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CHR probes raps vs Aussie mine firm

By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:10:00 07/10/2008

Filed Under: Human Rights, indigenous people, Mining and quarrying, Regional authorities

MANILA, Philippines ? The Commission on Human Rights is looking into alleged human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples by a mining firm operating in the provinces of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya.

The commission has initiated an investigation following reports that houses of indigenous peoples in areas where the Australian-based mining company, Oceana Gold Philippines Inc., was operating were being demolished despite opposition from the community.

The demolition was being carried out without court order and without the mining firm providing relocation sites for displaced families, according to the fact-finding report of environmental and human rights groups working against mining.

CHR Chair Leila de Lima said the commission would soon issue its findings and recommendations that would safeguard people living in areas where mining is prevalent.

The most affected families were those living in Barangay Didipio in Nueva Vizcaya, where at least 187 homes have already been knocked down since December last year, according to the report.

The groups ? including the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, the Alyansa Tigil Minas and the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK) ? submitted the report during a dialogue with De Lima on Tuesday.

They said the report, entitled ?Avert the Escalating Violence in Didipio, Seek Justice for Human Rights Violations,? served as a complaint against the mining company, which has allegedly allowed a contingent from the Philippine National Police inside its property.

?In light of the findings of the mission, we ask the CHR to step into the worsening situation in Barangay Didipio to be able to safeguard the rights of the people as violence is perceived to escalate more if law and order will not be re-established,? according to the LRC-KsK.

They also requested that the CHR look into reported killings, forced negotiations and harassment in relation to the ongoing demolition.

Last month, a barangay captain was shot dead by still unidentified goons. The groups blamed the mining operations for the worsening peace and order situation in the area.

Meanwhile, De Lima added that she has directed the CHR regional office to conduct a follow-up investigation on the plight of the IPs in the area since her office has already received an initial report on the case.

OceanaGold has recently announced it was suspending work in the area as a result of lack of funds.



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