N. Vizcaya Local Officials Rise vs Mining Firm


Local officials of the province of Nueva Vizcaya dare to fight a mining giant. This is a stark contrast to the national government pledging full support for transnational mining corporations.

BY BULATLAT
Vol. VIII, No. 22, July 6-12, 2008

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya (268 kms north of Manila) — Gov. Luisa Lloren Cuaresma and other provincial officials were slapped with a string of charges at the Office of Ombudsman by OceanaGold Phils., Inc., an Australian firm engaged in a multibillion-peso mining exploration project at Didipio, Kasibu town.

They were charged with grave coercion, graft and harassment. Recently, an administrative case was also filed against the governor allegedly for abuse of authority, misconduct and oppression.

Cuaresma has been a vocal critic of the Australian firm’s operations.

In a statement posted at www.nvizcayagov.ph, Cuaresma said, “If compassion is a transgression and if this is the reward of an upright move, I am ready to face the costs. As Governor, I have to defend my constituents who fall victims of abuses and until such atrocities ceased and tribal folks of Didipio will be bequeathed of the injustices OceanaGold had them suffered, I stood firm to my conviction.”

Gold site of greed

She said, “Didipio, the once tranquil hamlet of harmonious and peace loving people fall prey to pretenses of development. It is progress in exchange of dignity.  I am appealing to peace and human right advocates all over the world to help me redeem the self-esteem of displaced indigenous people of Didipio who were illegally extricated from their ancestral domain with thousand still facing ejection to pave the way to what I may describe as the gold site of greed.”

Cuaresma said that her office receives continuous reports from Didipio residents regarding cases of human rights violations, fears and intimidation. She said that the brutal killing of village chief Paulino Baguilat just recently was an aftermath of what OceanaGold calls as “development.”

Cuaresma said that her office still receives continuous reports from Didipio residents on cases of human rights violations, fears and intimidation. She said that the brutal killing of village chief Baguilat just recently was an aftermath of what OceanaGold calls as development.

Making history

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Teddy Casiño hailed the local government’s move. “This is an unprecedented milestone in our country’s history of local governance. This should set a shining example to all other local governments under siege by arrogant and environmentally-destructive foreign large-scale mining companies,” he said

The Provincial Board recently adopted a resolution to totally withdraw support and endorsement to OceanaGold. Eight voted in favor of the move; three against, and one abstention. It shall take effect amid the ongoing impasse between the province and OceanaGold over payment of local taxes.

“This will teach OceanaGold and power-drunk officials of the national government agencies like Environment Sec. Lito Atienza a lesson. They should heed the opposition of the local people – indigenous peoples, small-scale miners and farmers included – and local authorities who will directly suffer the long-term damage from large-scale mining operations. We also hope that other local government units take this historical move of the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government into consideration,” Casiño said.

Casiño is the author of House Resolution No. 594 that mandated the Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities to probe OceanaGold’s entry into Nueva Vizcaya’s remaining forestlands and the critical watershed areas in the region. Bulatlat

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