Second knockdown

N. Vizcaya tribal folk score anew vs foreign mining firm

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Tribal communities in upland Kasibu town scored another victory against a giant foreign-owned company Monday after a court here dismissed the injunction suit the firm lodged against villagers who have been opposing the firm’s planned mining exploration in the area.

Judge Jose Godofredo Naui of RTC branch 37 threw out the petition of then Oxiana Philippines, Inc., an Australian company, after it failed to prove that its Filipino representative, Lourdes Dolinen, was authorized to stand for the company during the Sept. 25 pre-trial hearing.

“The result of [the lack of authority] was that for all intents and purposes, [Oxiana] was absent during the pre-trial. Section 5 of the [Rules of Court] gives the effect of failure to appear: dismissal of the action,” Naui said.

Oxiana filed the complaint after residents, led by village chiefs Mariano Maddela of Pao, Felimon Blanco of Paquet and Orlando Binoya of Dine, set up a barricade along the road leading to its 5,873-hectare exploration site in Pao and Kakidugen villages.

The company is now known as Royalco Resources Limited after the sale of all its assets. However, it filed the injunction suit using its old name Oxiana.

Joey Nelson Ayson, Oxiana country manager, declined to comment on the dismissal of the case, saying he has yet to receive a copy of the court order, and that he would have to discuss the matter first with company lawyers.

It was the second successive victory for 24 village leaders and tribal men and hundreds of other tribal folk who the company tried to prevent, through the injunction case, from blocking the road.

Last month, Environment Secretary Jose Atienza ordered company officials to stop its attempt to force its way through the barricade after violence erupted between picketers and Oxiana employees on Aug. 29.

Since July 2, about 200 villagers have been holding alternate shifts guarding the road in Paquet village. The number reached 1,000 in the last week of August, when a bulldozer hired by the company was stopped by people who sat on the dirt road as it tried to drive past the blockade.

In a five-page order which the court released Tuesday, Naui noted that documents submitted by Oxiana as supposed evidence of Dolinen’s authority to represent the company did not state that she was given the power to perform all acts necessary for the suit to proceed.

“The rule is clear and does not need any interpretation: the representative must be authorized in writing… The authority must be complete so that the representative can make decisions regarding the important matters to be taken up during the pre-trial,” he said.

In the earlier stages of the case, Oxiana submitted a board secretary certificate, then a board resolution, which picked Dolinen as its attorney-in fact to file a complaint against Maddela [and others].”

The court, however, noted supposed discrepancies in the two documents, as well as the signatures of two board members.

“[Oxiana] Directors Peter Topham and David Ogg appear to have signed the minutes [of board meeting]. However, the minutes state that they were allowed to participate by teleconferencing since they were abroad at that time,” the order said.

The group’s lawyers had earlier questioned the firm’s personality as plaintiff in the case, alleging that Oxiana did not have legal standing as it had already been dissolved by Royalco at the time that it filed the suit.

The defendants expressed relief over the news that the case has been dismissed.

Maragsakankami ta rimmuar met lang ti agpayso. Naiparangarang nga awan nga talaga ti karbengan dagita nga nagidarum kadakami (We are happy because the truth has come out. It was revealed that those who sued us did not have any right to do it after all),” said Benito Cudiam, one of the respondents and vice chair of the Kasibu Inter-tribal Response Toward Ecological Development (Kired), a people’s organization.

But because Oxiana continues its bid to enter Pao by way of other routes, Cudiam said, “tuloy pa rin ang laban (the fight goes on).”

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