Distress call

Mine firm seeks Palace help to oust N. Vizcaya gov

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines–A foreign company here has sought the intervention of Malacañang in the ongoing mining controversy by lodging an administrative complaint against two officials of this province who have opposed the proposed firm’s US$117-million project.

OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. has filed charges of abuse of authority, misconduct and oppression with the Office of the President against Gov. Luisa Cuaresma and senior Board Member Edgardo Balgos, for supposedly stopping the firm’s operations in Didipio village in upland Kasibu town.

In his complaint, Gil Maglaque, OceanaGold’s assistant general manager for the Didipio project, said Cuaresma abused her powers when she “illegally” issued a cease-and-desist order (CDO) against the company for its refusal to pay around P28 million in supposed quarry taxes in the ongoing project.

“Governor Cuaresma, with manifest partiality and evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence issued the CDO dated April 9, 2008 without any legal basis, apart from being malicious, oppressive and motivated by ill will..,” he said.

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‘Illegal, unjust’

N. Vizcaya tribal folk score win vs mining firm

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines–Villagers of a mountain village in remote Kasibu town, who are facing eviction from their houses have scored another victory Tuesday when the Regional Trial Court here issued an order prohibiting a mining firm from further demolishing their houses to make way for its gold-copper mining project.

In a 12-page resolution, Judge Vincent Eden Panay issued a preliminary injunction against the demolition activities being waged in Didipio village by OceanaGold Philippines, Inc., an Australian firm that is attempting to conduct large-scale mining operations there.

“The issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction is warranted under the circumstances without any qualification. (OceanaGold) and all other persons acting in (its) behalf are hereby ordered to cease, desist and refrain from demolishing or dismantling (the complainants’) houses until further orders from this court,” he said.

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Graft, crime charges filed vs N. Vizcaya gov

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines–An Australian mining firm has sued Governor Luisa Cuaresma and four other government officials here for graft involving the brewing dispute concerning a US$117-million gold-copper in an upland village in Kasibu town here.

In a 67-page complaint, OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. last week filed with the Office of the Ombudsman charges of graft and harassment against the officials, after they “forcibly” entered OceanaGold’s project area in Didipio village with the use of armed guards and police personnel.

Along with Cuaresma, also named in the complaint were provincial board member Edgardo Balgos; Francisco Tolentino, provincial environment officer; Senior Inspector Chevalier Iringan of the police provincial mobile group; Danilo Ramos of the environment office, and several unidentified security personnel.

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CA rebuffs N. Vizcaya gov, allows mining firm to resume work

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines–The Court of Appeals stepped into the brewing dispute between the provincial government and an Australian mining company when it lifted a stoppage order issued by the governor here and ordered the firm to resume its operations.

In a five-page resolution, the CA’s sixth division directed Governor Luisa Cuaresma not to further enforce for the next 60 days the April 9 cease-and-desist order she issued on the ongoing earth-moving activities of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. in Didipio village in Kasibu town.

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House body bares flaws in Aussie firm’s mining permit

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines–Lawmakers who are investigating foreign-owned mining projects in this province are seeking the expulsion of an Australian mining company from the country after initial findings of their probe showed that the firm was operating “illegally”, and has allegedly been committing abuses against indigenous peoples in the area.

Nueva Vizcaya Representative Carlos Padilla on Monday revealed that the transfer of mining rights over the planned gold-copper project in Didipio village in Kasibu town, now owned by OceanaGold Philippines, Inc., lacked the approval of the President.

“This (finding) just confirms that OceanaGold has been operating illegally in our country through all these years. Therefore, because its operations are illegal, it must now leave the country,” he said.

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Bad signs

N. Vizcaya violence proof town becoming a Diwalwal–solon

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines — The spate of violence in the upland village of Didipio in Kasibu town is a clear indication that the ore-rich area is now “becoming a Diwalwal,” Nueva Vizcaya Representative Carlos Padilla said on Tuesday.

Padilla said he feared Thursday’s murder of Didipio village chief, Paulino Baguilat Sr., could trigger a wave of unsolved killings due to the unrest that was caused by the mining controversy in the area, similar to what happened in the Diwalwal mining community on Mt. Diwata in Monkayo, Compostela Valley.

“With the latest events that are happening right now in Didipio, there is little doubt that it would soon become the Diwalwal of the north, so to speak, if we do not do something about it,” he said.

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Terror grips tribal folk as probe starts in village chief’s slay

CAMP SATURNINO DUMLAO, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines–Authorities are looking into initial statements of witnesses which they hope would provide a breakthrough in the ongoing investigation of the murder of a village chief in upland Didipio in Kasibu town, site of a controversial large-scale mining project.

But Superintendent Domingo Lucas, acting provincial director, admitted the slow progress in the investigation, citing the terror that has gripped Didipio residents following Thursday’s killing of their village chief Paulino Baguilat Sr.

“They (witnesses) are scared. We can sense that they know something, but they just would not say it. We may have to wait until they have recovered from the shock,” he said.

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