By Jonathan Mayuga and Ceasar Perante
ENVIRONMENTAL groups are criticizing the continued operation of the Didipio mine of OceanaGold in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, despite the expiration of the company’s financial and/or technical assistance agreement (FTAA).
Environmental activists under the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) led by national coordinator Leon Dulce said even with the provincial government’s “advisory” restraining the operations of the mine, OceanaGold continues to operate.
BusinessMirror sources confirmed the continued operations at the mine site, saying the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has authorized the company to continue its activities while awaiting the renewal of its FTAA. The President of the Philippines has the power to renew the FTAA at the recommendation of the environment secretary.
“We condemn the continuing mining operations of OceanaGold despite its FTAA contract expiration. OceanaGold clearly violates the recent legal directives of the Vizcaya provincial government to restrain its mine operations. There are plenty of pending reports, complaints, government resolutions, and other documented evidence that OceanaGold violated various environmental, socioeconomic, and human-rights regulations which should warrant the mine’s stoppage and not its perpetuation,” Dulce said.
In an advisory released by Nueva Vizcaya Gov. Carlos Padilla on June 20, 2019, the provincial government cited Section 19.1 of OceanaGold’s FTAA, stating that the agreement “shall be terminated and the parties shall be relieved of their respective obligations” upon the expiration of the contract.
It further enjoined the Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, Philippine National Police Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Office, the Municipal Government of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, and the Barangay Didipio Council to “restrain any operations of OceanaGold upon the termination of the FTAA” citing the Environment Code of Nueva Vizcaya and the Local Government Code.
A day after, however, OceanaGold General Manager David Way sent a letter to the Barangay Didipio Council citing a June 20 letter from MGB, which in turn cites Section 18 of Executive Order 292, or the Administrative Code, which states that existing licenses “shall not expire” until the application for renewal has been finally determined.
Dulce said, however, “in the first place, the MGB and DENR were remiss in its endorsement of OceanaGold’s FTAA renewal application to the Office of the President instead of canceling it outright.”
“In the dialogues we conducted with the MGB and the DENR, these agencies admitted they failed to put into consideration the body of evidence submitted to them over the past year. With concerns such as the full withdrawal of social acceptability and a lack of environmental and human rights due diligence, there is no way a legitimate regulatory body would have let OceanaGold’s license renewal application go any further,” Dulce said.
Kalikasan PNE urged the MGB and DENR to withdraw their endorsement of OceanaGold’s FTAA to the Office of the President. The green group asserted that the MGB’s legal opinion allowing OceanaGold to resume operations amid the absence of a mining agreement and the clear opposition of LGUs is “patently wrong and irresponsible.”
“It would be hypocritical of the Duterte government to claim that it wants to stop mining for creating a monster in our country, but then allowing a foreign corporation like OceanaGold to operate with impunity. MGB is even lawyering for this foreign mining corporation instead of defending our national patrimony from it. The people of Nueva Vizcaya will definitely take action to halt OceanaGold’s operations and demand indemnification and other just compensations for its various crimes against the people and the environment,” Dulce said.
Last month, anti-mining groups that include Kalikasan-PNE called on President Duterte to deny the company’s application for FTAA renewal on account for the alleged environmental destruction and human-rights violations.
Jose Leviste, Chairman of OceanaGold Philippines Inc., could not be reached for comment. He has not responded to the BusinessMirror’s text request for an interview. Jonathan Mayuga and Caesar Perante