|The fight is long
and hard, but the wait for official action seems to be even longer.
...On October 19, 1999, the Commission on Elections (Comelec)
in Manila received all documents pertaining to the peoples initiative launched by
the people of Didipio against the operations of the Climax-Arimco Mining Company (CAMC).
initiative is a legal process in which registered voters of a local government unit may
directly propose an action or enact an ordinance for their community, or amend any act or
ordinance of their sanggunian. In Didipio, the initiative is intended to take back the
consent granted by the sangguniang bayan to CAMC's open-pit gold/copper project.
the 1987 Constitution and the 1995 Local Government Code provide for the peoples
right to a local initiative. In line with the law, Comelec, within 30 days receipt of the
initiative documents, was to set the date for a plebiscite approving or rejecting the
companys mining activities. But after almost four months of waiting, the people of
Didipio have yet to hear from the Comelec.
they are asking: "Is something wrong?"
A dot called Didipio
December, Didipio landed on the front pages of newspapers as he crash site of a plane of
Asian Spirit bound for Isabela. These days, it is making news of a different news.
smaller than a dot on the map, Didipio is a farming barangay in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya,
peopled predominantly by Ifugaos, Bugkalots, and Kankaney.
most tribal communities in the Philippines, Didipio has the unmistakable look of the
wilderness. It is green, remote, and mountainous. And it is the site of CAMCs
proposed 765-hectare open-pit Didipio Gold/Copper Project.
a 100 per cent Australian-owned company, holds one of only two existing Financial or
Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA) in the country. The other FTAA holder is Western
agreement gives CAMC the right to explore and exploit mineral resources in a
37,000-hectare area covering 15 barangays of Kasibu municipality and at least three
barangays in Cabarroguis and Nagtipunan towns of Quirino. Didipio is one of those covered
by CAMC's FTAA, which was granted just a few days before the passing of the Mining Act in
Voices of concern
of Sitio Dinauyan, Cagat-Surong, and Bae-Verona whose farms will be inundated by the
proposed mine's tailing dam, oppose the project.
aired their concern over the effects of the mining project in an interview conducted by
Mary Sagapan of the Diocesan Social Action Center of Bayobong, Nueva Vizcaya and
translated by Tanya Hamada.
have not yet seen the mines, but I know that the threat is what they refer to as the
proposed tailing dam. This land is our life. If they
build the tailing dam, where will we get what we now live on? Thats
why mines are destructive," said 67-year old Andres Limating of Sitio Surong.
Cut-ing, of Dina-uyan, said: "We do not like mining because if our water source dries
up or goes under, what will we drink? Where will we get water for our terraces, the small
ones that we have built? Where will we find food for our bodies? We are looking for people
to help us because if it were only us, they (the authorities) will not pay
land, even if it is small, if you are industrious, you will be
able to eat. There is camote, gabi, and rice. If you plant vegetables,
that is plenty to live on. What about money? Even if you have a lot of
money, if there is no rice, will you chew on your money?" Cut-ing added.
young people are apprehensive. "If you ask me, I cannot see the good that it will
bring Didipio, or to us, the youth. The company says it is good, but for me, I have seen
nothing in it that will bring us long-term livelihood," said Julian Inlab from sitio
the residents' objections, the sangguniang barangay (barangay council) of Didipio entered
into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with CAMC on April 1999, consenting to the open-pit
mining operation of CAMC in their community. When the objectors to the project learned of
the MOA, they submitted to the council a petition denying CAMC's proposed project.
the Didipio council failed to act on their petition, the objectors invoked their right to
an initiative, and under Comelec supervision, obtained 109 signatures in support of the
anti-dam campaign, well above 10 per cent of the total number of Didipio's registered
voters as required by law.
Didipio initiative is the first in the Philippines that is invoked
against a mining company.
puts to test whether, under the present dispensation, the people have an active and
effective role in our system of governance or they are merely the passive recipients of
grand government-approved projects," said lawyer Marvic Leonen of the Legal Rights
and Resource Center (LRRC).
a solidarity statement, Minewatch Philippines-Bantay Mina said:
"The Didipio people issue is multi-faceted--embracing human rights,
environment, socioeconomic and political issues. It is also an
international issue involving the dawn of transnational corporations
dominance in the Philippine mining industry, as it is already evident
nowadays. But most of all, it is an issue of Life. Land defines them: it
represents the totality that informs and interweaves with their
spiritual, social, political, and subsistence-oriented economies."
CAMC did not take the opposition sitting down.
counter the 109 signatures secured by the proponents of the initiative in Didipio, CAMC
submitted to the Comelec on November 11, 1999, a counter petition entitled "Petition
for the Adoption of Resolution Affirming and Attesting to the Genuineness and Veracity of
the Concurrence to the Memorandum of Agreement Between Barangay Didipio and Climax Arimco
Signed on April 28, 1999."
counter petition has 311 signatories, including those of the barangay officials who
earlier signed the MOA. As indicated in the title, the petition proposes that the Didipio
council adopt a resolution affirming and attesting the validity of the MOA.
Legal Rights and Resource Center, however, asserted that the 311 signatures in the counter
petition were gathered without Comelec supervision and were therefore invalid.
addition, the proponents of the mining project reportedly were not informed of the
signature-taking. There were reports that at about the time barangay officials were
soliciting signatures to the counter petition, CAMCs community relations officers
were asking for bio-data from registered voters of Didipio with promises that they would
be considered for hiring by CAMC this year.
was in 1989 when Didipio residents first noticed foreign visitors in the place as part of
a team involved in mining exploration. A few years later, the visits became regular until
one day the residents woke up to a constructed bunkhouse for CAMC officers and employees
at the foothills of Dinkidi Hill in Sitio Bacbacan.
Jobs and promises
...Jobs were given in an obvious attempt to soften possible resistance
to the company's activities. Residents and barangay officials were hired as contractual
employees of the company until finally, except for one councilor, all barangay officials
agreed to the CAMC operations in Didipio.
employment came sweet promises of development for Didipio, such as the construction of
roads and a school, the availability of electricity for Didipio, and even additional
income for the local government. But obviously something hidden came with the jobs and the
tantalizing prospects of progress.
April 1999 memorandum of agreement between the barangay council and the CAMC was signed
without the consent of or consultation with the community.
officials who signed the MOA have refused to give a
final copy of the public document to concerned community members. The copy that was given
to the community did not carry the signature of the notary public and had several blank
annex pages. To Leonen, these are signs that the document was "questionably
of the project also point out that the 100-per cent foreign ownership of CAMC violates the
60-40 Filipino-foreign ownership clause expressly provided in the 1987 Costitution. Also,
while the FTAA under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 allows up to 100 per cent
foreign-owned entities to exploit Philippine mineral resources, CAMCs FTAA was
obtained before the Mining Act was enacted.
people from Arimco say that they are not forcing us (to accept the project). So why do
they keep asking questions and nterviewing us?" asked Cut-ing in the interview by
sympathy with those opposing the mining project, the Diocesan Social Action Center of
Bayombong issued a statement condemning CAMC.
denounce the harassment, threats, deception, and bribery being done by various mining
companies upon our community leaders, especially those in Didipio, to prevent them from
speaking for their communitys behalf," it said.
claim they will not use any chemicals (in the mining operation),'' Cut-ing said.``I asked
how it is possible to use water only. They answered yes, they will only use water. I do
not believe them. I do not know what they use but when we went on a visit to a mining
site, there were reportedly some kids who died while bathing along the river. And some
animals died too.''
experienced working for Arimco, but I observed that the company showed favoritism toward
some workers. They did not give equal treatment. From that you can seethat when they begin
operation, they will not give equal treatment to our community," Limateng said in the
seems that our own elected officials are first in line in approaching them (Arimco). So we
are looking for people who will help us," said Alfredo Cuting from sitio
they're seeking is assistance in pushing through their initiative against the mining
project. They are disappointed that the Comelec seems to be taking its own sweet time in
acting on their petition.