With news that the application for renewal of the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) license of Oceanagold mining corporation has already been endorsed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to the Office of the President, over five hundred citizens in the province of Nueva Vizcaya gathered in a protest rally in the Provincial Capitol calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to deny the Australian-Canadian large-scale miner’s petition for a renewed license to operate.
Led by the Alyansa ng Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (ANVIK) together with the Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Government and national environmental groups such as the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), the protesters said the endorsement of the FTAA renewal overrode the local communities and governments who have been raising complaints on the foreign mine’s various violations.
“It is unacceptable for Oceanagold to secure endorsements for license renewal from DENR when there is a huge body of investigative and research reports, local government council resolutions, suspension orders, and other evidence of the foreign mine’s environment, social, and human rights violations. Now the ball is in the hands of Pres. Duterte and we demand no less than the cancellation of Oceanagold’s FTAA license from him,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
Fr. Vicente Tiam, a roman catholic priest from the Diocese of Bayombong who serves as chairman of the board of ANVIK, said that “the indigenous communities affected by Oceanagold have long stood opposed to this destructive mine with protests and barricades. Oceanagold poses threats to their livelihood, ancestral lands, and social fabric, as such the renewal of its FTAA is a renewal of the foreign mine’s exploitation and plunder.”
Julie Simongo, an indigenous Ifugao woman and chair of SAPAKKMMI, a people’s organization in the host barangay of Didipio, said “enough is enough to the 25 years of Oceanagold in our lands. Oceanagold destroyed not only the forests and waters of our once thriving common home, but the social fabric that once bound our communities together.”
The groups noted there were a multitude of precedents of Oceanagold’s violation of various rules and regulations, foremost of which was the 2016 audit conducted by DENR itself through former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez that led to the suspension of Oceanagold in 2017.
The host community Barangay Didipio’s village council released a series of resolutions calling for the suspension of Oceanagold’s operations due to a host of violations of its Environmental Compliance Certificate over the past two years. Just last Monday, June 17, the Provincial Council of Nueva Vizcaya came out with a unanimous resolution calling for the cancellation of Oceanagold’s FTAA.
A communication by nine (9) United Nations Special Rapporteurs was also sent last February 2019 to the Duterte administration inquiring about the various rights violations related to water resources, health, food security, toxic pollution, and the safety of environmental defenders, among others.
As Oceanagold’s FTAA is set to expire on the midnight of June 20, 2019, local public officials are expecting its operations to halt until the renewal application is resolved.
“Oceanagold’s mining operations must come to a full stop upon its FTAA’s expiration. This must be followed by a full-blown investigation of the Duterte government to Oceanagold’s alleged violations of agreements for just compensation, environmental regulations, and human rights abuses, among others. The first FTAA must be the last FTAA to be able to plunder our country’s national patrimony and run roughshod over the rights of future generations,” ended Dulce.#
JUNE 20, 2019