On February 23, 2016 the Colombian Constitutional Court ordered the suspension of exploration and extraction activities being carried out by Pacific E&P and subsidiary Meta Petroleum Corp., in joint venture with Ecopetrol, in Puerto Gaitan, Meta due to effects caused in the Sikuani indigenous territory Vencedor Piriri. The court considered that operations in the Quifa concession violate the fundamental rights of the indigenous community, specifically its right to prior consultation.
FIDH, CCAJAR, and PASO receive this decision with satisfaction, and urge that Pacific E&P and Ecopetrol take action in order to comply with the sentence, immediately suspending all activities within two kilometers of the Vencedor Piriri Indigenous Reservation. We also urge all companies to attend to any and all requests for prior consultation processes in the region, promptly, and in good faith.
The sentence recognizes that “the constant coming and going of personnel, machinery, products and materials, the ongoing creation of odors, noise and light, and affectations to waterways… are all situations that must be considered to have direct effects on community members’ lives, beliefs, institutions, spiritual well-being and the land they occupy or in other ways use” (translation ours). Consequentially, the court concluded that consultation of the indigenous people affected by the proyect was mandatory and that Pacific E&P’s failure to undergo the process had been illegal.
Access to prior consultation mechanisms is a fundamental right protected by the Colombian Constitution, but domestic regulations lack clarity, detail, preventing the effective protection of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities.
The authors of this press release have been researching the effects of Pacific E&P’s operations in Meta since 2014. A corresponding report, to be released in coming months, will address the company’s actions and their effects on the environment, the rights of indigenous communities, and the labor conditions for employees. It will make recommendations to authorities, Pacific E&P and Ecopetrol, which has indicated its intention to assume full management of Pacific E&P’s neighboring concession, Rubiales (Colombian most productive oil field), in June, 2016.
Throughout our research, indigenous communities in Puerto Gaitan have insistently denounced the effects of other industrial processes in the region, such as Llanos Pipeline (Oleoducto de los Llanos), PEL Electric Lines (Red Electrica PEL), and operations of Hocol (a subsidiary of Ecopetrol), which have been implemented with no processes of prior consultation by authorities or private enterprises, in blatant disregard of Constitutional Court jurisprudence.