More militarisation and murders in the Philippines
In our recent article, Large-scale mining operations in the Philippines attacked, we expressed concern about the human rights impacts of the large-scale communist New Peoples Army (NPA) attacks on mining firms in Surigao, Mindanao.
Although the government felt compelled to review community complaints against the companies, its overwhelming concern is to provide armed protection for mining operations.
|Residents of Tablas Island protesting mining applications of
Ivanhoe. Photo: REFAM
Unfortunately, this involves the deployment of paramilitaries (known as Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary units or SCAAs in the Philippines) in areas where there are major mining operations.
A number of human rights and indigenous groups have pointed out how such paramilitaries have been responsible for rights violations in the past, notably against Indigenous Peoples, and how there is little confidence in their accountability in the future. This is especially true in situations where local communities are opposing mining projects.
The President has also come in for criticism over his support for this initiative, given he made an election promise to ban such groups, due to human rights implications.
In our previous article we raised concerns about the Philippines Chamber of Mines' inappropriate comparison of legitimate non-violent activists with members of the armed NPA, fretting this could lead to further extra-judicial killings.
Sadly our comment seems all-too prescient, since there have been two killings in Mindanao, where the victims are known anti-mining activists.
The murder of Italian missionary priest, Fr Fausto 'Pops' Tentori, is notably being linked to his opposition to the increasingly murderous Tampakan project. And this Xstrata-led project is one of those now lined up for further military support.
The second victim was the indigenous Manobo leader and broadcaster Datu (Chief) Roy "Boy Gamay" Gallego, whose organisation had filed various complaints against mining.
The NPA attacks may have been financially costly, but at least no-one lost their lives in the organisation's recent raids. Are human rights activists now being made to pay for the recent attacks?
A legal opinion on the Bayog mining conflict
Head of the Department of the Environment, Secretary Paje, is also under fire for the decision to grant a special permit to the Lupa Pigigetawan Mining Co. in Bayog on the Zamboanga peninsula.
This security forces of the company are already in an armed stand-off with another company claiming the right to mine, with the local Subanen indigenous community caught in the middle (see General ignorance: more threats to Philippine indigenous peoples).
The Department of Justice has now declared Lupa Pigigetawan's mining permit illegal - essentially because the company is clearly not indigenous, and yet the permit should only be given to a recognised local indigenous entity. Given the powerful political forces behind both companies (as reported earlier), it is yet to be seen if the decision will affect the situation on the ground.
Ivanhoe do go
Finally, there is a victory for community opposition to mining, as the Canadian company, Ivanhoe, has withdrawn its plans to explore copper-gold prospects in the province of Romblon. In taking this decision, Ivanhoe cited the "strong opposition of local politicians" to its copper-gold prospects.
However, the company said it will now relocate itself to "communities responsive to exploration and mining."
Given the escalation of aggressions visited on so many communities affected by mining, it won't be easy for Ivanhoe to find such welcoming hosts.
Killing of anti-mining Italian priest condemned by environmental activists
Kalikasan PNE Press Statement
17 October 2011
Environmental activists under the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment today condemned the recent killing of an Italian missionary active in opposing large-scale mining plunder and advocating for indigenous people's rights in Mindanao.
"We strongly condemn the killing of Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio. Fr. Pops, as local folks fondly call him, is a man for the masses particularly the indigenous people. Before the time of his death, Fr. Pops and his organization, the Tribal Filipino Program of the Diocese of Kidapawan, are very active in defending the rights of indigenous people and protection of the environment from the entry of large-scale mining in their area," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
Fr. Fausto Tentorio and the TFP of the Diocese of Kidapawan are among the most active advocates and staunch oppositionists to the foreign mining project of Xstrata. The project plans to establish an open pit mining and mine waste facility in Sultan Kudarat, one of the areas of concern of the TFP, that will negatively affect the watershed and forests in the said province. Fr. Pops was also very active on the issue of justice and human rights. He was involved in the campaign for justice for killed human rights leader Beng Hernandez, who was killed by the military on April 5, 2002 while she was conducting research on the human rights situation in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato. Arakan Valley during that time was the mission area of Fr. Pops.
"Fr. Fausto is the sixth anti-mining advocate killed this year. Like Palawan environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega and small-scale miners' leader Santos Manrique, all of them have opposed large-scale mining projects in their areas. The Aquino administration should also be held accountable for allowing this kind of tragic incident to happen. His failure to stop the killings and give justice to the victims of human rights violations shows his administration's negligence and disregard to the persisting culture of impunity in the country," asserted Bautista.
Based on Kalikasan PNE monitoring, the other anti-mining activists killed this year are Rudy Segovia from Zamboanga, Florita Caya from Compostela, and Rabenio Sungit of Palawan. None of the 36 other cases of killings involving environmental activists since 2001 have been resolved to date.###
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Fr. Fausto Tentorio
Philippine Misereor Partnership Press Statement
17 October 2011
The Philippine Misereor Partnership Anti -Mining Campaign strongly condemns and shares in the deep bereavement for another great loss in the aspirations of peoples and communities for a more just, peaceful and sustainably developed society.
Fr. Fausto Tentorio, a 59 -year old Italian priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), a Rome-based missionary group was mercilessly shot to death by an unidentified assailant and motor cycle -riding accomplice earlier this morning, October 17, 2011 , in the church compound of Arakan Valley ,North Cotabato where he is parish priest of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish.
We profoundly express condolences and share in the grief of his family, his community and congregation, his diocese of Kidapawan and the peoples and communities he has shepherded for many years, in this senseless killing of a man of peace. We call on the authorities to conduct serious investigation on this most recent of the nth time killing of human rights, IPs and environmental advocates and activists. We demand justice be served for his death and for the many others who have been killed before him.
Fr. Tenorio had been in Mindanao for more than 30 years now.To the local folks and communities with whom he has shared his selfless life with, he is known for his missionary's zeal for championing the rights of the indigenous people. As the coordinator of the Tribal Filipino Program of the Diocese of Kidapawan, he has tirelessly advocated and supported the tribal organizations in their struggles .
In the process of fulfilling his missionary work among the poor and the marginalized particularly the IP communities, Fr. Tenorio was never fazed by threats to his life believed to be resulting from his crossing paths with powerful interest groups and its armed cohorts . According to blog entries of a fellow missionary assigned in the town of Columbio, last year the Community Based Special Operation Teams (CB-SOT) soldiers who set up their outposts among the civilians, threatened to paralize peoples organizations and even church activities. They organized the Barangay Defense System (BDS) in an attempt to use civilians as counter insurgency agents and to protect the projects of Development Aggression like mining, plantations, etc.
The same blog also posted anti-mining sentiments and strong opposition to Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI) by the Tribal Filipino Program of the Diocese of Kidapawan, of which Fr. Tenorio is Coordinator of. It highlights the immense threats it poses to the ecological balance around Columbio and in several adjacent provinces.The blog also expressed dissatisfaction that last year, the public scoping hearings on the Environmental Assessment (EIA) conducted and presented by SMI did not give a fair chance to the opposition to present their side.
The Dioceses of Marbel, Digos and Kidapawan are currently coordinating efforts to stop SMI from getting its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from DENR to operate its Tampakan Project.
Fr. Tenorio's colleagues believe that his killing could have been related to his work defending the rights of indigenous people and helping them hold on to their ancestral land.
"It was a delicate mission because when you deal with the marginalized and the poor, you are bound to step on the toes of some people and this could have been the source of the problem of why he was killed," Fr Giulio Mariani, PIME, said in an interview with the Associated Press .
Meanwhile, Atty. Mario E. Maderazo, PMPI-AMC Project Officer said, "this senseless killing should be a wake up call for the Aquino Administration to reconsider its recent decision of backing the formation and deployment of militias to beef up security for mining corporations. This move will only perpetuate the condition which made the killing of Fr. Faustino possible. The rule of law will not spring from use of arms and armed militias. Only an empowered citizenry capable of combating poverty, inequality and injustice in their communities bring genuine peace to our land and people. Let not the death of Fr Tenorio paralize us. Let it be a lasting testimony to our resolve to pursue peace. "
Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.
2nd Floor, No. 8 Cordillera St. Cor. Ramirez St.
Barangay Doña Aurora
1113 Quezon City , Philippines
Tel. No. (02) 353- 4287
Fax. No. (02) 353- 4396
Italian Priest Who Served Indigenous Peoples Of Mindanao Killed
By Ronalyn V. Olea
17 October 2011
"It is very clear that the priest's murder was pre-meditated as there was already a threat on his life by the Bagani paramilitary group under the jurisdiction of the 73rd IB, eight years ago due to his love for the Lumads, particularly in organizing them to have their voice heard..." - Rural Missionaries of the Philippines
MANILA - A long-time Italian Catholic missionary living among the Manobo tribe was shot dead this morning inside the Mother of Perpetual Help parish in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato.
Fr. Fausto Tentorio of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), died of multiple gunshot wounds this morning, October 17, as he was preparing to go to a clergy meeting in Kidapawan City. Initial reports reveal that the assailants entered the convent and shot him on the head and chest with three bullets, instantly killing him.
Tentorio first arrived in the Philippines in 1978 and was assigned to North Cotabato in 1985.
In a statement sent to Bulatlat.com, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), of which Tentorio was an active member, said, "It is very clear that the priest's murder was pre-meditated as there was already a threat on his life by the Bagani paramilitary group under the jurisdiction of the 73rd IB, eight years ago due to his love for the Lumads, particularly in organizing them to have their voice heard..."
The RMP was referring to the first attempt on Tentorio's life in 2003 when he was hunted down by Bagani paramilitaries in Kitaotao, Bukidnon.
The Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad (Kalumaran), a group of Mindanao indigenous peoples,
holds the Aquino administration responsible for the death of Tentorio. The group said the priest had criticized the massive military operations in the community he served.
In a peace forum organized by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) in Davao City last year, Tentorio was quoted as saying, "It is clear that it is the military that rules the country. They have been empowered by martial law. For me, as long as the military will not bow to civilian supremacy, no peace will come to communities. Even if we discuss the substantive agenda (in the peace talks), the military will find ways to subvert it. Unless we have a strong president, maybe we cannot do that. The future does not look bright."
End Impunity Alliance noted that Tentorio's killing came after the declaration of Major General Jorge Segovia, 10th Infantry Division commander, that Southern Mindanao is the new epicenter of the New People's Army (NPA).
Kalumaran pointed out that Tentorio's death was preceded this year by the murder of Lumad Higaonon leader Datu Lapugotan and his nephew Solte San-ogan in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, as well as the deaths of Jimmy Arion, Nicomedes de la Peña, Sr., Nicomedes de la Peña, Jr., and Ruben Gatong in San Fernando, Bukidnon. The group claimed that paramilitary groups formed and supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are responsible for these deaths.
In a separate statement, Barug Katungod Mindanao, a consortium of Mindanao tri-people human rights defenders, said, "President Benigno Aquino III has his hands bloodied with this latest extrajudicial killing of a Roman Catholic clergy, and a foreign missionary at that. This killing exposes Oplan Bayanihan anew as a mere rehash of the murderous Oplan Bantay Laya of the Arroyo administration. A state policy of killing political dissenters continues to exist and the blood of Fr. Tentorio is another testimony to this continuing state violence."
"His killing is a clear disrespect for his right to life and liberty. It is an injustice to his mission to proclaim and live out the gospel," the RMP said in a statement.
"As an RMP member he was very active in his support for and in pushing forward initiatives for the promotion of the human rights of the poor farmers and indigenous peoples in Arakan Valley. He took up the defense of the poor and the oppressed against every form of social injustice. What happened to him is a clear manifestation of the various attempts to silence his prophetic voice in defending the rights of the rural poor in the countryside. We denounce the extra-judicial killings that is still happening and we demand justice for Fr. Fausto Tentorio. We believe that we can only have authentic and lasting peace if we have respect for human dignity, justice and freedom," the RMP added.
Kalumaran condemned the killing. "It is a great tragedy and irony that during the indigenous peoples month of October, a great advocate of the Lumads has been ruthlessly shot and killed," the group said.
Tentorio worked with local indigenous peoples organizations to build a school for Lumad youth in Arakan Valley and develop the local economy through sustainable agriculture. The Italian priest was instrumental in the formation of Tinananon-Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa (Tikulpa), a local organization that has opposed agri-business plantations and other corporate business interests in the area.
"In his pastoral ministry, Fr. Tentorio gave special focus on the organization of and support for the indigenous tribes collectively known as the lumad. They are among the poor and exploited in his parish. It is necessary to organize them and provide them with opportunities for a better future through education, livelihood capabilities and agricultural enhancement right in their own home environment," a statement at the PIME website read.
The Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment said the Italian missionary was also active in opposing large-scale mining in Mindanao.? ?"Before the time of his death, Fr. Pops and his organization, the Tribal Filipino Program of the Diocese of Kidapawan, are very active in defending the rights of indigenous people and protection of the environment from the entry of large-scale mining in their area," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.? ?Tentorio and the TFP of the Diocese of Kidapawan are among the most active advocates and staunch oppositionists to the foreign mining project of Xstrata. The project plans to establish an open pit mining and mine waste facility in Sultan Kudarat, one of the areas of concern of the TFP that will affect the watershed and forests in the said province.
According to Kalikasan-PNE, Tentorio is the sixth anti-mining advocate killed this year.
"The death of Fr. Pops is a continuation of the reign of terror in Lumad communities that began under the Marcos regime and has persisted through subsequent presidencies. Like his mother, Aquino is pursuing a low-intensity conflict strategy against those individuals and communities that work for alternative, community-centered forms of development preventing the entrance of foreign capital and big business in ancestral domain areas and rural communities," Kalumaran said.
Tentorio is the third Italian PIME priest gunned down in Mindanao. Fr. Tullio Favali was gunned down by a paramilitary group led by Nortberto Manero on April 15, 1985 while Fr. Salvador Carzedda was gunned down in Zamboanga City on March 20, 1992 by two men on a motorcycle.
"Justice should be immediately rendered for Fr. Tentorio and all victims of summary executions. Such climate of impunity exists to this day, thus victimizing anti-mining advocates such as Fr. Tentorio because of the non-prosecution of those accountable for the previous cases of human rights violations and the existing counter-insurgency plan Oplan Bayamihan of the Aquino administration," Cristina Palabay, convenor of the End Impunity Alliance, said.
Murder of Fr. Tentorio may be related to his anti-mining advocacy
By Karen Boncocan
18 October 2011
MANILA, Philippines-The group tasked to investigate the murder of Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio-Special Investigation Task Group Fausto or SITG Fausto-was looking into several motives of the still-unknown motorcycle-riding suspects, said Philippine National Police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr. on Tuesday.
He said they were verifying information on the threats Tentorio has received prior to the incident.
The PNP spokesman declined to reveal the motives being considered by SITG Fausto but admitted that one of the motives being checked by authorities was Tentorio's being "vocal about mining" in the area.
It was however "still too early" to speculate on which motive may have drove the gunmen to end Tentorio's life and SITG Fausto was "not ruling out other motives," said the PNP spokesperson.
He said SITG Fausto started gathering information and physical evidence on Monday. It has also found some witnesses.
Authorities, however, still have to check whether a description of the gunman could be formed based on the witnesses' accounts, added Cruz.
Cruz revealed that local chief executives were meeting with SITG Fausto commander Chief Superintendent Lester Camba to ensure a systematized investigation on the case
2 mining firms eye Arakan for copper, gold deposits
By Bong S. Sarmiento
Sun Star Davao
21 October 2011
KORONADAL CITY -- Macroasia Mining Corp, a company reportedly owned by tycoon Lucio Tan, was one of the two firms eyeing mining rights in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato, a Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) regional official confirmed Thursday.
The town hogged the center stage after Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio was felled there last October 17 by 10 bullets to make sure he's dead.
Hernani G. Abdon, MGB-Soccsksargen licensing and records division chief, identified the other mining firm interested to mine Arakan Valley as the Visayas Ore Philippines Inc., which is also based in Metro Manila like Macroasia.
"But the applications of these two companies have been rejected in line with the use it or lose it policy," Abdon said.
At least 51 mining bids across Central Mindanao have been trashed by the MGB regional office to give serious investors the chance to utilize prospective mineralized zones.
The tack to purge idle mining applications was one of the priorities of the MGB main office to revive the country's mining industry.
Abdon said copper, gold and other base minerals are among the metallic commodities that are present in Arakan Valley, adding there also could be non-metallic prospects in the area.
Fr. Tentorio parish priest of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Arakan Valley, was the third Italian member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions who was murdered in Mindanao since 1985.
Two groups earlier alleged that the priest's anti-mining advocacy and active defense of indigenous peoples' rights could be the "possible, if not probable, cause" of his murder.
The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) said in a statement that the murder "at this point cannot incontrovertibly be laid at the feet of large-scale mining activities in Mindanao," but that Tentorio's anti-mining advocacy is "a possible, if not probable, cause for his murder."
The group noted that since 2003, the priest's life had been under threats for his defense of the rights of the Lumads of the province and his advocacy for a safe environment.
Fr. Tentorio was never unfazed by these threats, the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. Anti-Mining Campaign secretariat said in a separate statement.
Local representatives of Macroasia and Visayas Ore could not be immediately reached for comments.
Agusan Tribal Leader And Radio Broadcaster Shot Dead
By Ben Serrano
Philippine News Agency (PNA)
16 October 2011
BUTUAN CITY (PNA) -- A radio commentator block timer who is at the same time a Manobo tribal leader was shot dead by two motorcycle riding suspects in Sitio Mamprasanon, Banahaw, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, on Friday, belated report from Surigao del Sur police said.
Caraga Police Regional Information Office identified the slain broadcaster as Datu Roy "Boy Gamay" Quijada Gallego, with Manobo name Datu Bagtikan.
Police probers said Gallego was shot dead by two unidentified motorcycle-riding suspects at about 5:15 p.m. on Oct. 14, 2011 along national highway in Sitio Mamprasanon, Barangay Banahaw, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
Surigao del Sur police said the two gunmen aboard a red Honda XRM motorcycle, with no plate number, had been tailing Gallego, who was riding on a blue Rusi motorcycle, along the national highway in Lianga town.
Upon reaching Sitio Maprasanon in Barangay Banahaw, the suspects shot Gallego in different parts of the body, which resulted to the victim's instant death.
Suspects then fled after the incident while the victim was taken to the Lianga District Hospital, where doctors declared him dead on arrival.
Recovered from the crime scene were three spent shells of cal .45 pistol, one slug, and the victim's personal belongings such as a bag and a mobile phone. His Rusi motorcycle was also recovered at the crime site.
Lianga police were still conducting thorough investigation of the incident to identify the perpetrators and the motive behind the killing.
Justice sought for Datu Bagtikan's murder
Gallego's relatives, tribal group and immediate family members sought a no-nonsense investigation and justice for the Manobo tribal leader and radio broadcaster/block timer.
Prior to Gallego's death, the victim was also incumbent president of the Bayanihan Council of Datus (BACODA) Caraga Region.
Gallego or Datu Bagtikan, also maintained radio commentary and public affairs programs, first at Butuan City's AM radio station DXJM and FM station DXSF in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur.
Datu Bagtikan's wife Elisa and daughter Lolly, in an interview with this writer Sunday afternoon, said that she suspected her husband's firm stand against oppression and neglect of lumad people as well as the mismanagement of lumads by the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) motivated the killing.
BACODA, headed by Gallego, had also filed complaint against several concerned government officials of the NCIP, Bureau of Mines and Geo-Sciences (MGB) and DENR on why small-scale mining and large-scale mining permits were issued to some protected areas in the region that also violated rampantly indigenous people's rights.
It was also Bagtikan who berated top government, military and police officials for reneging on an alleged promise to drop the 2009 kidnapping charges against Joebert "Ondo" Perez and 13 others, saying that he was made to look like a fool because he was instrumental in inking the deal. (PNA)
UNESCO condemns murder of Pinoy broadcaster
22 October 2011
MANILA, Philippines - The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) condemned the killing of Filipino radio commentator and anti-mining tribal activist Roy Bagtikan Gallego from Surigao del Sur province.
At the same time, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova called for a thorough investigation of the case.
"Impunity for those who use gun power to silence debate and possible dissent must be stopped for the Philippines to benefit from the essential contribution of free and independent media to democracy and rule of law," Bokova said.
Gallego was shot dead last Friday in the town of Lianga as he was about to launch a new program on the 92.7 Smile FM San Francisco station.
UNESCO said Gallego, who was also a Manobo indigenous community leader, "had campaigned against mining operators, claiming that their activities violated the rights of indigenous people in the region."
Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also condemned the attack on Gallego. The group wants the perpetrators prosecuted.
"Gallego's death is emblematic of a much larger problem. In the Philippines, journalism and political activism are often conjoined, and the government must address the murders of journalists who use local media to take on controversial issues that threaten not only their lives but the strength of the nation's media," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator.
Aquino gives go signal to deployment of CAFGUS to mining areas
By Ina Alleco R. Silverio
14 October 2011
"It is very alarming that the Aquino government opts to collude with mining firms and multinationals in implementing a military solution in order to continue operations and pursue profits at the expense of our communities." - Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Luz Ilagan
In the wake of the successful operations of the New People's Army against three mining firms operating in Surigao del Norte, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is planning to train and employ militias to supposedly guard mining areas. Environmentalist groups are not taking kindly to the idea even as President Benigno Aquino III has given the proposal his thumbs up.
"We see the AFP's collusion with the Surigao mining corporations to heighten militarization in communities severely affected by their mining operations as an open threat to critics of mining plunder. The established link of militarization and human rights violations has been all too apparent in the past decade," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment.
Last October 3, NPA guerillas destroyed the mining facilities and equipment of the Tag-anito High-Pressure Acid Leaching (THPAL-Sumitomo), Tag-anito Mining Corporation (TMC), and the Platinum Gold Metal Corporation (PGMC), as part of what it said to be its implementation of its policy related to the protection of the environment and natural resources and the defense of the rights of the Lumad people, peasants, and workers.
Since the attack, the AFP called for the deployment of Special Civilian Armed Auxuliary units (SCAAs) in areas where there are major mining operations. The SCAAs will get training and firearms from the military just like regular Cafgu militiamen. The salaries of these SCAAs, however, will be shouldered by the companies. Regular Cafgus are paid by the AFP and they receive only a P90 ($2.09) daily allowance. Salaries for special Cafgus will be decided by the companies that employ them.
Clemente said there is an established pattern of human rights violations increasing exponentially in areas where there is also increased militarization. He said the AFP's plans to train militia and deploy them in mining areas is not the solution and is, in fact, an attempt to skirt the issue of destructive mining practices such as those of Sumitomo et al.
According to reports, the AFP has long been pushing for organizing and training SCAAs to guard the operations and facilities of mining and other extractive industries. The proposal, however, has been criticized by human rights organizations and institutions as ineffective in addressing armed resistance rooted in the destructive operations of mines across the nation.
Clemente said the deployment of SCAAs has been linked to increased incidences of harassment and other human rights violations to communities and environmental advocates. H e said that his group has since 2001 recorded 31 cases of extrajudicial killings involving anti-mining activists; five of these killings took place under the Aquino administration and were all connected to mining.
Aquino approves CAFGU deployment
For his part, President Benigno Aquino III is fully supporting the AFP in its plans for the deployment of militias to strengthen security activities in mining areas.
"Special CAFGUs will be territorial-based, will be subject to all the rules and regulations, will be under the watchful gaze of our Commission on Human Rights Chairman Loretta Ann Rosales," Aquino told the media. Seemingly to allay worries of human rights groups that the CAFGU might commit human rights abuses, Aquino said CAFGUs will be under the AFP's supervision and that units will also be assigned to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to prevent any possibility that the militia will transform into private armies.
"We do not foresee any abuses from them but rather they will augment the abilities of our security forces to preserve peace and order in our country," Aquino told the media.
He said it was unjust for the AFP to double its efforts to secure the country's hot spots considering that there were many Filipinos who could need to augment AFP's militia numbers.
"We roughly have 250,000 men in uniform, they are guarding close to a hundred million Filipinos," he said. "That is the exact same number of forces we had in 1986 when he had 50 million Filipinos. So we're asking the members, our citizens who are in uniform, to do double the work and I think that would be unfair."
The President has not made it a secret that he has been worried that the NPA attacks against what it said were destructive mining corporations and their operations will dissuade foreign investors from investing in the country's mining intentions. For the last two weeks, Aquino has made the rounds of business groups and gatherings set by foreign investors assuring them that steps were being undertaken and that the mining industry is still very viable.
According to Aquino, the mining investors have already declared that they will not pull out of the country. "Investors have however made requests that security be improved in their areas of operations," he said.
As of March 2011, the Philippines ranked number 66 among 79 global jurisdictions for miners looking for a " friendlier" business climate, according to a survey by the Fraser Institute (FI) of Canada.
According to the FI, Venezuela and Honduras were the least encouraging to investors of industrial and precious metal mines, based on index potentials in government mining policies and mineral explorations. Last year the Philippines ranked the third least attractive at 70th place among 72 areas.
Increased militarization in mining areas
Gabriela Women's Partylist Representative Luz Ilagan said Aquino's move to allow mining firms to organize, hire and fund militias will lead to more human rights violations, the killing of indigenous peoples and environmental activists and the displacement of tens of thousands in mining communities all over the country.
Besides the extrajudicial killings, Ilagan said, environmental activists are also being harassed. Recent reports expose how green activists - Vince Cinches, Ma Geobelyn Lopez and Hope Hervilla have been harassed by military operatives.
"Displacement, harassment and killings all for the destruction of ancestral lands. This has been the experience of many Lumad communities in Mindanao and even in other regions when indigenous groups oppose the operations of big mining firms all over the country," the lawmaker said.
Ilagan also said the Gabriela Women's Party continues to receive reports on increasing military presence and the installation of police and military checkpoints in areas where there are mining operations by transnational companies and their local partners such as Lafayette's operations in Rapu-Rapu island' Albay, Filminera in Masbate island; Marcopper in Marinduque island, TVI in Zamboanga del Norte; Natural Mining Resources Development Corporation (NMRDC) in Mt. Diwalwal, Rio Tuba in Palawan; Crew Minerals in Mindoro Oriental, and Climax Arimco/Oxiana in Nueva Vizcaya, Abra, Batangas, and Zambales.
"It is very alarming that the Aquino government opts to collude with mining firms and multinationals in implementing a military solution in order to continue operations and pursue profits at the expense of our communities. The Aquino government should abandon this militarist solution and instead conduct genuine and meaningful consultations with communities, address legitimate demands and implement policies towards preserving our environment," Ilagan said.
In Butuan City, officials of the AFP's 402nd Brigade recently surveyed the premises of the two mining companies in Brgy. Taganito, bayan ng Claver, Surigao del Norte so that they could assess the current security status in the area.
402nd Brigade Commander Col. James V, Jacob and 30th Infantry Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Vincent Iringan accompanied the president of Taganito High Pressure Acid Leaching (THPAL) Corporation Takamori Fujimura and Nickel Asia Corporation president Gerard Brimo in the inspection.
Col. Jacob made the immediate recommendation that SCAA be deployed to guard the company and its operations, as well as the surrounding area. Jacob told the media that the SCAA will be given military training and issued high-powered firearms against all threats.
Address resistance to mining activities via peace talks
Kalikasan's Bautista shook his head over the president's support for the AFP's plans, saying that it will not resolve the causes of armed resistance to anti-environment activities.
"We have said before that the immediate resumption of peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Philippines is the key. The Aquino regime instead seems to use the attacks as an excuse to stall the peace talks and to call for greater militarization in mining areas," Bautista said.
The green group and other people's organizations pushed for an environmental agenda in the NDFP-GPH peace talks through the inclusion of measures protecting the nation's ecological health and the sovereignty of natural resources in the formulation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER). Negotiations, however, have been put on hold by the GPH's refusal to release its political prisoners who have been identified as NDFP consultants, protected from political persecution under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
"Why is the Aquino regime deliberately endangering the peace talks by refusing to acknowledge the JASIG-covered political prisoners and calling for mining mercenaries? If it truly wants to address the mining industry's concerns, it must immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners so we can proceed to the environmental agenda of the peace talks' agreement on socio-economic reforms," Bautista said. (http://bulatlat.com)
Militia Protection for Mining: Against Whom?
Indigenous Women Ask
Statement by Inidgenous Women Special Committee of the Koronadal Indigenous Peoples Women Gathering
14 October 2011
President Noynoy Aquino recently approved the military proposal to allow mining companies to form and fund militias or Special Civilian Active Auxiliary units.
In just 9 days after the Surigao mining attack, the Aquino administration has immediately acted on the demand of the mining industry for protection.
We now ask - protection against whom?
In our meeting with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials, one said that the militias are necessary to protect the mining companies from attacks and threats to foreign investments.
This sends chills to our bones. This sounds like a blanket call to intensify attacks against us - protectors of the environment and defenders of our indigenous communities, who have often been referred to as anti-development, and threats to investments.
As indigenous women, we have been struggling for so long against mining in our territories - as mining destroys our watersheds in Mindoro and in Negros Occidental; mining poisons our rivers in Agusan del Sur; causes divisiveness among our Subanen people, destroys our sources of food in Zambales, in Nueva Vizcaya and desecrates our sacred lands in Misamis Oriental. Mining violently forces our communities to leave our lands.
As defenders of our rights, we organize campaigns, we sign petitions, we write complaints, we seek for dialogues, we file cases, we take to the streets, and some of us, have launched hunger strike for more than a week. We monitor, document, report and expose violations committed by the mining companies in our areas.
As a result, our leaders have been killed. We experience harassment and threats. We have been labeled as NPA-supporters, or rebels ourselves. Prices are put on our heads. All these, because we oppose mining; because we exercise our right to say no to mining; and we assert our right to our land.
Through all this, we get no protection from the government. We have no assurance that we can continue to assert our rights free from harassment, threats and violence. With this approval of P'Noy to form and fund militias for the protection of mining companies, we fear for the escalation of violence against us, in our communities. We fear for our security, for our lives.
Militias, which have been organized and funded by different politicos and companies, have a long track record of human rights violations against women and men from indigenous communities who defend our territories from encroachment and destruction. And these violations have enjoyed immunity, all in the name of defending investments and so-called national interest.
Who then do we turn to, to protect us? If P'Noy who we expected to enforce changes in our system and governance, has resulted to the same militaristic response against our legitimate concerns and issues against mining, then we are losing hope in this government.
And so, we turn to ourselves, and draw inspiration and strength from each other - we, indigenous women from mining-affected and other development project-affected communities. And we hope that this solidarity will protect us from those who consider us threats to their investments, and obstacles to their opportunity to earn for themselves.
Because now we realize, we only have ourselves to rely on.
As we now know who the real boss is of PNoy.
SPECIAL COMMITTEE of the KORONADAL IP WOMEN GATHERING
Bae Anahaw Ruth C. Tila-on (Manobo/ Agusan del Sur)
Conchita Bigong (Alangan-Mangyan / Oriental Mindoro)
Nena "Bae Rose" D. Undag (Higaonon / Misamis Oriental)
Nilda M. Mangilay (Subanen / Zamboanga del Norte)
Judith P. Maranes (Ibaloi / Baguio City)
Shirley D. Sombuador (Ati-Bukidnon / Bacolod, Negros Occidental)
Marilyn V. Masaganda (Aeta / Capas, Tarlac)
Maria Tialang (Blaan / South Cotabato)
Lily Quindo (Blaan / South Cotabato)
The Koronadal IP Women Gathering held in Marbel, South Cotabato last July 22-24, 2011 was participated in by 56 women from different indigenous communities. The women developed and came up with an Indigenous Women Declaration which contains their plight and situation, as well as their demands from the government.
Contact through - Judy A. Pasimio /Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center
Judy A. Pasimio
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center
(LRC-KsK/Friends of the Earth-Phils.)
41-b Mapagsangguni St. Sikatuna Village, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Tel.No - 632-9281372
Protecting Big Mining Corporations, Oplan Bayanihan's Style of Development
Karapatan Press Statement
13 October 2011
Jigs Clamor, Karapatan's Deputy Secretary General said that, "The recent move by the military and the big mining companies to finance military-trained units of SCAA (Special Civilian Active Auxilliary) shows the AFP's connivance with corporations that plunder the country's mineral resources."
"The government claims that Oplan Bayanihan, its new counter-insurgency program, focuses on peace and development. Yet, this kind of development obviously puts primacy on the protection of the interests of mining corporations despite the environmental destruction and economic dislocation and displacement of the people in the mining areas," added Clamor.
With the massive deployment of AFP and paramilitary and private armed groups in communities where there is mining operation, Karapatan warns of the resulting escalation of human rights violations in the communities. The people's opposition to mining will surely be met with force and repression.
In the past, SCAA served as security force for the DMCI Mining Corporation (DMCIMC) in Zambales, in TVI Mining in Zamboanga del Sur, and even in the sugar plantations in Negros. They were instrumental for a string of human rights violations against those who oppose the mining operations in the communities. On June 30, 2011, SCAA members were implicated in the killing of 40-year old Lumad leader Arpe "Datu Lapugotan" Belayong and Sulte San-ogan, 21, both residents of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur. The mountain area of Esperanza is marked for mining operations.
Clamor added that, "The use of the AFP and its paramilitary forces to protect mining companies contradicts Oplan Bayanihan's claim that it is "people-centered."
Former Pres. Cory Aquino created the CAFGU (Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit) and SCAA and were maintained by the AFP as "force multipliers" and as an "embedded security system in all economic endeavors" by the past and the current governments. Pres. Noynoy Aquino reneged on his campaign promise that he will dismantle paramilitary forces and private armed groups.
"This government should stop hiding from catch-phrases like "peace and development", "people-centered", "human rights" when obviously it is doing the opposite. If it wants to be true to these slogans, Pres. Aquino should immediately stop the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan. It should scrap the Mining Act of 1995 that plunders the country's mineral resources, destroys our environment and further drives the people to poverty," said Clamor. ###
Reference: Jigs Clamor, Deputy Secretary General, 0920-9466210
Angge Santos, Media Liaison, 0918-9790580
Philippines: Aquino should rescind plan to deploy militias in mining areas
Amnesty International Public Statement - AI Index: ASA 35/006/2011
14 October 2011
The Philippine government should rescind its plan of deploying civilian militias to augment security at private mining operations, Amnesty International said.
President Benigno Aquino III approved the military's proposal on 12 October after forces from insurgent group New People's Army (NPA) attacked mining operations at Surigao del Norte province in northern Mindanao, killing three private security guards.
Amnesty International said that such militias, including the Citizens' Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs), have a long record of human rights violations in the Philippines. According to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, CAFGUs have been responsible for arbitrary detention, torture, and killings of local community leaders.
Moreover, the use of such militias at remote mining areas has put Indigenous People at particular risk, according to the UN special rapporteur on indigenous issues.
Amnesty International said the military cannot ensure proper discipline and accountability for the militias and paramilitary groups, creating an environment conducive to human rights violations. Aquino's decision to deploy militias compounds this problem, in which some CAFGU called the Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary Units (SCAA), will be seconded to private entities to secure their interests.
While the SCAA will be equipped and managed by the military, they will be on the payroll of the mining firms.
According to media reports, an initial batch of 200 SCAA will begin work with two mining corporations, while additional SCAA units will be deployed upon the request of other mining firms.
Some CAFGU will be deployed under the military and some under the police. According to an army spokesperson, the military has also trained 41 SCAA units of 100 personnel each.
Amnesty International emphasized that the Philippine government itself would remain responsible for human rights violations committed by militias which the military has trained, equipped and deployed, even if they are securing private interests of mining corporations.
The mining corporations should consider the risk of complicity incurred by companies that have financed militias who commit serious human rights violations, Amnesty International said.
Southeast Asia Campaigner
Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei desk
Amnesty International Secretariat
1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW, UK
Tel. +44 (0) 207 413 5696 - Fax: +44 (0) 207 413 5722
AFP defends plan to deploy militias in mining sites
By Alexis Romero
18 October 2011
MANILA, Philippines - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) today opposed calls by the Amnesty International (AI) to scrap plans to deploy militiamen in mining sites, saying that additional forces could thwart violent attacks against businesses.
AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. also assured that the deployment of civilian militias would not lead to human rights violations.
"[The deployment of militia men] would enhance security in the area. This would prevent similar incidents," Burgos said, referring to the attacks staged by communist rebels against three mining firms in Surigao del Norte early this month.
"As far as the AFP is concerned, human rights violations have never been tolerated in our ranks. We have given emphasis to the protection and promotion of human rights in all aspects of our security operations," he added.
About 200 members of the New People's Army (NPA) torched equipment and took hostage a number of mining employees of Taganito Mining Corp. (TMC) last October 4 in Claver, Surigao del Norte.
Another NPA group attacked the nearby Platinum Metal Group Corp. also in Claver. Three hours later, another mine site operated by TMC's sister company THPAL Mining was also attacked. The total amount of property loss during the attacks was pegged at almost P3 billion.
President Benigno Aquino III has expressed support to proposals deploy militiamen to secure mining sites.
The AI urged the government to scrap its plan to deploy Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Units (CAFGUs) in Mindanao, claiming that militiamen have a long record of human rights violations.
The AI said earlier that there have been reports by the Commission on Human Rights that militiamen, particularly members of CAFGUs, are behind the detention, torture, and killings of local community leaders.
The group said the military cannot ensure proper discipline and accountability for the militias and paramilitary groups.
Burgos said they are ready to act swiftly on the human rights cases involving any soldier or militia man.
"If there are human rights violations, we have a human rights office that is in touch with peace and human rights advocates. The cases would be acted upon immediately," he said.
Burgos claimed that courses on human rights are part of the trainings given to civilian militias.
"In the administration of special CAFGUs (Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Units)... We have assigned one non-commissioned officer or enlisted personnel per 10 CAFGUs just to make sure they will adhere to principles on the protection of human rights," he said.
Burgos stressed that the deployment of CAFGUs in mining sites was requested by mining companies who are concerned about their safety.
AFP's insistence on SCAA to protect mining corporations negates Oplan Bayanihan's "people-centered" slogan-Karapatan
Karapatan Press Statement
19 October 2011
The AFP's refusal to stop using Special Civilian Armed Auxilliary (SCAA) to protect the interests of mining corporations demonstrates the AFP's connivance with corporations that plunder the country's mineral resources," said Jigs Clamor, Deputy Secretary General of Karapatan, reacting to the statement of Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, AFP public affairs chief that SCAA "would enhance security in the area and would prevent a similar incident to happen." Col. Burgos was referring to the NPA attack in the mining sites in Claveria, Surigao del Norte.
Pres. Noynoy Aquino endorsed the use of SCAA, a move that indicates that he reneged on his campaign promise that he will dismantle paramilitary forces and private armed groups.
Col. Burgos' claims that "human rights protection" is part of the government militiaman training Yet, in June 30, 2011, SCAA members were implicated in the killing of the 40-year old Lumad leader Arpe "Datu Lapugotan" Belayong and Sulte San-ogan, 21, both residents of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur. The mountain area of Esperanza is marked for mining operations.
Fr. Fausto Tentorio, an Italian priest of the PIME congregation, who was killed by still unidentified men last last October 17, worked for decades among the indigenous peoples in the Cotabato area, especially in Arakan Valley. He was known for advocating indigenous people's land rights against the incursions of big business especially by mining corporations. Fr. Tentorio was already a target by a paramilitary group called Bagani since 2003 when he almost lost his life. Arakan Valley is also target of mining operations.
The recent move of the Aquino government to allow mining companies to hire AFP-trained Special Civilian Armed Auxilliary (SCAA) may embolden similar paramilitary groups to attack those who oppose big mining corporations that plunder the country's resources.
SCAA also served as security force for the DMCI Mining Corporation (DMCIMC) in Zambales, in TVI Mining in Zamboang del Sur, and even in the sugar plantations in Negros. They were instrumental for a string of human rights violations against those oppose the mining operations in the communities. Former Pres. Cory Aquino created the CAFGU (Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit) and SCAA and were maintained as "force multipliers" and as an "embedded security system in all economic endeavors" by the past governments.
With the massive deployment of AFP and paramilitary and private armed groups in communities where there is mining operation, Karapatan warns of the resulting escalation of human rights violations in the communities. The people's opposition to mining will surely be met with force and repression.
Clamor said, "The government claims that Oplan Bayanihan, its new counter-insurgency program, focuses on peace and development. Yet, this kind of development obviously puts primacy on the protection of the interests of mining corporations despite the environmental destruction and economic dislocation and displacement of the people in the mining areas."
"This government should stop hiding from catch-phrases like "peace and development", "people-centered", "human rights" when obviously it is doing the opposite. If it wants to be true to these slogans, Pres. Aquino should immediately dismantle all paramilitary groups and stop the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan," concluded Clamor. ###
Jigs Clamor, Deputy Secretary General, 0920-9466210
Angge Santos, Media Liaison, 0918-9790580
Mindanao tribesmen resist formation of armed militias in mining areas
16 October 2011
DAVAO CITY - An organization of Mindanao's tribesmen, as well as a party-list legislator, warned that President Aquino's order to allow mining companies to organize militias would turn his banner "matuwid na daan" to a bloody trail of human-rights violations.
The Panalipdan Mindanao, which has been compiling list of leaders who were killed in the course of their environmental advocacy, said the President's order, that is similar to the assurance of then-President Gloria Arroyo in 2009 to mining companies, "shows nothing has changed from the past Arroyo administration with regards to the government's position on mining and the deployment of military for its protection,"
"[Mr.] Aquino is further entrenching the dirty system of private armies," said Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB, secretary-general of the Panalipdan Mindanao, who warned that "recruiting and arming civilians to protect private interests had left a trail of blood across Mindanao."
These paramilitary units "will lead to more human-rights violations, the killing of indigenous peoples and environmental activists and the displacement of tens of thousands in mining communities all over the country," Matutina said.
It said an allied organization, the Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment, "has documented 31 killings of anti-mining activists in the past decade, five of these killings occurred under the Aquino presidency."
"Thousands of other families in Surigao and Agusan provinces and Compostela Valley have been displaced due to the pursuit of mining interests in their communities. In Zamboanga Peninsula members of the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) have brought a reign of terror to Subanen communities for years, even prompting a congressional inquiry into the human-rights violations they committed," Panalipdan said in a statement.
The group also said in San Fernando, Bukidnon, "the paramilitary group Triom Force is responsible for the killing of four people, the latest just this month. In Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur, Lumad paramilitary groups have terrorized Manobo, Higaonon and Banwaon communities that oppose the mining and logging concessions in the area."
"These investments are pursued with the use of force against the will of the people. So much so that indigenous peoples and farmers have labeled the Mining Development Areas or MDAs, as ‘Military Deployment Areas," it said.
Party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela earlier said "seven environmental activists have been killed under the Aquino administration, including world-renowned botanist Leonard Co and Palawan broadcaster and anti-mining activist Gerry Ortega."
"Recently, environmental activists from the Visayas-Vince Cinches, Maria Geobelyn Lopez and Hope Hervill-were harassed by military agents," she said, warning that this latest move of the President could be a premonition of more human-rights violations.
"Displacement, harassment and killings all for the destruction of ancestral lands. This has been the experience of many Lumad communities in Mindanao and even in other regions when indigenous groups oppose the operations of big mining companies all over the country," she said.
NPA threat additional financial burden to mining firms, says report
By Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star
15 October 2011
MANILA, Philippines - The threat posed by communist rebels has become an additional financial burden to mining firms in the Philippines, a multinational risk consultancy said.
In a report released to its clients last Oct. 10, the Pacific Strategies & Assessments (PSA) cited the need for the government to provide enough security to investors.
"The NPA (New People's Army) threat has effectively become not just a security concern for mining firms, but also an additional operational and financial burden that has to be incurred if they want to continue operations in the Philippines," PSA said.
"As is, the Philippine government's role does not end in attracting foreign investors, but also includes providing adequate security to businesses," it added.
PSA, whose clients include financial institutions and embassies, said mining firms have become attractive targets for the NPA as the rebels have long been strategically positioned in mineral-rich regions.
PSA released the report in the wake of attacks by the NPA against three mining firms in Surigao del Norte this month.
About 200 NPA rebels torched equipment and took hostage a number of mining employees of Taganito Mining Corp. (TMC) last Oct. 4 in Claver town.
Another NPA group attacked the nearby Platinum Metal Group Corp., also in Claver. Three hours later, another mine site operated by TMC's sister company THPAL Mining was also attacked.
The rebels burned 10 dump trucks, eight backhoes, two barges and the guesthouse of TMC. The military placed the property damage at about P3 billion.
The rebels said the attack was meant to punish the mining firms for allegedly destroying the environment and the livelihood of farmers.
Authorities believe the attacks were triggered by the refusal of the three firms to pay the "revolutionary tax" demanded by the rebels.
PSA, however, said the communist rebels seem to be bent on stopping the mining activities in the area.
"The manner in which the attacks were carried out implies that the NPA meant not simply to extort from the mining firms, but rather to completely stop mining operations in the area and to make an example out of the mining firms," it said.
PSA also described the atrocity as "one of the NPA's biggest and most daring punitive actions in recent history."
"While the Philippine government insists that the attack was an isolated incident, this was not the first rebel attack against mining firms this year and is likely not the last," it said.
PSA said it monitored at least seven attacks against mining firms from January to August this year.
"In 2010, PSA monitored only four incidents for the entire year. Except for one, all of the incidents this year were motivated by extortion," the report read.
Latest military data show that the communists extorted more than P95 million in 2010 and P1.5 billion since 1998 from investors and politicians.
Military officials said the NPA raised about P136 million in 2009 through the collection of "revolutionary taxes." Mining firms, logging companies and plantations are said to be the usual targets of the extortion activities.
Meanwhile, Surigao del Norte second district Rep. Guillermo Romarate Jr. filed on Wednesday a House resolution for an investigation in aid of legislation into circumstances behind the NPA attacks on the three mining firms in Claver town.
Romarate said the probe sought by House Resolution 1821 will focus on the validity of the NPA allegations that the three mining companies have engaged in "wanton and indiscriminate" mining in the mountains of Surigao del Norte and have violated the rights of indigenous groups. - With Ben Serrano
Islanders rejoice as Canadian mining firm leaves
14 October 2011
OFFICIALS and residents of Tablas Island in the central Philippine province of Romblon today welcomed the decision of a Canadian mining firm to withdraw its applications for license because of "strong opposition from local politicians."
"It is indeed the unity and strong opposition of the people of Romblon against mining that resulted to the withdrawal of the application for exploration permit of Ivanhoe Philippines. This is a giant step toward a mining-free Romblon," said Romblon House Representative Eleandro Jesus Madrona.
In January, the provincial government banned large-scale mining of metals while a bill declaring the province a "mining-free zone" is pending in Congress. Some residents blame continued mining in the area for the series of disasters they are experiencing, like floods and landslides.
Madrona said he received a letter dated Oct. 11 from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) about the withdrawal of the company, a subsidiary of Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. of Canada.
Leo Deiparine, president of Ivanhoe Philippines, told MGB in a letter dated September 30, that the board of the company decided to withdraw its applications "based on Tablas as a low priority exploration target for Ivanhoe Philippines and the strong opposition of the local politicians for the approval of our applications."
Before the withdrawal, Ivanhoe was applying for more 15,000 hectares of land on Tablas Island for gold and copper exploration, comprising areas in the municipalities of Odiongan, San Andres, Calatrava, San Agustin, Sta. Maria, Alcantara and Looc.
The Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM) said, "this victory of the people is just the beginning." It added, "The challenge to protect our islands is a life-long commitment."
The ecumenical group also called for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995 and the passage of a new mining law to rationalize the minerals industry, protect and promote human rights and establish No-Go Zones, based on alternative minerals management bills lodged in Congress.
Ivanhoe Flees Opposition in the Philippines
18 October 2011
(Manila) Ivanhoe Philippines, Inc. has asked the Philippine Mines and Geosciences Bureau for a "withdrawal of the company's exploration permit applications (...) in Tablas Island."
In a letter dated September 30, 2011, Ivanhoe cited "strong opposition of the local politicians" to its copper-gold prospects. According to Pearl Harder, member of a broad coalition that formed to oppose Ivanhoe's operations, "the politicians are only doing what we the people have asked them to do. We are opposed to metallic mining in the Province of Romblon because we know it will harm our environment and our livelihood from agriculture and tourism." Ivanhoe acknowledges strong local opposition saying the company will relocate its efforts to "communities responsive to exploration and mining."
Arriving in Tablas the day after Ivanhoe's decision was made public on October 13, Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada says, "I found a celebratory mood in Tablas among members of an extensive coalition of politicians, religious leaders, community members and educational institutions who opposed Ivanhoe's presence. Signs posted in public places throughout the island are a strong indication of the united stance against mining taken by the people of Tablas." In speaking to community members Coumans found that "they clearly articulated an alternative vision of their own development, which they believe is incompatible with metal mining."
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) expressed their elation in the Ivanhoe decision. Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of ATM, said that the strong and united stance of the people of Romblon has finally paid off. "The struggle to protect the environment and the richness of Romblon province has resulted in this sound decision of the mining company to leave the island."
- 30 -
For more Information contact:
Pearl Harder - Secretary, Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining - email@example.com
Catherine Coumans, Asia-Pacific Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada - firstname.lastname@example.org
Jaybee Garganera, Alyansa Tigil Mina - email@example.com
Ivanhoe drops mining exploration plans for Romblon
Local pols' opposition cited
By: Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
13 October 2011
MANILA, Philippines-The Canadian-backed mining company Ivanhoe Philippines has withdrawn its plans to explore copper-gold prospects in the province of Romblon.
In a letter dated September 30, 2011, to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Ivanhoe Philippines president Leo S. Deiparine stated that there has been a consensus among the company's board members to withdraw its applications "based on Tablas as a low priority exploration target for Ivanhoe Philippines and the strong opposition of the local politicians for the approval of our applications." Ivanhoe Philippines is a subsidiary of Canada-based Ivanhoe Mines Ltd.
MGB director Engr. Leo L. Jasareno confirmed during a phone interview that Ivanhoe Philippines has withdrawn its application to explore prospects in Tablas. According to Jasareno, there are other companies interested in the area, but there is an ongoing moratorium on new projects.
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups, which oppose "the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines," welcomed Ivanhoe's withdrawal in a statement.
ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera said, "The genuine commitment and struggle of the people led to the shortest advocacy campaign being supported by ATM, and one that went against a large Canadian company. If the province of Romblon can do it, the local government units and communities in other parts of the country resisting this destructive industry can now stand up more proudly to assert their power to decide."
"It is indeed the unity and strong opposition of the people of Romblon against mining that led to the withdrawal of the application for exploration permit of Ivanhoe Philippines. This is a giant step towards a mining-free Romblon," Representative Eleandro Jesus F. Madrona of the lone district of Romblon said.
Madrona recently filed House Bill 4815 titled "An Act Declaring the Province of Romblon a Mining Free Zone and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof."
Romblon Governor Eduardo Firmalo, in the same statement, said, "The power of the people and the political will of the leaders with the help of the civil society and religious sector clearly manifest the strong position of the province. We will continue to defend the right of our people to a balanced and healthy ecology."
Firmalo earlier issued Executive Order No. 1 imposing an indefinite ban on metallic mining in the province.
Romblon Ecumenical Forum against Mining (Refam), through its covenors, Roman Catholic priest Msgr. Nonato Ernie V. Fetalino and Philippine Independent Church Bishop Ronelio Fabriquer, however, stressed that "this victory of the people is just the beginning, the challenge to protect our islands is a lifelong commitment."
The ecumenical group further called for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995 and the passage of a new mining law to rationalize the minerals industry, protect and promote human rights and establish so-called No-Go Zones, based on alternative minerals management bills lodged in Congress.
DENR has no power to issue special mining permits - DOJ
By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star
10 October 2011
MANILA, Philippines - The secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has no authority to grant special mining permits, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has said.
In a five-page legal opinion released last Friday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the power to issue permits to mining firms lies solely on the director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
De Lima's position opposed that of Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, who earlier upheld the Special Ore Extraction Permit (SOEP) awarded by his predecessor, former secretary Lito Atienza Jr., to Lupa Pigigetawan mining firm in Zamboanga del Sur.
The DOJ chief cited Republic Act 7942 (Mining Act of 1995) in declaring invalid the SOEP of Lupa Pigigetawan whose security personnel have reportedly been causing panic among indigenous people, the Subanens in Bayog town.
"The intention of the law in granting the authority to the Director of the Bureau instead of the Secretary of DENR is clear, it is the Director of the Bureau who is in a better position to determine whether or not the requirements of the law have been complied with by the applicant. In this regard, a careful perusal of your letter does not show that the requirements were satisfied before the permit to Lupa Pigigetawan was issued," she explained.
The DOJ's opinion on the issue was sought by Secretary Paje himself.
When Paje took over the DENR, he upheld the validity of the permit given to Lupa Pigigetawan despite contrary position taken by the Bureau of Mines and Geosciences, which even issued a cease and desist order against the mining firm for operating without valid permit and licenses.
Zamboanga Gov. Antonio Cerilles had also written Paje to nullify the contested SOEP issued to the mining firm and implement the CDO against the mining firm.
Cerilles also told Paje that aside from operating without a permit, Lupa Pigigetawan had hired heavily armed security guards after the issuance of a CDO alarming students and parents in the town of Bayog.
It was also reported that for a few days classes were not held in the area because of the escalating tension and that some residents have chosen to relocate.
But Paje, instead of defusing the tension brought about by the mining firm's security detail, sided with Lupa Pigigetawan and upheld its SOEP, saying it is analogous to the Exploration Permit provided for in the Mining Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations and that the DENR Secretary is not precluded from issuing other forms of mining permits.
The issue on the mining permit had been one of the grounds raised for the opposition of the confirmation of Paje by the Commission on Appointments.
However, Secretary De Lima said while Paje may issue other forms of special mine permits, it must be done "after verification and evaluation of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau" as expressly provided in the IRR of the mining law.
De Lima further stated that the law gives the Mines and Geosciences Bureau the sole power to grant exploration permits.
"It is basic in statutory interpretation that when the words and phrases of the statute are clear and unequivocal... the statute must be taken exactly what it says. The reason is because when the law is clear, interpretation does not apply - only application," she said.
She further stated that Lupa Pigigetawan also has not secured the necessary permit from the local government unit concerned as provided by RA 7942.
"Mainly for these reasons, the disputed permit is invalid," the DOJ chief added.
Is DENR's Paje losing it?
12 October 2011
‘Lupa Pigigetawan is a private corporation pretending to be a group of indigenous persons. Lupa cannot show any documents to prove that they are IPs.'
WILL DENR Secretary Ramon Paje be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments or are those opposing his confirmation increasing in number? It sure seems so.
The latest to sign on as an oppositor is, like him, a cabinet secretary. DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima writes in a five page legal opinion that Paje was wrong in claiming that as the Secretary of DENR, he had the power to issue special permits like the Special Ore Extraction Permit (SOEP) to mining firms. No, says the DOJ, that power is vested exclusively with the director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
Zamboanga's two governors -- Del Sur Gov. Antonio Cerilles and Del Norte's Gov. Rolando Yebes oppose Paje's confirmation.
Cerilles complains about Paje's failure to address the issue involving the illegal operation of mining firm Lupa Pigigetawan. According to Cerilles, who was himself a former DENR secretary, Paje apparently sided with mining firm Lupa Pigigetawan when he failed to address the request of residents and leaders of the town of Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur to stop the illegal operations of Lupa Pigigetawan in their area. Yebes complains about Paje's deputizing one of Zamboanga del Norte's mayors as DENR point person in Yebes' province against small-scale mining operations.
According to Cerilles, Paje ignored his two letters seeking to invalidate the SOEP issued to Lupa Pigigetawan because it was not issued in accordance with RA 7942 (Mining Act of 1995). In fact, even when the MGB issued a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) against Lupa Pigigetawan, Paje allowed the continued operation of the mining firm.
Cerriles says that Lupa Pigigetawan created much tension by hiring heavily-armed guards called AY 76 so much so that classes were disrupted and residents began relocating. These guards, armed with AK 47s, harassed residents and barangay officials. The residents were not allowed to even pass though their mining site and were forced to pass though the forest instead.
During the CA hearings on his confirmation, Paje assured the commission that he was trying to implement the CDO. In fact during the hearings, Paje told the CA that he was the one who instructed the regional director of the MGB to issue the CDO.
Because of the strong opposition to Paje, the CA instructed Paje to formally write the DOJ to seek a illegal opinion on whether the SOEP issued in favor of Lupa Pigigetawan was valid or not.
Paje - in his letter to the DOJ - took a position different from what he told the CA - that he instructed MGB to issue the CDO. Paje told the DOJ that the SOEP was validly issued since both RA 7942 and RA 8371 (Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 1997) recognize the priority rights of indigenous people in mining the minerals in their ancestral domains. Lupa Pigigetawan had represented itself as composed of Subanens who are from the area.
According to Cerilles, this is not true; in fact, because Lupa Pigigetawan was declared persona non grata by the barangay council of Conacon in Bayog, the mining firm has not secured any certification of recognition from the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). Lupa's president is not a Subanen from Zamboanga but a Manobo from Davao and the firm's principal address is in Cebu.
The DOJ opinion points out that it is the director of the MGB that is empowered to issue permits and in the event that the secretary of DENR issues a special permit it must be done "after verification and evaluation of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau" as expressly provided in the IRR of RA 7942 (Mining Act of 1995).
De Lima explains: "It is basic in statutory interpretation that when the words and phrases of the statute are clear and unequivocal, their meaning must be determined from the language employed and the statute must be taken (to mean) exactly what it says. The reason is because when the law is clear, interpretation does not apply - only application."
She further clarifies that Lupa Pigigetawan also has not secured the necessary permit from the local government unit concerned as provided by RA 7942.
"Mainly for these reasons, the disputed permit is invalid," De Lima says.
Lupa Pigigetawan is not a tribal corporation as it claims to be. It is not a formal organization of the Indigenous Peoples of Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur because Lupa has no Certificate of Registration issued by the NCIP as required by The Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 1997 to be recognized as an Indigenous Peoples' Organization with legal personality to claim rights under the IPRA Law.
Its principal office is located in Cebu City and its president is not a Subanen from Zamboanga but a Manobo from Davao.
The Special Ore Extraction Permit (SOEP) issued by Paje also requires that Lupa comply with all mining, environmental, tax and other relevant laws, rules and regulations, failing in which, the SOEP shall be cancelled.
Moreover, the SOEP shall be recorded and registered in the books of the MGB, which has yet to happen.
The CDO issued by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau was applied for and granted by the MGB which has jurisdiction over complaints for illegal mining.
The implementation of the CDO did not fail because it was void or that it had been appealed to in the office of the DENR Secretary but because there were not enough police officers to match Lupa's private army, A-Y76 Security Specialists, Inc. and force them from the BMC area where it has illegally camped without consent.
Complaints have been filed with the Ombudsman but these facts are undisputed : Lupa has no registration from the NCIP and the DENR, it has no municipal or provincial permits, it has no Environmental Clearance Certificate and its allegedly legal SOEP is about to expire in November, which makes Lupa more desperate to show that it is the protector of the IPs when in fact, Lupa Pigigetawan is a private corporation pretending to be a group of indigenous persons. Lupa cannot show any documents to prove that they are IPs.