OceanaGold faces legal battle ahead of IPO

Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Just a few weeks before its scheduled initial public offering (IPO), OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) is facing a legal case seeking to cancel its mining contract for allegedly being renewed illegally.

The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) filed a petition for certiorari last April 22 at the Bayombong Regional Trial Court seeking to reverse the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) issued to OGPI.

The LRC claimed that the renewal of OGPI’s FTAA lacked consultation with the communities concerned and disregarded the autonomy of the local government unit.

Ryan Roset, senior legal fellow of LRC, said the renewal of the FTAA by former president Rodrigo Duterte “without prior consultation and the endorsement of the local government constitutes grave abuse of discretion.”

“The Local Government Code requires the national government to conduct consultations with different stakeholders before the implementation of an environmentally critical project,” Roset said.

“Since no prior approvals have been secured by OGPI over its renewed FTAA, the project cannot be implemented and should be deemed illegal,” Roset added.

Citing the Mining Act of 1995, Roset said any violations made against the FTAA would be a “sufficient” ground for the cancellation of a firm’s mining contract.

Furthermore, LRC claimed that OGPI violated the provincial ordinance against open-pit mining.

The group noted that LGUs have the power to implement ordinances aimed at protecting the environment.

Eduardo Ananayo, vice chairperson of the Didipio Earth-Savers Multipurpose Association (DESAMA), said OGPI notified them that the firm’s FTAA has been renewed at the same time that the firm is trying to set-up a consultation with the locals.

DESAMA is a party to the case filed by the LRC against OGPI.

The OGPI’s renewed FTAA will be canceled thus resulting in the ceasing of the operations of its Didipio mine in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya once the petition for certiorari is granted by the regional trial court, LRC said.

OGPI’s FTAA expired in 2019 but was renewed in 2021 for another 25 years.

In a statement, OGPI said it has not received a copy of the complaint filed by the LRC.

However, the mining firm assured the public that it adhered to the country’s mining regulations in seeking the renewal of its FTAA.

It reiterated that it has an environmental impact assessment that was a requirement for the granting of the environment compliance certificate for its Didipio mine operations.

Furthermore, the firm said it complied with the requirement of community endorsements prior to the grant of permit to operate the mine.

“We respect all opinions of our stakeholders and we continue to be open for dialogue and productive engagements,” OGPI said.

Henry Guay, the captain of Brgy. Didipio, said thousands of village residents support the operations of Didipio mine in their locality.

Guay said LRC visited him to solicit his support on the legal case filed against OGPI.

Guay added that dialogues and consultations were conducted regarding the renewal of OGPI’s FTAA, noting that the mining firm observed and complied with the necessary bureaucratic process needed.

“What we do not understand is why those from Manila are reviving baseless issues. We the residents (of Didipio) do not have a problem with OGPI,” he said.

OGPI has scheduled its market debut on May 13 as it seeks to raise as much as P7.88 billion from its IPO.

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