Anti large-scale mining battle of Nueva Vizcaya gets ardent back-up


International and national and delegates from church, health, youth, peasant, scientists, indigenous peoples (IP) and environmental groups showed support to the anti-large-scale mining campaign of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya through a three-day International Solidarity Mission (ISM). The delegates of the ISM avow to gather strong support from other sectors and organizations, both here and abroad.  “We were surprised at the solid campaign of the people to defend their lands and rights by opposing large-scale mining in their communities. Then again, the people of Nueva Vizcaya have much to lose, given their rich natural resources and long-established cultural community, if large-scale mining operations continue in their area,” observed one of the international delegates, Edith Raseil of United Church of Christ, USA.

On December 7-8, the ISM team visited the targeted expansion areas of Didipio gold-copper mining project of Australian-owned OceanaGold, which are Barangay Alimit and Malabing, of the Municipality of Kasibu. The team found out that the destruction of major agricultural and forest lands through the mine expansion would have grave economic and environmental consequences, not only to the said communities but to the whole province as well.

“The IP communities in Brgy. Alimit and Malabing are at risk of experiencing the same fate as those communities where multi-national mining corporations were allowed to enter. They are in danger of losing the resources most precious to us IPs, which is our land and right to self- determination,” said Himpad Mangumalas, leader of national IP organization, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamayan sa Pilipinas.

Himpad added that, “It is very disheartening to find how the resources and the very rights we have been fighting for since time immemorial are easily given to foreign companies. One instance is how OceanaGold was permitted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cut 17,000 trees and to destroy critical watershed areas.  IPs, on the other hand, are deprived of our claim to the land and resources that have so long been with us.”

The ISM was joined also by local participants who shared their own struggle in their own communities, particularly those who have experienced mining firsthand in neighboring towns Didipio and Runruno, and adjacent province of Apayao.

“We do not want the people of Alimit and Malabing Valley to experience the human rights violations and environmental destruction we have suffered under OceanaGold. We are working towards stronger and more solid collaboration with these areas so we will be able to defeat our common enemies, the large-scale mining corporations and the national government who fervently favors their interests  over ours,” expressed Peter Duyapat of Didipio Earth Saver’s Movement Association (DESAMA).

On the third day of the ISM, the delegates conducted a dialogue with local leaders of other church groups, people’s organizations and tribes to urge them to intensify their campaign and establish a unified position against large-scale mining in the province.

“We are calling for the church, local government leaders, organizations, at the local and national levels, to join us in our struggle for our patrimony and to commit to more concrete means of support to our plight,” appealed Pastor Joseph Agpaoa, member of region-wide alliance opposing plunder of natural resource, Save the Valley, Serve the People: Nueva Vizcaya.

The dialogue coincided with the opening of the Lower Magat Eco-Tourism Park(LMETP)Lower Magat Eco-Tourism Park(LMETP), headed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and is to be attended by top government officials.

“It is ironic how President Arroyo claim to be a champion of the environment and the people, as illustrated by her eco-tourism park and yet her national and economic policies show otherwise. Even though the local communities are opposed to mining and have exhausted means to stop the mining in the area, Arroyo with her agencies still push for the liberalization of mining in the country,” said Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of progressive environmental groups Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

The ISM team arrived at specific recommendations on how to step up the campaign against large-scale mining in the Kasibu, based on the data they have collated and the local situation presented by the mining-affected communities.

First, with the recent declaration of OceanaGold of its care and maintenance stage, there is a need to systematically assess the damage the mining activities have incurred to the communities and to the local environment. This would serve as the basis for eventual rehabilitation of the area and compensation to the affected communities where OceanaGold is accountable for.

Second, the provincial government is urged to take a stronger stance and pass a resolution declaring a moratorium on large-scale mining, as it was already proven that this does not bring economic benefits to the community and instead brings hardships and disunity among the tribes.

Third, the communities should develop a more concrete plan to adopt a policy geared towards genuine development through a strong sustainable agricultural base.

Ultimately, there should be a change in policy of the national government with the scrapping of Mining Act of 1995 and its mining revitalization program that would include complete stoppage of Didipio Gold-copper mining project of OceanaGold in Nueva Vizcaya.

“The local communities, with their supporters, will show mining TNCs and the Arroyo administration that there is no place for foreign large-scale mining in the province of Nueva Vizcaya. The assertion of the rights to utilize the national patrimony, for the genuine development of the majority of the Filipino people, will not stop until this has been achieved,” said in the statement of the ISM participants.

The ISM was organized by Defend Patrimony Aliiance, Kalikasan-PNE, Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines and Peace for Life, with local regional alliance Save the Valley, Serve the People Nueva Vizcaya Chapter. It was participated by 29 representatives from local and international organizations, Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), KODAO Productions, Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamayan ng Pilipinas, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Save the Valley Serve the People, Didipio Earthsavers Movement Association (DESAMA), Save Apayao People’s Organizations (SAPO), Advocates for Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) and AGHAM Youth, Ecumenical Mission for Peace and Development and international delegates from United Church of Christ USA, United Church of Canada and KAIROS Canada.

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