By Melvin Gascon
Residents and environment activists on Monday denounced Australian firm Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. for supposedly continuing its mining operations in Kasibu town in Nueva Vizcaya despite the lapse of its license on June 20.
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) said OceanaGold has been conducting illegal activities since the expiry of its financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA), prompting the provincial government to alert the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the local environment officers on the company’s operations. “There are plenty of pending reports, complaints, government resolutions, and other documented evidence that OceanaGold violated various environmental, socio-economic, and human rights regulations which should warrant the mine’s stoppage and not its perpetuation,” said Leon Dulce, Kalikasan PNE national coordinator.
Nueva Vizcaya Gov. Carlos Padilla on June 20 issued an advisory to the PNP and its provincial and municipal environment offices and the village council of Didipio to “restrain any operations of OceanaGold upon the termination of the FTAA,” based on the Local Government Code of 1991 and the Environment Code of Nueva Vizcaya.
OceanaGold’s FTAA states that the mining agreement “shall be terminated and the parties shall be relieved of their respective obligations” upon the expiration of the contract.
However, David Way, OceanaGold’s general manager wrote a letter to the Didipio village council citing a June 20 letter from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), citing Administrative Code which states that existing licenses “shall not expire” until the application for renewal has supposedly been finally determined.
In a June 20 press statement, OceanaGold said it has lodged a notice to renew the FTAA in 2018 and has been “working collaboratively with the government of the Philippines on the renewal process.”
Dulce said the MGB and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) cannot invoke the Administrative Code since they were remiss in their duties to consult host communities.
“They endorsed Oceanagold’s FTAA renewal application to the Office of the President instead of cancelling it outright,” he said, citing the resolutions of rejection by the provincial and village councils.
Kalikasan PNE urged the MGB and DENR to withdraw their endorsement of Oceanagold’s FTAA to the Office of the President. “In the dialogues we conducted with the MGB and the DENR, these agencies admitted that they failed to put into consideration the body of evidence submitted to them over the past year,” Dulce said.
“With concerns such as the full withdrawal of social acceptability and a lack of environment and human rights due diligence, there is no way a legitimate regulatory body would have let OceanaGold’s license renewal application go any further,” he added. According to Kalikasan PNE, the MGB’s legal opinion allowing OceanaGold to resume operations amid the absence of a mining agreement and the clear opposition of LGUs is “patently wrong and irresponsible.” “It would be hypocritical of the Duterte government to claim that it wants to stop mining for creating a monster in our country, but then allowing a foreign corporation like OceanaGold to operate with impunity,” he said.
The MGB has been lawyering for this foreign mining corporation instead of defending our national patrimony from it. The people of Nueva Vizcaya will definitely take action to halt Oceanagold’s operations and demand indemnification and other just compensations for its various crimes against the people and the environment,” Dulce said. #