Bets dismay mining foes in N. Vizcaya

From the Philippine daily Inquirer, October 14, 2012

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Environment advocates expressed dismay over some politicians’ tack to ride on the antimining sentiment in the province in an apparent ploy to win votes in next year’s elections.

Tolentino Inlab, president of Didipio Earthsavers’ Multipurpose Association (Desama), said antimining advocates were wary of politicians who have been attending antimining activities.

“We are hoping that their presence is a sincere effort to help our cause, and not just for political propaganda. We know for a fact that in the past, they have been indifferent about our campaign against mining,” he said.

Desama is a people’s organization that has been at the forefront of opposition against the ongoing implementation of a foreign-owned mining project in Didipio village in upland Kasibu town.

“It’s quite an uneasy feeling listening to their speeches and media interviews, as they talk about how supposedly they have always been against mining. It’s nauseating,” Inlab said.

Worse, he said, some politicians are in cahoots with mining companies in efforts to tone down opposition to the large-scale mining projects in the province.

“We have to be extra cautious in our dealings with these politicians, but at the same time still show some level of courtesy,” Inlab said. He, however, declined to name these politicians. “They know themselves,” he said.

Desama officers cited the alleged intervention of a number of local officials who convened the village chiefs of Didipio and nine adjacent villages and signed a joint agreement with OceanaGold Philippines Inc. to allow the firm’s mining activities in their areas.

Ramoncito Gozar, OceanaGold senior vice president, declined to comment, saying he was not privy to the allegations and details of the agreement.

For his part, Lorenzo Pulido, Desama vice president, said he was dismayed to learn that a provincial official, who has been attending anti-mining events lately, is closely identified with a private firm that is one of those working at the OceanaGold construction site in Didipio.

“This explains now why some local politicians, while they are saying that they are against mining, have not been opposing the construction activities of (OceanaGold),” he said in the dialect.

In areas where mining firms are trying to operate legally, many local communities have been protesting what they said was the massive dislocation that mining would bring to groups of people that have been living in mineral-rich areas for decades.

The mining industry has been under siege not only from protesters and tribal groups that had staked ancestral claims on mineral-rich lands but also from illegal mining groups that are largely blamed for the smuggling of tons of gold and other mineral ores mostly to China.

In many cases, these mining groups operate under the guise of small-scale mines but are being financed by Chinese companies.


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