Bluff

N. Vizcaya gov’t squeezes Aussie mining firm

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–The provincial board on Wednesday continued to add pressure on a foreign company here when it initiated a resolution withdrawing its support to the firm’s gold-copper project over its “blatant” refusal to pay quarry taxes to the local government.

The 13-member Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) voted to pass on first reading the resolution filed by board member Edgardo Balgos, which also took to task OceanaGold Philippines, Inc., an Australian firm, for the “unfulfilled promises” as well as human rights violations allegedly committed against the people of Didipio in Kasibu town.

Observers who witnessed Wednesday’s SP deliberations, however, noted that the resolution could be a bluff, an arm-twisting strategy to compel the company to negotiate with the provincial government.

OceanaGold Didipio

The board’s move came on the heels of a pronouncement by Gov. Luisa Cuaresma on Friday that she was withdrawing her support to the project, including all large-scale mining activities in the province.

During a dialogue with Director Horacio Ramos of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Cuaresma expressed lament that mining projects being pushed by the national government has caused conflicts among tribes in the province, and that she was taking the blame for the company’s broken promises.

Bully

For his part, Balgos slammed OceanaGold for acting like a “tigasin (bullies)” and “treating Didipio as its kingdom” by destroying bridges and roads that were being used by villagers, then preventing them access to areas that used to be public places.

He echoed earlier complaints of the illegal demolition of private houses within the proposed 425-hectare mining site, which were done without the owner’s consent.

Checkpoints set up by the company and manned by its security personnel were being used not to ensure safety of villagers but to harass them, he added.

Balgos said the withdrawal by the SP would put the project in jeopardy for failing to obtain social acceptability required under the Local Government Code of 1991.

Section 27 of the code states that no project or program shall be implemented by government authorities unless prior approval of the local council concerned is obtained.

The local governments of Didipio village and Kasibu town have repeatedly denied their endorsement of the OcenaGold project.

The SP was set to approve the resolution outright on Wednesday without the requisite three readings but members expressed concern as to the possible negative consequences of the resolution on the province should OceanaGold abandon its US$117-million investment.

Sought for comment, OceanaGold officials, however, expressed optimism that the present controversy “will be resolved soon”.

“We are aware of these as a consequence but are still in the opinion that (provincial officials) will come to their senses and respect the FTAA (financial and technical assistance agreement) signed by the Philippine government with OceanaGold,” said Ramoncito Gozar, vice president for communications and external affairs.

The FTAA is one of the means provided by the Mining Act of 1995 by which a foreign company can be allowed to explore, develop and exploit the country’s mineral resources.

Blockade

Since May 6, Cuaresma and a number of provincial officials have been holding post at the project site in Didipio village, stopping any movement of heavy equipment belonging to OceanaGold and its quarry sub-contractor, Delta Earthmoving Corp.

The provincial government is attempting to collect some P30 million in sand and gravel taxes, invoking its authority to regulate quarrying activities within its territory, as granted by the local government code. It also said Delta was operating without a business permit.

On April 9, Cuaresma issued a cease-and-desist order, which OceanaGold and Delta refused to honor, citing the pronouncement of Environment Secretary Lito Atienza.

In a letter, Atienza told the governor that OceanaGold need not pay quarry taxes because it was exempt under the FTAA it has entered into with the Philippine government.

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21 thoughts on “Bluff

  1. Haha.. There was no mention of “Chito” in the story, Richard. I wonder where you got the name.

    You seem to know him.. 😀

  2. i would seem that the greedy provincial government is after as much pera from the naughty australian kiwi mining company as possible , its a shame that they dont understand that the so called bullies have improved the roads and bridges ,have given the children scholarships, are developing a green approach to the area, and are going to plant many trees and giving those who would like to work a job , paying those who leave 10000 us dollars thats over 400,000 piso which no doubt is more money than they would ever see in a lifetime , so if you suceed in getting rid of the naughty aussie and kiwi mining company ( yes melvin mostly kiwis) the locals can sit back, relax , and look at the resources that are still in the ground wondering what could have been if they had only cooperated with the naughty mining company ah well ganyan ang buhay have a good day mel baby you are so cute

  3. Pera lang ang bottomline nyan tlaga! Nagpapasikat lang ang mga provincial officials na YAN LALO NA C B***** (edited–moderator) KC INIISIP NA NYA ANG MAPEPERA NYA PAG BUMIGAY ANG OCEANA. MGA WALANG HIYA

  4. Virgie is becoming redundant:

    “OceanaGold has given Filipinos roads..bridges..education for children..jobs..

    “OceanaGold has given Filipinos roads..bridges..education..jobs..prosperity

    “OceanaGold has given Filipinos roads..bridges..education..jobs..prosperity

    “OceanaGold has given Filipinos roads..bridges..education..jobs..prosperity

    Answer the issues, Virgie..

  5. oceana gold will do all those and more your presidential government has said oceana gold does not have to pay quarry fees end of story !!that 30 million piso grab for money is another reason why overseas companys wont invest in you country wake up melvin honey

  6. “Virgie”, you must be hallucinating.

    The say-so of the national government is the “end of the story”?

    For your education, sir, in conflicts involving the varying interpretation of the law, it is the judicial department, the court–not the President or any of her alter egos–that has the final say.

    Alzheimer’s is really a scary disease.

  7. i share with the observation that everything is just an arm twisting strategy of the provincial government. once they’ll get hold on their demand they’l dump didipio again. in the first place they were the ones who endorsed the project despite Didipio and Kasibu’s strong objection. i just wish the board members to have their own strong and bold stand regarding the issue (just like the late byron) and not just act because cuaresma made noise about the tax. the tax is just a scratch on the surface. why not dig deeper.

  8. of course the mining kompany a little bit improved the debibi-didipio road for their equipment to pass. alangan met a nga susu-unen da ti buldozer

  9. When “virgie” talks, it is as if:
    – our children cannot go to school, if not for OceanaGold;
    – we don’t have roads, except the ones built by OceanaGold;
    – we don’t have any source of living if not for the jobs provided by OceanaGold;

    If the company’s intention is really to help the people:

    – why can’t it build a better school building than the dilapidated one being used now? Remember: this is supposed to be a HIGH SCHOOL, not a day care center.

    – why is the college scholarship only carried out in a state university (where tuition is at its lowest) and nowhere else, to allow students to freely choose the course they want?

    – why is the company “improving” only roads that will be used in its operations, leaving the roads and bridges actually used by the villagers in their dismal state?

    – why aren’t Kasibu residents not being prioritized in the hiring, as the company had promised? Why is it hiring minors?

  10. good question melvin maybe it called an attitude problem , hate the mining company , its all their fault of course! maybe things could have been handled better and oceana gold doesnt understand how filipinos think or act its a shame , why dont you ask them to build a new school and do more good works instead of trying to get rid of them , i still think all this hooha is about is more pera

  11. You can ask the company to grant a request from me? What are you, a stockholder? Whoa..no wonder you have been so defensive of the company all along.

    I’m not trying to get rid of them–that’s not my job. I don’t have any request for the company–that’s not my job, either.

    I just report what is actually happening on the ground. That’s my job.

  12. well then maybe just maybe you could do some good for your didipio kasibu friends ask them to tell the mining company what they really want simple stuff and make a hero of yourself

  13. a new school sounds great to start with fixing the roads around the area and hiring mature workers im all for helping them

  14. My Didipio friends have been raising these issues with the management all these years. So many dialogues have been held, tackling all these matters, but what have they been getting the whole time from OceanaGold? Promises.

    It promised to build relocation sites for the residents who will be displaced.
    It promised to respect the rights of those who oppose the project.
    It promised to fully compensate those whose lands will be taken.
    It promised it will strictly observe the laws.
    It promised to improve the roads around Didipio.
    It promised to prioritize Didipio residents in the hiring of workers.
    It promised to take good care of Didipio’s environment.

    Have these promises been fulfilled at the time the company is supposed have fulfilled them? No.

    Now, if you can make the company move to finally make true its pledge to the poor people of Didipio, then I will salute you.

    Go ahead, make a hero out of your self.

  15. ah yes virgie sorry i did not mention that 2-room building (school). i hope they’l repaint this school year. the scholarship? ya i’ve seen the short list.

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