Residents from Mankayan, Benguet and Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya along with other progressives from North Luzon staged series of protest actions at the headquarters of two major mining firms in Makati last October 13, 2016 as part of the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa sariling pagpapasya at makatarungang kapayapaan.
Both communities called for the permanent closure of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMC) and Oceana Gold Corporation which operate in Mankayan and Didipio respectively. According to them, the mining operations of two corporations brought nothing but destruction to the environment and livelihood and human rights violations.
While they laud the recommendation for suspension of LCMC, the protesters demanded that to give justice to the destruction and violations by the mining firms is to permanently stop their operations.
Decades of destruction in Mankayan
Residents from Mankayan claimed that the audit by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was incomplete due to unaccounted major environmental and human rights concerns.
They mentioned the sinking of a public school in Colalo and effects of chemical leak from nearby mining operation by LCMC. Sinkholes were also spotted in different parts of Mankayan which raises the possibility of another disaster similar to Colalo. Residents also claimed that LCMC is not providing jobs for the community and are employing contractual workers from different places.
Moreover, residents also raised dissent over the trumped up charges filed against the people of Madaymen in Mankayan after barricading to stop the exploration project of LCMC. Over 180 cases were filed due to the alleged violation of Mining Act of 1995.
Community protest floods Oceana Gold
The conditions are not far different in Didipio in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, host to the Australian corporation Oceana Gold’s open-pit mining operations. Residents in the communities by the mining site complained about the noise and the vibration brought about by the explosions done even at night time.
Furthermore, they lamented on how the river, once a major source of living, was polluted as chemical wastes spill from the tailings dams to the river and even human wastes from the residential areas and offices. The residents claimed that OCG manipulated the environmental reports required of them.
In addition, the residents claimed that the project plans on social services and infrastructure Oceana Gold boasts of do not really materialize. Even worse, OGC set up fences around agricultural lands preventing access for farmers in Didipio while continuing their mining operations.
As OGC’s mining operations faced firm resistance, the corporation allegedly employed violence and harassment against the residents including cases of arson, death threats, and bribery of community leaders. Such chaotic conditions forced families to move out.
Traveling miles away from their homes, both communities claimed their experiences prove that the mining operations should be stopped immediately.
Along with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Sapakmi and Kalikasan, both communities also demanded the current administration to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 which gave foreign and local large-scale mining corporations a free pass to plunder their resources and violate their rights.
After the series of demonstrations, the protesters joined the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapan which gathered national minorities such as tribes and the Moros from different parts of the country. ***
Save Mankayan Movement