Armed, dangerous

Antimining villagers bare threats from gunmen

KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya–Residents in an upland mining community here on Thursday denounced the alleged atrocities committed by armed men, who have been securing the ongoing earth-moving activities of a foreign mining company.

The villagers, mostly Ifugaos, called on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the use of armed men from the Philippine National Police’s provincial mobile group (PMG) to secure the entry of OceanaGold Philippines Inc., an Australian firm, into private lands in the area.

Residents here have been protesting the entry of the firm, which is attempting to conduct large-scale mining for gold and copper in Didipio village despite its failure to obtain the consent of the local community.

Since December, OceanaGold has been bulldozing portions of the lands that are within its 425-hectare primary impact area, and has been demolishing villagers’ houses amid unresolved disputes on landowners’ compensation.

“This company has become so desperate that it is now employing force and intimidation through the use of armed men,” said Peter Duyapat, president of the Didipio Earth Savers Multi Purpose Association (Desama), a people’s organization.

On Tuesday evening, a company bulldozer forcibly entered the property of Romeo Guimbangan, a farmer, in the sub-village of Lower Dinauyan here. As he went out of his house to confront the bulldozer operator, he was restrained by two armed men.

“The men held me on each of my arms then one of them told me, ‘Just let them; the company will pay you anyway,’” Guimbangan quoted the armed men as saying.

On Wednesday noon, the company’s wrecking crew tore down Guimbangan’s house and that of his two siblings, while he was in nearby Cabarroguis town in Quirino to seek legal advice.

Police officials, however, denied that policemen were sent to intimidate antimining residents. Since last week, the PNP has deployed 30 PMG men from Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino in Didipio, upon the request of company officials.

“Our role (there) is to maintain calm and sobriety in case any untoward incident (will happen), and we are not part of the demolition (activities). But I will investigate that report,” said Supt. Domingo Lucas, acting provincial police director.

Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban and village chief Paulino Baguilat Sr. said they have asked the company to suspend the demolition until the landowners have been fully paid.

Oceanagold has faced stiff opposition from residents who have refused to accept the company’s offer of compensation, threatening to derail its targeted start of production in early 2009.

Last week, about 100 villagers barricaded a fenced-off cluster of houses in the sub-village of Dinauyan, following attempts by a demolition team hired by the company to enter the compound and dismantle houses.

Ramoncito Gozar, OceanaGold vice president for communications and external affairs, said negotiations have bogged down because of the high prices demanded by some of the landowners.

A number of residents have reportedly asked for P1.2 million for a 200-square meter lot, way beyond the company’s per-lot offer of at least P200,000.

“This (demolition) is part of our continuing activities to enforce our rights to enter the project area per the FTAA (financial and technical assistance agreement), MGB-approved bonds & the decisions of the panel of arbitrators,” he said.

He said they are rushing to demolish the houses, and could not afford to be further delayed in their bid to acquire access rights on lands, and to eject their present occupants.

Gozar, however, denied that they restrained Guimbangan during the clearing operations, adding: “In fact we are currently finalizing talks on payment settlements following our numerous negotiations.”

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6 thoughts on “Armed, dangerous

  1. In fairness, it is part of the duty of the State to ensure economic uplift of the communities. Since the cops are State operative, logically they must support the programs of the State.

  2. The Constitution mandates that the State shall be the protector of its own people. But when the government’s interests and the citizens’ basic rights collide, shall it continue to side with the materialistic thrusts of the government?

    These people refuse to give up their land. Granting, for the sake of argument, that the State has the power to get back the land through eminent domain, the people are still entitled to just compensation, without which, no “taking” of private property shall take place.

    This is what the people there are standing for. They are roused from sleep by the sound of a bulldozer ramming their front yard. They want to raise protest, but are restrained by the government’s armed men, wielding high-powered firearms. Yet, these victims are people who could barely afford to buy a knife for their protection.

    Fairness?

    1. It is the State who owns the land within its territorial jurisdiction and everything that is over and under it, including the waters around it. The State may part ownership rights over its portions to its subjects based on established procedures of law making a public property a private property. Where public interest requires it, the State may take back what it previously gave up after payment of just compensation.

      The questions that should therefore be asked now would be: Did the State ever divested itself of its ownership right over the property? WAs the property ever considered a “private property”? Are these people its rightful owners to be entitled to just compensation? IF these people are not the real owners of the land, what is there to give up that should be justly compensated?

      If you are the owner of a thing, is it not but a natural thing for you to do to preserve it? If for a time being you’ve been away from home and upon your return you found out that somebody surreptitiously entered your home and claimed it as his own, will you be faulted if you make the necessary action to recover possession of your own home? Should you pay the intruder just compensation because if you will have him ejected from your home, he will have nowhere to live in?

      THe right of the State is vested with public interest and therefore will never yeild and is not subservient to the interest of the few who have not even established their right over the property

      1. to be enlightened, please read RA 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA)… ask yourself why the state is giving back to these “few” their ancestral domains. doesn’t that sound like the gov’t recognizing the rights of the indigenous peoples to their property? for why else would they pass this law?

        one more thing, do you honestly think we can just ram “development” projects down the throat of the indigenous peoples? before the Philippines became the “state”, remember these peoples have been existence already… so think twice about who rightly owns what…

        please also read about development aggression for you to have a more correct perspective on things you call “development”…

  3. perdon pero mi ingles es malo .. pero quiero que me ayuden a saber el significado de la palabra desama ya que este es mi apellido paterno ! actualmente vivia en miami y la verdad los jardines y la casa en vizcaya me dejaron fascinado …. espero contar con su ayuda ! fotosdesama@live.com es mi direccion … porfavor y gracias !

  4. The valley had been providing varied quality goods and services to the people in the country to uplift the said poverty but everything was not satisfactory to the authorities. I pity those people who want to protect their heaven places because they are thinking the sake not only for themselves but for the children. Long live those people who have conscience!

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