BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: Governor Carlos Padilla has led the provincial government in formalizing the request to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the immediate cancellation of OceanaGold Philippines Inc.’s (OGPI) renewal of its exploration permit.
Padilla said in a letter addressed to Environment Secretary Gina Lopez they are formalizing their request for the cancellation or suspension of the exploration permit and that an exploration moratorium be declared pending amendments to mining policies.
Lopez on Wednesday assured Padilla and residents of Kasibu town that she would cancel the extension of the exploration permit granted to OGPI amid strong opposition from residents and anti-mining advocates to the mining activities in the area.
“Seemingly, the issuance of the exploration permit last April, 2016 which resumes the exploration activity of the company was a midnight deal and very suspicious,” Padilla said in the letter.
OceanaGold in a press statement said that its five-year extension to the exploration period of its Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) was granted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) that is valid from March 2016 to 2021. The MGB is an agency under DENR.
He said the cancellation of the exploration permit is urgent because Nueva Vizcaya is a critical watershed of four major water and energy projects such as the Ramon Dam, San Roque Dam, Pantabangan Dam and Addalam National Irrigation System.
He also said that it is of importance to protect watershed areas in the province to maintain sufficient irrigation water supply to hundreds of thousands of agricultural lands in Region 2 and Region 3 aside from the power they generate.
“In its societal vision, we are a watershed haven and we promote the development of the province as an agro-forestry area and eco-tourism because of its rich and fertile soil, semi-temperate climate and its natural wonders,” Padilla said in his letter to Lopez.
Padilla also said that in Kasibu town, host to OceanaGold’s FTAA coverage, is the location of the fourth longest cave system in the country called the Capisaan Cave System and the plantations of citrus and other high value crops that farmers sustainably produce are now being threatened.
“Most of the communities where the ongoing exploration is being undertaken oppose this activity as indicated on their various petition papers submitted to you by our partner Alyansa Tigil Mina,” Padilla said.
LEANDER C. DOMINGO