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Issue Number 29/30, May 2008

Kapatiran Issue No. 29/30, May 2008

- Dennis Small

“The land is for the people, not for foreign mining firms”, Peter Duyapat, Didipio councillor and President, Desama.
Sharply climbing gold prices have been lighting up the greedy eyes of predatory capitalist interests worldwide. OceanaGold is a rela-tively new Australian-based transna-tional corporation (TNC) with ope-rations in both Aotearoa/NZ and the Philippines. In NZ its assets com-prise the country’s biggest mine at Macraes in Otago, the Globe Prog-ress mine near Reefton, and its new-ly commissioned Fraser’s mine, also in Otago. OceanaGold has been working to increase its “exposure to the precious metal via increased pro-duction or lower hedging” (Press, 6/11/07, “Miners bullish on gold price”). In November 2007, Oceana-Gold Vice-President and Corporate/Investor Relations spokesperson Darren Klinck said that: “Most of us in the industry are very bullish on the gold price, and thus we see positive things ahead . . . as the company grows we are looking for more ways that we can get better leverage to the (spot) gold price” (ibid.). One key way of doing this is evidently using leverage and bullyboy tactics on the local Filipino people at its multi-million dollar gold and copper mine venture - its Didipio Project in the Kasibu village area of Nueva Vizcaya province, Cagayan Valley region, northern Luzon.
Being Bullish For Gold
“Gold mine operator OceanaGold used a combination of intimidation and inducements to pressure Filipino villagers to accept a proposed gold and copper mine, an Oxfam Aus-tralia report alleges. In its report on Oceana’s Didipio mine – based on a five year investigation – Oxfam Aus-tralia said the miner refused to ac-cept that many of the local people did not want a mine in their front yard” (Press, 2/10/07). Oxfam’s Mi-ning Ombudsman, Shanta Martin, commented that: “There is significant opposition to the project by many in the community as well as the elected local council” (ibid.). In response, Darren Klinck denied the allegations
made by Oxfam.

But “Shanta Martin said the Council had not freely given its consent to the project ‘despite Oceana allegedly resorting to coercive means to secure continuation of the project’. During the last five years, Oxfam had interviewed hundreds of villa-gers from Didipio and found many complained of harassment and inti-midation by agents of the Australian owned mine” (ibid.). Allegations from local people included claims that “company representatives offered inducements to members of the Didipio Barangay (village)Council through money, employment and enormously inflated offers for their land” (ibid.). Oxfam asserted that OceanaGold may in fact “have publicly misrepresented levels of community support for the proposed Didipio mine including to share-holders and the Australian Stock Exchange” (ibid.). There were possible breaches of corporate law involved. Oxfam made its report pub-lic because the TNC was still failing to address local grievances. OceanaGold had taken over the operations of Australian-owned Climax Mining in the previous year and had not directly committed all of the alleged abuses. However, it of course remains accountable for Climax Mining’s activities since it took ownership of them.
People Power
In August 2007, it was reported by the Philippine Star newspaper (cited in the Press, 22/8/07), “that anti-mining villagers – already stirred up over having NZ-listed Oceana’s mining in the area” – were blocka-ding an Australian-owned company, Oxiana Philippines, which was moving in equipment for prospecting another site (Press, 22/8/07). Kasibu village residents were standing their ground, despite a court order for them to clear the way. They were “led by tribal elders and supported by environmental groups and the local Catholic Church” (ibid.). The local authorities warned that the villagers would be forcibly dispersed while Oxiana Philippines contested charges of lack of consultation with community leaders. “But Mayor Romeo Tayaban said the NZ and Australian-owned companies continued to explore mining prospects in their villages despite the stiff opposition from residents, com-posed of various tribal communities. His villagers were struggling to fight off three mining projects by Oxiana Philippines and OceanaGold Philippines” (ibid.).
Meantime, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples claimed that residents in the primary impact zone had endorsed the mining exploration. MGB’s national office had “granted Oxiana a two-year exploration permit covering 3,000ha for gold, copper and other minerals of commercial value” (ibid.). However, a widespread opposition movement has grown up, including the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, various local environ-mental groups, and small-scale mi-ners. Particular concern focuses on the need to conserve watershed areas, vital for vegetable and fruit growing, especially for the citrus crops for which the region is famed.
Oxfam Australia reported in October 2007 that disgruntled Didipio villagers had moved to shut off the water to the mine being dug by OceanaGold (Press, 4/10/07). The villagers “launched a formal action against the Philippines National Water Resources Board to stop the water permits for OceanaGold’s project. Oxfam Australia said the villagers had lodged the action because the mine’s water use would contaminate their water supply, cause environmental hazards and threaten farming” (ibid.).
More Mineral Resource Repression
In mid-January 2008, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, (Kalikasan PNE), de-clared in a press release that physi-cal confrontation could be imminent between anti-and pro-mining groups unless the authorities took positive intervention on the side of the former who were determined to disallow mining companies on to their ances-tral lands ( first blockade reported above in August 2007 had proven successful but now two of the companies involved – Oxiana and Australian firm RoyalCo - were trying to access an alternate path where a second blockade had been set up. So in early 2008, there were two blockades in place against foreign mining firms eyeing explo-ration operations in Kasibu muni-cipality. Kalikasan PNE reported that: “Earlier this week, indigenous peoples in the citrus-growing village of Papaya in Malabing Valley, Kasi-bu, successfully expelled another Australia-owned mining firm, Ocea-naGold Philippines, from conducting exploration operations in their lands” (ibid.). The movement ap-pealed to the Arroyo Government to withdraw the permits issued to Oxia-na, RoyalCo, and OceanaGold.
At the time of writing (February 2008) the situation seems to be de-teriorating, or at least becoming very tense and uncertain. On February 23rd, the Philippine Daily Inquirer re-ported that Kasibu residents were denouncing “the alleged atrocities committed by armed men, who have been securing the ongoing earth-moving activities of a foreign mining company. The villagers, mostly Ifugaos, called on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the use of armed men from the Philip-pines National Police’s provincial mobile group (PMG) to secure the entry of OceanaGold Philippines Inc, an Australian firm, into private lands in the area” (ibid.). The newspaper report went on to describe how the local residents “have been protesting the entry of the firm, which is attempting to conduct large-scale mining for gold and copper in Didipio village despite its failure to obtain the consent of the local commu-nity” (ibid.). OceanaGold’s own secu-rity agents were also apparently in-volved.
OceanaGold has even been demolishing houses “amid unre-solved disputes on landowners’ com-pensation. ‘This company has become so desperate that it is now employing force and intimidation through the use of armed men,’ said Peter Duyapat, president of the Didi-pio Earth Savers’ Multi-Purpose As-sociation (Desama), a people’s orga-nisation” (ibid.). Police officials have denied that their force is involved in intimidation. Its denial, again however, is obviously belied by the force’s actions – having been expe-rienced and seen by so many of the local people. Furthermore, the TNC is directly implicated here, following a long-established practice in the Philippines and throughout the Third World, of using armed force to trample over the rights of local com-munities. The newspaper report makes it clear that the police deploy-ment was “upon the request of company officials”. Since this was written, one of the Ifuagaos protes-ting the demolitions was shot and wounded by a company security guard, on Easter Saturday. Ed.
Causing Community Dissension
The police deployment in Kasibu is probably symptomatic of a new level of Government-mandated security for TNC mining operations in this re-gion and throughout the Philippines. In an article in the Australian Age, “Living in the Shadow of the Re-sources Boom” (2/2/08), Nick Mc-kenzie portrays the tragic plight of Juanita Cut-ing and her family, local villagers at Didipio and how they are on the verge of losing their home. Military men have come and told her family to move (www.minesandcom Indeed, the Philippine Daily Inquirer report cited above described a case where a farmer has actually lost his home to one of OceanaGold’s bulldozers after an incident in which he was forcibly restrained (op.cit.). Mckenzie goes on to make the general point that the Arroyo Government is trying to get tougher on community resistance to mining and to Communist and other rebel attacks against mining opera-tions (op.cit.). The new strategy would involve the institution of supposed self-defence local militias.
It can be said that this would clearly mean a lot more community dissension and division. As has widely happened, both in the Philip-pines already and in other countries, the authorities and security forces would use a combination of intimi-dation, employment, bribery and other means to get some locals in their interests. More globalist elite manipulations would be employed to disempower and exploit vulnerable peoples. All this makes the appeals of the people of Didipio and Kasibu to the governmental administration even more poignant. The Australian companies have already been working on this strategy in Kasibu and Didipio. For instance, efforts by Oxiana and RoyalCo in the mid-January 2008 stand-off to break community resistance have involved Bugkalot people confronting one a-nother on both sides of the barri-cades (Kalikasan Website, op. cit.).
Mckenzie relates how Peter Duyapat, President of Desama and local Didipio councillor, has “conducted a field trip to troubled mining projects elsewhere in the Philippines and decided the risks were too great for his village. In the past, Duyapat used to work for Climax Mining” (op. cit.). He has since scorned any inducements to sell out to TNC interests and be suborned against his community’s interests. “OceanaGold’s Chief Exe-cutive Stephen Orr defends the em-ployment of local officials” (ibid.). Orr says the company is giving royalties for development, e.g. jobs, better road, and a new school.

But the mine has only a limited life, let alone the lasting severe social and environmental damage it is causing. At the same time, the national Philippines Government is lavishing even more concessions on TNCs, giving foreign companies full ownership of mines, generous tax relief, special protection, and rights to invade public and private lands at will.
The “Resource Curse”
In December 2007, Oxfam Australia’s Mining Ombudsman Shanta Martin made another visit to Didipio and also Malabing. Oceana-Gold wants to access the Malabing Valley to explore the watersheds of the mountain ranges there to explore for more mining sites. Again, the TNC proved unamenable to Oxfam’s representations, reinforcing its previous failures to remedy its activities, even threatening legal action. Yet more and more landowners have been coming out into the open to complain about the company’s treatment of them over property dealing. Many, too, are choosing to firmly stand their ground against the TNC. In fact, resistance has apparently consolidated against the intrusions into the communities of the Nueva Vizcaya by TNCs.

Mckenzie notes that: “Melbourne-based OceanaGold plans to dig up $3.6 billion worth of gold and copper over 15 years from beneath a small hill overlooking Didipio, a village settled 50 years ago by the Ifugao, indigenous farming people” (ibid.). Juanita’s family’s land is to be “a dam to store waste from an open-pit gold and copper mine” (ibid.). The incentives are certainly strong for OceanaGold. The Didipio deposit is “one of the highest grade gold-copper porphyrys in the world. The deposit remains open at depth, and based on current proven and probable reserves, has a 15 year mine life” (
?oid=46754&sn=Detail). The mine is scheduled to start in 2009.
In the Malabing Valley, where hundreds of residents led by an Ifugao elder repelled OceanaGold’s latest bid to bring in mining equipment, a critical watershed is at stake in the Mt. Ubon area located between barangays Papaya and Malabing. “The citrus growers of the Malabing Valley have strongly resolved to block OceanaGold because mining threatens their industry, which is now producing 4,500 metric tons of fresh orange fruits annually” ( Northern Dispatch Weekly, a people’s newspaper for the Northern Philippines, 27/1/08).
Legal Riposte
“Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban, together with the Legal Rights Centre (LRC), raised the mining issue in a higher plane, this time to invoke Republic Act 7160’s provision on local government autonomy. In a press statement LRC said Tayaban petitioned the Supreme Court for a preliminary injunction against the operation of OceanaGold mining company. In the petition, Kasibu, represented by Tayaban, asks the High Court to act on the company’s failure to get the locals’ consent and to prevent any further damage to the community. It also reminded Ocea-naGold to respect and comply with clear demands and to prevent any clear violation of the local autonomy of local government as guaranteed under the 1987 Philippine Consti-tution” (ibid.). The Mayor also asked the Supreme Court to avert Oceana-Gold’s illegal “displacement of indi-genous peoples resident in Didipio and other communities, affecting live lihood and way of life” (ibid.).
The people affected by the inroads of OceanaGold and other TNCs are exercising all the legal rights at their disposal and available to their very limited resources. As well, they have been employing the strategy and tactics of non-violent action. Oxfam Australia has recorded how Didipio community members first approached Oxfam’s Mining Ombudsman in 2002 with concerns over a proposed gold and copper mine ( said that: “They be-lieve the mine, owned by Australian stock-exchange listed company OceanaGold, will cause environ-mental damage, endanger health, displace them from their lands and destroy income they receive from agricultural production carried out in the area” (ibid.). Oxfam’s close moni-toring of the situation and advocacy since then has helped local peoples to defend their rights in the face of a very coercive programme. The Ca-tholic Church has also supported local peoples in their struggle against this TNC assault (
Oxfam Australia has presented its brief on the grounds of fundamental human rights. “The Didipio case highlights the need for communities that will be affected by mine opera-tions to give their free, prior and informed consent to mining opera-tions – at all stages of mining explo-ration, operation and rehabilitation. As is often the case the opportunity to give or deny consent has not been provided to the local community in Didipio” (Oxfam Website, op. cit.). A glaringly contrasting case that ac-tually involves OceanaGold is its re-establishment of the Globe Progress mine by Reefton. The company has been warmly welcomed there in a traditional mining region. Of course, the legal regime and statutory requirements are far more rigorous in application, at least comparatively and for the present (see my article “Undermining Our Future” in Foreign Control Watchdog 117, April, 2008, for more on OceanaGold and mining in general in Aotearoa/NZ).
Beyond the Exploitation Syndrome
The investigatory fact-finding report on mining in the Philippines in the previous issue of Kapatiran (27/28, April 2007, “Mining In the Philippines: Concerns And Conflicts. Report Of A UK Fact-Finding Trip To The Philippines July-August 2006, which can be read online at emphasised the especially se-vere devastation suffered by this country at the hands of TNCs and large-scale mining operations. Unfortunately, OceanaGold seems to have adopted the prevalent corpo-rate pattern. Fortunately, on the other hand, local and national Fili-pino groups have been able to forge good connections on this particular issue with “developed” country non-government organisations (NGOs). And, as we have seen, Oxfam Australia has been to the fore. As Oxfam has continually stressed, such Third World communities need all the help they can get.
Dennis Small is a longstanding regular writer for Foreign Control Watchdog. He is also a member of both the Pacific Ecologist’s Advisory Board and Editorial Committee.

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Mining Firm Wants Villagers To Pay For Its Losses
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5/3/08, Melvin Gascon. 

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – An Australian mining company has asked the court here to compel tribal residents in an upland village in Kasibu town to pay for the losses it has incurred, after a court order forced it to stop demolishing houses for its planned gold-copper mining project. In a hearing on Wednesday, officials of OceanaGold Philippines Inc. asked Judge Vincent Eden Panay to increase the bond already posted by 31 complainants from Didipio village, in connection with an injunction case they filed last week against the company.

“We believe that the bond (of P50,000) posted by the complainants is not commensurate to the losses that the company has been suffering as a result of this (temporary restraining order),” said Diosdado Trillana, counsel for the mining firm. The lawyer was referring to the 20-day TRO that the court granted against the ongoing demolition of homes by OceanaGold to clear the area in time for the supposed start of its production acti-vities in early 2009.

The complainants, members of the Didi-pio Earthsavers Mul-ti-Purpose Associa-tion (Desama), filed the injunction suit on Feb. 27 ques-tioning OceanaGold’s ongoing clea-ring of lands and demolition of hou-ses in Didipio, site of the firm’s planned gold-copper project. Such activities, the complainants said, were being carried out without a legal order of demolition, and without paying “just compensation” to the homeowners.

The company has also not provided for a relocation site for residents that are to be displaced as required by law, they said. The complainants are asking for P100,000 each in da-mages. Peter Duyapat, Desama pre-sident, said the company’s motion for the court to increase the bond was meant to pressure the com-plainants into giving up the suit. Last week, the complainants had to shell out personal money and take loans to raise the P50,000-bond required by the court.

The TRO has further snagged Ocea-naGold’s attempt to clear the area of the proposed mining project’s 425-hectare primary impact area. Since 1994, it has met with stiff opposition from tribal residents. According to Trillana, the complainants should have posted with the court a bond more or less equal to the loss that the company would suffer for the entire duration of the suit. Testifying as witness, Ramoncito Gozar, Ocea-naGold vice president for communi-cations and external affairs, said the company is incurring about $66,000 (P2.7 million) in daily losses due to the project delay.

If the company fails to meet its target to start production in April 2009, the project will have to be called off, he said. Following the company’s figures, the complainants may have to post a minimum bond of P54 million for the 20-day period of the TRO. The case may even take longer to resolve. The company also questioned the TRO issued by Panay, citing Presidential Decree 1818, which prohibits courts from issuing such orders against government infrastructure projects. But lawyer Mary Grace Ellen Villanueva, counsel for the villagers, debunked the company’s argument, saying the payment of bond is also based on the financial capacity of complainants. “Alleged corporate losses or damages (suffered by the company) do not justify violation of human rights,” she said.

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