OceanaGold Still Unwanted in the Philippines

(Ottawa/Washington) Throughout 2020, Indigenous Ifugao maintained their blockade of OceanaGold’s copper-gold project in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines, in spite of repeated violent attempts by the company to run the blockade. As the year came to an end, a passionate appeal by Nueva Vizcaya Governor Carlos Padilla to Philippine President Duterte, requesting that the company not be granted a renewal of its mine lease, provides the strongest possible evidence of the fact that OceanaGold is unwanted in Nueva Vizcaya. The company’s Didipio project not only has no mine permit, it also has no social licence to operate.

The peoples’ blockade started in July 2019 after the company’s 25-year mine lease expired and was not renewed by the Philippine government. In spite of considerable hardship endured by those maintaining the blockade, the peoples’ blockade continues today.

Governor Padilla’s letter, also signed by religious leaders of Nueva Vizcaya Province, reviews the many environmental and human rights abuses associated with the project including “loss of forests, agricultural lands, biodiversity, surface and ground water, peaceful co-existence among communities and loss of lives and properties due to flooding” which he says“far outweighs the benefits derived from mining.” These harms underlie the Governor’s plea to President Duterte: “Continuous operation of OPGI [OceanaGold Philippines Inc.] …endangers the lives of the community…please heed our appeal. NO TO RENEWAL OF OGPI FTAA [the 25-year Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement].”

“The history of this mine over more than 25 years has been one of continuous community opposition, even as human right abuses continued, leading to a damning report by the Philippine Human Rights Commission in 2011, and environmental degradation that has resulted in loss of water and food security,” said Dr. Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. “We have petitioned the Canadian parliament to initiate an investigation into the activities of this Canadian company, as Canada has a duty to protect human rights.”

“At the front-line communities’ urging, the government of El Salvador banned OceanaGold from that country because of its false claims and misleading statements. It is time for OceanaGold’s tenure in the Philippines to end,” said Robin Broad, professor at American University, who, with Coumans and others, co-authored a study on OceanaGold’s harmful impacts and irresponsible behaviour in the Philippines.

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