MAC/20: Mines and Communities

New Peoples Army Threats Endanger Aussie Mining Operations

Published by MAC on 2007-09-03

New Peoples Army threats endanger Aussie Mining Operations


3rd September 2007

Threats of violence from New People's Army (NPA) rebels and tribal warfare are endangering Australian mining projects in the Philippines, a newspaper report from Australia said.

The Australian online newspaper reported Monday that the twin threats threaten to negate the relaxation of restriction on foreign exploration permits.

"Some local politicians, traditional indigenous tribes such as the Ifugao, senior officials in the Catholic Church, the NPA, and environmental lobby groups have all joined in the chorus opposing Australian mining and exploration projects from the northern part of the main island of Luzon to Mindanao in the south," it said.

It added that one tribe, which it did not name, even threatened to reinstate headhunting practices to stop mining in their region.

Such were the threats that environment secretary Jose Atienza Jr halted a gold and copper exploration project by Australian-owned Oxiana Philippines Inc. in Nueva Vizcaya province last weekend.

Lafayette Mining, another majority Australian-owned firm, has been the target of the NPA after it refused to abandon a "poly-metallic" mining project in Bicol.

Atienza ordered the stay after some 1,000 tribal protesters blocked trucks from entering their ancestral land and clashed violently with local militias sent in by the mining firm.

He also blamed Oxiana for failing to do its job of "community relations," ordering its officials to restart talks with local tribes.

Local villages representing about 10,000 residents called for a stop to the project, saying it will destroy their citrus farming livelihood.

Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban led the campaign to oppose the drilling with the backing of environmental groups, who say P500 million will be lost annually.

Last week, the police tried to enforce a court order directing the protesters to dismantle their blockade and allow the company's transport vehicles in to the disputed site.

However, environment group Kalikasan said Oxiana employed local military, private security guards and "Oxiana's own private army goons" to quell the protests.

"We have pictures of more than 100 military, police and private security guards and the armed goons of Oxiana dismantling the barricades," Kalikasan spokesman Clemente Bautista said.

"We have asked for a formal investigation by the Philippines Congress into the documented human rights violations - scores of protesters were violently harassed and bodily hurt," he said.

He said Oxiana has used court orders and reported agreements with groups such as the National Council of Indigenous People in The Philippines to try to push through with the project.

"The vigilance and determination of those defending the barricade, particularly the women, only underscore that Oxiana's project really lacks consent and acceptance among the residents of Kasibu," said Bautista.

For his part, a bishop of the Catholic Church had taken the side of the local peoples.

In a statement, Bishop Ramon Villena chided Oxiana for allegedly failing to listen to the voices of protesters barricading entry to the site since July 12.

"Yes, Oxiana claims they have in their possession legal instruments that would legitimize their entry to Pao. But what about the voice of the people? Will we close our ears to their cry and continue with the mining activities in utter disregard of their voice?" the bishop said.

Australian mining firms are also being condemned in press reports, from church pulpits and in media and political commentaries, according to The Australian newspaper report. - GMANews.TV
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