Philippines: Pandemic used to shut down protest - #covidsolidarity

5 June 2020

Stories of solidarity under coronavirus

Coronavirus hasn’t affected everyone equally. We're sharing stories from across our European and global network of what lockdown and life under coronavirus look like around the world. Hearing from those who are among the worst affected, and how they are taking action.

I'm with the Philippines

In the Philippines, coronavirus is being used to shut down protest. The government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been to impose a lockdown on the general population – but not on forestry or mining industries.

#CovidSolidarity: I'm with Philippines

This means that questionable contracts and industry activities are still carrying on, but any community resistance to these damaging deals gets shut down. The police and the military are called in under the guise of upholding quarantine guidelines.

During the indigenous peoples' barricade at OceanaGold's mining site in Nueva Vizcaya, community members were threatened with arrest for allegedly violating the quarantine rules. After nine months of peacefully blockading the mine without police interference, the comunity was overwhelmed by the large police presence violently dispersing the barricate - and their leader Rolando Pulido was actually arrested on the grounds of supposedly violating coronavirus restrictions.

The community’s barricade follows the expiration of Canadian-Australian mining company OceanaGold’s mining permit and is a lawful expression of the indigenous peoples of Didipio, local governments, and solidarity groups (including Friends of the Earth Philippines) in support of a local government order suspending OceanaGold’s operations. OceanaGold’s operations have depleted ground water and contaminated nearby rivers of Nueva Vizcaya and displaced countless families.

#CovidSolidarity: I'm with Philippines

Friends of the Earth joins international calls for President Rodrigo Duterte to shut down Oceana’s operations and cancel its request for extension.

Cam Walker, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Australia spokesperson explained:

“Oceana Gold is an Australian-Canadian owned mining company which is being opposed by many in the local community. We stand with the community - whom must be protected in these troubling times - and support the call for local authorities to enforce the suspension of operations of Oceana Gold whilst legal proceedings continue.”

But the country's media is still largely focused on the pandemic's impact in populated areas, so there's very little coverage on how marginalised communities are being affected.

Please help spread the word so that their plight doesn't get hidden by the coronavirus crisis.

#CovidSolidarity: I'm with Philippines