Sharing the statement released by Chairperson Eta Rosales about the CHR resolution on the human rights abuses filed by residents of Bgy. Didipio against the Oceana Gold Philippines (OGPI) a foreign mining corporation.
17 January 2011
Statement on the Human Rights Situation in
Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya
Today’s press conference is about the human rights situation in Barangay Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. At the center of this case is the mining operations of Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI), a foreign-owned corporation, with which the national government of the Philippines has entered into a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA). Several residents of Didipio object to the large-scale mining in their area on account of perceived adverse economic and environmental impact that such activity would cause to their community. Majority of the residents in Didipio are indigenous peoples although they are originally from other places and thus cannot directly claim ancestral domain over Didipio.
In June 2008, reports and complaints were filed with the CHR alleging that OGPI had illegally and violently demolished some 187 houses in Didipio. This was allegedly done despite failing to secure writs or special orders of demolition from the court, unaccompanied by the Sheriff, without payment of just compensation, and without providing alternative options for relocation and resettlement. These demolitions were reported to have been attended by unnecessary violence and destruction: residents who resisted and tried to save their homes had been beaten, including their neighbours who helped them; houses had been bulldozed off cliffs and set on fire. It was further alleged that OGPI fenced off large sections of the roads and pathways which community residents have relied upon for the past 30 years to transport produce from their farms to the market. It was also reported that OGPI has set up checkpoints around the Barangay, causing them difficulty in moving about, resulting in the unjust restriction of their social and economic activities. Moreover, it was alleged that the PNP-Regional Mobile Group serves as a “private security force” of OGPI, with their officers being stationed inside the facilities of OGPI.
In furtherance of our commitment to protect and promote human rights, and pursuant to our mandate to investigate violations of human rights as well as monitor compliance with human rights standards, the Commission on Human Rights took cognizance of this case. After a thorough review of all the information and documents gathered, the Commission issued a Resolution dated January 6, 2010, and made the following findings:
* OGPI violated the Right to Residence, the Right to Adequate Housing and Property Rights of several residents in Didipio when it forcefully evicted them without a valid court order and without provision for adequate relocation, as required by law. As this Commission has advised previously, demolitions must be conducted in a just and humane manner. While demolitions may be legally justified under certain situations, in no instance should the deprivation of one’s shelter be done in a manner that robs a person of his dignity.
* OGPI violated the Right to Freedom of Movement and the Right not to be subjected to arbitrary interference with the Home of the people in Didipio. OGPI violated these rights when it introduced perimeter fences around the Project Area and set up checkpoints at its chosen entry and exit points. The Commission observes that the perimeter fences were introduced in conscious disregard of the rights of the residents of Didipio. No genuine consultation of the residents was ever had as to the construction of said fences, much less as to its location. At the very least, OGPI should have observed the basic principles of participation and transparency if it really intended to respect the rights of the residents in Didipio.
* OGPI violated the Right to Security of Person of the people in Didipio. OGPI is largely responsible for the precarious situation in Didipio given that it controls and supervises its security forces who openly carry weapons and intimidate the people. The situation in Didipio constitutes a continuing threat to the security of persons of the people in Didipio because it exposes them to constant uncertainty – to an incessant fear that something untoward might happen to them, their family or their properties. Rightly so, the local government units in the area expressed grave concerns that the situation would lead to breakdown of peace and order in the province.
* OGPI violated the indigenous community’s Right to Manifest their Culture and Identity. Certainly, the impact of OGPI’s demolitions is irreducible to the physical dismantling of the residents’ houses. In demolishing the houses of indigenous peoples in Didipio, OGPI effectively precluded them of the right to enjoy, manifest and celebrate their culture in community with their indigenous group. It irreparably impaired the conditions by which the Ifugaos of Didipio, in harmony with their land and each other, previously practiced Ifugao culture, traditions and way of life.
* OGPI has not violated the right to water of the people in Didipio. However, the Commission advises OGPI to exercise great prudence and extraordinary diligence should it continue on its plan to utilize Didipio’s water resources for large-scale mining purposes, lest it will prejudice the people’s right to sufficient, safe, acceptable and accessible water.
* The PNP violated its Operational Procedures during a demolition incident in Didipio by carrying high-powered firearms and by applying unnecessary and unreasonable force.
In light of these findings, the Commission has RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY to take the following actions:
* Recommend to the government under the new administration to consider the probable withdrawal of the FTAA granted to the foreign company in view of the gross violations of human rights it has committed;
* Require all concerned agencies, particularly the NCIP, the DENR-MGB, the PNP and the AFP, to submit reports to the Commission on Human Rights regarding concrete actions they have taken t o respect, protect and fulfill the rights of the affected community in Didipio, within 30 days from receipt of this Resolution;
* Request the same agencies to continue monitoring the Human Rights situation in Didipio with the view in mind that all reports of violations be verified and acted upon;
* Advise the OGPI to consider the Commission’s findings and conduct a policy reorientation on the conduct of mining operation taking into conscious account the observance of human rights of the community involved; and
* Direct the CHR Region II Office to actively advocate for the Human Rights of the affected community and to take every step possible to avoid the occurrence of further violence and oppression.
The history of development in the Philippines has been marred by serious environmental degradation caused by economic activities accompanied by and related to violations of civil and political rights. Indeed, those who stand up against development aggression expose themselves to harassment by government or project authorities. Nothing compares however to the sufferings endured by the indigenous peoples in whose community lands these projects are made to be located. They lose their homes, livelihood and property, but more grievously their connection to the land and their very identity. When this happens the Commission on Human Rights should not stand idly by. Neither should the government.
LORETTA ANN P. ROSALES