Activists promote more alternative mining legislation in the Philippines
Campaign groups in the Philippines now have two potential alternative mining laws being discussed by the country's Congress, as a response to the constant concerns raised by civil society over the activities of mining companies.
The new bill, the Minerals Management Bill, was submitted during protests against the current Mining Act on the occasion of its 15th anniversary.
These protests highlighted the congressional enquiry on the suspect free, prior informed consent at Bakun (see: Philippine mining falters in the face of civil society opposition).
The investigation into the murder of Dr. Ortega continues (see: Two anti-mining advocates shot in the Philippines), and has spurred on the anti-mining campaign to launch a million signature petition.
Once again there has been another violent incident at Tampakan; in this case the murder of an indigenous leader and his wife who were supporters of the mining project.
A full investigation is required, but the killing highlights the continued violence and divisions the project has brought to the local B'laan people.
Scrap Mining Act, urge green network, solons
Philippine Daily Inquirer
5 March 2011
Manila, Philippines - Sixteen years after it was enacted, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 caused not only environmental destruction, but also graft and corruption, conflicts in mining communities and extrajudicial killings, a network of environmentalists and lawmakers said.
Thus the Minerals Management Bill Now Network (MMB Now! Network) is calling for the mining law's immediate repeal and the enactment of an alternative mining act to regulate the exploration, development and utilization of the country's minerals resources.
"For more than a decade and a half, contrary to the promises of development and prosperity that comes with the enactment of the Mining Act of 1995, the Filipino people have only witnessed and become victims of the havoc that the foreign-dominated mining industry has brought to our country," said Judy Pasimio, executive director of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center.
"Human rights violations amongst indigenous peoples and communities, mining-related extrajudicial killings, division amongst communities, environmental destructions, cases of bribery amongst government institutions, non-payment of taxes, and undermining of local governance have all been main-stay features under the 16th year history of the mining law," said Pasimio.
Religious leaders also reiterated their call to repeal the country's mining law.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said that the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has consistently called for the abrogation of the country's mining law.
"The CBCP has issued pastoral statements in 1998 and 2006, calling for the repeal of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. As pastors, we have witnessed how the faithful has struggled to defend the integrity of creation. Our experiences of environmental tragedies belie claims and assurances of responsible mining," Pabillo said.
CBCP spokesman Bishop Deogracias Iniguez said mining projects failed to lift people out of poverty.
Iniguez said the CBCP has observed that "mining areas remain among the poorest areas in the country such as the mining communities in CARAGA, Bicol and Cordillera Regions."
At the same time, he said the country's indigenous peoples face serious challenges when confronted with mining as "the cultural fabric of indigenous peoples is also being destroyed by the entry of mining corporations."
In Congress, bills pushing for the enactment of alternative mining laws have been filed.
Representative Erin Tañada III filed House Bill 206 or the Alternative Mining Bill (AMB) while Representatives Kaka Bag-ao, Walden Bello, Teddy Baguilat Jr., Rufus Rodriguez, Maximo Rodriguez, Carlos Padilla and Roilo Golez filed House Bill 3763 or the Minerals Management Bill (MMB).
Tañada said his proposed measure is a response in regulating the exploration, development and utilization of the country's minerals resources.
"This bill, if passed into law, will correct all the mistakes and negative effects that the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has brought to our country and the AMB puts communities, human rights, conservation of our mineral and natural resources, and genuine national development at the center," he said.
Bag-ao, on the other hand, said their proposed measure wants to ensure that mineral extraction is not done at the expense of the environment and the communities.
"The MMB envisions that if we ever need to extract our mineral resources it should be for the benefit of the Filipino people and not for the interest of foreign and domestic mining corporations," Bag-ao said.
"The MMB will ensure that any mineral extraction done in the country, it should be geared towards genuine national industrialization and modernization of our agriculture," said Bag-ao.
Baguilat said the current mining law violates the rights of the indigenous people.
"Under the Mining Act of 1995 the rights of indigenous peoples on their ancestral domains, territories and resources, free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) requirements for indigenous communities, to name a few, have been undermined by irresponsible mining, some corrupt government officials, and most mining companies," Baguilat said.
He said the MMB "ensures that the right of our indigenous brothers and sisters are respected and protected, specifically that of their right to their lands, territories and resources and that equitable share from any mineral extraction within their ancestral domains is assured."
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, stressed that the current Philippine Mining Act of 1995 is inadequate in addressing serious challenges that face the country, including climate change, disaster risk reduction and globalization.
"Our studies show that mining has contributed very little to economic growth because of the too liberal incentives given by the current mining law," Garganera said.
"There really is an urgent need to pass a new mining law that will comply with climate change, disaster-risk reduction and the globalizing economy," he said.
He said if mining companies "are really serious about responsible mining, then they should support these two pending bills, as these capture comprehensively the genuine practice of mining responsibly."
Aquino's Bias For Mining Firms Hit
By Ina Alleco R. Silverio
5 March 2011
Did President Benigno Aquino get financial support from mining firms? If not, then why is he against regulating the operations of said companies?
This was the question raised by an environmental activist during a protest against the Mining Act of 1995 on the occasion of its 15th anniversary. Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (PNE), the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) and indigenous people's groups Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) and Katribu Party-list staged a rally in Mendiola denouncing the mining law, saying that it was long-overdue that the law be repealed given the destruction it has wrought on the environment and the health and livelihood of thousands of Filipinos.
CEC executive director Frances Quimpo criticized President Benigno Aquino III for his silence on calls for the repeal or at least review of the Mining Act of 1995. She said there were rumors that Aquino received financial support from said corporations in his May 2010 presidential bid, which explains his soft stance on the mining industry.
"This could be a defining reason why Aquino is very hesitant against even supporting calls for the mining law's repeal. He has called for the cancellation of some 300 mining contracts, yes; but what Malacanang didn't say was that these contracts were all ‘sleeping' or inactive. The destructive operations of big mining corporations continue even as we speak," she said.
During the campaign, Aquino told reporters that he was against amending or repealing the mining law. Salvador Zamora III, the owner of the country's largest nickel mining company, was one of his most important supporters.
Based on reports, Zamora founded Nickel Asia Corporation  and served as its president and chief executive officer. He served as president of Cagdianao Mining Corporation since 1997, president of Hinatuan Mining Corporation since 1987 and president of Taganito Mining Corporation since 1980. He is a property developer, resort and hotel operator in the Philippines. He serves as the chairman of Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp, and a director of Baguio Leisure Corp.
Quimpo also pointed out that Aquino has even questioned the move of former South Cotabato governor and now representative Daisy Avance-Fuentes to ban open-pit mining  in the province.
Avance-Fuentes signed the province's new environment code banning open-pit mining two days before her tenure ended in June 2010. According to reports, the new code is against the operations of global mining giant Xstrata in Tampakan town and San Miguel Corporation's coal mining project in Lake Sebu.
Based on reports, Xstrata had offered a compromise deal with Fuentes to block the code. It allegedly argued that the Tampakan copper-gold project was world class with an estimated content of 13.5 million tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold.
The company also sought to win support for its project by promising to invest over $5 billion, employ up to 9,000 people during construction and up to 2,000 people during operations. Xstrata had expected to start actual mining in 2016.
"Aquino has questioned the ban saying that it should be lifted. The least he could've done before opposing the ban against open-pit mining in South Cotabato is to find out if the damaging effects of open-pit mining are true," she said.
In the meantime, Quimpo said the CEC and Kalikasan-PNE are not completely against mining because, she said, the mining of mineral resources is an important component in building a stronger economy.
"What we are against is unregulated, uncontrolled mining for the sole profit of transnational mining corporations and their local partners. We are against mining that destroys the environment, displaces communities, and leaves thousands sick, unemployed and devastated. We want the country's mineral resources to benefit the Filipino people and to help build an industrialized economy," she said.
CEC, Kalikasan-PNE and Defend Patrimony recently helped bring an alternative mining bill to congress through the office of Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino 
Militarization Against Indigenous Peoples
Kamp spokeswoman Piya Macliing Malayao said the last 16 years under the mining law have wrought extensive damage on indigenous Filipinos' ancestral lands. She said that despite this, the Aquino government has not seen it urgent to call for the law's repeal.
Malayao said environmental groups and indigenous peoples have already called on Aquino to revoke the National Minerals Policy of the previous regime under Gloria Macapagal-Arrouo, "But he appears bent on outdoing the last administration's supposed achievements in mining. This bodes ill for indigenous groups and the Philippine environment," she said.
The Mining Act of 1995  has long been denounced for its alleged partiality to mining investors. Under the law, full ownership of Philippine land is allowed to investors. This, Malayao said, goes directly against the Philippine Constitution's provisions against foreign ownership or land restrictions to 60-40 percent sharing in businesses between local companies and foreign firms.
"It's an outrage that despite the inherent unconstitutionality of the law, it continues to be upheld and implemented," Malayao said.
She asserted that because of unscrupulous mining practices and the government's liberal policy when it comes to mining firms, many human rights violations have been committed against indigenous peoples. She cited the repeated evacuation of Lumads in Andap Valley in Surigao del Sur.
The continued military operations in the province are said to be because of the province's rich land, where valuable minerals such as coal and gold can be found. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) has been studying the area since the 1970s. The Andap Valley Complex, which spans the municipalities of Barobo, Lianga, San Agustin, San Miguel, Marihatag, Cagwait and Tago, is a prime area for extraction of coal and other minerals.
Malayao also cited other mining-affected indigenous communities  in Compostela Valley and Gambang, Bakun in Benguet ).
"There is intense militarization in these areas. Residents are being forced to give way to mining corporations," she said.
Recently, a congressional inquiry  was conducted in Bakun regarding reports of false acquisition of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from the indigenous community. An FPIC is required before any development by mining firms can be allowed on ancestral domains.
The investigation revealed that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) was guilty of "irregularities" when it acquired consent from the communities on behalf of the Royalco Mining Corporation .
Royalco has since forged a contract to transfer its Royalco's exploration project to Vale Exploration Philippines Inc., a subsidiary of the world's second largest multi national mining company. Vale Exploration would continue the ongoing exploration in Gambang.
URLs in this post:
 Bulatlat.com: http://bulatlat.com
 Nickel Asia Corporation: http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=49532050&privcapId=100672256&previousCapId=99936773&previousTitle=Oriental%20Vision%20Mining%20Philippines%20Corp
 Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino: http://bulatlat.com/main/2011/03/03/pro-people-pro-environment-mining-bill-proposed-in-congress%C2%A0/
 Mining Act of 1995: http://www.psdn.org.ph/chmbio/ra7942.html
 mining-affected indigenous communities: http://bulatlat.com/main/2010/02/02/bakun-folk-decry-govt-inaction-on-opposition-to-mining-operations/
 congressional inquiry: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:3wXACwx8V70J:bulatlat.com/main/2011/02/28/congress-validates-flaws-in-securing-consent-for-mining-in-benguet/+Congressional+investigations+in+Bakun,+Benguet&cd=1&hl=tl&ct=clnk&gl=ph&client=firefox-a&source=www.google.com.ph
 Royalco Mining Corporation: http://www.nordis.net/?p=8607
Battle on paradise Philippine island
By Karl Malakunas
7 March 2011
PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines - For tourists the Philippine island of Palawan seems like paradise, but for environment activists it feels more akin to a battlefield.
Murders and threats on what is promoted as the Southeast Asian nation's last ecological frontier are emblematic of a struggle across the country, where dozens of environment campaigners have been killed over the past decade.
Father-of-five "Doc" Gerry Ortega became the latest casualty in late January when a hitman shot him in the head while browsing in a second-hand clothes shop along one of the main roads of Palawan's capital city, Puerto Princesa.
"He received a lot of death threats," Ortega's wife, Patty, 48, told AFP in an interview at a cafe just a few hundred metres from where he was killed.
The murdered Ortega, 47, a veterinarian, made many enemies via a daily radio morning show he hosted in which he lambasted politicians whom he accused of being corrupt and allowing the island's natural resources to be pillaged.
"He was a very passionate man, passionate about the environment," his widow said.
On the far western edge of the Philippines' archipelago, Palawan has some of the country's most beautiful beaches, stunning coral reefs and biodiverse forests -- it is home to two UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites.
But environment campaigners say Palawan's natural wonders could be destroyed within a generation amid the frenzy to exploit them, citing as an example the destruction of countless coral reefs from cyanide and dynamite fishing.
Its reefs supply more than half the nation's seafood, plus millions of dollars' worth of fish to other Asian markets.
Palawan also has vast amounts of nickel, cobalt and other valuable minerals, prompting hundreds of applications to mine about half of the island.
The applications have spurred a high-profile campaign to ban all forms of mining.
Meanwhile, 11 percent of the Philippines' remaining virgin forests and 38 percent of its mangroves are on Palawan, according to government data.
"From the post cards it's a great tourist area," Robert Chan, a crusading environmental lawyer and executive director of Palawan NGO Network Inc, told AFP from his rundown headquarters in Puerto Princesa.
"But if you talk about the resources that really mean something for biodiversity or medicines eventually for our future generations, if you talk about its old growth forests, if you talk about mangrove forests, if you talk about its coral reefs, were losing it."
While there are many laws to protect Palawan's natural resources, they are no match for the lawlessness and corruption that permeates all of Philippine society, according to environment campaigners and some politicians.
"The biggest obstacle really is the temptation of money from big industries and (those involved in) illegal activities," Edward Hagedorn, the long-time mayor of Puerto Princesa, told AFP.
Hagedorn, regarded by Palawan's environment activists as one of their most important political allies, has banned mining and logging in Puerto Princesa which, although a city, has huge tracts of forests and white sand beaches.
"Outside the city destruction is happening very fast," he said.
Hagedorn said powerful figures had often tried to bribe him to permit environmentally destructive practices, such as allowing truckloads of seafood that were illegally fished to be flown from his city's airport.
"You'll be surprised. Law enforcers, judges, come into my office (offering money and) asking for me to give them a chance," he said.
Environment campaigners say that, amid this chaos, they have to perform functions that government bodies and law enforcers should be doing, which often pushes them into very dangerous situations.
Attorney Chan, 43, said four environment activists from local communities he had worked with over the past decade had been murdered.
Chan and his colleagues train communities to resist destructive environment practices by filing law suits, but also to confiscate equipment such as chainsaws used for illegal logging and even boats used for illegal fishing.
Under Philippine law, citizens are allowed to seize equipment used in illegal activities and arrest those involved.
Over the past 10 years, Chan said he, his colleagues and the communities they worked with had seized more than 360 chainsaws, two large ships, about 20 small outrigger boats and rifles.
But the successes are tempered by a sense of danger.
Chan, who is married and has a young daughter, recounted losing an activist in 2006 who had been working to oppose illegal logging and the cutting down of mangroves in his community.
"We found him in a shallow grave in a beach. He had been specifically buried there for us to find him," said Chan.
"His testicles were taken off, put into his mouth, his tongue was cut out, his eyes were gouged out, his fingernails were taken out, he had around 16 stab wounds."
Abdelwin Sangkula, another Puerto Princesa-based campaigner, said he had also received many death threats over the past few years.
"I'm worried about my safety and the safety of my family. But I will continue with my fight, said Sangkula, 39, who has three children and was a regular guest on the murdered Ortega's radio show.
"I don't know whether it's just in my blood, but I see injustice and unfairness with what's happening in this province."
Abraham Mitra, the governor of Palawan who is also chairman of the province's sustainable development council, did not respond to requests by AFP for comment on the allegations made by the environment campaigners.
The development council has run full-page advertisements in national papers recently rejecting claims that the local environment is being destroyed, and insisting that mining applications are being approved in a responsible manner.
In the case of Ortega, the accused gunman and four other people alleged to have been involved in the killing have been arrested.
His widow has filed documents with the justice department accusing a powerful local politician of masterminding the murder.
The politician, who has not been arrested, has gone on national television to deny any link to Ortega's killing. Police investigations are ongoing.
IPs call for end of mining on ancestral lands
2 March 2011
BAYOMBONG-Tribal folks in Nueva Vizcaya called for an end of mining activities on their ancestral lands, saying large-scale mining will destroy their forests and leave them with nothing.
|Resident holding out against mine in Didipio, Philippines - the sign reads
"keep out - project area" - Andy Whitmore/MAC
"Respect the indigenous people's rights. And our call: NO TO LARGE-SCALE MINING. Mining will not feed us, it will take our land; ravage our forests and leave us with nothing," said Lucas Buay, a representative of Kasibu Inter-tribal Response for Ecological Development (KIRED).
Buay recalled what mining has done on the ancestral lands of IPs in Benguet and Ifugao, saying he did not want the same to happen in their territory.
The Diocese of Bayombong and anti-mining groups held a press conference on Feb. 28 in celebration of the Commission on Human Rights' (CHR) Resolution urging the withdrawal of Oceana Gold mining permit in Barangay Didipio, in Kasibu town of Nueva Vizcaya.
Bayombong Bishop Ramon Villena presided a Holy Mass at St. Dominic de Guzman Cathedral prior to the conference.
"We are one with the CHR headed by Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales in the commission's resolve to recommend to the government under the new administration to consider the probable withdrawal of the FTAA granted to a foreign company in view of the gross violations of human rights it has committed," Villena said.
In a resolution released on January 10, CHR declared that Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI) violated the "the right to adequate housing and property rights"; "the right to freedom of movement"; "the right not to be subjected to arbitrary interference"; "the right to security of persons"; and "the right of the indigenous community to manifest their culture and identity".
Tolentino Inlab, who heads the IP organization Didipio Earth Savers Multi-purpose Association (DESAMA) called for the scrapping of FTAA.
"We call on these corporations and the government, to stop all forms of human rights violations. We say: No to large-scale mining. Scrap the FTAA of Oceana Gold!" he declared.
Villena said the diocese will continue the fight to stop mining in Didipio and other areas endangered by mining application.
"We will not relent nor give up. Our battle cry lives on: NO TO MINING, YES TO LIFE!" he stressed.
About 1,000 people and various organizations, including SALAKNIB - Salakniban ti Lubong, Aglawlaw ken Karbengan dagiti Umili ti Nueva Vizcaya, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Task Force Detainees - Philippines (TFDP), Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), and Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights), participated in the activities.
Organizers also put up a photo exhibit at the cathedral highlighting the ill-effects of large-scale mining.
Mining firm halts work as tribal leader, wife killed
Sun Star Davao
24 February 2011
KORONADAL CITY -- A tribal chieftain who staunchly supported the Tampakan copper-gold project of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. was killed Tuesday night by still unidentified gunmen, prompting the company to temporarily suspend operations in parts of the mines development site due to security concerns.
The killing of Tonio Binuhay, tribal chieftain of S'bangken and a councilor of Barangay Tablu in Tampakan, South Cotabato, one of the villages straddling the Tampakan project, alarmed Sagittarius Mines, company officials said.
Binuhay's wife, Rosanna, who was reportedly pregnant, was also killed in the attack that occurred in the couple's house in Purok Quezon, Barangay Sta. Cruz in the low land of Tampakan town at past 8 p.m., the local police reported.
John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communications manager, said the temporary work suspension in the field was a "company best standard practice."
"To ensure the safety of employees and contractors, the management ordered the work suspension until further clearance from the authorities," he said, adding that the mining firm was saddened by the death of a staunch supporter.
Arnaldo said the company believes the killing "was not related to the Tampakan mining project."
Chief Insp. Jomar Alexis A. Yap, Central Mindanao police spokesperson, said that investigation was still underway and different motives are being considered, including the possibility that the murder was related to the mining project.
"We are digging deeply into the case," Yap said in a text message.
Manolo T. Labor, Sagittarius Mine's external affairs communication superintendent, raised the company's concern to the safety of the other tribal chieftains within the Tampakan project with the slaying of the victim.
"We would like to extend our condolences to the family of the tribal chieftain. This is alarming," Labor said in a separate interview, reiterating that the killing "could not be related to the Tampakan project."
When the victim, a B'laan tribesman, was still alive, he stoutly supported the mining firm, pinning high hopes to the company for a better life of their tribe through the livelihood and scholarship programs given by the project.
Binuhay's community is located in Barangay Tablu, site of Sagittarius Mines' base camp that was attacked by the communist New People's Army (NPA) before dawn in the 2008 New Year's Day.
The communist rebels burned the firm's administration office and several mining equipment worth at least P12 million. They also disarmed and took several firearms of the security guards then manning the base camp.
No one was hurt in the attack although the NPA rebels also managed to keep at bay government security forces manning an Army detachment some 500 meters away from the base camp.
Early in 2009, the communist guerrillas, as part also of its campaign against Sagittarius Mines, also successfully attacked the police station of Tampakan town, resulting in the wounding of four people, three of them policemen.
The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has warned the mining company to brace for more violent attacks in punishment for "plundering and destroying the nation's patrimony."
Sagittarius Mines, which eyes commercial production in 2016, is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world's fourth largest copper producer, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as minority equity partner.
Based on the Mine Project Feasibility Study submitted by Sagittarius Mines to the government last April, the Tampakan project could yield an average life of mine annual production rate of 370,000 metric tons and 360,000 ounces of copper and gold, respectively. The initial life mine estimate for the Tampakan project was pegged at 17 years.
The previous estimate was an annual average production rate of 340,000 tons and 350,000 ounces of copper and gold, respectively.
The Tampakan project is touted as the largest known undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia.
Based on its study, Sagittarius Mines will employ open-pit mining to extract the massive deposit, a method banned by the Provincial Government of South Cotabato. Several sectors have been pushing for an amendment to the prohibition.
(Bong S. Sarmiento of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)