National Solidarity Mission in Nueva Vizcaya condemns brewing rights violations underneath Oceanagold’s contract renewal bid

The National Solidarity Mission to the People’s Barricade against Oceanagold Mining in Nueva Vizcaya (NVNSM) validated numerous rights violations experienced by indigenous and farmer communities currently enforcing a provincial government restraining order by barricading against the Australian-Canadian mining giant.

The fact-finding, solidarity, and education interventions of the NVNSM was conducted by 40 leaders, researchers, and experts representing 16 local and national environment, indigenous, peasant, labor, church, and nongovernment organizations from July 26 to 29, 2019.

The NVNSM documented cases of leaders and organizers of the Tuwali Ifugao people’s organizations leading the barricade experiencing a surge of vilification, red-tagging, surveillance, and intrusions in their homes by suspected personnel of Oceanagold. There are also threats of dispersal and harm against the barricade especially in light of Oceanagold’s failure to secure an injunction against Governor Carlos Padilla’s restraining order anchored on the expiration of Oceanagold’s Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA).

The mission ascertained the lack of consultations and impact assessments surrounding Oceanagold’s bid to renew its FTAA. The Tuwali elders have not once been approached by Oceanagold to secure their free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). Without FPIC, Oceanagold violates local laws and internationally recognized declarations that recognize and protect indigenous people’s rights over their lands, territories, and livelihood.

This validates the news that the Office of the President has returned the endorsements for Oceanagold’s FTAA renewal by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for lacking FPIC clearance from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

Participating scientists saw initial signs of continuing water depletion of wells, creeks, and springs that community members recounted to have happened during the commercial operations of Oceanagold. In some cases, it was reported that the productivity of agricultural lands, such as rice paddies drying up, and citrus orchards dangerously dwindling down to 10% of their original abundance since Oceanagold started operating.

This raises questions on how Oceanagold was able to secure endorsements for FTAA renewal from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) despite the ongoing unmitigated impacts on the villages’ water resources.

The NVNSM also educated the community members in the current national situation and policy framework of the mining industry, to strengthen their knowledge of the legal and policy basis of opposition to Oceanagold’s operations. The local people’s movement have afterwards expressed resolute intent to assert their right to self determination and genuine development by establishing alternative land use and governance mechanisms over the areas of Oceanagold.

We organizers and participants of the NVNSM hereby make our recommendations to the local governments, national agencies, and other stakeholders:

  1. That Oceanagold’s FTAA renewal application be fully rejected for its various irregularities in the renewal process, as well as its recent and longstanding history of violations of civil-political, socio-economic, and other human rights.
  2. That the NCIP’s FPIC process for Oceanagold be closely monitored to ensure that the Kasibu indigenous communities’ right to self determination is not undermined.
  3. That a full-blown scientific investigation of the various ecological and human rights impacts of Oceanagold be launched towards the filing of appropriate legal action against their operations.
  4. That Oceanagold be compelled to pay just compensation for the immediate rehabilitation of adversely affected rivers, farmlands, and other ecosystems, as well as the possible loss of jobs of its workers as a consequence of the company’s irresponsible management.
  5. That government agencies such as the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, DENR, and NCIP be likewise held accountable for bowing down to the whims and caprices of foreign corporations like Oceanagold.
  6. That the indigenous and rural people of Barangay Didipio, Alimit, and other connected communities across the mineralized lands and watersheds be supported in their endeavor to establish effective democratic control and governance over their territories.

We have felt the warmth and courage of the people of Nueva Vizcaya over the course of our stay in the barricade. We are encouraged by the unwavering support of the barangay, municipal, and provincial governments to the struggle to protect our water and other natural resources from the harm that Oceanagold has caused.

We firmly believe that the people shall overcome, and that solidarity from across the archipelago onwards to distant lands where people join our cry for justice will always be with the people’s barricade against Oceanagold. ###

The NVNSM was organized by the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), the Alyansa ng Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (ANVIK), and the United People’s Organizations of Didipio, together with the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC), Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum (EBF), EBF – Northern Luzon Jurisdiction, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self Determination, International Indigenous People’s Movement for Self Determination and Liberation, People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty, Pesticide Action Network – Asia Pacific (PAN AP), Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), Pilipinas, Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), University of the Philippines – Minggan, Taripnong Cagayan Valley, and Altermidya.

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