Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya—Amid fear of losing their livelihood and jobs, sectoral leaders of Didipio and some workers held a dialogue with the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government Tuesday to air their sentiments on the impending temporary suspension of work in the Didipio mine.
Residents from Didipio appealed to Gov. Carlos Padilla to recall his order addressed to the barangay officials to “restrain the operation” of OceanaGold (Philippines) Inc.
The governor issued the order based on his position that the mining firm should not operate as the renewal was still pending as of June 20, 2019, despite confirmation from the national government that the company had the right to operate while the renewal was being finalized.
Acting on the Governor’s order, Didipio barangay officials put up a blockade that has impeded access to and from the mine since July 1, 2019.
OGPI holds the first Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement with the National Government with an initial term of 25 years, renewable for the same period.
David Way, OGPI general manager, said, “We have commenced the renewal process of our FTAA with the national government since March of last year. Upon the expiry of the first term of our FTAA last June 20, 2019, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau authorized our continued operations at Didipio pending confirmation of the new FTAA.
The Company filed a preliminary injunction request to the Regional Trial Court of Nueva Vizcaya to end what it considers as unauthorized restraint on its operation but was denied.
“We are maintaining our legal and administrative efforts to continue operating and will appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals. We maintain that the regulatory authority of our operation rests with the National Government. The Local Government Code of 1991 does not grant the power or authority to the Provincial Governor or any local government officer to restrain any aspect of the Didipio operation.” Way said.
The continued impediment, however, has impacted the mining operations including stoppage of copper concentrate haulage and suspension of its underground activities due to depletion of mining consumables.
Way said processing activities was continuing along with other critical activities to ensure the safety of employees and protection of the environment.
During the dialogue, the community residents said they would want the mining firm to continue operating pending finalization of the renewal as thousands of families stand to lose their source of livelihood either through employment or through small or medium enterprises.
Pastor Efren Bulawan, a Didipio elder, said he was worried how the people in his community would be able to provide for basic family needs and pay for the education of the children if the mining firm stopped operating.