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MGB spearheads technical confab with OceanaGold

BY: LR BASILIO

JeffThe Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Office No. II spearheaded a technical conference with OcenaGold Phils. Inc. (OGPI) recently at MGB Conference Hall. 

The technical conference was conducted to discuss issues stated in the letter of the complainants of the Didipio Community represented by Ms. Annaliza Catteg dated last June 30, 2016. 

In the complaint –letter of Catteg, it stated the alleged violations of human rights, pollution, environmental issues, unfulfilled company commitments, and other issues relevant to the company’s mining operation.

David Way, General Manager of OGPI responded through a letter to the bureau that OceanaGold has always respected the human rights of Didipio Community, with respect as one of the company’s core values.

“ The company continues to be committed to promoting environmental excellence in its operations through implementation of effective environmental management system, achieving compliance beyond the requirements imposed by law and regulations,” Way stated.

Further, Way said that the company is likewise dedicated to advancing social development of the Didipio Community through various social programs such as assistance to education, promotion of health, construction of infrastructures, assistance to livelihood and training programs, and provisions of employment opportunities.

During the technical conference, representatives of the OceanaGold countered the allegations thrown to the company.

Atty. Dyann Castillo, legal counsel of OceanaGold responded on the issue of the alleged violation of human rights/forceful evictions and demolitions of the company, “The letter did not identify the person/s whose rights were allegedly violated and whose properties were demolished. This renders it impossible for the company to specifically address the issue. “

On the issue of deployment of members of the Philippine National Police in the implementation of the Writ of Execution against the heirs of Felipe Lawagan, Atty. Castillo said that, during the acquisition of surface rights for the project, there was only a small group of landowners, including the heirs of Lawagan who didn’t reach  a voluntary agreement with the company over the compensation for the use of the land.

Further, OceanaGold responded that in accordance with the requirements of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the company filed a petition to enforce right of entry with the Panel of Arbitrators of Regional Office No.II. The company likewise posted a cash bond with MGB to answer for all damages resulting from the company’s entry. Hence, an entry of judgement was issued.

Atty. Castillo further informed that it was the Provincial sheriff of the Regional Trial Court of Nueva Vizcaya who requested the PNP to give assistance in the implementation of the Writ of Execution issued by the Panel of Arbitrators.

OGPI gave assurance that there was no structure owned by Lawagan that was demolished due to the Temporary Restraining Order by the RTC.

OceanaGold denied the allegation that the company has caused the burning of Alawagans’ property, “there was no evidence that supports the allegation and Mr. Lawagan did not file any complaint against the company, its personnel or contractor, nor requested any police investigation,” OceanGold said in their response during the Technical Conference.

The findings in the technical report dated September 2014 on the Environmental Investigation Mission regarding the impacts of large scale mining in Nueva Vizcaya by Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), confirmed the adverse effects of mining in relation to the civil, economic, social and cultural rights of various communities that live in the mining-impacted areas as well as those downstream of the mine operations. 

However, the company responded that it was already fully addressed by the company years ago.

“It must be emphasized that there is full implementation of the Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) funding numerous infrastructure, livelihood, health and educational projects, including scholarships,” the company responded during the technical conference.

Atty. Castillo likewise mentioned that there is also an on-going discussion and collaboration with Grameen Australia Philippines (GAP) on development of social business activity which can bring employment and new income opportunities to Didipio and its adjacent communities, which also includes enhancement of agriculture and farm production, and development of agri-business.

The company also responded on the issue of copper contamination in both impact and confluence for Didipio Mining, “ Partnership with the International River Foundation river recovery program for river restoration works is going-on.”

It was also made known during the technical conference that the company is using high-tech water treatment facility in Didipio to ensure that the water it uses in the mining operation is returned clean and of high quality to the ecosystem.

Atty. Castillo also mentioned that monitoring activities of the Multipartite Monitoring Team is also being done per quarter aside from the daily conduct of internal monitoring of odour, water quality, and Total Suspended Solids (TSS).

On the other hand, the company also stressed out that landowners/occupants in the community entered into voluntary Surface Rights Acquisition (SRA) agreements with OceanaGold under the SRA Program.

Status of commitments to the Didipio Community under the 2013 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was likewise presented during the technical conference.