MAC: Mines and Communities

Foreign Mining To Transform Nueva Vizcaya's Sites Into Valleys Of Death

Published by MAC on 2007-09-02

Foreign Mining to Transform Nueva Vizcaya's Sites into Valleys of Death

Defend Patrimony Press Release

2nd September 2007

References:

Allan Barnacha, Save the Valley, Serve the People Clemente Bautista, Jr., Spokesperson, Defend Patrimony alliance - 0922-844-9787

Lucas, Buay, Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response Towards Ecological Development (KIRED)

Three large-scale and foreign-led mining projects could decimate Nueva Vizcaya's rising citrus industry, adversely pollute three major rivers supplying water into Cagayan Valley, and displace thousands of indigenous peoples from their ancestral domains, a recent fact-finding mission by local and national groups concluded.

Nueva Vizcayans united under the Save the Valley, Serve the People alliance this week teamed up with organizations affiliated with Defend Patrimony, a broad national alliance against mining liberalization and plunder in the Philippines, to conduct a rapid appraisal of the environmental and social impacts of mining exploration in three environmentally-critical sites. The Fact-Finding and Solidarity Mission was held from August 29 to September 1, 2007 and covered the areas of Brgy. Paquet and Malabing Valley in Kasibu and Brgy. Runruno in Quezon affected by the following mining projects:

Impending exploration by Oxiana Philippines, Inc. (now owned by Royalco Resources Ltd.) in five (5) barangays of Kasibu (Pa-o, Kakidugen, Paquet, Dine & Katarawan) under Exploration Permit RO2-0014, which was recently extended by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau up to June 2009 despite the opposition of the affected communities. A barricade set up by Kasibu residents since July 2, 2007 has so far successfully blocked the entry of Oxiana's drilling equipment into Pa-o.

Impending exploration by former APMI Exploration Engineers, now connected to Oceana Gold Philippines of Chromite Hill in Barangay Papaya - a key citrus-growing area in the region and a critical source of irrigation water for Malabing Valley's other agricultural farms.

Ongoing exploration by FCF/Greenwater a.k.a. MTL in Brgy. Runruno, Quezon, whose expired permit was renewed on the first day of office of DENR Secretary Lito Atienza.

Partners in the fact finding mission included green activist group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), non-government research organization Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines, indigenous peoples federation Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), Dapon Indigenous Peoples Center, and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

Defend Patrimony Spokesperson Clemente Bautista, Jr. sounded the alarm at a press conference held today, saying that "the fact-finding mission yielded more evidence that Nueva Vizcaya stands to lose more than to gain if these explorations progress into large-scale mining operations in the near future".

"If allowed by the Arroyo administration to continue, large-scale foreign mining can literally turn Nueva Vizcaya's lush agricultural sites into valleys of death and desolation. The Oxiana, Oceana, and MTL mining projects form a dangerous triangle, whose combined impacts can strike at the heart of Nueva Vizcaya's critical ecosystems and result in the economic, social, and physical displacement of its peoples ," Bautista said.

Environmental Degradation, Human rights violations

Allan Barnacha, provincial convenor of the Save the Valley, Serve the People Movement , warned of adverse ecological damage to the Lower Muta Valley area and Brgy.Runruno if mining continues. "The exploration operations alone, which include extractive processes such as drilling, trenching, and bulk sampling, can already bring about negative environmental impacts, such as land alienation from protection options, trail/road and trenching erosion, habitat disruption, noise pollution, and acid mine drainage," Barnacha said. "The danger of landslides in communities such as Brgy. Runruno also worsens," he said.

Barnacha warned of "more environmental scourges to come if exploration proceeds to actual operations ( please refer to summary of findings prepared by Kalikasan PNE and CEC-Phils for details).

"The many environmental threats seen at this early stage of the mining explorations alone include impacts on land ecosystems, such as the instability of the reknowned Alayan Cave system, denudation of forest cover in the Mamparang and Palali mountain ranges, and the loss of endemic biodiversity. Impacts on water sources includes the depletion of water supply used for domestic and agricultural purposes resulting from the diversion of water rights to mining companies, contamination of existing freshwater and groundwater sources, siltation from wastewater discharges, and acid mine drainage. These imperil the watershed havens and headwaters in Nueva Vizcaya, which supply Region 2's major rivers," Rey Palacios, Senior Educator of the Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines said.

"In an agricultural economy such as Nueva Vizcaya's, the destruction of the environment will result in the destruction of people's lives and livelihood. This also threatens and imperils the heart of the vibrant local citrus industry which Nueva Vizcaya is known for," Defend Patrimony's Bautista stressed. Also of concern, he added, were the human rights violations documented in mining-affected communities.

Kasibu barricade still up

At the press conference, Lucas Buay of the Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response Towards Ecological Development (KIRED) announced that the ten barangays of Kasibu which successfully defended a two-month long barricade against the entry of Oxiana's drilling equipment in Brgy. Paquet would continue to maintain their vigilance in the face of news that DENR Sec. Lito Atienza temporarily ordered a stop to the exploration.

"This is a victory of the united communities of Kasibu, but we will not let our guard down. We will maintain the barricade until the project is formally terminated and until the exploration permit is officially cancelled. We also support other communities who will mobilize themselves against the entry of large foreign mining firms such as Oceana and MTL ," Buay added.

"The people of Nueva Vizcaya should remain vigilant despite Atienza's order. It is unlikely that the Arroyo administration, which is so bent on selling off the rest of the country to foreign mining investors, will fully support the pull-out of Oxiana from Kasibu in the long run. The government and foreign mining firms have resorted to diversionary tactics in the past to lull the people into complacency, we should guard against that," Bautista said.

"Overwhelmingly, there is a glaring lack of consent from majority of the communities to be affected by mining," Defend Patrimony's Bautista said. "This is reinforced by the loopholes under the current mining law, where foreign mining companies or their subsidiaries can be given exploration permits without even requiring consent from local government units or the majority of affected peoples," Bautista said. "The residents of Kasibu have once again proven that militant and collective action is the most effective way of stopping the entry of foreign mining TNCs," he stressed.

Upon returning to Manila tomorrow, Bautista said that Defend Patrimony would be coordinating with pro-environment solons, including Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casino and Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla, to seek a Congressional probe into the lack of free and prior informed consent by the mining companies in Nueva Vizcaya.

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DEFEND PATRIMONY! is a broad alliance comprised of organizations and individuals united in the defense of Filipino people's rights and national patrimony againt the wholesale plunder of our mineral and other natural resources. Our unity is based on the principles of goodwill and solidarity, cooperation and consensus, and independence and initiative.
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