resisted the entry and stood their ground to prevent the entry of the diesel tanker. A barricade has been set-up by local groups in July 2019, when the mining contract of OGPI expired. Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement No. 1 (FTAA #1) expired last June 20, 2019, and has since been left pending at the Office of the President.

Reportedly, the mining company and its escort brandished a letter dated January 2020 from the Office of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea endorsing the entry of fuel trucks inside the mining area.

This forced entry of the diesel tanker is illegal and against the people of Nueva Vizcaya. The mining contract has expired so there is no activity allowed inside the mine. The local governments have not given any permit for the mining company to operate. The area is part of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) order of Pres. Duterte, therefore no work activity is permitted.

This is a clear violation of the work-stoppage, the physical distancing and the quarantine procedures imposed by the ECQ in the whole Luzon island.

More importantly, the barricade set-up by local organizations DESAMA, BILEG, AMKKAS and SAPAKKMI is a clear indication of the rejection of the people to the continued illegal operations of OGPI in Brgy. Didipio.

We call on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to immediately conduct an investigation to this tragic and unnecessary confrontation. We demand that DENR urgently issue a cease-and-desist order to OGPI on their illegal operations in Didipio. We insist that the DILG conduct an investigation on the conduct and performance of PNP elements in Region 2, Quirino Province and the Municipality of Kasibu, but specifically violations of the quarantine rules by the OGPI itself.

The use of violence by the police today is a reflection of the blind and draconian measures that this government is willing to use to pursue the greedy interests of the mining industry. The local leaders sustained injuries when the police used unnecessary force in dismantling the barricade. Our alliance strongly denounces this ferocious and aggressive behavior of the PNP against a non-violent and legitimate protest action of Didipio residents.

We note with anger similar instances in the past few weeks of illegal mining activities in the town MacArthur (Leyte), the island of Homonhon in Guiuan, Eastern Samar and clandestine drilling operations in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

We support the continued resistance of the people of Kasibu against the mining operations of OGPI in Didipio. The recent quarantine procedures have harshly impacted the people there when they lost income and livelihoods. Their access to food and health supplies were severely constrained. This violent dispersal has only added more misery to their fragile lives. #

For details:

Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator – (+63917) 549.82.18 /
Emer Perocho, ATM Campaign Officer – (+63956) 759.15.24 /

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