OceanaGold allowed to operate with expired FTAA

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The government has allowed the local unit of Australian mining firm OceanaGold to continue operating in Nueva Vizcaya even with an expired financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) and a restraining order from the province itself.

Based on documents obtained by The STAR, Mines and Geosciences Bureau director Wilfredo Moncano has allowed OceanaGold Philippines to continue operating, arguing that the company filed its  application for renewal prior to the expiration of its FTAA  on June 20.

“The application for renewal was already endorsed by the DENR secretary to the Office of the President,” Moncano said.

Moncano cited a a provision in the Administrative Code which states that the existing license shall not expire until the application shall have been finally determined by the agency.

On June 13, OceanaGold requested for a written confirmation that it be allowed to continue its mining operations beyond the expiry of its FTAA and pending the confirmation of its renewal.

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

Environmental advocates are questioning the decision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources amid a subsequent advisory issued by the provincial government to restrain the operations of the mine in Kasibu town.

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment claimed that OceanaGold violated various environmental, socio-economic, and human rights regulations which should warrant the mine’s stoppage and not its perpetuation.

“In the first place, the MGB and the DENR were remiss in its endorsement of OceanaGold’s FTAA renewal application to the OP (Office of the President)  instead of cancelling it outright,” Kalikasan national coordinator Leon Dulce said.

The Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, Philippine National Police Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Office, the Municipal Government of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, and the Barangay Didipio Council called for the stoppage of OceanaGold’s operations upon the termination of the FTAA” citing the Environment Code of Nueva Vizcaya and the Local Government Code.

The group is urging the MGB and the DENR to withdraw their endorsement of OceanaGold’s FTAA.

“It would be hypocritical of the Duterte government to claim that it wants to stop mining for creating a monster in our country, but then allowing a foreign corporation like OceanaGold to operate with impunity,” Dulce said.

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 MGB and DENR.

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