Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya—The regional executive of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureaus said the approval of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. application for its Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement renewal is now in the hands of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Mario Ancheta, MGB regional director, said OGPI has already filed its FTAA renewal even before its first mining permit has expired in June 20 and is now waiting the President’s decision.
“It now up to President Rodrigo Duterte regarding the application for the FTAA renewal of OGPI after this was already endorsed by our Department through Secretary Roy Cimatu,” Ancheta said during a recent mining forum in Santiago City.
However, Governor Carlos Padilla announced that Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu had decided to halt OceanaGold’s gold mine operation temporarily while waiting for Duterte to decide over permit of the large-scale mining company whose operation is in Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, this province.
After the 2nd Quarterly Meeting of the joint Provincial Peace and Order Council and Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Council, Padilla told Manila Standard that the DENR boss had ordered a cease and desist on OceanaGold’s operation after its FTAA expired on June 20, 2019.
“Let’s wait for the President’s decision. But until such time that he (the President) had not renewed Oceana’s FTAA, then all their operations are illegal,” Padilla quoted Cimatu as saying, after reading the unanimously signed Provincial Board resolution protesting the mining firm’s application for renewal.
Padilla personally handed the provincial board resolution to Cimatu at the start of the meeting.
OGPI’s application for a new FTAA was met by a protest rally by anti-mining advocates in Nueva Vizcaya and supporters from northern Luzon over the weekend.
The protest rally was organized by the Alyansa ng mga Nagkakaisang Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (ANVIK), attended mostly from barangay Didipio where OGPI operates the gold and copper project.
Ancheta also said OGPI has a pending request to continue their operations while waiting for their new FTAA from the Office of the President.
“As of now, we are still waiting for the decision whether to allow them to continue their operation in the mine site while their FTAA renewal is still pending,” he added.
Ancheta said OGPI is expected to comply with their suspension of operations as mandated by the expiration of their FTAA, while their request to continue is still pending action before the office of Cimatu.
Padilla stressed that right after its FTAA expiration, OceanaGold must stop shipping gold concentrate out of the country because doing so must mean gold smuggling.
“I am ordering the PNP [Philippine National Police] to conduct 24/7 checkpoint operations provincewide in coordination with 84th and 86th IB [Infantry Battalions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines] to please have patrol operations pursuant to Secretary Cimatu’s pronouncement,” the governor said.
Meanwhile, the provincial council meeting agreed there is a need to strictly monitor the mining firm’s adherence to Cimatu’s decision because of the strong anti-OceanaGold “Semitism” in the host barangay that may lead to hostilities if the company would not abide by the DENR chief’s pronouncement.
The council formed a joint tasked force led by the Philippine Army to monitor and maintain peace and order in Barangay Didipio and other impact zone communities in Kasibu and Nagtipunan town in Quirino province.