Press ReleasePublished by MAC on 2001-05-23
Mining resistance another step forward - Petition to stop Climax Arimco
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama SA Kaliskasan (LRC-KSK) - Philippines
The Ifugao community of Barangay Didipio in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, has an ongoing battle with Australian giant Climax Arimco Mining Corporation (CAMC).
CAMC was awarded a Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) by the Philippine government in 1994, a year before the passage of the Mining Act, thus giving it the right to exploit mineral resources in a 37,000-hectare area straddling Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces. Bgy. Didipio is found within CAMC's FTAA where a 765-hectare land is the proposed site of an open-pit gold and copper mine project. In a few years time, the land where the Didipio community has depended on for survival can be easily taken away as CAMC now lords over these vast agricultural lands.
The Didipio community's response was to file a petition denying concurrence to a MOA dubiously forged between Barangay Didipio officials and the Australian firm allowing the former to mine the area.
This petition is part of the initiative process as provided for in the 1987 Constitution and the Local Government Code of 1995, which assert that the systems of initiative, referendum and recall are intended to provide channels for expressing the people's sovereign will and to directly propose, enact, or amend any ordinance. With the local government's continued indifference to the people's opposition, the community has invoked the power of initiative submitting 109 signatures to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) -- more than double the 10% signatures required of the total voters on record.
On February 15, 2000, a COMELEC en banc hearing was held to tackle the community's long-pending petition for a plebiscite against the presence of the mining corporation in the Barangay. The Legal Rights and Natural Resouces Center acted as legal counsel for the petitioners. A press conference was staged at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) following a ritual protest performed by Didipio residents in front of the COMELEC building. A study made by the National Irrigation Administration reveals that the site of the planned mining activities lay within the region's critical watershed forests. On August 27, 2000, the Regional Development Council (RDC) denied the CAMC request for certification that the project conformed to the Regional Physical Framework Plan of Region II. This clearly proves that the mining project was damaging to the immediate environs of the Didipio community and the whole region as well.
Reports also show that the Macquerie Bank had already pulled out their investments with CAMC. These has contributed to the small victories in the struggle of the Didipio community in asserting their control over their resources.
Besides this, over 50 participants of the National Mining Conference in May 2002 have also signed a petition supporting the Didipio community's call to cancel the FTAA of CAMC, citing constitutional challenges posed against the FTAA and the Mining Act of 1995. The petition is now pending with the Office of the President.
The community involvement is now growing with momentum after the formation of a local group called Didipio Earth Savers' Multi-purpose Association (DESAMA) that spearheads efforts against the mining project. Support groups of Didipio include the Diocesan Social Action Center of Bayombong and Task Force Detainees of the Philippines in Northern Luzon, and LRC-KsK.
Representatives of the Ifugao people of Bgy. Didipio take part in the Indigenous Peoples' celebration and rally on October 28, 2002 at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples office in Quezon Avenue.