Wampis and Achuar Peoples Demand Annulment of Oil Block 64 to Be Operated by GeoPark

Representatives of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation and the Federation of Achuar Nationalities of Peru are sounding the alarm about a non-representative commission of indigenous people who are trying to dialogue with the government to demand benefits from oil activities.

Representatives of the Achuar and Wampis peoples met from August 7th – 10th in the community of Soledad (Río Santiago district, Condorcanqui province, Amazonas region) to agree on coordinated strategies against all of the oil activities that are being developed and that affect their territories.

This coordination between both indigenous peoples emerges from the need to protect their territories given all the problems generated by oil exploitation in Block 64, in Achuar territory in Loreto, in addition to the possibility of crude oil transportation by river from the block to Pumping Station #4 (Morona River), which would affect Wampis territory.

The oil company GeoPark, in partnership with PetroPeru, the current owner of the block, is awaiting approval from the Peruvian government of the Environmental Impact Statement to start their operations by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Petroperu is searching for financing for the expansion of the Northern Peruvian Oil Pipeline which would connect the oil block to Pumping Station #5.

Both the Federation of Achuar Nationalities of Peru (FENAP), which brings together 45 communities of the Pastaza River Basin in Loreto region, and the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation, which represents 65 communities in Loreto and Amazonas regions (16 in the Morona River Basin and 49 in the Santiago River basin) have expressed their overwhelming rejection of this proposed oil activity through a statement (below).

“We Wampis and Achuar are conscious that the development model the world should promote shouldn’t insist in the burning of fossil fuels in the name of progress. Instead, we should incentivize the application of alternative technologies,” according to the statement, in addition to both indigenous peoples expressing their opposition to GeoPark.

This rejection by the population is substantiated by the nefarious consequences for indigenous peoples created by oil activity in Oil Block 192 (previously Block 1AB) in Loreto, who have suffered pollution in their territories for almost fifty years. The Achuar and Wampis peoples are conscious of how ineffective the environmental policies and norms are in Peru, which have allowed oil companies like Pluspetrol to not comply with even the minimal standards of environmental best practices and, additionally, have evaded their responsibilities to remediate polluted lands and rivers.

The joint statement also denounces the creation of a commission of supposed representatives from the Wampis and Achuar peoples that would be dialoguing with GeoPark and the Peruvian government, with the objective of generating conflicts within the territory.

“We don’t recognize the commission made up of people who supposedly represent the Wampis and Achuar peoples, but in reality is an invention of the company GeoPark created to facilitate their entry into our territory. This is the typical practice of oil companies to weaken the unity of the Wampis and Achuar peoples,” as read from the statement.

This commission would be made up of delegates from the Morona River basin from a total of seven communities. Those people would be Mr. Rafael Mashingashi, leader of the community of Caballito; Abel Rengifo, president of the community federation from Fernando Rosas; Isaías Espinar, vice president of the Shuar Organization of Morona, which is made up of five communities; Adolfo Torres, community member from Caballito; and José Alarcón, community member from Puerto Alegría.

As mentioned in the press release published in the Facebook page of the group Indigenous Peoples Affected by Oil Activities, these people would have traveled to Lima on the 30th of July, accompanied by the Quechua indigenous advisor José Fachín, to discuss an agenda with the Presidency of the Minister’s Council, with the objective of “demanding a dialogue and political debate with the State in regards to our rights regarding oil activities in Block 64,” in addition to demanding that the government guarantee the “direct participation of indigenous peoples in the benefits of oil extraction… and the creation of a special canan (channel for oil royalties) for the Datem del Marañón province.”

That said, the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation and the FENAP are emphatic in stating that we demand the “annulment of Oil Block 64 given that the project for the block’s exploitation comes out of an unconsulted process, full of bad faith practices.”

You can read a translation of the full statement here:

RESOLUTION

REJECTION OF THE ENTRY OF THE OIL COMPANY GEOPARK WITHIN THE TERRITORIES OF THE WAMPIS NATION AND THE ACHUAR NATIONALITY

The plenary of the VIII Summit of the Wampis Nation, carried out in the indigenous community of Soledad from the 7th to the 10th of August, adopts the following positions through this resolution, regarding the oil company GeoPark’s pretension to enter our territories.

CONSIDERING:

That, we the Wampis and Achuar, live in the area of the Morona and Pastaza River basins since time immemorial, practicing and developing our social, economic and cultural practices that are the fundamental bases of our identities and subsistence as indigenous peoples;

That, for us the territory that we occupy is the intrinsic life means for our existence and as such helps us stay united as a community in coexistence with the nature all around us, which feeds us with the wisdom to act responsibly as we use her riches;

That, being the territory and nature’s resources as our only means of subsistence and cultural reproduction, we feel collectively responsible to protect and promote respect for them;

That, we indigenous peoples not only depend on nature for our benefit but throughout time we have developed customary legal instruments to bring a better treatment for biodiversity and the hydrographic systems that spring forth in all of the river basins we travel, in such manner that as a response to this relationship of mutual dependence, it offers us huge flora and fauna resources that are and continue to be the base of our daily consumption;

That, we indigenous peoples with our knowledge and customary legal systems also contribute to our daily activities to the conservation of the forest, which in the current times as impacted by global climate change are increasingly necessary for our protection as key carbon sinks;

That, we Wampis and Achuar are conscious that the development model the world should promote shouldn’t insist in the burning of fossil fuels in the name of progres. Instead, we should incentivize the application of alternative technologies. This commitment not only belongs to the industrialized countries, we believe that we are also responsible for assuming tangible commitments against climate change through the active protection of the biological diversity found in our territories;

That, the territory where the oil company GeoPark intends to install its projects in addition to being the habitat where we exist, live and subsist, is also a fragile zone with ecosystems that are susceptible to suffering irreversible damages given the abundant varieties of biotopes characterized by thin soils with frequent flooding that is connected to the population’s life style depending on fishing and itinerant agriculture.

WE RESOLVE:

To reject the entry of the oil company GeoPark within the territories of the Wampis Nation and the Achuar Nationality. This company intends to enter into the indigenous territory of our peoples with the goal of carrying out oil exploitation operations within Oil Block 64. To reject the dissociative attitude of the GeoPark company of far from promoting a direct dialogue with the legitimate authorities of the Wampis and Achuar peoples, are fomenting situations of confrontation between indigenous brothers and sisters, to the extreme that we are coming to the possibility of an imminent confrontation amongst ourselves. To not recognize the commission made up of people who supposedly represent the Wampis and Achuar peoples, but in reality is an invention of the company GeoPark created to facilitate their entry into our territory. This is the typical practice of oil companies to weaken the unity of the Wampis and Achuar peoples. To not recognize any kind of dialogues and agreements that are taken up between the commission created by the GeoPark company with anyone including governmental offices, if those dialogues don’t start with legitimate indigenous representatives. To recognize as valid interlocutors and to support all dialogue carried out through representatives of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis Nation and FENAP. To support and offer any help to our Achuar brothers and sisters organized in FENAP for their work in defense of their territories as an indigenous people and the protection of the environment. To demand the annulment of Oil Block 64 given that the project for the block’s exploitation comes out of an unconsulted process, full of bad faith practices.

Statement given in the community of Soledad on August 9th, 2018