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Nueva Vizcaya stands by checkpoints, barricade against OceanaGold

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — The province of Nueva Vizcaya stands by its action to stop the operation of OcenaGold Philippines. Incorporated (OGPI), despite the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) order to “remove or dismantle” the checkpoints installed by the people and local government.

Governor Carlos Padilla, on Sunday, December 15, told Nordis that they already responded to DILG Secretary Eduardo Año’s request.

“We are politely turning down the request of the Secretary sapagkat ito ay isang issue na nasa korte (because this issue is already in court) and under the sub judice principle, not even the DILG has jurisdiction on this question,” he said.

He was reacting to the November 22 letter from the agency signed by Año. The DILG chief asked the province to “remove or dismantle the checkpoints” that the people and local government installed at OGPI’s entry.

Año said the provincial government has to first “coordinate with the [Philippine National Police] or the [Armed Forces of the Philippine] and secure the necessary permit” to establish checkpoints.

The DILG also wants the provincial government to “maintain status quo” before the Cease-and-Desist Order (CDO) issued by Padilla on June 25.

OGPI continued commercial operations despite the expiry of its Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) last June 20. The company cited the letter from Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Wilfredo Moncano. According to the MGB letter, the Administrative Code allows OGPI to operate as it has allegedly made a “timely and sufficient application for the renewal of a license.”

On July 1, residents of Didipio in Kasibu town and environmental groups, backed by the provincial and municipal governments, put up three checkpoints leading to the mine site of OGPI. The people put up the barricade to ensure the implementation of the CDO and halt the mining operation.

Proactive response

Notwithstanding their letter to the DILG chief, Padilla said that they are also verifying the authenticity of the letter. The governor noted that Diocese of Bayombong Bishop Jose Elmer Mangalinao informed him that  DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya was not aware of the document.

However, the governor also told Nordis that DILG Nueva Vizcaya personally brought the letter to his attention. According to him, the following day, the regional office of the agency also inquired if he received the letter.

“In the absence of proof to the contrary, we are treating [the letter] as something from DILG,” he said.

Asked if he suspects anyone who would do such deceptive step, the governor responded: “Ang tingin ko ang OceanaGold ang number one suspect (I think OceanaGold is the number one suspect).”

Padilla said that mining companies, in general, use deception to protect their interests. He also questioned why the DILG furnished the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson, a copy of the letter.

“Medyo nagdududa rin kami dahil doon sa sulat ni Sec. Año sa amin dahil copy furnished ang opisina ng ambassador ng Australia sa Philippines. Pwede nating sabihin na tahasang pakikialam ito sa internal concerns ng ating gobyerno at ng ating bansa (We also doubt the letter of Sec. Año because they furnished the office of the Ambassador of Australia to the Philippines a copy. We can say that this is an outright intervention to the internal concerns of our government at country),” he said.

“Ang amin lang is panawagan sa DILG, tooto man o hindi ang sulat na yan, ang paniwala naming ay wala sa kamay ng DILG ang usaping ito (Our message to DILG, whether the letter is genuine or not, we believe that this matter out of the hands of DILG),” the governor added.

Actions are in order

Nasa korte na ito at sa first round, sa [Regional Trial Court] level, ay panalo kami ((This is already in the court, at the RTC level, we won) so the presumption is what we are doing is in order,” said Padilla.

He explained that the issues raised by the DILG secretary were the same matters cited by OGPI in its court petition. The company filed for a temporary restraining order and injunction against the action of the people and local governments.

RTC Branch 30 in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, ruled on July 25 to deny the mining company’s petition.

“The OGPI not having clearly proven, at this point, its clear and unmistakable right to be protected, the prayer for a preliminary injunction is denied…,” stated the decision penned by Judge Paul Attolba, Jr.

The judge also noted in his ruling that “other issues raised will be best threshed out in full-blown trial” and ordered the Pre-Trail Conference to proceed.

Padilla stressed that the provincial government “do not want to enter into a dispute with DILG” since the matter is up for the court to decide.

“We are asking Secretary Año to understand that it is within the jurisdiction of the court; that is why we cannot comply with the content of his letter addressed to us,” he added.

Reinforce the barricade

Learning of the DILG, the Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayanos para sa Kalikasan (ANNVIK) called on Didipio residents and other groups to send reinforcements for the barricade on Thursday, December 12.

The group reiterated that different the “people’s barricade” was instrumental in forcing the company to stop its operation temporarily. It stressed that its success was the result of the sacrifices of the different sectors that joined and sustained the action for five long.

“Nais lampasan ng DILG ang ligal na proseso ng korte at ipinipilit ang kanyang awtoridad para i-pressure ang mga lokal na pamahalaan sa Nueva Vizcaya (The DILG wants to go beyond the legal process in court and use its authority to pressure the local government of Nueva Vizcaya),” ANNVIK said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Besides the court proceeding, LGU Kasibu and the Save Nueva Vizcaya Movement filed a petition before the Office of the President to deny the FTAA renewal of OGPI. More than 6,000 individuals signed the petition.

“Subalit sa kabila ng kaliwa’t kanang reklamo ay narito ang DILG upang saklolohan ang minahan (Despite the numerous complaints DILG is here to help the mine),” the group said.

The MGB has also admitted that the Office of the President found deficiency with OGPI’s FTAA renewal application under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act. According to the bureau, the company has to undergo the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) since the area covered by its operation is now under the ancestral domain application by the Bugkalot tribe. This matter came up after the DENR recommended the interim renewal of the FTAA.

ANNVIK added that the DILG letter and the previous endorsement of DENR for the interim renewal of FTAA renewal are proof that the Duterte government favors corporate mining interests. #

Brandon Lee back in the US

American journalist and human rights activist Brandon Lee is back home in the United States, an official from his home city of San Francisco (California) announced.

“Early Saturday morning, surrounded by friends, family, and community, Sunset native Brandon Lee arrived safely home to San Francisco on a medical transport following the assassination attempt in the Philippines that nearly claimed his life in August,” San Francisco Board of Supervisors District 4 representative Gordon Mar said on his Facebook account.

Mar also posted a photo of well-wishers welcoming Lee at San Francisco.

Lee’s well-wishers welcome him home in San Francisco. (Photo from Gordon Mar’s Facebook post.)

Lee was shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his house in Lagawe, Ifugao last August 6, wounding him on his spinal column and face.

Lee was immediately taken to a local hospital after the shooting but was transferred to a bigger hospital in the neighboring province of Nueva Vizcaya.

Within the night, Lee was taken to Baguio General Hospital (BGH), thought to be equipped to deal with Lee’s serious injuries.

He is immobile due to his spinal injury.

While at BGH, Lee was subjected to constant surveillance by suspected Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operatives.

“Security guards at the hospital alerted us that a certain George Malidow of the [AFP], introducing himself as from Camp Henry Allen in Baguio, was asking for details about Brandon’s case,” the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said in an alert five days after the assassination attempt.

Lee was then secretly transferred to St. Lukes Hospital in Taguig City while family and friends raised funds for a medical transport to the USA.

The United States government is said to have refused Lee free medical airlift to California as it is a privilege given only to military and diplomatic personnel.

The medical transport may have cost Lee’s friends and family at least P.6 million, a source said.

A correspondent of Baguio City-based media outfit Northern Dispatch and paralegal volunteer of both the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), Lee had been repeatedly red-baited by the 54th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army before the attack.

The CHRA blamed the Philippine Army for the attempt on Lee’s life.

Lee is a United States citizen, married to a Filipino and a permanent resident of the Philippines. They have a seven-year old daughter.

Mar expressed gratitude to Lee’s San Francisco community who helped bring him home.

“Brandon’s here because of his strength, and the strength of the community and movement that’s lifted up him and the power of his example over these last few months,” Mar said in his post.

“I’m so, so glad to have Brandon back—but we’re not done yet. An outpouring of love and support moved mountains to make this transport happen, but we have mountains yet to move. There’s a ways to go still to cover the costs of Brandon’s care, and much more to be done to address the underlying injustices that led to his attack,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Journalist seriously wounded in gun attack

(Updated: 10:00 pm, August 6)

A journalist and human rights defender is seriously wounded after being shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his house in Lagawe, Ifugao at six o’clock tonight, Tuesday, August 6.

Brandon Lee, Ifugao correspondent of Baguio City-based media outfit Northern Dispatch and paralegal volunteer of both the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), was immediately taken to a local hospital for treatment.

He was later transferred to a bigger hospital in the neighboring province of Nueva Vizcaya, a source informed Kodao.

In a statement, the CHRA said the 54th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army frequented Lee’s residence as well as the offices of both the IPM and the Justice and Peace Advocates of Ifugao, of which he is also a member, for weeks prior to tonight’s shooting.

The soldiers gathered data by interrogating and intimidating the organizations’ members and staff, the CHRA reported.

The Philippine Army team was headed by a certain 1Lt Karol Jay R. Mendoza while its Civil-Military Operations head is a certain Lt.Col. Narciso B. Nabulneg, Jr. who both invoked President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 in their interrogations, the group added.

Duterte’s EO 70 issued last December created a task force to combat insurgency that human rights organizations blame for the killing of activists across the country.

In the task force’s launch in Camp Bado Dangwa in La Trinidad, Benguet last May 24, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police jointly identified Ifugao Province as a “priority target in the anti-insurgency campaign.”

Brandon Lee (Photo from his Facebook account)

In 2015, Lee was among the IPM members and staff accused of being New People’s Army members.

Lee’s media outfit, Northern Dispatch, had also been a victim of red-tagging by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Lee first became Northern Dispatch’s correspondent in 2010.

Other sources told Kodao that Lee’s IPM colleagues are currently under surveillance from unidentified men, preventing them from visiting Lee at the hospital. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

First Kalinga transport strike due to jeepney phaseout

By TMK
www.nordis.net

TABUK CITY, Kalinga — About 150 drivers, operators and commuters launched a protest action against the implementation of the jeepney phase out program by the current administration on July 9, 2018 here in the city center.

The first ever protest of the transport sector in the city commenced with a protest caravan of about 40 jeepneys from Bulanao in front of the Provincial Hospital towards the City hall in Dagupan, Tabuk city with MPT, streamers and calls to denounce the jeepney phase out of the present government administration which is an attack to their lives and livelihood.

Marching around the the city center, the protesters trooped to the Sangguniang Panlungsod Session hall to present before the city legislators their criticisms and position paper on the Jeepney modernization program through the Department Order No. 217-011 or the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines released by the Department of Transportation (DoTr) on June 19, 2017.

The said protest was organized and led by the Kalinga Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Associations (KaFeJODA) a newly formed federation of different small associations of public transport groups in the province. Whereas, the commuters especially from the basic sector- farmers welcomed the activity and mobilized themselves to participate in the protest action believing that in the end, it is them who will surely suffer the consequences and effect of this jeepney phase out.

The drivers, operators and commuters out rightly opposed the plan of the Duterte government to modernize the public transport wherein by the end of 2020 the current jeepney will be replaced by either solar a powered jeep, electronic jeeps and/or Euro IV engine jeeps.

“Dakami nga babassit nga jeepney operators ken drivers agraman maapektaran nga umili ditoy Kalinga ket saan mi a palubusan ti kayat ken panggep ti administrasyon ni Duterte nga i-modernize wenno sukatan dagiti pampubliko nga transportasyon. Kontra kami iti jeepney phase-out gapu ta dakami ti number 1 nga maapektaran. Patayen na ti pangkabiagan mi nga babbassit nga operators ken drivers,” the KaFeJODA statement read.

(We the small jeepney operators and drivers together with the affected people of Kalinga are not in favor on the plan of the Duterte administration to replace the public transportation vehicles, we are against the jeepney phase out because we wil be the first ones to be adversely affected. It will kill our source of livelihood.)

“First and foremost, we the small operators and drivers cannot afford these expensive jeeps they are trying to introduce ranging from eight hundred thousand up to 1.6 million pesos. Furthermore, these type of jeeps are not applicable here in the province considering the mountainous terrain,” the statement further read.

The operators and drivers belied the modernization program of the Duterte government and said, “instead, it is but another strategy of the capitalist corporations to monopolize and corporatize the public transportation system for their super profits.

They also claimed that this program is a disaster to their livelihood that would slump them to poverty. Through the fleet consolidation scheme of the PUV modernization, it will displace most of the current drivers/operators who are single operator units.

“Maawanan kami iti kontrol iti bukod mi a lugan ken prangkisa gapu ta maikonsentra kadagiti korporasyon ken babaknang nga isu da metlaeng ti makabael a makagatang iti minimum 15 units kadagitoy a lugan.” (“we no longer have control over our own jeeps and franchise since it will be concentrated to the corporation and rich businessmen who also are the only ones who can afford to buy a minimum of 15 units of these type of jeeps” the statement also read.

On the other hand, the city legislators welcomed and accommodated the protesters in their regular session. The protesters presented before the legislators their position paper asking the city councilors to support their plea via resolution to suspend the implementation of the Department of Transportation department order and the current transport system at status quo.

The legislators expressed that they cannot supersede any memorandum released from the national, however they assured to look into it and make an action to address the pressing issue. The city legislative body through the Committee on Transportation shall review and study the Department Order and Memorandum Circular No. 2018-008. The legislators also seconded the motion of Hon. Zoraida Wacnang to invite the KaFeJODA to sit during the review and study the said Department Order.

Meanwhile, the protesters felt dismayed upon their observation that the city councilors are obviously not so aware of the issue of the jeepney phase out. #nordis.net