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June 12, 2008

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Oceana Gold Threatens Kasibu People's Food Security

Food security of indigenous peoples in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya is threatened by large-scale mining operations of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI) and Oxiana-RoyalCo. At the same time, the FPIC process under the IPRA law brings disunity among the IPs residing in the mining-affected areas.

Different organizations like the Philippine Network for the Environment (PNE)-Kalikasan, Katinnulong Daguiti Umili iti Amianan (RDC-KADUAMI) which is a member of the EED-Task Force for IP Rights (EED-TFIP), joined the Congressional hearing with their partner Save the Valley Environmental Alliance together with the local people organizations. The Committee on National Cultural Communities of the House of Representatives conducted two on-site hearings and investigations in June 7-9, 2008 in Brgy. Kakidugen and Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya which are the sites of Oxiana-Royalco and OceanaGold,respectively.

Indigenous peoples expressed their concern about the adverse impacts that these mining operations will bring to the environment and their sources of livelihood and subsistence. "How do these mining operations address the food crisis of the people? We have been displaced from our ancestral lands in Ifugao and Benguet due to mining operations yet we are still facing the same problem here. We have witnessed the destructive impacts that these mining operations brought to the environment and we cannot allow this to happen again here. The people in these areas already have a sustainable source of livelihood than what these mining companies claim to provide upon entry of these operations," said Lucas Buay of Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response for Ecological Development (KIRED).

The municipality of Kasibu has a wide forest area, about 30% of the total land area is forest land. It is proven that almost all crops except mango are suitable in this area.The primary agricultural products of the province are still rice and corn, but this gateway to the Cagayan Valley is envisioned to be the regional center for fruit and vegetable production and spice-based industries. "We cannot let the entry of these mining companies destroy our lands as Kasibu is considered the citrus capital of the country, with an annual output of about 10 million kilograms of oranges from an estimated 20,000 hectares of citrus plantations. The citrus farmers stand by its position that agriculture is still the sustainable development for the people as our independent study on the success of citrus industry here would show. We do not want mining here," Alfonso Namuhje II of the Mallabing Tribal Development Association (MTDP) said.

In Nueva Vizcaya, about forty percent of its total population of 366,962 (based from the 2000 census) is comprised of indigenous people, e.g. Bugkalots, Ifugaos, Ibalois, Gaddangs, Isinais, Ikalahans and Ilongots. Bugkalots, a group of indigenous people from Nueva Vizcaya has entered into a peace covenant through a blood compact in 1950s with other IP groups who have migrated to this area after they had been driven away from their ancestral lands. The areas stated in the mining permit granted to the mining companies are within an ancestral land applied by the Bugkalots for Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claims (CADC), through the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). "We were not consulted by the NCIP during the process of securing the FPIC certificate because we are only migrant IPs in the areas and we are not holders of CADC. But there was no such thing in the provisions of the IPRA law that migrant IPs could not be consulted, especially that we have been here for three decades now," Fidel Opay of the Lower Muta Valley Farmers' Federation (LMVFF) explained.

The FPIC process is being questioned because of the bribery and deception controversies in securing the certificate. " Our peace pact with the Bugkalot tribe is also threatened to be negated because of this conflict that arises due to these controversies," Opay added.

Mayor Romeo Tayaban of Kasibu, who was one of the resource speaker during the hearing said, "mining operations claim that they will bring development to the people in Kasibu. But what kind of development is this if our people are disunited? We were once a peaceful community but these issues have divided us because of these operations."#

Allan Barnacha- 09183816070
Mae Soledad- 09298482401

Published with financial contribution from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
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