MAC: Mines and Communities

Bloody Mining Conflict Looms---ngo

Published by MAC on 2007-08-17
Source: Manila Times

Bloody mining conflict looms---NGO

By James Konstantin Galvez Reporter, Manila Times -

17th August 2007

Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) on Thursday warned of a bloody confrontation between tribal communities and a mining company in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, if the military and police forces insist on dismantling a barricade installed by the tribes to protest the entry of Oxiana mining company.

Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan PNE national coordinator, warned of "an impending and possibly bloody standoff if Oxiana and state military forces insist on bringing in Oxiana's drilling equipment into the area and continue to push further into ancestral lands in Kasibu."

Oxiana Philippines Inc. and its foreign partner RoyalCo, Ltd. of Australia are trying to have a foothold on Barangay PaO, Kakidugan, and four others in the municipality of Kasibu.

Kalikasan PNE claims there are reports indicating that a showdown is in the offing. According to Fidel Opay, a kagawad of Barangay Dine, Kasibu, and chairman of the Lower Muta Valley Farmers' Federation, more than 300 indigenous tribal people from Kasibu's Ibaloi, Ifugao, Kalanguya, Bugkalot, Kankaney and Bontoc communities are defending a people's barricade in Barangay Pacuet, Kasibu.

Oxiana will reportedly bring in drilling equipment on Thursday, accompanied by police and military forces to break the barricade. Mayor Romeo C. Tayaban of Kasibu said that a preliminary injunction was issued early Thursday morning by Executive Judge Godofredo Naui of the South District Regional Trial Court in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, ordering the dismantling of the barricade and allowing the entry of Oxiana Philippines and its equipment to conduct exploration operations.

"Hindi pinakinggan [ng korte] ang boses ng nakararami [sa Kasibu], kundi ang boses ng Oxiana. Hindi papayag ang mga tao na alisin ang barikada ang papasukin ang Oxiana. Dapat galangin ng Oxiana at ng goberyno ang karapatan ng mga katutubo sa lugar [The court did not listen to the voices of the majority [in Kasibu], but the voice of Oxiana. The people do not agree to the dismantling of the barricade and allow Oxiana in.

The government and Oxiana should respect the rights of indigenous peoples]," Opay said.

Bautista noted that no less than the mayor of Kasibu was opposed to Oxiana's entry.

"Oxiana has no right to enter Kasibu. First, the company did not consult the local communities or the local government units about conducting mining operations in Kasibu. Second, they lack the permits to enter private lands in the Lower Muta Valley areas that will be affected by their planned exploration activities. The Free and Prior Informed Consent [FPIC] issued by the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples [NCIP] is full of discrepancies and inconsistencies and can not be said to represent the whole of the indigenous people's communities to be affected by Oxiana's plans," Tayaban said.

"We are appealing to the national government to stop the entry of the mining project of Oxiana. The situation on the ground is very tense and could lead to a violent confrontation if state forces insist on breaking up the barricade," Tayaban said.

"It's the right of the Kasibu communities to defend their livelihood and environment against this unwanted entry of foreign mining companies. This unfolding case in Nueva Vizcaya demonstrates how the Arroyo administration continues to uphold the selfish interests of foreign mining companies over the rights and welfare of our indigenous peoples and upland communities," Bautista said.

"Kalikasan PNE and Defend Patrimony Alliance will be mobilizing network organizations to support the communities' struggle in Kasibu and will call for urgent legislative action into the case," Bautista said.

"We in Kalikasan PNE will be lobbying before solons such as Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño and Rep. Carlos Padilla of Nueva Vizcaya to initiate a Congressional inquiry into the presence of Oxiana Philippines in Kasibu," Bautista said.

"Kalikasan PNE and Defend Patrimony alliance will also be conducting a fact-finding mission in communities throughout Kasibu from August 29 to September 2, to investigate reports of human-rights violations against indigenous peoples related to the mining project," Bautista added.

Three mining companies are currently trying to get a foothold in ancestral lands in located in Nueva Vizcaya: Oceana Gold in Barangays Didipio and Papaya in the Municipality of Kasibu, Oxiana Philippines in Barangays PaO, Kakidugan, and four others in the municipality of Kasibu, and FCF Mining, Inc. in Barangay Runruno in the Municipality of Quezon/Runruno.

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