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Philippines: mining company banned from demolishing homes of indigenous people

Villager points out homes at risk

Villager points out homes at risk

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 appealed 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. 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, describes 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 that threatens their environment, farmlands, and families. The mining company and government have responded with violence and intimidation and ignored the people’s rights. OceanaGold has been clearing lands in Didipio for the past 18 months, much of which are privately owned. 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 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:

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