Indigenous groups in the Philippines are hoping that president-elect Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III will make good on his campaign promise to investigate illegal mining activities that affect Indigenous communities.
In response to Aquino’s April 26 campaign pledge, Manon Peter Duyapat, Chairperson of Didipio Earth Savers Multi-purpose Association and one of the Indigenous Peoples’ representatives to last year’s United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) summit, said, “We welcome Senator Noynoy’s concern over the devastation brought by mining in our village [Didipio]. Also, his declaration that he will initiate an investigation on the project if elected president is really laudable.”
The Didipio Gold and Copper project was the first large-scale mining project approved by the government under its Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA) of the Mining Act of 1995. The project covers 17,626 hectares along the boundary of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces.
“Before any investigation pushes through, we would like to clarify to Senator Noynoy that what he saw from above on a helicopter during his campaign was primarily the devastation brought by large-scale mining activity of OceanaGold Philippines Inc. when it started excavating mountains a few years ago, primarily the Dinkidi mountain hill,” Manong Peter added.
“This mining project of the national government and OceanaGold Philippines in our village has not only caused environmental destruction and degradation. For 16 years, contrary to the positive promises of mining companies, the mining project in our village has also brought misery, division, deception, and countless human rights and constitutional violations to the Indigenous residents in our community. These violations and irregularities have been attested even by the Commission on Human Rights, an independent and respected human rights institution, in its recently concluded High-Level Investigation last November 2009,” according to Manong Peter.
He continued, “Before the mining company came into our village, this was a lush valley. We have cultivated it for over 50 years, and all that we are aspiring for right now is that the mining project be stopped, so that we can live again peacefully and bring back the green and beauty of our village.”
Ronald Gregorio, Team Leader of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center–Luzon Regional Office, affirmed Manong Peter’s assertion: “What Senator Noynoy saw during his trip in Nueva Vizcaya was just a ‘tip of the iceberg.’ What has been happening in Didipio is a mirror image of what is happening to all the communities that have been subjected to large-scale mining aggression.”
Now, with Aquino’s election unofficially apparent, Manon Peter says, “We just hope that Senator Noynoy will still be true to his words.”