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Group denounces order allowing resumption of Nueva Vizcaya mining

June 11, 2008 10:52am
MANILA, Philippines - Environmental groups denounced a court decision preventing the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government from implementing an order that halts mining operations in the area.

In a statement, Kalikasan-PNE (People’s Network for the Environment) said that the Court of Appeals decision is part of the Arroyo administration’s concerted efforts “to allow OceanaGold operations by hook or by crook."

Clemente Bautista, the group’s national coordinator, said that the entry of OceanaGold “is the root cause of tension and violence" among Ifugao communities in Dipidio.

“It is very illogical for the [Court of Appeals] to reason out that allowing this mining operation will bring peace and order in the area," Bautista said.

He was referring to a decision penned by Court of Appeal’s Associate Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando that granted a 60-day temporary restraining order in favor of Oceana Gold Mining Inc. The company runs the Didipio Gold-Copper Mining Project in Bgy. Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya.

Even before the decision, the group claimed that Environment Secretary Lito Atienza stated that the cease and desist order issued by the provincial government is illegal. The group claimed that this gave the go-signal to OceanaGold to defy the CDO.

“The company did not actually stop its operation since May 2008. This violation was witnessed by the members of the Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities which hold an on-site investigation only last June 7 in Didipio," Bautista said.

From June 7 to 9, 2008, the said Congressional Committee held two on-site hearings in Bgy. Kakidugen and Bgy. Didipio which is the mining site of foreign owned mining companies RoyalCo and Oceanagold, respectively.

The Committee was headed by Ifugao Representative Solomon Chungalao, Nueva Vizcaya Representative Carlos Padilla, Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casino and Gabriela Women Partylist Representative Luz Ilagan. The investigation primarily focused on the human rights violations and Free and Prior Informed Consent (PFIC) processes in relation to the mining operations.

“The timing of CA decision is suspicious. This was released right after the Congressional investigation which found out many violations of OceanaGold in their mining operations. The Committee also received many complaints from the local communities on the abuses committed by the military and private security forces of OceanaGold. Even the Committee delegation was harassed by the police on their way to the mining site," said Allan Barnacha, spokeperson of the Save the Valley Serve the People Environmental Alliance in Nueva Vizcaya.

The delegation, which included officials led by Gov. Luisa Lloren Cuaresma, were stopped and detained for almost 20 minutes by police troops manning a checkpoint along the provincial road in Barangay Debibi, Cabarroguis, Quirino, without “clear reasons."

During the Congressional hearing, Representative Padilla stated that OceanaGold is illegally operating in Nueva Vizcaya because of the absence of “new Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA"" between the National Government and Oceana Gold stating that “old agreement" only exists with the previous owner of the mine which is Climax Mining Corporation. Also the Congressman stated that the House of Congress did not receive any copy of FTAA between company and Malacañang which is required under the mining law. - GMANews.TV
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