Environment group hits Oceanagold for operating without gov't contract

MANILA, Philippines – An environmental activist group called out gold and copper mining firm Oceanagold for its continued operations in Nueva Vizcaya despite the expiration of its Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) license last June 20.

Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) in a statement on Monday, June 24,  said Oceanagold "clearly violates the recent legal directives of the Vizcaya provincial government to restrain its mine operations." 

"There are plenty of pending reports, complaints, government resolutions, and other documented evidence that Oceanagold violated various environmental, socioeconomic, and human rights regulations which should warrant the mine's stoppage and not its perpetuation," Kalikasan PNE's national coordinator Leon Dulce said. (READ: Anti-mining advocates push for 'rights of nature' law)

According to Kalikasan PNE, Nueva Vizcaya Governor Carlos Padilla in a June 20 advisory cited Section 19.1 of Oceanagold's FTAA, saying that upon the contract's expiration, the agreement "shall be terminated and the parties shall be relieved of their respective obligations

The advisory also enjoined other provincial and local offices to "restrain any operations of Oceanagold upon the termination of the FTAA," citing the Local Government Code as well as Nueva Vizcaya's Environment Code. 

But in a June 21 letter to the Didipio barangay council, Oceanagold General Manager David Way mentioned a Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) letter that cited Section 18 of Executive Order 292 or the Administrative Code. It states that existing licenses "shall not expire" until the application for renewal has been finally determined.

To be able to operate large-scale mining operations, Oceanagold needs to secure an FTAA, or a 25-year agreement with the Philippine government. The contract would have to be endorsed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the MGB.

Oceanagold Philippines, Incorporated Country Director Bradley Norman told Rappler that they had already gone through the proper process and passed the required papers for the FTAA renewal.

He said they don't have to go through the local government of Nueva Vizcaya for the renewal. To date, the DENR has already endorsed their application to the Office of the President.

DENR, MGB also responsible

Dulce also called out the DENR and the MGB for endorsing Oceanagold's renewal application "to the OP instead of cancelling it outright."

Dulce said that both DENR and MGB failed to consider the body of evidence against Oceanagold that were submitted to them over the past year. (READ: Environmental group urges gov't not to renew OceanaGold's contract)

The group, despite claiming that MGB is lawyering for Oceanagold after allowing the company to continue operations, still called for the agencies to withdraw their endorsement of Oceanagold's FTAA to the OP. (READ: Gina Lopez asks Duterte not to lift ban on open-pit mining)

"It would be hypocritical of the Duterte government to claim that it wants to stop mining for creating a monster in our country, but then allowing a foreign corporation like Oceanagold to operate with impunity," Dulce said.

"The people of Nueva Vizcaya will definitely take action to halt Oceanagold’s operations and demand indemnification and other just compensations for its various crimes against the people and the environment." – Rappler.com