MAC: Mines and Communities

Ngos Seek House Probe Of Aussie Exploration Project

Published by MAC on 2007-09-03

NGOs Seek House Probe of Aussie Exploration Project

By TJ Burgonio, Inquirer

3rd September 2007

MANILA, Philippines -- A broad alliance of NGOs is seeking a House inquiry into an Australian mining firm's exploration project in an upland town in Nueva Vizcaya province that has sparked violence between the firm's workers and the town's indigenous people.

Defend Patrimony said it found out that the Oxiana Philippines Inc. project lacked "informed consent" from the majority of communities.

The group was on a fact-finding mission to Kasibu town in the aftermath of Wednesday's dispersal of tribal folks by paramilitary forces employed by Oxiana.

Defend Patrimony said it would ask Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño and Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla to open an inquiry into the lack of free and prior informed consent from the communities about the project.

"Overwhelmingly, there is a glaring lack of consent from majority of the communities to be affected by mining," said the group's spokesperson Clemente Bautista.

This came about, he said, because of the loopholes in the mining law, where foreign companies or their subsidiaries could secure exploration permits without consent from local government units or majority of the people.

"Oxiana officials have agreed to stop everything that they're doing until all issues have been resolved. We welcome this," Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza said.

Scores of people were hurt on Wednesday after militiamen in plainclothes dragged away tribal folks who had barricaded a mountain road in Barangay Pacquet to stop Oxiana workers from hauling a bulldozer into the exploration site.

Members of the Bugkalot, Kalanguya, Ibaloi and Ifugao tribes had been manning the barricade since July 12 to stop the transport of heavy equipment to the site.

On President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's instructions and Bishop Ramon Villena's request, Atienza on Thursday ordered Oxiana to stop transporting equipment to the site to avoid fresh violence.

Despite Atienza's order, the Defend Patrimony urged the people to remain vigilant about any "diversionary tactics" by the government.

"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 pullout of Oxiana from Kasibu in the long run," said Bautista of Defend Patrimony.

The exploration permit of Oxiana in Barangays Pa-o, Kakidugen, Paquet, Dine and Katarawan was recently extended by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau up to June 2009 despite opposition from the communities, it said.

It warned that people stood to lose more from the explorations by Oxiana and other mining firms in the province.

The large-scale projects could decimate Nueva Vizcaya's thriving citrus industry, adversely pollute three major rivers supplying water into Cagayan Valley, and displace thousands of indigenous peoples from their ancestral domains, it said.
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