Environmental activist groups support Nueva Vizcaya officials standing against mining operation of Oceana Gold Philippines

“We commend and support the action of Nueva Vizcaya Gov. Luisa Lloren Cuaresma and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan haulting the mining operation of Oceana Gold Philippines in Didipio,” Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of the environmental activist group Kalikasan-PNE said in a statement today.

The Governor together with other provincial officers and villagers led the barricade last Wednesday in the mining site following its failure to reach an agreement with the provincial government on the payment of local taxes.

“Gov. Cuaresma by now has learned how foreign mining companies used treachery and false promises to be allowed in our mineral lands and communities. Evasion of taxes, violations of local laws, and ignoring local government authorities are just some of the violations of mining companies that we documented in the priority mining projects of the Arroyo government,” added Bautista

Described to be the Cagayan Valley’s first large-scale mining project, the Didipio gold-copper project of New Zealand-owned Oceana Gold is expected to begin its mining operation in 2009 and produce about 120,000 ounces of gold and 15,000 tonnes of concentrate in the first 10 years of operation.

“The provincial government and the people of Nueva Vizcaya may experience what happened to Bicolanos with the Lafayette Mining Project, the government flagship mining project, in Albay province. Lafayette operated in the area amidst strong opposition from the local communities and without social acceptability. Lafayette was able to get exemptions from local taxes in just three years of mining operation. Lafayette was able to extract minerals in the island at estimated worth of Php3.6 billion. In return, the Philippine government just got a measly 0.999% of this amount from the Australian-owned mining company. We think Gov. Cuaresma is witnessing the same kind of scheme with Oceana Gold”, Bautista said.

“We asked Gov. Cuaresma to continue her battle for the people of Kasibu and against the mining plunder in her province. The issue of Ocean Gold mining is beyond the issue of taxation but more so, it is an issue of environmental protection, indigenous people’s rights, human dignity, and national patrimony. She can join other provincial officials of Capiz, Marinduque, Samar, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Mindoro Oriental and North Cotabato who went against the mining project of the national government and declare large-scale mining moratorium in their areas”, cited Ester Perez De Tagle, Spokesperson of Defend Patrimony. Defend Patrimony is a multi sectoral alliance opposing mining liberalization policy and projects of the government.

Allan Barnacha, Spokesperson for the local alliance Save the Valley Serve the People Movement in Nueva Vizcaya, said that allowing large-scale mining in Didipio and in surrounding areas would result in ecological devastation since Nueva Vizcaya has established itself as the major producer of both tropical and temperate vegetables in Region 2 and currently derives revenues from vegetables and fruit orchads, especially from citrus fruits.

“We don’t see how the mining projects by Oceana in Nueva Vizcaya can possibly translate to a better life for the people. It is only the mineral ores which the foreign mining firms will be extracting from the land and exporting to their own respective countries to be processed and sold back to developing countries. They will not be developing local downstream industries to process these ores and ensure that Filipinos will be benefiting directly from the mineral wealth of the province,” added Barnacha

“Our experiences show that the only revenues that we will be getting from these foreign mining firms are from taxes which are subject to many exemptions under the current mining law–and a trickle of local jobs. These will all stop when the mine ceases to operate after a few years. In the end, our people will be left with toxic waste, devastated environment which can no longer be of use for long-term domestic agricultural production.


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