MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Nueva Vizcaya Villagers Keep Up Fight Vs Mining Firms

Published by MAC on 2007-08-08
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Nueva Vizcaya villagers keep up fight vs mining firms

By Melvin Gascon, Inquirer -

8th August 2007

KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya—Officials and residents of this upland town decried the unabated intrusion of foreign companies trying to conduct large-scale mining explorations in remote villages here.

Mayor Romeo Tayaban said two Australian mining firms continued to explore mining prospects in their villages despite the stiff opposition from residents, composed of various tribal communities.

“Our town used to be peaceful and quiet, despite the economic difficulties. Look at what is happening to us now. It is all because of these mining companies,” he said.

Tayaban said his villagers were struggling to fight off three mining projects by Oxiana Philippines Inc. (OPI) and OceanaGold Philippines Inc.

Since July 12, tribal men have been guarding a barricade on a mountain road that leads to Barangay Pao to prevent OPI’s entry.

Twenty-two men, three of whom are Bugkalot and Ifugao village chiefs, are facing cases filed by OPI representatives at the regional trial court in Bayombong town for setting up the road block.

In Papaya Village, residents were protesting the entry of equipment to be used by OceanaGold for its exploration, fearing possible destruction of the watershed forest there. Water from the watershed irrigates the vegetable gardens and citrus plantations in the area.

In Didipio Village, eight farmers were charged by environment officials with illegal occupancy of forest lands after they rejected OceanaGold’s offer to pay for their occupational rights.

Didipio Village is the site of OceanaGold’s proposed gold-copper project, with about 90 hectares of its 375-hectare production area occupied by Kalanguya, Ibaloi and Ifugao farmers.

Tayaban said the people of Kasibu have long been aware of the economic gains that the mining project is expected to generate for them, but insist on planting fruit trees and vegetables.

Kasibu is considered the citrus capital of the country, with an annual output of about 10 million kilograms of oranges from an estimated 20,000 hectares of citrus plantations.

Ramoncito Gozar, Oceana-Gold’s associate director for communications and external affairs, said mining projects in the town would benefit the country.

“[The mayor] should realize that [the Didipio venture] is a government project for the good of the majority,” he said.

“He doesn’t like mining, but (OceanaGold) is a contractor of the Philippine government,” Gozar said.

Lourdes Dolinen, an official of the OPI, could not be reached for comment.

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