SOLANO, NUEVA VIZCAYA—At least 100 residents of upland villages in Kasibu town on Friday drove out employees of a foreign mining firm and their earth-moving equipment that were supposed to start exploration in their community, reports reaching the Inquirer said on Wednesday.
Workers of OceanaGold Philippines Inc., an Australian company, were forced to leave Barangay Papaya as demanded by tribal villagers, who reiterated their stand against mining.
“The people did not stop until they (mining workers) and their equipment were already outside the village’s boundaries. We made sure of this that’s why we escorted them out,” Prescila Guilao, a resident, said in the dialect.
Friday’s encounter thwarted OceanaGold’s latest attempt to conduct exploration work in Papaya. It tried to bring drilling equipment to the site.
The residents, who belong to the Ifugao, Ibaloi and Kalanguya tribes, have been protesting the entry of OceanaGold, maintaining that the permit granted to the company was without their consent.
The project, they said, also violated a local ordinance that declared their village forest as watershed for citrus plantations and nearby villages.
Papaya hosts watershed forests that feed the Alimudin, Malong and Pahduan rivers. These are the main sources of irrigation for about 150,000 fruit trees in Malabing Valley, which has six villages.
Republic Act No. 7942, or the Mining Act of 1995, prohibits mining in a tribal community without the consent of residents. Mining is also barred in watersheds.
OceanaGold officials insist they no longer need proof of consent from the community since they have a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) granted by the government in 1994 to Climax Mining Ltd., its predecessor.
While the Constitution prohibits foreign firms from exploiting the country’s mineral resources, the law allows the use of the FTAA for foreign mining projects.
Company executives also claim that the FTAA should prevail because it came before the Papaya ordinance.
OceanaGold’s FTAA covers 21,465 hectares of Kasibu, including Didipio village, which hosts the company’s flagship gold-copper project, and 12 other sites.
It faces what could be a long-standing legal battle with antimining villagers in Didipio who have vowed to stay on their land.
OceanaGold was supposed to expand its exploration in Papaya, but its entry met stiff opposition from villagers.
On Wednesday, the residents were alarmed over reports that OceanaGold workers were coming, according to Guilao. The next day, about 100 villagers set up a barricade on the road leading to the drilling site, blocking a backhoe and company personnel.