People of Didipio Face Increasing Pressure from Philippines Government

People of Didipio Face Increasing Pressure from Philippines Government

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October 18, 2009

On October 2, approximately 100 armed men from the Philippine National Police (PNP) violently confronted the Ifugao, Indigenous peoples of the Didipio valley, in the Philippines’ province of Nueva Vizcaya.

The Ifugao were trying to prevent OceanaGold from demolishing their homes, when the PNP arrived with truncheons (batons), shields and tear gas to disperse the Ifugao. Cultural Survival reports that a mobile unit from the PNP is now stationed “inside the offices of OGPI, clearing signaling the people that their government stands with the mining company and against them.”

The company itself has “installed illegal checkpoints in Didipio, intimidating the Indigenous residents and causing delays and frustrations as they go about their daily business. At some checkpoints they are asked to sign registers,” continues Cultural Survival. “OceanaGold Philippines has also erected illegal fences that prevent families and farmers from accessing water for irrigation and household use.”

There is, however, a small bit of good news in all of this. Cultural Survival adds, “on October 13, a delegation of human rights organizations met with the Chairperson of the National Commission on Human Rights, where the Didipio people had filed a series of complaints. The delegation asked the Chairperson for her urgent attention to the situation in Didipio. She agreed to make her first personal visit to Didipio before the end of October and to issue an official Human Rights Commission report with recommendations to the president by mid-November.”

“We can hope, with the Indigenous people of Didipio, that the Commission’s report will strongly condemn human rights violations in Didipio by the National Police and by OceanaGold Philippines and demand an immediate halt to the mining operations,” states Cultural Survival.

What you Can Do

1) To usher in the report, Cultural Survival is urging people to send letters to Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. That way, “when the president receives the Human Rights Commission report, she will also be receiving hundreds of letters from citizens around the globe, urging her to enforce the rights of Didipio’s Indigenous people and protect Didipio’s forests, rivers and agricultural resources from further damage from mining.”

The Indigenous Peoples of Didipio are also asking you to send letters, along with the Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association (DESAMA) who wants to protect the Dipido Valley.

If OceanaGold is allowed to go ahead with their gold-copper mining project, they plan to dump the ensuing waste into tailings ponds at the top of the Addalam River watershed, submerging 160 acres of productive farm land in a region that is prone to typhoons and torrential rains. “Many tailings ponds in similar conditions have suffered leaks and spills resulting in fish kills, crop failures, and illness in humans and animals,” Cultural Survival comments in a background report about the struggle. “If a major spill were to occur in Didipio, the mine waste—comprising toxic chemicals, soil, and rock—could plunge down the valley and onward to the Cagayan River, affecting ecosystems and human communities for hundreds of miles.”

Send a letter to President Arroyo:

2) There is also a petition you can sign, which urges the Australian New Zealand Bank (ANZ), the fourth largest bank in Australia, and HSBC, one of the largest financial institution in the world, to withdraw their financial support for the mining project.

“Both banks have provided financial loans amounting to millions of dollars”, where OceanaGold “has caused widespread community displacement, human rights violations, economic dislocation, environmental devastation and social disputes in the indigenous people (IP) communities,” the peititon states. ANZ and HSBC both “claim that they adhere to socially and environmentally-responsible banking norms….. their continuing support for the OGC mining project is in clear violation of these aspirations.

Sign the Petition:

Photo Credit: LRC-KsK/FoE Philippines

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