NCIP steps in

Agency seeks to stop demolition of tribe’s houses in N. Vizcaya mining project

KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya–The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) called for the stoppage of the operations of an Australian mining company amid the alleged violations of human rights it has committed against tribal peoples of an upland village here that is the site of a large-scale mining project.

Lawyer Basilio Wandag, NCIP legal affairs director, asked OceanaGold Philippines, Inc., owner and operator of the proposed Didipio gold-copper project, to stop demolition of properties of tribal residents until their complaints are addressed by the company.

Wandag made the call upon the recommendation of eight-member NCIP team led by NCIP Commissioner Rizalino Segundo that conducted a field investigation in the area earlier this month.

The NCIP team affirmed the complaints earlier raised against OceanaGold, which included non-payment to landowners and alleged acts of harassment, in connection with its ongoing efforts to acquire access to lands in the area and clear these villagers’ houses for its US$117-million project.

Company officials, however, dismissed NCIP’s call and denied the allegations.

In a letter to Wandag, OceanaGold maintained it has no reason to stop its demolition activities because it has fully complied with the mining law, which supposedly grants the company the right of unrestricted access to the area.

Since Didipio is not within a declared ancestral domain area, its residents, who are composed mainly of Ifugao folk, are not covered by the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Ipra), the company said.

“We note that you have not indicated in your message the names of the alleged IPs whose property you claim have been demolished or destroyed. You have not also indicated the facts surrounding the alleged demolition. OGPI, therefore, cannot specifically address your allegation,” the letter said.

According to NCIP regional director Ruben Bastero, the NCIP team has recorded 21 complaints of landowners whose houses have already been demolished but have not been paid by the company.

Residents also reported loss or destruction of their personal belongings during the demolition, which the company’s wrecking crew carried out despite the owners’ absence.

The cases of unpaid landowners has forced tribal villagers to set up a barricade in the sub-village of Dinauyan, amid fears that their houses will be forcibly torn down by the company, with the help of armed men.

Under the law, the state can exercise the power of eminent domain, or the forcible “taking” by government of private property for public use, but only after adequate payment of just compensation to the owner of the land, Bastero said.

“We will also look into the reported slapping of village council member Eduardo Ananayo by one SPO4 Noel Valdez, a member of the police force assigned in Didipio, as well as the shooting of an Ifugao native by a company security guard,” he added.

Villagers also complained that company bulldozers and other heavy equipment have been working even during night time, causing noise that is too annoying for residents during sleep, especially for children.

Due to earth-moving activities, the village road in Dinauyan have now been blocked and scraped, making travel more difficult for residents of Didipio and nearby villages, and destroying the paddies of adjacent rice fields, said farmer Alfredo Pugong.

Residents also assailed the company for allegedly prohibiting landowners to engage a lawyer in the negotiations over their land, and for not giving landowners their personal copy of the “agreement to vacate” they entered into with OceanaGold.

“(OceanaGold) does not want to transact with (Didipio landowners) if they are assisted by lawyers. Yet, they use their own lawyers when transacting with individual members of the community,” said Peter Duyapat, president of Didipio earth Savers Multipurpose Association, a people’s organization.

In response, OceanaGold lawyers Diosdado Trillana and Lionel Lopez said the company has been working within company’s access rights in Didipio, which was granted by government through a financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA).

The FTAA is an instrument under the Mining Act of 1995 allowing foreign companies to explore, extract and use the country’s mineral resources.

They said a number of Didipio residents have entered into easement and relocation agreements with OceanaGold, and were paid their corresponding compensation.

For those properties whose owners have refused to grant access to the company, OceanaGold has posted a bond with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, to serve as the landowners’ compensation, as provided for by the Mining Act, the lawyers said.

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12 thoughts on “NCIP steps in

  1. Give yourself a break, Richard Brown.

    Show your true identity. The e-mail address you used to register with WordPress doesn’t even work..

  2. hi there honeychile can you please tell the other side of this never ending saga where the puglits want more pera to leave

  3. mel honeychile there are people who want that mine to go ahead i think it would do much more good than harm so be a good boy and tell all of the facts!! dont hate the aussies they spilt their blood here during the second world war gunyan ang buhay di ba

  4. Virgie thanks for your comment. You write like somebody I know. By the way, it should have been “ganyan”, not “gunyan”.. 😉

    Yes, there are Filipinos who want the mine:
    1. OceanaGold executives and their Filipino cohorts who are drooling over Nueva Vizcaya’s gold and copper;
    2. Didipio residents who are OceanaGold employees for as long as the company wants them;
    3. Didipio settlers who do not care about staying in the area, so they want to sell their land to the company at a very high price;
    4. Gloria Arroyo and her minions in government, who have sold this country to foreign miners;
    5. Local executives who have received favors and still expect to get all kinds of perks from the company, and make it their milking cow once it operates.

    Satisfied?

  5. my beloved mel baby grow up, its the twenty first century ,and your beloved ifugoas should understand progress!! i still cant believe you are so blind that you cant see that the mine will bring prosperity to the kasibu area, in the modern world we understand that there are those who would want to take us back to the dark ages , but get real mel baby the health or your beloved rice growers is a shocker 70 percent of the poor people in the philippines have tb so wake up and embrace the future !!you have a blinkered vision !! and in saying that god bless you selah

  6. Mate, you can inject your radically capitalist view all you want, but don’t turn this post into a debate on whether or not mining is good for the Philippines, or how Australian companies would deliver the kingdom of heaven to Filipinos. I believe I have grown old enough to discriminate between a sound argument and a demented one.

    Look back at your post. At one point you talk about the 21st century and progress, and in the next, you talk about health, then rice growers, then tuberculosis! 😀

    I may have “a blinkered vision”, but I can still clearly see how old age is taking its toll on the sanity of some people. Doctors have a term for such a condition: Alzheimer’s.

    And there’s no cure for it.

  7. radical capitalist view!! have come a long way since i was a union member!! i can tell you this i have done more for some people in solano than you have ever done and will continue to do so!! you are getting paranoid about one who does not agree with you, cant stand the heat? get out of the kitchen sonny , and further more sweet man there are noted surgeons and pastors who agree with with the benifits of the mine to your country and the local community, in fact one of the doctors and his friends are trying to get a hospital built in kasibu oh ye of little faith wake up stop trying to stop progress

  8. You seem pissed off. 😀

    Okay, granting, for the sake of argument, that you can give us progress. You build for our people schools, hospitals, roads, bridges; and give supplies, medicines and all the beautiful things that progress has to offer.

    But does that give you the right to disregard our laws? Does that give you the right to take our land even without paying the owner for it? Does that give you the right to shoot anyone who does not support your mining operation? Does that give you the right to demolish my house even when I, the occupant, am sleeping inside?

    It’s not just about money and the luxuries it could bring. It’s about human dignity.

    True, you may have done a lot for our people, but can’t you just wait for other people to recognize what you have done for them, rather than blurt it out from your own mouth?

    I have a neighbor who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s. He has short temper, too. 😉

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