NPA punishes Phelps Dodge mining company in Quirino, Ilocos Sur

Spokesperson, Alfredo Cesar Command
NPA Ilocos Sur Provincial Operations Command

A large diamond drilling machine of the Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge mining company was totally burned by a unit of the Alfredo Cesar Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Patiacan, Quirino, Ilocos Sur at around 1:00 am yesterday, 11 April 2014, to punish the said company for four years of destructive exploration, and to support the community’s overwhelming rejection of the extension of the company’s exploration project in a referendum last 2 April 2014.

Phelps Dodge, in partnership with Northern Horizon, has an exploration permit covering 5,870 hectares in Quirino including Barangay (village) Laylaya of Besao, Mountain Province. Phelps Dodge started exploring in Barangay Patiacan in July 2010 after four years of machinations to turn the earlier opposition of the people in 2006 and 2009 to an acceptance on a referendum held May 2010. Throughout all this, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has consistently been instrumental to the betrayal of the people’s interests when it supported Phelps Dodge’s maneuverings to get a Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the people in spite of their repeated rejections.

The destruction of the diamond drilling machine of Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge in Patiacan is the NPA’s act of uniting with the widespread opposition of the people of Patiacan and the entire municipality of Quirino against the ongoing exploration project in Patiacan and sitio Maliten of Barangay Laylaya. The revolutionary movement remains firm in its opposition to large scale mining of foreign and local mining companies like Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge which will only plunder the ancestral lands and natural resources of the people and wreak havoc on their environment, livelihood and communities.

Phelps Dodge, a giant mining company from the US, is one of the world’s largest copper producer which has mining operations and exploration activities in the US, Chile and Australia. It is notorious for its anti-worker policy employing union busting tactics. One of its subsidiaries, Climax Molybdenum, is the world’s largest producer of molydenum. Phelps Dodge has a record of being one of the top US corporate producer of toxic waste and air pollution. In the Philippines, Phelps Dodge owns the companies Makilala which has an exploration project covering 2,719 hectares in Pasil, Kalinga, and another large area in the Bicol region; and Malibato which has an exploration application covering more than 11,158 hectares of Mountain Province, Abra, and Ilocos Sur provinces.

In what is described as the largest transaction in the history of the metals and mining industry, Phelps Dodge was acquired by Freeport McMoran, another giant mining company from the US on 14 March 2007. Prior to the merger, Freeport McMoran was one of the world’s largest producer of copper and gold. Since 1973, Freeport has operated the world’s largest gold mine in Indonesia’s Papua province. The company was the world’s largest gold producer in 1982. In 1989, it started mining operations in Grasberg, Indonesia, which has the world’s largest gold ore reserve and has one of the world’s largest copper reserve. The Grasberg mining operation has caused massive destruction to 28 square kilometers of rainforest, and polluted rivers and a lake with acid mine drainage.

Phelps Dodge attempted to start an exploration activity in Patiacan in 2006 but was met by strong opposition from the elders and the community. Since then, the company deployed a local personnel, Engineer Davis Labawig from Agawa, Besao, Mountain Province, to implement a “social acceptability” program, which in other words, would mean a program to deceive the people into accepting the exploration project. For five straight years since 2006, Engineer Labawig spent most of his time in barangays Patiacan and Lamag, Quirino, employing deceptive tactics such as holding continuous consultations with the community elders at the dap-ay while offering them drinks and dog meat to feast on.

The first referendum in Patiacan was held on the 1st quarter of 2009 where the people’s opposition to the exploration project prevailed. The company continued to falsely persuade the people through Engineer Labawig for more than a year until a second referendum approved by the NCIP through the bending of rules was held on May 2010. Phelps Dodge was able to get a YES vote for a two-year contract, and a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with three conditions (concreting of the road to the barangay, scholarships for the children of Patiacan and employment for the people of Patiacan) was signed between the company and the indigenous people’s organization created by the NCIP in Patiacan. Exploration activities immediately ensued in July 2010. The people of Patiacan complained that the company did not comply with all the conditions they demanded from the company which were stipulated in the MOA. Not all the projects promised by the company were implemented. Only a few people from the community were employed. Only then did the people realize that they were deceived by Phelps Dodge.

That is why in the April 2012 referendum for the extension of the exploration project for another two years, majority of the people registered their NO vote. But again, the company employed their dirty tactics by offering millions more of funds, more projects and bigger employment for the community people. With the help of the NCIP, they again manipulated the process and were able to hold another referendum five months later where they were able to regain the YES vote which gave them the permission to continue with their exploration activities for another two years. And again, most of the commitments of the company were not implemented.

From the start, the people of Patiacan knew that exploration is the first step to actual mining that would eventually lead to the destruction of their lands, livelihood and environment. But they were mislead by the company’s offers of so-called “benefits” from the project and the NCIP’s favorable presentation of the company. After four years of exploration, the people have had enough of the company’s and NCIP’s deceptive tactics. They have also witnessed how their unity as a community was undermined by the company’s and NCIP’s manipulations. Thus, on the 2 April 2014 referendum for another extention of the company’s exploration activities, the people overwhelmingly registered their strong opposition.

Patiacan is not alone in its opposition to Phelps Dodge. A petition strongly opposing Phelps Dodge’s exploration activities was signed by more than 1,000 individuals coming from other barangays of Quirino in 2012. Much earlier, Barangay Lamag had rejected the company and consistently held on to this position since 2006. The people of Quirino know that a large scale mining activity in Patiacan would spell catastrophy to the entire municipality. They had learned this from their experience with Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) which is the oldest and one of the largest mining companies operating in the Philippines. LCMC’s more than 70 years of mining had resulted to incalculable destruction of the land and livelihood of the people of Mankayan, Benguet, as well as towns along the Abra River like Quirino where the mining company has been dumping its mine waste for decades.

On 25 April 2013, a unit of the Jennifer “Maria” Carino Command of the NPA in Benguet also burned the drilling machine of LCMC at Colalo in Mankayan. This drilling operation was to serve the company’s plan to set up Tailings Dam 5B which would be used for its expansion project of mining operations in Mankayan and parts of Tadian, Mountain Province. If expansion of mining in the area ensues, it would mean further devastation of hundreds more hectares of agricultural lands, forests, and other parts of the ancestral lands of the indigenous people of Mankayan and Tadian.

LCMC partnered with Goldfields, a large South Africa-based mining company which also has mining operations in Africa, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia, to set up the Far Southeast Gold Resources Inc (FSEGRI) and started drilling operations in Tabio, Mankayan in 2012 despite the people’s strong opposition. The people put up barricades that remained for over a year that forced the FSEGRI to pull-out from the area.

Oppose NCIP’s manipulations of the FPIC process to favor large mining companies!
Fight against the imperialist plunder of the people’s ancestral lands and resources!
Advance the people’s national democratic revolution to achieve genuine land reform, national industrialization and genuine progress for the people!