BAGABAG, Nueva Vizcaya: Deputy Speaker Carlos M. Padilla has strongly condemned the issuance by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of a five-year mining exploration permit extension to an Australian mining firm.
Padilla has joined the indigenous and farming communities and their support groups in the province in their demand for an explanation from the MGB for extending the exploration permit OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI).
“I condemn this move by the MGB and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The people of Nueva Vizcaya cannot allow this, which in the first place is against the President’s orders. No extension or new permits must be provided unless a new mining revenue bill is enacted. This is a violation of EO79, this is illegal,” Padilla said.
In a news release, OceanaGold officials confirmed the company’s financial or technical assistance agreement exploration permit for March 2016-2021.
In a statement, an Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) organization said the issuance of the exploration permit to OceanaGold is “unacceptable.”
Rufino Licyayo, Ifugao leader and chairperson of IP group Didipio Earth Savers Multi-purpose Association (DESAMA) said OGPI’s mining operations will end in 2019 and now the MGB is saying they can continue to dig and explore their lands.
“While we are waiting for the OGPI operations to end, the MGB and DENR are doing their magic to extend it. This is unacceptable. We will not allow it,” Licyayo said.
The Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) claimed that the DENR continues to act on behalf of the mining industry and is blind to the resistance of communities. ATM is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of EO 270-A, repeal of the Mining Act of 1995, and passage of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill.
ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera said they are going to question this move by the DENR and MGB at different levels.
“This mining project has resulted in a string of human rights violations and abuse but despite the recommendation of the Commission on Human Rights in 2011 that the mining contract be reviewed by the Office of the President for its possible revocations, they were still allowed to operate. Now the government is allowing its extension? There will be stronger opposition. We demand that the new permit be cancelled,” Garganera said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Ruth Padilla also affirmed the provincial government’s advocacy to stop the entry of more large-scale mining operations in the province.
The province is host to two of the largest mining projects in the country — the OGPI’s Didipio Copper and Gold Project in Kasibu town, and the FCF Mineral Corporation’s Rurnruno Gold-Molybdenum Project in Quezon town.
The local government and communities in the province have long expressed their opposition to the mining industry due to its negative impact on the people and the environment. They are pushing for more development related to ecotourism and agriculture sector.
In February 2014, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 3667 seeking to declare the province of Nueva Vizcaya as a mining free zone. The bill is currently pending in Senate.