The Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines strongly condemns the violent dispersal of the people’s barricade against OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) yesterday, April 6, 2020 in Brgy. Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya.
Amidst the CoViD-19 pandemic, around 100 personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) forced their way through the residents to allow the passage of fuel tankers for OGPI’s operation.
Around 29 members of the local community were manning the barricade while maintaining social distancing. They were dispersed with shields. Two of them were handcuffed. Rolando Pulido of the Didipio Earth Savers Multipurpose Association (DESAMA) was arrested but was released a day later.
The PNP claimed that they were enforcing the order of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu that grants authority for the entry of fuel into the OGPI’s mine site allegedly for dewatering activities.
It can be recalled that the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of OGPI expired last June 20, 2019. The mining giant should have stopped its operations but it is has insisted to proceed, arguing that it is undergoing the renewal process.
This is not the first time that OGPI has tried to break through the people’s barricade. In its previous attempts, the company threatened to file charges against the barangay officials and the residents who opposed its operations. Leaders of local organizations have also reported harassment and threats.
OGPI and PNP are worsening the situation of the residents who are suffering from the impacts of the pandemic and the enhanced community quarantine by enabling operations that destroy their environment and source of livelihood. The PNP should instead serve and protect communities, especially in this time of crisis.
We call on the government and OGPI to respect the will of Didipio residents, cease and desist from any activity that violates the people’s right to the environment, and uphold the human rights of environmental defenders. Environmental defenders should not be faced with violence in fighting for their right to a balanced and healthful ecology and to public participation. We demand for the accountability of police personnel involved in the dispersal. ###
Image source: ANVIK