MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Civil society and UN experts call for rights to be respected at Didipio

Published by MAC on 2020-05-03
Source: MiningWatch Canada, OHCHR

Violent Dispersal of Indigenous Peoples’ Mining Barricade

Global Civil Society Organizations Condemn Violent Dispersal of Indigenous Peoples’ Mining Barricade in the Philippines

Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center – Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment – Friends of the Earth Australia – Alyansa Tigil Mina – MiningWatch Canada press release.

29 April 2020

Manila/Ottawa - Over 190 non-governmental organisations from the Philippines and across the world have signed a statement condemning violent police action against a peaceful community barricade at a mining site in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, on 6 April 2020. The indigenous peoples’ barricade was set up in July 2019, following the expiration of Canadian-Australian mining company OceanaGold’s mining permit.

The police accompanied three diesel tankers and stormed the barricade, brandishing a letter from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea authorizing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to allow the tankers into the mine site. The diesel was said to be used to pump water seeping into the mining tunnels of OceanaGold’s suspended operations.

The community barricade, set up by the municipal government of Kasibu and local indigenous people, refused to disperse as the letter contradicted local government and court orders to suspend the operations of OceanaGold’s copper-gold mine. The communities’ peaceful blockade of the road was met with violent action by the police who beat and arrested community leader Rolando Pulido and wounded others.

In a petition circulated online, over two hundred local and international solidarity groups condemn the violent dispersal and call on the Office of the President to cancel OceanaGold’s permit renewal application with finality, on the basis of the project’s atrocious environmental and human rights record. Some of the signatories include Friends of the Earth International, London Mining Network, European Network on Indigenous Peoples, Institute for Ecology and Action Anthropology (Germany), IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands, Amigos de la Tierra Argentina, Spirit of Eureka South Australia, 11.11.11 Coalition of Belgian North-South Movement, Finnish Asiatic Society, Publish What You Pay Australia, Fresh Eyes UK, Global Forest Coalition, and the Centre for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives (CICADA) at McGill University (Canada).

“The violent attack on peaceful people who were blockading the suspended mine with the support of their local government was shocking and outrageous to see” said Dr. Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “Particularly as the assault occurred to allow three large fuel tankers to pass through the blockade to extend the life of a mine that has a long history of harmful impacts on human rights and the environment.”

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth Australia spokesperson Cam Walker said, “This should concern all Australians. OceanaGold is an Australian-Canadian owned mining company which is being opposed by many in the local community. We stand with the community - whom must be protected in these troubling times - and support the call for local authorities to enforce the suspension of operations of OceanaGold whilst legal proceedings continue.”

“This dispersal contravened the right of the community to assembly and violated local and court orders that have suspended the operations of OceanaGold. The unwarranted resort to force by the police to disperse a peaceful assembly of indigenous people is a reflection of the extraordinary latitude that the government has given to the mining industry. The government has also weaponized Republic Act 11469, using it to arrest a community leader for allegedly violating quarantine protocols when the community was very careful to observe physical distancing at the barricade,” said Attorney Ryan Roset of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, one of the solidarity groups which organized the petition. R.A. 11469, or the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act, is the law recently passed by the Philippine government to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the statement, the groups call on President Rodrigo Duterte to shut down OceanaGold’s operations and cancel its request for extension. OceanaGold’s permit is classified as a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), which can only be approved by the president.

The groups also called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to issue a cease-and-desist order to OceanaGold and on the Department of Interior and Local Government to investigate the conduct of the members of the police from Region 2, Quirino Province and from the municipality of Kasibu.

“It is outrageous that OceanaGold shifted precious government resources at a time when all efforts should be trained on flattening the curve of the corona virus infections,” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina.

"The emergency situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic should be all the more reason to close down this illegal and destructive mine that has disrupted the water and sanitation of communities. It should not be used to justify business as usual for short-term profit but long-term damages to people and planet," said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment.

For more information, please contact:
• Jaybee Garganera, ATM, Mobile No. 09175498218
• Leon Dulce, KPNE, Mobile No. 09175626824
• Atty. Ryan Roset, LRC, Mobile No. 09771330512
• Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada,

See the statement here.

“My heart bleeds for our brave men and women of Didipio who had to suffer and be arrested for expressing their resistance against mining, a great menace to Mother Earth. I salute them for their bravery and being steadfast for the protection of the environment to insure the survival of all living things and of our planet. Instead of providing protection to OceanaGold whose FTAA had expired nine months ago, the national government should tell OGPI TO PACK UP AND GO HOME.”

– Gov. Carlos Padilla, Province of Nueva Vizcaya
Timeline of Events Leading to the Violent Dispersal

• June 20, 2019
OceanaGold’s permit to mine expires. No activity may be conducted by the company. President Duterte, the only person who can authorize a permit, has not granted a renewal of the mine’s permit.

• June 20, 2019
Acting on the permit expiry, Nueva Vizcaya governor Carlos Padilla came out with an advisory enjoining the company to suspend its operations.

• June 25, 2019
Governor Padilla files an Executive Order ordering the provincial police, the provincial environment office, and the municipal and barangay (village) governments to enforce the suspension of mining operations.

• July 1, 2019 up to the present
With overwhelming support from government institutions (from the barangay, provincial, and congressional levels) and people’s organizations and solidarity groups, the local government and the community mount a people’s barricade (that continues to this day) to enforce the executive order.

• July 2019
OceanaGold files petitions for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the local government, both of which were turned down by the Regional Trial Court of Nueva Vizcaya. These court decisions reinforce the legality of the executive order of the provincial government to suspend Oceana’s operations.

• January 21, 2020
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea sends a letter to DENR secretary Roy Cimatu granting authority to the mining company to bring fuel into the mine site, supposedly for dewatering activities of the mine’s project. This letter is cited by the PNP in its dispersal operation.

• April 6, 2020
Provincial and municipal police escort three fuel tankers and try to disperse the people’s barricade against OceanaGold’s mining site. Community leader Ronaldo Pulido is beaten and arrested.

Philippines mine standoff: Indigenous and environmental rights must be respected, say UN experts

30 April 2020

GENEVA – A group of UN experts* urged the Philippines government not to discriminate against indigenous peoples in favour of business interests and when enforcing anti-COVID19 measures.

On 6 April, around 100 police forcibly dispersed some 30 indigenous and environment defenders who were blocking three fuel tankers from entering Oceanagold Didipio mining site in Nueva Vizcaya province.

“The protesters were exercising their right to freedom of assembly to object against the continued operations in the Didipio mine. The government and mining company should have engaged them in peaceful and constructive talks instead of dispersing the crowd forcefully. The use of force by the police was unnecessary and disproportionate,” the experts said.

An indigenous leader was charged with ignoring quarantine and isolation measures and with civil disobedience. Other protesters were reportedly injured during the forced dispersal.

“Indigenous peoples are doubly impacted in the COVID-19 global pandemic, as they face threats to their territories while suffering from lack of access to basic health services,” the experts said. “The community is left with the impression that the COVID restrictions are more strictly enforced against them, than against businesses operating on their lands without their consent.”

The mine site has been blockaded since June 2019 when the company continued mining while it waited for renewal of an expired permit.

“The tensions within the communities will escalate if the company and the national government do not act transparently and with consultation of affected peoples, particularly in relation to the contested right of the company to operate after expiration of their official permit,” the UN experts said.

Charges against the indigenous leader should be dropped and the company’s operations at the Didipio site, other than maintaining a water pump, must stop until indigenous and local communities have been consulted and their consent obtained, the experts said.

In 2019, several Special UN Mandates sent a joint communication to the Government of the Philippines and Oceanagold company highlighting their concerns over the environmental impact of the company’s activities and the lack of consent of indigenous and local communities for the mine to operate on traditional lands. A response by the company was received in April 2019.

Check the letter to the government of the Philippines, and the letter to the Oceanagold company.
Check the response by the company.


*The experts: Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association; David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights – Country page: Philippines

For more information and media requests, please contact Claire Morclette (+41 22 928 9437 /

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9445 /

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.



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