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Indigenous Peoples of Didipio Denounce Illegal Searches by Security Forces of OceanaGold

Nueva Vizcaya --  An alarming situation continues in the upland village of Didipio, in the province of Nueva Vizcaya, where Ifugao indigenous peoples live.  Homes of Ifugaos known for their anti-mining sentiments were searched without warrants by security personnel of a mining company.

The illegal search came after the death of a security guard of OceanaGold Philippines mining company. The security guard was shot dead last Sunday by still unidentified assailants. The security personnel searched the houses of indigenous peoples in the vicinity of the crime and were quick to accuse Alex Simungo and his brother-in-law who live nearby. Simungo is an active member of Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association (DESAMA), a known organization resisting mining in Didipio.

The security forces were also reportedly considering to include as suspects the owners of the four (4) houses they demolished in July and August without any court order and relocation for the victims.  In July 2008, the Regional Trial Court of Bayombong granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the demolition activities of OceanaGold saying “that the demolition was tainted with irregularity and contrary to law.”  OceanaGold’s demolition activities that started since December 2007 were also marred with shooting incidents inflicting injuries to lives and property of Didipio residents.

The Commission on Human Rights vowed to investigate the spate of violence in Didipio based on the report they received in July 2008.  The residents of Didipio led by DESAMA called the attention of Chairperson Leila De Lima yesterday with regards to the troubles they face on the continued presence of the mining company and its security personnel that has complete disregard to human rights.  The message was relayed by their partner organisation Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/ Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils), a legal research and policy advocacy institution focusing on issues and concerns of indigenous peoples.

In its petition to CHR, DESAMA reiterated its call to the national government to protect them and punish OceanaGold for its notorious business conduct in dealing with the indigenous residents of Didipio.

According to Manang Carmen Ananayo, a village official and secretary of DESAMA, “The unabated harassments and violations perpetuated by the mining company and its security forces in our village needs to be stopped so that we can live peacefully again.”

These illegal searches and baseless accusation by the mining company is the latest string of harrassment against the indigenous residents of Didipio. Last September 21, 2009, Mayor Romeo Tayaban of Kasibu, Neuva Vizcaya went to Didipio with his council members and confronted the officials of OceanaGold for blocking the access roads that farmer indigenous peoples are complaining.

“By blocking the access roads, OceanaGold is basically depriving us of our livelihood. We could not transport our farm products to the center of Didipio and then to downtown markets. We have been complaining about this since last year.” Ananayo added

In support of the this call, Ronald A. Gregorio of LRC-KsK Luzon Office asserted, "The violations of the rights of the indigenous peoples in Didipio by OceanaGold are clear indications of the true nature of this mining company.  It is of paramount importance that the state protects its citizens from OceanaGold."

This release was put out by Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK) - 25 September 2009

For additional information please contact Ronald A. Gregorio, +632 926 4409; +632 434 4079; ronald.gregorio@lrcksk.org; gerry.arances@lrcksk.org; luzon.lrc@gmail.com.

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