We in LILAK strongly condemn OGPI and its President Atty. Joan Adaci-Cattiling’s reported acts of intimidation and harassment against the Barangay Didipio officials. OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) flexed its muscle once again to muffle the opposition of the people of Brgy. Didipio against their destructive mining operations in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.
According to reports from the community, on August 1, 2022, the president of OGPI Atty. Joan Adaci-Cattiling berated barangay council officials and threatened to stop funding the Social Development Management Program (SDMP), one of the legal obligations of mining companies to host communities. The SDMP funds in Didipio provide subsidies for the salaries of teachers and government employees and also fund scholarships and other community projects. It is but a small compensation of OGPI for decades of environmental damages it has done to Brgy. Didipio, while earning profits from its mines.
Adaci-Cattiling’s and OGPI’s latest act of intimidation came after the barangay council passed Resolution No. 38 which expressed the council’s opposition to the renewal of OGPI’s mining permit or Financial or Technical Agreement Assistance (FTAA) for another 25 years. In the resolution which was passed on June 3, 2022, the council cited the failure of the national government and OGPI to consult the barangay and community prior to the renewal, including a lack of assessment, audit, and evaluation of OGPI’s 25 years of mining activity.
Adaci-Cattiling’s seeming power play over elected barangay officials had immediate results. Soon after the reported incident, the barangay council passed Resolution No. 61 which revokes in its entirety Resolution No. 38. This, however, was not signed by the barangay captain.
To use the withdrawal of SDMP funds as a threat is a case of bullying and abuse of power. Adaci-Cattiling is a lawyer and is well aware that SDMP is a legal obligation attached to OGPI’s mining permit. To use it as a threat shows how the president undermines the elected barangay officials of Didipio and uses her knowledge and position to deceive and sow disagreements and contempt in the community.
It is not the first time that the mining company has shown its penchant for harassment and even violence. The indigenous women of Bileg Dagiti Babbae remember it very well, as we all should, the day of April 6, 2020 – when the trucks of OGPI, accompanied by more than a hundred members of the Philippine National Police, forced their way through the peoples’ barricade set up by grassroots organizations to stop the company’s illegal mining operations. A video taken by a Tuwali indigenous woman showed how they were pushed around resulting in injuries as the police used their batons and shields against them. The former chairperson of the Didipio Earth Savers Movement (DESAMA) was held like a pig with each of his arms and legs being lifted by the police. The indigenous people were charged with violating COVID-19 quarantine protocols. To this day, as the women and men battle the traumas of the violent dispersal, they have to attend hearings and face the charges against them.
In the last 25 years, OGPI has proven how little, if at all, it truly cares for the welfare and development of Brgy. Didipio and indigenous people. The company claims to be leading the protection of the environment and development of the community, but the latest reported beratement and threat directed at barangay officials and indigenous people by the president of the company, no less, is a clear demonstration that the 25-year mining operation of OGPI in Didipio is a history of lies, deception, and violence.
We in LILAK urge the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and newly appointed Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga to immediately investigate this incident which could be a possible legal violation and probable ground for the termination of OGPI’s mining permit.
We call on the national government to stop reneging on its responsibility of caring for communities and passing it on to mining companies whose aim has always been and will always be profit. Brgy. Didipio in Kasibu has been part of a flourishing citrus capital of the region and has a vibrant rice industry. However, OGPI’s mining operations have converted farmlands and lush forests into open pit mines and tailing ponds, affecting the water supply. OGPI has caused more damage than its contribution to community development.
We in LILAK commend the barangay officials, and Bileg Dagiti Babbae, DESAMA, and other community organizations, for protecting their rights and the environment. We stand with them and echo their calls to end OGPI mining in their community.
Cover Photo: A Tuwali indigenous woman looks over at the open-pit mine of Australian-Canadian mining company OceanaGold Philippines Inc. Photo taken by Sharlaine Balagtas. July 21, 2022.