Australian-Canadian owned OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) has been operating in Barangay Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya in Cagayan Valley Region in Northern Philippines. The village is covered with about 30% of old and secondary forests that provide wild game and timber. The majority of its fruit trees are citrus. The Didipio River is used as a community’s source of aquatic organisms and irrigation for crop production.
OGPI’s operations have adversely impacted the Didipio’s environment and has enabled gross human rights abuses. Hundreds of hectares of lands used for agriculture were estimated lost due to the conversion of mining facilities and mining operations. Locals are concerned about the health impacts of their operations.
As a response, indigenous people and farmers set up a barricade in 2019 to stop OGPI’s entrance into their community. OGPI asserts its right to operate despite having an expired permit. Despite attempted dispersals, death threats, and other forms of harassment, the residents have maintained the barricade up to the present.
OGPI’s Financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) has expired in 2019. In January 2020, Philippine President Duterte issued a letter allowing OGPI to continue its operations. More than a year later, on May 8, 2021, news came out that only the signature of the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu and President Duterte is needed to complete the process. Given the track record of national government, dumping the mine suspension and closures of former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez and lifting the mining moratorium, it is only a matter of time until the FTAA will be renewed. The renewal of FTAA is a death sentence to the Didipio community and their environment.
Didipio’s fertile soil and rich biodiversity are more than enough to sustain its residents but OGPI’s operation has proven nothing but depleted and plunder such wealth of resources. Worse, dissenting voices are attacked. Thus, APNED extends its militant solidarity to the Didipio community and the larger community of Filipino Environmental Defenders.
APNED bolsters its call that
- The interest and welfare of the people should be at the front and centre of development;
- The profit-oriented development must be challenged and rejected;
- The connivance between corporates and governments in facilitating environmentally destructive projects must be exposed and opposed.
Finally, APNED joins the Filipino people’s clamour to stand with Didipio! Stop environmental plunder! Reject OceanaGold!