N. Vizcaya’s anti-mining folk see light in business meltdown
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Leaders of tribal communities here on Thursday expressed relief that the economic meltdown plaguing the international business community was working in their favor to drive out foreign mining companies in the province.
Peter Duyapat, chair of the Nueva Vizcaya Anti-mining Task Force (NVATF), said they were happy over news that mining companies, including three large-scale mining firms, were not spared from the present economic downturn.
“We believe that this is an offshoot of the people’s continued resistance to these mining projects. We feel that our tribal gods continue to help us out,” he said in the dialect.
Duyapat was reacting to news reports that the world’s mining companies, including those who have substantial investments in the Philippines, have lost a combined US$1.1 trillion in market value.
“Our people are starting to see these economic events as beneficial for our struggle because it these company do not have the money and continue to lose in their stay here, they will eventually abandon their projects and leave us all in peace,” he added.
Three foreign firms presently have large-scale mining interests in the province, which include Australian companies OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. and RoyalCo Resources Limited, and British firm Metals Exploration PLC.
Data gathered from officials websites of the Australian and London stock exchanges showed the three companies’ share prices plunged for the past six months.
Duyapat said Didipio folk are glad that OceanaGold failed to meet its targeted resumption of operations after a supposed two-month stoppage.
OceanaGold, which attempts to start its gold-copper project in Didipio village in Kasibu town, suspended its construction operations in late June, in what officials described as an attempt to cut down on company expenses.
Steve Orr, OceanaGold chief executive officer, then said the company needed about US$185 million in additional cash, and is considering a number of options to meet this need, including acquiring loans and mergers with other companies.
Duyapat and Didipio village officials, as well as representatives from various environment groups, met with lawyers of the provincial government on Wednesday to discuss legal strategies on the pending suits involving mining companies here.
“We are so thankful that for the past months, we have been able to sleep soundly, and we no longer needed to stay in the barricade,” said Tolentino Inlab, Didipio village council member, referring to a human blockade set up by Didipio villagers to stop the entry of OceanaGold heavy equipment in their area.
RoyalCo, which has been aiming to start exploration activities in Kakidugen and Pa-o villages, also in Kasibu, also suspended its activities in early July.
In an earlier interview, Joey Nelson Ayson, RoyalCo country president said they had to scale down their operations following the intensified campaign against large-scale mining in the province.
Ronald Gregorio, campaigns officer of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, said the London-based MTL, which holds substantial interest in FCF Corp., is also expected to suffer the brunt of the global financial crisis.