LGUs push for non-renewal of OceanaGold’s Didipio FTAA

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - June 19, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The province of Nueva Vizcaya is appealing to President Duterte not to renew OceanaGold Philippines’ financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA), which expires today (Wednesday).

The renewal of the FTAA will allow OceanaGold to continue operating the Didipio gold and copper mine for another 25 years.

OceanaGold has supposedly been causing more than P20 billion in damages to Nueva Vizcaya’s rice fields, watersheds, mountains and communities.

“That is just an estimate, it could be much more as the damage inflicted on the rice fields is unquantifiable. We are already having a hard time asking them to pay taxes, how much more this?” Nueva Vizcaya Governor Carlos Padilla told The STAR yesterday.

An FTAA is entered into between a contractor and the government for the large-scale exploration, development and utilization of gold, copper, nickel, chromite, lead, zinc and other minerals. It is granted to foreign-owned corporations seeking to operate in the Philippines.

The President has the final decision on the grant and renewal of an FTAA upon the endorsement of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

However, the DENR and MGB are pushing for the renewal of OceanaGold’s FTAA, The STAR learned.

MGB assistant director Danilo Uykieng and Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones confirmed they endorsed OceanaGold’s renewal application to the Office of the President.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Analiza Teh, on the other hand, said the FTAA has yet to be approved and signed by President Duterte.

Padilla argued that the 300 workers in the mine site were nothing compared to the thousands of farmers being affected.

“Which one will we sacrifice? Plus, we will be providing livelihood to these workers and they are better off once OceanaGold is gone. We will develop agriculture and tourism,” he said.

“I refused to have a dialogue with them because what’s the use? Any effort or initiative for a dialogue is for them to protect their interest,” Padilla said.

Meanwhile, environmental alliance Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is also calling on Duterte to immediately rule in favor of mining-affected communities and stop the destructive open-pit mining operations of the firm.

“The mine audit conducted by DENR in 2016 has allegedly revealed that OceanaGold not only violated several environmental laws, but also failed to comply with its contractual obligations to deliver social development to residents affected by its mining operations,” ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera said.

Nueva Vizcaya is host to two of the largest mining projects in the country, OceanaGold’s Didipio mine and FCF Mineral’s Rurnruno Gold-Molybdenum project.

The local government and communities in the province have long been opposed to the mining industry due to the negative impacts on the people and the environment. They are pushing for more developments related to ecotourism and the agriculture sector.

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