KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya: In an apparent move to appease anti-mining residents blocking the entrance to the exploration and drilling site, Oceana Gold Philippine Inc. (OGPI) has stopped its operation and pulled out their drilling equipment from the area.
But former Didipio village chief Erenio Bobola, Samahang Pangkarapatan ng Katutubong Manggagawa at Magsasaka, Inc. (Sapakmmi) chairman said that the pulling out of the Australian firm’s equipment from the area is only a temporary victory of them.
He said the company clandestinely brought in their resources and equipment to their exploration and drilling areas when the community was busy attending to other social obligations.
The barangay council in Didipio, where the mining site is located, and anti-mining indigenous peoples and farmers under the Didipio Earth Savers Multi-purpose Association (DESAMA) and Sapakmmi also eased their barricade, but vowed to be vigilant.
“Now, we will maintain to be vigilant against the company’s tactics of sneaking in again their drilling equipment in the area,” Bobola said.
On Sunday, Governor-elect Carlos Padilla, with over a hundred leaders of the Abot Palad organization led by outgoing Gov. Ruth Padilla met with indigenous peoples and residents showing their support against the mining exploration and expansion activities of OceanaGold.
The Abot Palad brought with them logistics and vowed to support the anti-mining groups in their crusade against the mining operations and expansion of OceanaGold in the province.
The residents have put up a barricade at the exploration site entrance to block OceanaGold’s trucks from bringing in more drilling and other equipment into the area.
In August 2014, Didipio residents submitted a petition to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) opposing the expansion of OGPI’s mining operations, but in March 2016, the mine firm was granted an extension of its exploration activities, further expanding its operations until 2021.
Village officials and anti-mining groups have raised sanitary concerns like water seepage from the tailings dam, water pollution, respiratory and other diseases and other environmental issues resulting for the explorations.
With their operations stopped over the weekend, OceanaGold immediately called for a meeting with barangay residents, taking up new amendments of their Environment Compliance Certificate, which is the basis of their entry to the exploration area.
However, DESAMA board director Myrna Duyan stressed that they already passed a resolution in 2012 prohibiting any further mining activity in the area.
Meanwhile, indigenous peoples allied with the Katribu (Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas) urged newly appointed Environment Sec. Gina Lopez to support their collective call to immediately stop mining operations and cancel the permit of Oceana Gold Philippine Inc. (OGPI) in Nueva Vizcaya.
Mining-affected indigenous peoples also call on Lopez to seriously pursue President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise to heed the people’s growing demand to end large-scale and destructive mining not only in Mindanao but also throughout the country.
The call was supported by Padilla, saying that Lopez’s bias for the protection and conservation of the environment and natural resources will be a big shift for the DENR, which many label as a facilitator of destructive projects.
Padilla said while agriculture is the main industry in Nueva Vizcaya, it also has a high ecotourism potential. However, the province is threatened by large-scale mining projects.
There are two foreign large-scale mining operations in the province – the Australian-Canadian OceanaGold and the British FCF Minerals in Runruno, Quezon.