MASIPAG hails the halt in the operations of mining giant Oceana Gold Philippines in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya as a victory of the collective action of the community and the various sectors who seek to protect the environment and livelihoods of the people.
Several media outlets reported that the Australian mining company has suspended its Philippine operations after the lack of favourable decision from the Court of Appeals and the non-renewal of its Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA). Oceana Gold is seeking to renew its 25-year operating license which has expired June this year. However, ‘incalculable’ damages to the environment, particularly water and agricultural resources, have been wrought to the community. Environmental assessment missions such as those conducted by the Center for Environmental Concerns show dried-up wells, water and air pollution and forest damages. These conditions led to the drastic reduction of agricultural production, affecting the food security of the community.
The barricade that the people of Didipio put up was a sign of protest and resistance of the community, and of the whole province which is resonated in similar campaigns in different countries fighting back against a behemoth corporation plundering natural resources that is the source and means of livelihood and identity of the people. The barricade and the resulting victory show that the people can assert and protect their rights through relentless and collective struggle.
MASIPAG has consistently supported the advocacy and campaign of the Novo Vizcayanos in defending the environment, ensuring food security and upholding national patrimony. MASIPAG farmers in Nueva Vizcaya have shown that sustainable agriculture and agroecology can help in local development without endangering natural resources, the environment and the people. Through diversification of the farms, families can have additional income for their basic and intermediate needs. In the long-term, diversification of farms, and other sustainable agriculture practices such as managing soil fertility can help in the rehabilitation of environment damaged by the mining operations.
But the struggle for protecting the environment, ensuring the peoples’ health and securing food for the community does not end with the suspension of mining operations. Challenges are still rife in the community, including the clamor for a more sustainable livelihood. Food production must be strengthened again, but in a manner that will revive instead of further harming the environment. While government agencies have favored on the side of people, this is but a temporary victory. The full realization of getting rid of Oceana Gold in the Philippines is still a long way to go.
The first step of stopping Oceana Gold Philippines has been won. Rehabilitating and bringing back the richness and fertility of Didipio is the next battle, which can also be overcome if the people continue to uphold the spirit of collective work and defense of their culture, livelihood and environment. #