Environmental activists, church leaders, lawyers, economists, scientists, politicians, and indigenous leaders gathered today at the Church of the Risen Lord in the University of the Philippines to launch the Save Nueva Vizcaya Movement, a national campaign to protect the environment, natural resources, and people’s rights in the nationally significant watershed and biodiverse province of Nueva Vizcaya.

In its unity statement, Save Nueva Vizcaya declared that “our most urgent mission is to oppose destructive large-scale mining projects such as the 12,864-hectare Didipio copper and gold mine of Australian-Canadian transnational mining corporation Oceanagold.”

Save Nueva Vizcaya was convened by various leaders and experts, including representations of Diocese of Bayombong Bishop Elmer Mangalinao, renowned environmental lawyer Antonio La Vina, Nueva Vizcaya governor Carlos Padilla, Kalikasan national coordinator Leon Dulce, and UN Champions of the Earth 2018 awardee and indigenous rights activist Joan Carling.

The movement was inaugurated with the filing of House Resolution No. 302 by Bayan Muna representative Eufemia Cullamat, an indigenous legislator and convener of Save Nueva Vizcaya. HR No. 302 seeks an onsite investigation in aid of legislation on the anomalies and violations surrounding Oceanagold’s renewal application of its Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA).

Rep. Cullamat said that Oceanagold’s longstanding negative track record of violating various human rights, including socio-economic and particularly environmental rights of its affected communities as a continuing context that the legislative probe intended to look into. Violations were noted as early as 2007 involving the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous Tuwali-Ifugaos in the mine’s area.

The most recent cause of action referenced was the initial findings of the National Solidarity Mission conducted last July 26 to 29, 2019 by the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) and other founding conveners of the movement. The mission looked into violations surrounding the FTAA renewal and the people’s barricade mounted by the local people’s organizations affiliated with the movement.

Leon Dulce mentioned that the Solidarity Mission documented cases of leaders and organizers of the Tuwali Ifugao people’s organizations leading the barricade experiencing a surge of vilification, red-tagging, surveillance, and intrusions in their homes by suspected personnel of Oceanagold.

He further noted that there are also threats of dispersal and harm against the barricade especially in light of Oceanagold’s failure to secure an injunction against Governor Carlos Padilla’s restraining order anchored on the expiration of Oceanagold’s Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement.

In response to these pressing concerns around the threat of Oceanagold’s contract renewal, the Save Nueva Vizcaya Movement said it plans to “spread awareness over the situation, generate support and solidarity, and take action to push for the cancellation of Oceanagold’s FTAA, and to exact accountability for their various injustices to the people of Nueva Vizcaya and the entire Philippines.”