Residents and natives from Nueva Vizcaya marched to Mendiola Peace Arch on January 16, 2020 over fear of losing about 3,000 jobs from the suspension of Didipio Mine’s operations.
The OceanaGold (Philippines), Inc. (OGPI) operated the Didipio Mine with a 25-year financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) as its mining license with the Philippine government; however, according to a Manila Times report, it was documented that the firm’s FTAA has not been renewed since its expiration on June 20, 2019.
Thus, representatives from Barangay Didipio and 10 other mine-impacted villages went to Manila to emphasize the benefits they received from the development programs of OGPI in their areas.
“When OGPI arrived, they gave us three of our basic needs. First, OGPI developed the roads so that agricultural produce from Quirino and Vizcaya can be transported. Only they were able to do that. Second, they opened schools in our area so we don’t have to go to other barangay (villages) for education. Most importantly, they gave us livelihood,” Jolan Pugong, a DIdipio resident, was quoted as saying in the report.
Engineers and nurses who benefited from OGPI scholarship programs also joined the march.
“When health facilities were built here in Didipio, a lot of sick patients were treated and received free medical check-ups. OGPI did not only serve Didipio but also adjacent barangays,” Waynelyn Andres, a nurse, expressed in the report.
Wilbur Habiling, a former OGPI scholar and, now, a mining engineer, also expressed hot OGPI gave the residents the chance to receive accessible education.
According to Madonna Dongiaho, another Didipio resident, more than 1,500 people will be directly and another 2,000 will be indirectly affected if OGPI’s operations do not resume. Additionally, 17,000 indigenous peoples (IPs) in Didipio and adjacent barangays will also be impacted.
The mining firm also helped establish the farm and food cooperatives Didipio Producers Cooperative and Didipio Community Development Corp.
OGPI officials disclosed in the report that the company has yet to resume operations as they are still waiting for the renewal of their FTAA.
According to MGB Region 2 Director Engr. Mario Ancheta, the decision of the President to sign the FTAA is based on recommendations by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the MGB.
“The Didipio Mine has passed the bureau’s evaluation and, therefore, we have recommended the company to the Office of the President for its FTAA renewal,” Ancheta stated.