A Philippine court has denied an appeal by an Australian mining company in the Philippines to continue demolishing homes in a mountain village in northern Luzon to make way for mining.
Last December, OceanaGold filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals in Manila to annul an order of a lower court restraining the mining company from demolishing houses belonging to indigenous peoples in Didipio.
The denial of their appeal is a clearly a blow to the mining company. A London-based Columban Father, Frank Nally, who worked in the Philippines and is a leading campaigner in the Working Group on Mining in the Philippines, described the decision as “hopeful” and welcomed the protection of the rights of poor rural and upland indigenous peoples.
For nearly two decades, the indigenous community of Didipio has campaigned to halt development of a gold and copper mine which threatens their environment, farmlands, and families. The mining company and the government have responded with violence and intimidation and have ignored the people’s rights, say campaigners.
OceanaGold has been clearing lands in Didipio, much of which are privately owned, for the past 18 months. Under the law, the state may forcibly take private property – but only if this will be for public use, and upon payment of just compensation to the landowner. OceanaGold has not been compensating landowners.
According to Manong Peter Duyapat, an indigenous leader in Didipio: “We are happy upon hearing this decision of the Court of Appeals. This for us is a step closer in making OceanaGold accountable for violating our constitutional rights and depriving us of due process of law.”
In 2008, the local Catholic Bishop, Ramon Villena, called on Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to suspend the operations of OceanaGold.
Local people near the Didipio mine site expressed fears of rice shortages in the wake of the company’s land clearing operations. The area is also famous for citrus fruit growing which, the bishop argued, gave income to the people. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has long called for the repeal of the 1995 Mining Act, which opened the country up to foreign mining companies.
For video footage of homes being demolished in Didipio, see Australian TV News: