Itogon, Benguet: Residents of Barangay Didipio in Kasibu town, Nueva Vizcaya continue to barricade the mining site of an Australian mining firm, and have called on President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to stop the ongoing drilling operations they claimed were detrimental to their life and the environment.
The local folks, belonging to Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association (Desama) and Samahang Pangkarapatan ng Katutubong Mangagawa at Magsasaka, Inc. (Sapakmmi), launched their barricade since Wednesday in Sitio Camgat in the said village.
Mining giant Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI), a subsidiary of an Australian-Canadian transnational mining company, has conducted drilling operations in the area since the first week of June. Just recently, it was issued a five-year extension for its Free Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) exploration permit until March 2021 by the Mines Geosciences Bureau (MGB), a bureau under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Accordingly, target areas for exploration spanning six kilometers of drilling are Upper Tucos, Mogambos and Papaya that are covered by FTAA-001 granted by the government in 1994.
The exploration methods including geologic mapping, soil sampling and ground geophysics have all commenced but the drilling is to be finished by the third quarter of 2016.
“We call on President Duterte to help us stop the operations of Oceana Gold here in Didipio. It has brought nothing to the community but suffering to us residents. The continuous destruction of our environment is leaving us with no hope for the future generations,” Ernesto Bobola, chairman of Sapakkmmi, said.
The residents joined forces to stop the 400-meter drilling operation that they believe was affecting the potable water system of the community because it polluted the rivers with the chemicals used in drilling.
“We have experienced this in Sitio Magasin, just above the Dinkidi mine site, where residents have abandoned their homes because the groundwater source has been depleted since the mining company started its operations in 2012,” Bobola added.
Chemicals used in drilling exploration, he said, may affect the water system even downstream once they leak through the soil and the river. The threatened villages are Didipio, Alimit, Tubo, Alicia, Naguigui, San Benigno, Aglipay, and Jones in Isabela.
Fernando Mangili, speaking on behalf of the environment and human rights network in Luzon Amianan Salakniban, citing experiences with mining in Benguet, said all stages of mineral production from exploration to extraction have detrimental effects on the water systems of the land.
Myrna Duyan, a board director of Desama, said all 10 families in Sitio Camgat directly affected by the drilling are opposed to the drilling operations, as they were never consulted nor informed of the consequences before the company started operations.
“In fact, we passed a Barangay Resolution in 2012 telling the company that we will not allow mining and drilling operations in the remaining areas that Oceana Gold have not destroyed yet,” Duyan added. “Our prior informed consent is being violated in this act.”
Residents claim all of them did not approve the entry of mining in the first place, but because of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the FTAA component of the law, their rights to their livelihood and water sources are continuously being violated, as the company apparently was given all the rights to their land.
Nueva Vizcaya has declared a no-mining zone under Executive Order 79, but OGPI was still allowed to operate and expand its operations, the groups lamented.
THOM F. PICAÑA AND LEANDER C. DOMINGO