Tribal folk tell Aussie firm: We don’t need mining
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–More than 200 residents of a tribal community in Kasibu town have expressed opposition to the entry of a foreign mining company in their village, which aims to start exploration activities there.
In a signed petition, villagers of Papaya aired their objection to the issuance of a mining permit to OceanaGold Philippines Exploration Corp. (OGPEC), a 100-percent Australian company, which aims to expand its exploration activities in the area.
OGPEC is a transferee of the financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) that was entered into in 1994 by the Philippine government and Climax-Arimco Mining Corp, also an Australian firm.
Under the Philippine Mining Act, an FTAA is a contract, wherein the government allows mining companies, with up to 100-percent foreign ownership, to stage large-scale exploration and development of the country’s minerals.
“We express our decision not to allow the exploration of (OGPEC) and deny the permit it has been asking,” the petition, written in the dialect, read in part.
The villagers, composed of Ifugao, Kalanguya, Ibaloi and Bugkalot farmers, said they no longer needed the material gains being promised by the mining company as they already have the citrus industry as the “more sustainable” source of livelihood.
“Moreover, the exploration area is within the sub-villages of Ubon, Alumadin and Malong, which was declared through a barangay ordinance as a watershed area. This ordinance was approved by the (Department of Environment and Natural Resources),” the petitioners said.
Under such ordinance, any mining-related activity is prohibited within that area, the villagers added.
Aside from Papaya, the company has likewise failed to start actual mining operations for gold and copper in nearby Didipio village due to resistance from farmers who have refused to sell their lands that were to be occupied by the mining project.
Sought for comment, Ramoncito Gozar, OceanaGold’s associate director for communications and external affairs, said village chief Avelino Puguon has already signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with OGPEC.
Gozar said under the MOA, the barangay development council–not the village council–has agreed to allow the firm’s entry into the exploration site.
In return, OGPEC has given P50,000 to the Papaya BDC immediately after the signing of the agreement, and P30,000 for every three months during the exploration, purportedly to fund “community development projects”.
He, however, expressed doubt if Puguon was authorized by the village council to enter into an agreement with OGPEC, as required by the local government code.
Gozar declined to comment on the issue that the exploration site in Papaya was declared as a watershed, but acknowledged that the villagers’ petition is a matter that should be addressed by the company.
According to Jerrysal Mangaoang, regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Cagayan Valley, said there was no reason for villagers to be concerned even if Papaya exploration site is within a watershed.
“An (environmental compliance certificate) will take care of mitigating measures vis-à-vis the environment. If it’s simply a watershed like any mountain with trees, then it’s not prohibited for mining,” he said.