Atienza Favors Mining Firms Over LGUs: Group

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — A mayor of a mining-affected community and environmental groups today charged DENR Secretary Lito Atienza as favoring mining firms over local government units, after the latter issued a statement calling the provincial order by Nueva Vizcaya Governor Luisa Cuaresma to stop the mining operations of Oceana Gold “illegal”.

“Is DENR Sec. Lito Atienza in the service of Oceana Gold? It seems he is acting like the lawyer of the foreign mining company,” said Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).

“The provincial administration under Gov. Cuaresma is basically upholding its legitimate authority to stop entities which violate local laws and ordinances. It is clear that Oceana Gold has refused to pay local taxes and ignored the cease-and-desist order of the provincial government,” Mr. Bautista points out.

Gov. Cuaresma issued a cease-and-desist order to Oceana Gold due to the company’s failure to pay all provincial taxes relating to its quarrying activities in the said village, which provincial officials had estimated to be some P25 million.

This order is being disputed by DENR Sec. Atienza. According to him, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 does not require Oceana Gold, which was granted a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), to acquire a permit from local government units to use natural resources such as quarry materials

Bautista pointed out that this loophole only empasizes the weakness of the current mining law. “That is one of the major problems of that law. It surrenders our right to control and utilize our natural resources to foreigners,” Bautista said.

“DENR Sec. Atienza is further stretching the flawed Mining Act to the benefit of his foreign clients,” Mr. Bautista added.

Atienza further stated that “there should have been no such (local) tax at all” to be imposed on Oceana Gold.

Bautista contested this, saying that “although mining companies are not required to secure permit from the LGU, there is still no provision under the Mining Act stating that companies are exempted from local ordinances and taxes.”

Mayor Romeo Tayaban of Kasibu, one of the mining-affected municipalities, also chastised Atienza for refusing to recognize the opposition of local government officials to the mining project.

“Hindi naman pwedeng walang responsibility and accountability ang Oceana Gold sa local government. Si Sec. Atienza, hindi naman sya ang namamahala ng aming bayan at hindi niya alam ang nangyayari dito. Masyadong tolitarian ang kanyang pamamaraan at hindi ito makatarungan. Hindi pupuwede na kung ano ang gusto ng national, ito na agad ang masusunod kahit hindi ito kapakipakinabang sa mga lokal governments tulad namin. Kung gusto nya, alisin na lang nya ang Local Government Code,” asserted Mayor Tayaban. . (It is out of the question that Oceana Gold be not held accountable and responsible to the local governemnt. Atienza has no direct authority and power over our province and has no idea on what is good for us. His approach is totalitarian and unfair. It is unacceptable that whatever the national government wants will be enforced, even if it is against the interests of the local government units. If they still insist on their way, they should first abolish the Local Government Code.”)

“Abuso nga ang Oceana Gold. Hanggang ngayon wala pang Mayor’s Permit na kinukuha kahit napakatagal na nilang nag-ooperate sa aming munisipyo,” Mayor Tayaban adds. (”Oceana Gold is very brazen. Even now, they still have not obtained a mayor’s permit, even if they have been operating for so long in our municipality.”)

Local groups also belied reports about Oceana Gold’s reported social acceptability.

“Oceana Gold is a liar and tax evader. Their 2007 Annual Report claims that their project has extensive local community support. They said they have made improvements regarding the social infrastructure and economic development of the local government units. However, the lack of support from barangay to provincial government units and their non payment of local taxes contradict their claim.” Allan Barnacha, spokesperson of the local multisectoral alliance Save the Valley Serve the People Movement, expounded.

“We urge the people and LGU of Nueva Vizcaya not to waver in their struggle to expel the anti-LGU, anti-environment and tax evader Oceana Gold in their lands. We support their stand firm against the national government, DENR Sec. Atienza and Oceana Gold who are here not to serve the welfare of the people but to plunder our mineral resources for their own good and self interest,” Mr. Barnacha ended.

Mr. Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator, Kalikasan PNE (0922-844-9787)
Mr. Romeo Tayaban, Mayor of the Municipality of Kasibu
Mr. Allan Barnacha, Spokesperson, Save the Valley Serve the People Movement (0926-691-5703)

One Response to “Atienza Favors Mining Firms Over LGUs: Group”

  1. gazza Says:

    Dear Philipino friends,

    You have to be realistic and look at what you are doing to your own country. You will never mine or lift a hand to a days hard work. Anything good for your country is to be considered for all the people. There comes a time when the law has to be hard against you guys, as you sit around thinking about how many ways there are of saying NO. For god sake, and the sake of your fellow country men and woman, allow your country to become the wonderful rich country it can be. Yes the country is full of corrupt people, but the taxes must be paid and will in a way come back to the very people of the province the mining operations are. THINK about learning to say YES, and show a little love for country and your people.

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