[Statement] DENR is working against communities and the environment -ATM

Agency hides decision to allow mining in Nueva Vizcaya, despite expired mining contract

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is deeply concerned and horrified by the lack of transparency and callousness of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in allowing continued mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya despite the expiration of a mining contract there.

Last June 20, 2019, the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI) to mine expired. To the knowledge of local governments and mining-affected communities in Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, the mining company does not even have an application for a renewal of its mining contract.

The resistance against the renewal of the said mining contract is led by Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Governor Carlos Padilla, who shared with ATM copies of his position paper dated February 2016 and a Sanggunian Panlalawigan (provincial legislative council) resolution issued June 17, 2019, strongly opposing the renewal of the mining contract of OGPI.

It was only last June 18, 2019, in a dialogue at the DENR Central Office, that MGB officials admitted to Gov. Padilla and barangay officials that MGB had favorably endorsed the application for renewal of OGPI and that this endorsement was submitted to the DENR Secretary last April 2019.

The next day, June 19, 2019, in a dialogue between Gov. Padilla and DENR Sec. Cimatu also at the DENR Central Office, Cimatu allegedly assured the provincial chief that DENR has not yet transmitted to the Office of the President any endorsement for the mining contract to be renewed.

However, local officials and community organizations in Nueva Vizcaya expressed disgust when OGPI recently showed them an official letter by the Mines of Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR, dated June 20, 2019. The letter was addressed to OGPI President Jose Leviste, Jr., assuring the mining company that they will be “permitted to continue their mining operations beyond June 20, 2019, pending the confirmation of the renewal”.

The series of events reveals the callousness of DENR as they have ignored the official opposition of local governments and numerous petitions of local organizations against the renewal of the mining contract.

Last October 2, 2018, in a dialogue between environmental groups and the DENR, MGB officials stated in front of DENR Sec. Cimatu that there is no application for renewal by OGPI. However, a letter dated June 21, 2019, by OGPI General Manager Mr. David Way, to Barangay Chairperson Ireneo Bobola of Brgy. Didipio stated that OGPI’s Notice of Renewal has been filed with DENR Region 2 office way back in March 2018 and that it has been processed to the DENR Central Office and transmitted to the Office of the President.

ATM finds it highly irregular that DENR failed to inform local government officials and affected communities about the application for renewal of the mining company. Despite the numerous public positions of the local government against the mining operations, MGB and the DENR still found it justifiable to favorably endorse the application. Keeping the application and endorsement procedures a secret leads to many questions that need to be answered by DENR officials.

Clearly, OGPI and the DENR failed to live up to the high standards of transparency and accountability in the extractives sector as espoused by Philippine Extractive Industries Initiative or PH-EITI. This comes at the heel of the refusal of DENR to publicly disclose the Mine Audit Results conducted in 2016 led by former DENR Sec. Gina Lopez. DENR has likewise refused to release the results of its internal technical review of the Mine Audit. In both instances, mining operations across the country were recommended for either closure or suspension.

Our alliance rejects the explanation of MGB officials that their hands are tied when they endorsed the application since it complied with all the technical requirements. Given the numerous violations of environmental laws and non-compliance of the mining operations, the MGB and DENR have failed to uphold precautionary principles as forwarded by Agenda 21 and the UN Convention on Sustainable Development (UNCSD).

As the Philippines is facing the challenges of climate change, extreme weather events and water scarcity, the real needs of farmers and local communities in Barangay Didipio and the whole town of Kasibu must be prioritized, and not the destructive operations of an irresponsible mining company. The DENR must have forgotten that Nueva Vizcaya is a watershed for the whole region of Cagayan Valley and is part of the Sierra Madre range.

We call on DENR Sec. Cimatu to revoke any favorable endorsement issued by DENR for the renewal of FTAA # 001 and the immediate revocation of mining permits and licenses of OGPI.

We demand that the MGB immediately conduct a review of the application process and documentation requirements of OGPI, and to include the aspect of social acceptability, as primary criteria for endorsing the renewal of FTAA # 001.

We remind President Duterte that he has made a promise to stop destructive and irresponsible mining and to ban open-pit mining in the country. His resolve will now be tested with the application for renewal of OGPI in Nueva Vizcaya.

Our alliance expects him to deliver on his promise.

For more details: Jaybee Garganera – ATM National Coordinator (+63917) 549.82.18 / nc@alyansatigilmina.net

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