A regional trial court in Nueva Vizcaya served OceanaGold with an injunction last week, halting the company’s demolition activities on Didipio lands. It will only be in effect for 20 days, but it’s nonetheless a great victory for the community. They been trying to stop OceanaGold from destroying their land since 1994.
Members of the Didipio Earthsavers Multi-Purpose Association (Desama) filed for the injunction (Temporary Restraining Order, TRO) on February 27, saying the company was not providing “just compensation” or even relocation sites for the displaced people.
In a statement, Desama said
“The matter is of extreme urgency because (OceanaGold), with about 30 armed members of the police and around 50 other security personnel, and around six bulldozers, is still in or has easy access to Didipio, ready to demolish the other remaining houses and properties.”
You may recall there was another injunction filed against OceanaGold back in January. Aimed at preventing “any further damage to the community,” the petitioners said OceanaGold’s mining project “lacks social acceptability and failed to get the consent of the municipal government.”
Weeks prior to this, the company tried entering the region without local consent. Fortunately, the community caught wind that they were on the way, and set up a blockade to greet them. A second Australian mining firm was also trying to do the same thing around the same time. They were also met with a blockade. Both companies respected the wishes of the communities and walked away peaceably—but after a short while OceanaGold was back at again.
Melvin C. Gascon reports that “on Feb. 11, an 80-member demolition team resumed operations and dismantled six more houses in the sub-village of Lower Dinauyan, site of the project’s proposed open pit. This was momentarily stopped on Feb. 13 when villagers formed a human barricade and fenced off their lots as the wrecking crew prepared to enter their premises.”
OceanaGold tried again just three days before the injunction was served. On Febraury 26, their “earth-moving equipment entered the lot of one Romeo Guimbangan, who alleged that he was restrained by two unidentified armed men when he went out of his house to confront the operator. The next day, Guimbangan’s house and those of his two siblings were destroyed while he was in Cabarroguis town to seek legal advice on how he could stop the company,” Gascon writes.
Now that the injunction has been served, at least people can breathe easy. But again, for how long? OceanaGold seems deadset on moving ahead with their operation. In fact, they were in court on Wednesday claiming the injunction was illegal, and that the community should now pay them for monies lost since the injunction was served. It’s almost as if the company thinks the court is it’s own personal playhouse. One where they make the rules….
In another article, Melvin Gascon explains,
[…] Ramoncito Gozar, OceanaGold vice president for communications and external affairs, said the company is incurring about $66,000 (P2.7 million) in daily losses due to the project delay.
If the company fails to meet its target to start production in April 2009, the project will have to be called off, he said.
Following the company’s figures, the complainants may have to post a minimum bond of P54 million for the 20-day period of the TRO. The case may even take longer to resolve.
The company also questioned the TRO issued by Panay, citing Presidential Decree 1818, which prohibits courts from issuing such orders against government infrastructure projects.
Thanks to Melvin for reporting on these issues. You can read more at his blog, gascon.wordpress.com
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