Philippines: Where is the safety?
Following recent attempts to militarise mine sites, and associated killings, there has been a plethora of news stories on Philippines mining issues.
In order to bolster the besieged mining industry, the President offered to attend the annual Mine Safety Week Conference. However, various groups (which are also co-editors of the MAC website) have been keen to expose the myths of "safe mining" in the country, and how the industry's poor record is not just confined to the past.
|Filipino protests demanding justice for the murdered Italian priest
Fausto Tentorio. Photo: AP/Aaron Favila
There is more fall-out from the murder of Fr. Fausto 'Pops' Tentorio, (see: More militarisation and murders in the Philippines) as the investigators pursue "anti-mining" motives for his murder. Related international solidarity messages have added to the call for the dismantling of mining militias. Indigenous Peoples also point out how they, and their advocates, are being targeted - even though October was the country's "National Indigenous Peoples Month".
Despite such potentially fatal consequences, the Catholic Church continues to advocate on the issue, and the Archbishop of Cagayan has called for public intervention over Chinese mining in coastal towns in the province. Other communities still continue their resistance, such as the Igorots of Bakun in their struggle against Royalco.
The Church has also taken a lead role in campaigns in the Province of Zamboanga del Norte, which now joins other provinces, such as South Cotabato in banning open-pit mining (see Philippines: Details of the Tampakan project challenged). The Canadian company TVI Pacific, and the Canadian embassy, are most unamused (and the former is threatening legal action).
Finally, the Philippine Government is - like many around the world - talking about raising taxes for mining companies. Not surprisingly, The Chamber of Mines is vociferously objecting.
But a commentator in the Inquirer points out that, in sum total under the current law, the share of revenues for the State, after exemptions, is ... Zero!
Mining-affected communities, mineworkers expose myth of mining safety
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance statement
8 November 2011
In commemoration of Mines Unsafety Week 2011, a People's Forum on Mining was held last Wednesday, November 9, at the People's park, Baguio City, Philippines, featuring testimonies from mineworkers of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) and Philex Mines and community representatives from Itogon, Tuba and Mankayan municipalities in Benguet province on occupational mining hazards and the impacts of mining operations to the communities.
Attended by over 200 people from different municipalities of Benguet and sectors and people's organizations in Baguio, the forum bore the theme Defend Our Land and Resources! Stop Imperialist Mining in the Cordillera!
"It is not true that large-scale mining uplifts our living conditions especially the families of mineworkers. As a former mineworker in Lepanto, I have seen the miserable working conditions of the miners - from exposure to toxic gasses and particles to fatal rock fall accidents. Recently, Lepanto's contractualization scheme is further depriving the miners of benefits and union rights. Miners are forced to work overtime for additional wages to meet their families' daily needs," narrated Vicente Dilem, Kilusang Mayo Uno-Cordillera member and former member of Lepanto Employees Union (LEU), in his testimony.
Dilem's testimony was substantiated by LEU former officer Lon Baday, and Moises Fernandez, Philex Mines worker and member of the Progressive Union of Mine Workers in Philex. According to Baday, an average of 3-5 fatal accidents occur in Lepanto each year while Fernandez mentioned that there is an average of 2-3 monthly accidents that took place in Philex from January to October 2011. Fatal accidents are caused by falling rocks inside the mines. Both Baday and Fernandez reiterated that the working conditions of the mineworkers are "hazardous, dangerous and unsafe."
Meanwhile, representatives from mining-affected communities in Itogon, Mankayan and Tuba recounted how mining operations of LCMCo, Philex Mines and Benguet Corp. Inc. made their communities a "no man's land." Albert Diego from Colalo, Mankayan relived the disastrous massive ground subsidence in his community more than ten years ago. "The disaster claimed the life of my kailian Pablo Gomez whose body was never found, our gardens lost, and our school totally destroyed. Until today, some of the houses are hanging at the edge where the subsidence occurred. In 2009, another subsidence occurred in Poblacion. These show how unsafe our communities have become because of the Lepanto mines," said Diego.
In his testimony, Julio Wais, a resident of Philex, described what became of the place where he grew up. "When I was a child, we used to burn a portion of the mountain (kaingain) to prepare the land for planting of crops. Now the mountains have become barren due to the operations of Philex which polluted not just the air but also the soil. We have also experienced a mud slide which we attribute to the deforestation of the forest by Philex Mines, and their underground holes," narrated Wais.
Apart from issues on large-scale mining, there are also pressing issues presently faced by small-scale miners in the region. Some of these were shared in the testimonies of representatives from Ucab, Itogon and Bokod. According to Agosto Matso, member of the Association of Bolo Indigenous Peoples in Bokod, "Small-scale mining in Bokod is disallowed by the local government claiming that our small-scale mining activities are ‘illegal'. Ironically, we have learned that a lot of big mining companies are processing their mining applications which cover Bokod.
These big mining applications should be the ones disallowed as these will surely bring about more destruction in our lands and the environment," said Matso. In Ucab, Itogon, small-scale mining areas are threatened by Gold Creek, a Korean-owned company that plans to mine the place. David Dalisay from Itogon recounted their community's recent barricade against the entry of Gold Creek in the area. "We have successfully opposed the open-pit operations of Benguet Corporation Inc. in the 1990s. We continue opposing applications for large-scale mining activities in our land," said Dalisay.
In a statement, the CPA [Cordillera Peoples Alliance] mentioned that "As we resist large-scale capitalist mining, we promote responsible small-scale mining - that which is community-controlled and managed as additional livelihood in accordance with their collective interests and indigenous resource management systems, using sustainable and viable means of production."
Further, "As we call for the Mining Act of 1995 to be junked, we support House Hill 4315 or the People's Mining Bill as an alternative policy to guide the country's mining industry," said Santos Mero, CPA Deputy Secretary General. During the forum, the People's Mining Bill was discussed by Beverly Longid, National Chairperson of Katribu Partylist, as an alternative law which seeks to nationalize the mining industry.
The program was culminated with a symbolic "imprisonment" of Pres. Aquino along with the mining companies Philex Mining Corporation, Benguet Mining Corporation and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company for their plunder of land and resources, violations of workers' rights, and violations of the rights of indigenous peoples.
Organized by the Cordillera People's Alliance, Kilusang Mayo Uno Cordillera, KATRIBU Partylist and Save the Abra River Movement (STARM), the Mines Unsafety activities from November 9-11 aim to inform the public on the impact of corporate mining to indigenous peoples' ancestral land and resources.
Bestang Sarah Dekdeken
CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE
No. 55 Ferguson Road
Baguio City 2600, Philippines
Tel. No. (63) 74 304-4239
Fax No. (63) 74 443-7159
Mining disaster anniversary reminds world of the hazards of mining plunder
Kalikasan PNE Press Release
7 November 2011
The 28th anniversary of the first recorded mining disaster in the Philippines was revisited today with protests by environmental advocates across the Philippines to highlight the destructive "mining crimes" against land and lives caused by foreign mining plunder. Coinciding with the celebration of the 58th Mine Safety Week, the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment decried the continuing environmentally destructive impacts to communities and key ecosystems attributed to foreign mining operations.
"Mining-affected peoples and communities remind us of the real hazards still posed today by foreign mining plunder as we commemorate the 1983 Maricalum mining disaster. Coinciding with the opening of Mine Safety Week, it highlights the unabated proliferation of destructive foreign large-scale mining operations under the Aquino regime," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan.
Kalikasan activists criticized Pres. Noynoy Aquino for accelerating mining liberalization policies that have historically caused major mining disasters in the Philippines. According to DENR, 530 mining applications or projects were either approved or endorsed by the Aquino administration. Cited as an example is the potential acid mine drainage threatened by open-pit mining operations that will most likely follow the exploration activities of Canadian-owned Mindoro Resources Limited Gold Philippines (MRL Gold) in the municipal of Lobo, Batangas.
"Aquino's blind eye towards destructive large-scale mining is apparent in the persistence of mining crimes in the making. MRL Gold's exploration activities continue in Lobo, Batangas, which will give way to destructive open-pit mining and highly probable acid mine drainage," lamented Bautista.
Indigenous peoples, church workers and other advocates under the Defend Patrimony! Alliance, a national multi-sectoral network opposed to mining liberalization, noted that Aquino recently inked $14-billion worth of mining investments with Chinese companies this September, which also covers the biodiversity-rich province of Palawan.
"Aside from peddling Palawan to Chinese companies, let us remember that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has also awarded a Certificate of Precondition to MacroAsia Mining Corp., endorsing the social acceptability of its mining operations in Palawan despite opposition of the indigenous peoples in the area," said Defend Patrimony! in a statement.
The Mining Act of 1995 has allowed for the plunder of the Philippines' sovereign mineral resources by foreign mining corporations, warranting calls for its immediate scrapping and replacement. Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino filed HB 4315 or the People's Mining Bill, an alternative mining law that aims to reorient the mining industry towards domestic development and effective environmental management.
Defend Patrimony! declared that "mining disasters will continue to pollute ecosystems and affect the health and livelihood of grassroots communities so long as extractive foreign mining corporations remain dominant in the industry."
"If the mining industry is truly earnest for responsible mining and mine safety, it should junk the Mining Act of 1995 and support in earnest the People's Mining Bill to ensure that the mining industry toes the line of environmental safety and genuine beneficence to the Filipino people," ended Bautista.
Mr. Clemente Bautista, Jr., National Coordinator of Kalikasan - 0922 844 9787
Dr. Giovanni Tapang, Convenor of Defend Patrimony! - 0927 573 6714
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
Calls for justice echo as Fr. Pops was laid to rest
By Anne Marxze D. Umil
28 October 2011
"Tentorio was "a good priest, a fervent believer who for many years served the people of the Philippines in a courageous and indefatigable way." Pope Benedict XVI
MANILA - Thousands of people mourning for the passing of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio or Fr. Pops were in attendance as his body was laid to rest in Kidapawan City, North Cotabao on Tuesday, Oct. 25.In Manila, church and other groups also marched from España to Mendiola bridge wearing black shirts and red ribbons calling for justice for the slain priest.
On Oct. 17, Tentorio was killed outside his convent in Poblacion, Greenfields, Arakan Valley while preparing to go to a clergy meeting in Kidapawan City. According to news reports, Tentorio sustained ten gunshot wounds in the head and chest. Tentorio's body was buried beside Fr. Tulio Favalli's tomb.
Tentorio had been living in the country for almost three decades. He first arrived in the Philippines in 1978 and was later on assigned to North Cotabato in 1985. Since being assigned to North Cotabato in 1985, the Religious Discernment Group (RDG)said in a statement, Fr. Tentorio has taken to heart the joys, hopes, grieves and anxieties, particularly of the Monobos in the Arakan Valley.
Fr. Greg Obejas said during the solidarity action in Mendiola bridge that Tentorio was only giving the people of Arakan what the government should be providing them. "Fr. Tentorio gave the people of Arakan education, a basic social service that the government should be providing for its citizens. Instead of providing basic social services, the government has even increased the budget for the military. There is no war here. The government should be ashamed for what had happened to Fr. Pops."
RDG said that Tentorio provided the people of Arakan schools, day care, health services, sustainable agriculture and livelihood projects for this people whom he loved so much. "He was head of the Tribal Filipino Apostolate in the Diocese of Kidapawan. Fr. Fausto believed in community development to empower the people. He therefore questioned the so called "development projects" supported by the government and large foreign corporations, such as plantations and mining, seeing that these were not for the good of the people. He became a vocal critic in defending their rights and the integrity of mother earth," RDG added.
According to Karapatan, Tentorio was the 56th victim of extrajudicial killing under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino. Ramon Batoy, a peasant farmer also lives in Arakan Valley was killed on Oct. 20, barely three days after Tentorio's killing, was the 57th victim of extrajudicial killing. He was killed by alleged members of 57th Infantry Batallion.
Tentorio has definitely touched the lives of the people in North Cotabato. As described by the RDG, Tentorio has lived the call of Vatican II, to make his own "the joys and the hopes, the grieves and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted because, these too are the joys and hopes, the grieves and anxieties of the followers of Christ" (Church in the Modern World, No.1)
In a news article Pedro Gumano, a leader of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said, during a tribute for the slain priest, that Tentorio had always been the person the people in Arakan go to to ask for help. "From food , work, education, building daycare center, wedding of a daughter, hospitalization of a child, whatever it is, Pops always came to share his blessings." Tentorio also provided water system and fixed the road for the people.
Tentorio also helped people in their struggle against development aggression and mining. "Fr. Tentorio was a staunch advocate against the entry of Xstrata's open-pit mining in one of their areas of concern. This and the fact that he was already threatened by elements of the Bagani paramilitary group under the 73rd Infantry Brigade indicate the likelihood that mining and the military is behind the killings," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment.
In 2003, Tentorio was threatened and has put been under surveillance by elements of the Bagani paramilitary group. But the incident never stopped Tentorio from helping the people. Tentorio also headed the Tribal Filipinos Apostolate of the Kidapawan diocese and protected the rights of the indigenous peoples of Arakan particularly the Manobos.
Tentorio was also a child rights advocate. He was the founding member of the Board of Trustees of child rights organization, Association for the Rights of Children on Southeast Asia (ARCSEA) focusing on projects concerning children of indigenous peoples from 2003 to 2005.
"Fr. Pops was very dedicated in pursuing the Early Childhood Care and Development in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato. Under his care, almost 30 day cares and literacy-numeracy programs and schools for the Lumads were built in response to the education needs of Lumad children," said Melissa San Miguel, spokeswoman of of Salinlahi.
San Miguel added that Tentorio initiated trainings for Lumad para-teachers and tapped an organization that has expertise on nationalist, mass-oriented and scientific education which is the Parent's Alternative on Early Childhood Care and Development Inc. (PAECCDI), a Salinlahi's member organization. "Fr. Pops was one of the very diligent child rights advocate-priests who never tired of serving the children and the rest of the Lumads in the area. He provided what the government cannot provide: education for Lumad children. More than that, he gave the Lumads the dignity of a decent life that the government has consistently failed to do."
San Miguel said the government should be thankful for people like Fr. Pops who served enthusiastically the oppressed people but instead, like other activists serving the poor and the oppressed, the military chose to silence him. "The sad truth in this kind of society is that whoever serves the oppressed are the ones who are being killed by state forces. And what was more frustrating is that instead of getting support from the government for his projects for children, these projects became objects of military violence."
San Miguel stated cases of militarization of communities where progressive schools like The Blaan Literacy School and Learning Center in Malapatan, Sarangani are being attacked and tagged as "NPA school".
Overseas organizations also condemned the killing of Tentorio. The International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines-CCHRP Rome Chapter, Advocates for Human Rights in the Philippines-AHRP, a US based network and People of Faith in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand calls for justice for the slain priest.
"We echo the cries for justice. We call for a fast, full and fair investigation of this terrible crime," the People of Faith in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand said in statement sent to Bulatlat.com.
The group also calls for the dismantling of militia units that have threatened the life of Tenorio since 2003 and claimed lives of several anti-mining indigenous peoples and human rights advocates since the Marcos dictatorship. "In his 30 years of mission among indigenous people, poor peasants and other disadvantaged sectors in Mindanao, Fr. Tentorio lived out true Christian discipleship. Witnessing injustice, poverty and rampant government neglect, he joined them in their fight to defend ancestral domain while setting up education and health programmes for the poor," the group said.
Pope Benedict XVI also sent his condolences to those who loved Tentorio. "Tentorio was "a good priest, a fervent believer who for many years served the people of the Philippines in a courageous and indefatigable way."
"The killing continues because no single perpetrator has been prosecuted since Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's presidency," said Fr. Dionito Cabillas. He said that there are evidences against the military but not a single one has been prosecuted. "Evidence points to Maj. Harry Baliaga for the abduction and disappearance of Jonas Burgos but he has not yet been prosecuted, Jovito Palparan was not prosecuted for the abduction Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño. Bishop Alberto Ramento's murderers were put to jail but were about to be released because there is not enough evidence against them. The Aquino government never gives justice to the victims of human rights abuses, the perpetrators are still free."
Cristina Palabay, convenor of End Impunity Alliance said the recent killing of Tentorio and Batoy is the result of Oplan Bayanihan policy of the Aquino government. "Maj. Gen. George Segovia, the man behind the detention and torture of the 43 health workers is now in Mindanao because the government said Davao, and the whole Southern Mindanao region is the new epicentre of the New People's Army that is why the military intensifies their operation under Oplan Bayanihan." Segovia is the Division Commander of 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
Meanwhile, Bagong Alayansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general said during the solidarity action in Mendiola that the people will look after the case of the slain priest. He added that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has put up a task force to get the assassin who killed the Italian priest. "We will not let the case of Fr. Pops be just one of the statistics of victims of extrajudicial killings. The perpetrators should be held accountable and be prosecuted. This is not the last action to call for justice for Fr. Pops. We will hold protest actions until Fr. Pops and several other victims of human rights abuses be given justice."
People power urged vs China mine firms
By Melvin Gascon
Inquirer Northern Luzon
5 November 2011
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya-The archbishop of Cagayan has called on people in his diocese to stage demonstrations and other mass actions to protest mining operations by Chinese firms in coastal towns in the province.
In a pastoral letter, Tuguegarao Archbishop Sergio Utleg asked Catholic lay leaders in Cagayan to organize communities, hold prayer rallies and conduct a massive information campaign on the ill effects of ongoing extraction of manganese and other minerals in the province.
Utleg said he was alarmed over the continued operation of five Chinese mining firms in Gonzaga and Buguey towns despite the reported failure to correct violations in their operations.
"It is undeniable that there are mining companies operating in many towns of Cagayan extracting and exploiting the natural resources of [the province] like black sand, iron ore, manganese, etc.," said the bishop.
"Unfortunately, all these mining activities are happening because the provincial government and local governments are allowing mining companies to operate in exchange for short-term benefits," he said.
Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio did not take calls or respond to text messages sent to his mobile phones on Saturday seeking his views on Utleg's pastoral letter.
But in an open letter, Antonio defended the provincial government's issuance of small-scale mining permits.
"Unfortunately, the local government cannot deviate from the policy of mining which was authorized by law and implemented by the national government," said the letter.
"What the provincial government can do only is to closely monitor and strictly enforce the law, requirements and regulations on mining," it said.
Antonio said the provincial environment office and the mine regulatory fund committee have been conducting regular inspections at the mining sites to ensure the compliance of the permit holders with guidelines and conditions.
The provincial government earlier granted small-scale mining permits to Chinese firms Lian Xing Philippines Stone Carving Corp., Huaxia Mining and Trading Corp., and Well Resource Mining Inc., all in Gonzaga.
It has also granted permits to San You Philippines Inc. and Lutra Inc. to extract magnetite sand in Buguey.
Utleg urged Church leaders to "mobilize our people to manifest their opposition to mining through demonstrations, court actions, prayer rallies" and to join environment groups in "preserving the integrity of creation."
"Having seen and judged the nature of mining and its ill effects, now is the time to act. We therefore urge all our people, especially those concerned, to perform actions under the guidance of your pastors and lay leaders," he said.
"The Church joins the collective struggle to stop the uncontrolled plunder of our natural resources that makes our people suffer. As disciples of Jesus, we cannot remain deaf to the cries of our people," he said.
Utleg urged Church officials to hold dialogues and appeal to government agencies, especially local governments, to prevent the issuance of permits to mining companies.
"[Let us] motivate our people to be on guard not only against mining but also against all forms of destructive activities like logging, illegal fishing and bad farming practices that destroy and endanger our natural environment," he said.
New open pit mining ban another hurdle for sector
Business World online
2 November 2011
MINERS ARE BRACING for the implementation of an ordinance banning open-pit operations in Zamboanga del Norte, with TVI Resource Development (Philippines) Inc. (TVIRD) set to question the directive and Philex Mining Corp. planning to ask local officials to reconsider.
TVIRD, a unit of Canada-based miner TVI Pacific Inc., said in a statement that it would use all legal means to nullify the provincial ordinance, which requires the firm to stop operations at its Canatuan copper mine in Siocon a year after the regulation takes effect.
"TVIRD is deeply disturbed by the passage of this ordinance. The company will exhaust all legal remedies to protect and uphold existing rights and contracts not only for the benefit of the company but equally importantly to uphold the rights and sustain the benefits of the indigenous peoples, the host communities, the local government units and other adversely affected stakeholders," company President Eugene T. Mateo was quoted as saying.
He said the firm would likewise continue to engage provincial government officials to seek to rectify the ordinance.
Zamboanga del Norte officials were not immediately available for comment. Mines and Geosciences Board (MGB) director Leo L. Jasareno said the ordinance, which prohibits open pit and open cut land surface mining operations in the province and sets a one-year time limit for existing open pit mines, would take effect on Nov. 6.
Mr. Mateo called the ordinance "unconstitutional" and contrary to the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which allows the use of open pit mining methods approved by the MGB.
"On top of all these, the provincial government ignored the announced policy of the Aquino administration supporting responsible and sustainable mining in the country...," he added.
Philex President and CEO Jose Ernesto C. Villaluna, Jr., meanwhile, said the firm planned to meet provincial officials as the ordinance would affect exploratory work at the Sibutad copper-gold project, where operations were suspended in 1999 due to low metal prices.
"We would like to... discuss what will happen. We would like to comply with our contract with the national government and to show them that we are not causing environmental degradation," Mr. Villaluna said.
Implementation of the ordinance, he said, would send a bad signal to investors. A similar open pit mining ban implemented in South Cotabato this year -- expected to affect Sagittarius Mines, Inc.'s planned Tampakan copper-gold project -- has also been questioned by the national government and investors.
The MGB's Mr. Jasareno said the national government was "studying measures it can take to resolve the situation. TVIRD holds a valid contract with the national government," he said. -- LDD
Canada 'discouraged' by open-pit mining ban
Ordinance runs counter to gov't policy, says ambassador
By Abigail L. Ho
Philippine Daily Inquirer
4 November 2011
The Canadian Embassy in the Philippines is disappointed over Zamboanga del Norte's passage of an ordinance banning open-pit mining, saying this runs counter to what the national government wants to do with the local mining industry.
"We are discouraged that our mining investments are being frustrated. (What happened recently is) not within the jurisdiction of the party taking these actions," Canadian Ambassador Christopher Thornley said in a briefing yesterday.
He said that Canada was a "responsible" mining country, and that Canadian mining companies follow a stringent set of rules, both in their home country and overseas, including the Philippines.
As a significant part of the Canadian economy relies on mining, he said mining firms took responsible mining activities very seriously.
Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines president Julian Payne added that the local mining industry could be developed by using socially and environmentally responsible mining practices.
Irresponsible practices employed by illegal small-scale mining operations, he said, should not be taken as an industry-wide norm.
The Zamboanga del Norte provincial government last week issued an ordinance banning open-pit mining in the province, which would take effect on Nov. 6.
The ordinance gives existing operations such as Canadian firm TVI Pacific Inc.'s Canatuan project one year to close shop.
TVI Pacific said it would challenge the ordinance in court through local affiliate TVI Resources Development Philippines Inc.
"It is the opinion of TVIRD's external Philippine legal counsel that the powers assumed by the province, and by the provincial governor of Zamboanga del Norte under the ordinance, are in direct contravention of Philippine laws passed by the Congress, including the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the Local Government Code of 1991, and are, therefore, unconstitutional," TVI Pacific said in an earlier statement.
Ambassador Thornley said the Canadian government was quite satisfied with how the national government was handling the issue, and that the embassy would support whatever the government would do to address mining firms' concerns.
He said that despite the setback, Canadian mining firms remained keen on investing in the Philippines.
"They'll go where the minerals are. It's up to the government to resolve the issues because there are other countries that also have mineral resources and may be easier to operate in," he said.
Earlier in the year, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said the open-pit mining ban currently in effect in South Cotabato could potentially be lifted before year's end.
The ban, however, remains in place, and neighboring provinces such as Zamboanga del Norte have started to follow South Cotabato's example.
Philippine Province Bans Open Pit Mining - Affects TVI Pacific's Operations
MiningWatch Canada statement
8 November 2011
Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Canada/Dipolog, Philippines. The government of Zamboanga del Norte in the Philippines has issued an ordinance prohibiting new open pit mines in the province.
The ordinance took effect on November 6, 2011 and also requires closure of Canadian mining company TVI Pacific's Canatuan copper-zinc project by November 2012. Future expansion plans may also be impacted.
"An Ordinance Protecting and Conserving the Integrity of the Land and Water Resources in Zamboanga del Norte" references the need to "protect and conserve" the province's "land and water resources" in order to "promote [its] agri-base economy" and to "protect and advance the right of the people to healthy survival and food security."
This ban reflects growing concern by local communities and government units in the Philippines about the negative impacts of mining on existing food security and future development potential. These concerns are also expressed in a growing number of mining moratoriums issued by municipalities and by provincial governments.
"The destruction of our land and natural resources through open pit mining is irreversible and the forced displacement of communities contradicts the real meaning of development, or should we ask 'development for whom?'" says Daniel Castillo, Director of the Dipolog Committee on Mining Initiatives, a Church-based support group in Zamboanga del Norte.
"We applaud the provincial government for listening to the clamour of the people, particularly the mining affected communities, to protect their land, water and food resources," says Ricky Esguerra of the Toronto-based Philippine Network for Justice and Peace.
TVI Pacific has issued a release stating it will pursue legal action to prevent the implementation of the ordinance.
"This ordinance has to be read as a clear statement of local opposition to the operations of TVI Pacific," says Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada. "The Government of Canada has endorsed guidelines for Canadian extractive companies that mandate that companies should only operate with broad community consent, which is clearly lacking here and will not be remedied by TVI Pacific's litigious response."
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace said that this case illustrates yet again why the Canadian government cannot leave it to Southern host governments to ensure that Canadian companies act responsibly in countries where governance is weak. The Zamboanga del Norte government's attempts to protect the local population are laudable, it said, but that government now needs strong support to implement this ordinance, in the face of opposition from TVI Pacific.
Development and Peace carried out a three-year campaign in Canada from 2005 to 2008, calling for an accountability mechanism in Ottawa for Canadian mining, oil and gas companies in their overseas operations. This new case shows yet again how necessary such a measure is, the organization said.
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For more information contact:
Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada (613) 569-3439
Daniel Castillo, Dipolog Committee on Mining Initiatives, Zamboanga del Norte
Ricky Esguerra, Philippine Network for Justice and Peace, Toronto
Mary Durran, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Montreal
Mining issues trigger violence against indigenous people
By Severino Frayna
30 October 2011
In 2009, Presidential Order 1906 was signed declaring October as National Indigenous Peoples (IP) Month. But just as the country is celebrating IP month, two indigenous people were brutally murdered-an IP leader and a committed IP rights advocate.
On October 14, Datu Roy Gallego, a chieftain of the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur, was shot dead in an ambush. Datu Gallego was a broadcaster and a known anti-mining tribal leader. While on October 17, Father Fausto Tentorio, or Fr. Pops, an Italian priest who worked for the Filipino indigenous peoples, was shot 10 times with special bullets that explode inside the body. Fr. Pops was known with his advocacy for the rights and welfare of the Lumads, as well as his strong stance against mining.
The police and Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan who were tasked to look into the death of Fr. Tenorio told news reports that they are looking "at the possibility that members of a local paramilitary group or of a private army employed by mining companies were behind the killing."
Indeed, mining is slowly but surely becoming synonymous to violence. If before, the discussion on mining centered around the death of biodiversity, rivers and seas, today, however, mining is inextricably being linked to death of people who oppose it. The most active and most vocal against mining are the indigenous peoples, as it is their communities who are being mined out, ravaged for profit. And it is their communities who are divided, displaced, further impoverished by the loss of their livelihood, and made hungrier by the loss of their sources of food.
Today, two strong voices-of a Lumad and "for the Lumad"-have been silenced forever.
Yet, President Benigno Aquino 3rd wanted more protection for the mining companies.
Just before the IP month celebration, and few days before the murders, President Aquino approved a proposal that allowed mining corporations to form and fund militias for their protection.
There are two ways we can look at this pronouncement by the President.
One way is that, clearly, he is misinformed of what is happening on the ground. President Aquino may not have been informed of the long list of human rights violations suffered by the upland and other rural poor communities under the hands of militias-those who protect big businesses like logging and mining; as well as politicians who also benefit from these businesses.
The other seemingly implies that the President has made a clear stand-for mining and against those who oppose it.
Unfortunately, however, one wants to look at it, the effect is the same-the indigenous peoples, like Datu Gallego, are penalized, militarized, threatened, and yes, even killed for defending their rights to their territories, to their lives. And those who support their cause, like Fr. Tenorio, share the same tragic fate.
On the other hand, mining companies, which pose grave threats to the environment, the livelihoods of the peoples the integrity of the communities, and to the lives of those who defend these, are given protection by the Aquino adminitration.
This should not be allowed to happen. Not anymore.
In celebration of the National Indigenous Peoples Month, and in mourning of the death of Datu Gallego and Fr. Tenorio, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) appealed to President Aquino to:
- End state impunity under his administration;
- Bring justice to the deaths of Fr. Pops and Datu Gallego;
- Withdraw his approval of forming and funding militia for the protection of mining companies.
Make mining companies accountable to the human rights violations they commit; and seriously and urgently look into and address the issues being raised against current mining operations and the entire government's mining policy framework which does not respond to national development needs; which trades food and sustainable livelihood to profits for corporations; does not give priority to community development, human rights and environmental protection. One critical step to address this is to enact an alternative minerals management bill.
The LRC strongly urged the President to listen and hear the call of the indigenous peoples and us, advocates.
"Mr. President, it's time now to listen not to the people who funded your presidential campaign, but to those who actually voted for you."
Militants back Bakun folk vs mine exploration
By Rubyloida Bitog
Sun Star (Baguio)
26 October 2011
MINING explorations in Benguet are continuously criticized by various non-government organizations due to its adverse effects to the environment, community health and to the indigenous peoples.
Gabriela-Inabuyog and the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA) are among the NGOs that strongly condemn large scale mining operations.
They now set their sights on Royalco, Philippines' explorations in Bakun, Benguet.
Members of the Bakun Aiwanan organization under CPA are protesting the mining exploration of the company at Sitio Bagta-ngan, Gambang [Phase 3] of the municipality.
Community members started picketing the exploration site since March 14 up to present.
Bakun Aiwanan representative, Dominga Gaspar, explained the Royalco explored and still operating at Proper Gambang (Phase 1) because the company keeps on renewing their license to operate.
Royalco also explored the boundary of Bakun and Mankayan which they called phase 2 but at present the operation ceased.
Gaspar added Royalco was issued a permit to operate at phase 3 last October 6, 2009. Now, the company is applying for a renewal of permit which the community is strongly opposing.
She stated these mining operations and explorations of the company angered the indigenous peoples (IP) of the municipality because their lands were allegedly seized and destroyed by the company.
Gaspar also said the mining operations worsened the situation of their water sources, which are now causing illnesses to the IPs.
The struggle of the natives to protect their lands started during the time of Chico Dam. IPs of Bakun wanted to be the one to explore the ores in their lands and not the capitalists from foreign countries.
Gaspar said these capitalists are only using the Philippine government for their own benefits.
CPA vice chairman for internal affairs Javier Akien said Royalco's explorations mean another extension of torture and grievances to the IPs and will further deteriorate the condition of the Abra River.
Gaspar said they passed a resolution requesting to the Municipal Council not to renew the permit of Royalco, and it was endorsed to the municipal mayor.
Copies were also furnished to the offices of Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
Appropriate actions are still pending because discussions regarding the problem are ongoing.
Finance considering added mining taxes
BY Diane Claire J. Jiao
Business World online
3 November 2011
THE FINANCE department is studying a proposal to hike taxes on mining, which if approved will be another challenge for the sector.
The plan involves declaring mine sites as mineral reservations, allowing the government to collect a 5% royalty atop the 2% excise tax collected from the gross sales of mining firms, Finance Assistant Secretary Ma. Teresa S. Habitan yesterday said.
"There is no stance on the issue yet, but we are studying the policy," she added.
The proposal was raised by the Environment and Natural Resources department last year. The Finance department was tasked to study the scheme's economic implications.
Higher taxes would allow the government to earn revenues from minerals that, according to the law, are owned by the state, Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran said.
"These valuable resources are finite. Once they are extracted from the mines, they are gone," he pointed out.
The mining process also poses inherent dangers to the environment and nearby communities. Tax revenues could be used to compensate for the damage caused, Mr. Beltran said.
"We collect about P1.2 billion in excise taxes a year from mining, and 40% of this goes to the communities," he said.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CMP), however, is opposed to the policy proposal, saying the government should help protect an industry that is one of the country's growth engines.
"Mining is a key driver of growth. We are one of the most highly mineralized countries, and higher taxes would only be disincentives for investors," CMP president Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez said.
Mining is a high-risk, capital-intensive business, he pointed out. The industry is also facing various challenges already, such as peace and security concerns and open-pit mining bans imposed by local governments in South Cotabato and Zamboanga del Norte.
"We're not even asking for more incentives. Just don't change the policies to add disincentives," Mr. Romualdez urged.
As it is, the Philippine government already has one of the highest shares in mining revenues in the region, he said.
Under the current system wherein miners are charged a 2% excise tax, the government already takes about 70% of companies' gross income. With the additional 5% royalty fee, this share would increase to about 80%, said Ronald R. S. Recidoro, CMP vice-president.
"We understand the DoF's (Department of Finance) need to increase revenues for the government, but more projects will bring more revenues. With higher taxes, you might have a bigger share of the income, but less projects bringing in less revenues," Mr. Romualdez said.
He said the government should go after the small-scale miners and illegal miners who don't pay taxes at all.
Mr. Recidoro, moreover, said miners were already doing their part in helping local communities and the environment.
"We build roads, hospitals and schools in these areas, not just out of CSR (corporate social responsibility) but because we need this infrastructure too. Without mining companies, who would build these facilities in the hinterlands?" he explained.
In contrast, it usually takes about three years before communities receive their share of tax revenues, Mr. Recidoro noted.
‘Zero' share from mining wealth?
By Solita Collas-Monsod
Philippine Daily Inquirer (opinion)
21 October 2011
"All ...minerals ... and other natural resources are owned by the State...." That is part of Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, and is a reiteration of the so-called regalian doctrine ("all mineral wealth was the prerogative of the crown or the feudatory lord") which is reportedly followed by mining countries in the world except the United States.
The Philippines claims to be the fifth most mineralized country in the world, and to hear Gary Teves tell it (quoting DTI/BOI), our reserves of gold, copper, nickel and chromite are second, fourth, fifth and sixth largest in the world, not to mention silver, coal, gypsum, sulfur, clay.
What is the value of these mineral resources? In 2004, then Neda Director General Romulo Neri cited the amount of P47 trillion to the Supreme Court (as quoted in Justice Antonio Carpio's dissenting opinion in the La Bugal case, where the high court reversed an earlier decision and upheld the constitutionality of the Philippine Mining Law, RA 7942 and its implementing rules and regulations) as the "potential mining wealth" of the Philippines.
Since the state owns these mineral resources, how much should its share be of the profits (revenues minus costs) from their exploitation? At least 50 percent, wouldn't you say? Or 60 percent, if the government goes into some form of joint venture with a foreign corporation. In any case, something that represents a "fair share" of the profits.
Certainly not a zero share. But that is exactly what the government's share is of the income from the mineral resources it owns. Zilch. Nada. This, Justice Carpio pointed out in his dissenting opinion.
Only consider. There are some 30 large commercial mining operations in the country today, all apparently operating under so-called Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) entered into with the government.
Section 80 of the Philippine Mining Law, titled "Government Share in Mineral Production Sharing Agreement," provides the following: "The total government share in a mineral production sharing agreement shall be the excise tax on mineral products as provided in Republic Act No. 7729, amending Section 151 (a) of the National Internal Revenue Code, as amended."
And how much is the excise tax on mineral products? Two percent on metallic and non-metallic minerals.
But isn't 2 percent greater than zero? Excuse me. As Carpio explains, "The excise tax is imposed not only on mineral products, but also on alcohol, tobacco and automobiles produced by companies that do not exploit natural resources owned by the State. The excise tax is not payment for the exploitation of the State's natural resources, but payment for the "privilege of engaging in business." Clearly, under Section 80 of RA 7942, the State does not receive as owner of the mineral resources any income from the exploitation of its mineral resources (emphasis his).
Thunders Carpio: "Natural resources are non-renewable and exhaustible assets of the State. Certainly, no government in its right mind should give away for free its natural resources to private business enterprises, local or foreign, amidst widespread poverty among its people." And further on, "Under the 1987 Constitution, the State must receive its fair share as owner of the mineral resources, separate from taxes, fees and duties paid by taxpayers. The legislature may waive taxes, fees and duties, but it cannot waive the State's share in mining operations."(emphasis his)
So how come the majority opinion didn't see it his way? A non-lawyer's (but one who understands English) take: it looked to me like a weaseling operation-the reason was that the MPSA wasn't the issue at bar, but rather the FTAA, which is also provided for in RA 7942.
FTAA stands for Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement, where private companies act as contractors of the State (and in the particular case, a foreign private company, although it has since sold 60 percent of its shares to a Filipino company). Presumably, the difference between the MPSA and the FTAA is that in the latter, it is the State that is directly exploiting the natural resource, but using the contractor and paying it a share of the income from the exploitation of the resource.
Well, does the government get its fair share under the FTAA? Here is where Carpio goes to town. He points out that the State doesn't begin to get its share until after the contractor has fully recovered its pre-op, exploration and development expenditures-for which there is no time limit (!). And then, the State's share consists solely of taxes, fees and duties. Zero share of profits again, this time, says Carpio, because the conditions in the implementing rules and regulations (DAO 56-99) are impossible to fulfill (this in the dissenting opinion to the motion for reconsideration on the case).
What conditions? Well government will get an additional "share" (to the taxes, etc), only if the contractor's net income after tax amounts to more than 40 percent of gross output, for two successive years. Carpio, using data from the six largest Philippine mining companies, shows that the highest net income after tax/gross output ratio was only 25 percent, with the average ratio being 16 percent over a nine-year period.
Carpio then cites data from the mother company of the FTAA contractor (average ratio of 10 percent), as well as the world's largest mining companies (largest average ratio was 13 percent). Clearly the 40-percent "trigger" will never be reached.
So who benefits? Not the government. While the people are left to deal with a devastated land.