CA decision favoring Australian firm a temporary setback

House militant bloc supports Nueva Vizcaya LGUs in fight against foreign mining intrusion

BAYAN MUNA Rep. Teddy Casiño today renewed full support to the people of Nueva Vizcaya as he labeled a Court of Appeals decision preventing the its provincial government from implementing an order that halts mining operations in the area as “a temporary setback for environmental protection, local governance and the defense of national patrimony.”

The Court of Appeals issued a 60-day injunction with temporary restraining order on the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government that issued a Cease and Desist Order [CDO] on OceanaGold, a Melbourne-based mining firm.

“The militant partylist bloc in Congress supports the people of Nueva Vizcaya and its Governor, Luisa Cuaresma in this fight. Gov. Cuaresma only put out a CDO to stop OceanaGold from operating the mine after it failed to pay P30 million for a quarrying permit, aside from the growing tension among indigenous tribes – including the murder of the village chief – that the entry of the mining firm has caused. The CA decision has obviously favored the Australian firm over the local people of the province,” Casiño said.

The militant solon was visibly dismayed by the decision penned by Associate Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando that completely favored Oceana Gold Mining Inc. The company runs the Didipio Gold-Copper Mining Project in Bgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.

“I cannot help but surmise that the decision is part of the Arroyo administration’s effort to allow OceanaGold to go on with its mining operations that will permanently damage the area. The OceanaGold incursion into Nueva Vizcaya at this point is the cause of brewing tension and violence among Ifugao and Bugkalot tribal communities in Dipidio. The company has in fact supplanted the government in the area as it has arrogated the functions of providing social services and peace and order in the area. It has demolished houses and bulldozed rice lands. With all due respect to the Court, we went to the area last June 7, were waylaid by a police checkpoint and in fact saw the deep division among the once peaceful local community due to the entry of OceanaGold. This, to my mind, is what the Court should do to better come up with a decision,” Casiño said.

Casiño, along with Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla, and Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan went to the area to have an onsite inquiry into OceanaGold’s violations committed in its operations.

From June 7 to 8, 2008, the said Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities held two on-site hearings in Bgy. Kakidugen and Bgy. Didipio in Kasibu town, mining sites of foreign owned mining companies RoyalCo and Oceanagold, respectively.

The investigation also focused on the OceanaGold’s alleged violations of human rights, the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) process, certain provisions of the current Mining Law and the Local Government Code in relation to its mining operations.

“It should also be noted that even before the CA decision, DENR Secretary Lito Atienza already branded the the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government’s cease and desist order illegal. This emboldened OceanaGold to go to the CA and defy the local authorities. The municipal and provincial governments do not support the project yet Atienza is siding with the mining firm. We will not back down from this temporary setback. The militant bloc in Congress sides with the people and supports the stand of the local governments versus destructive mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya,” Casiño said.

The House militant bloc is composed of Bayan Muna Reps. Casiño and Satur Ocampo, Gabriela Reps. Ilagan and Liza Maza, and Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano. #

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