MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: 2011 - a hard year for mining

Published by MAC on 2011-12-20
Source: Mindanews, ABS-CBN, Philippine Star, Nordis

As the year draws to a close, a staff member of MAC editorial group, LRC, comments that it has been a fruitful year the "anti-mining" movement in the country.

That is almost certainly true, for the reasons listed in the article below.

However, any success has come at a high price in terms of effort expended and the infliction of rights abuses.

Human Rights Day on 10th December was marked as one of Remembrance for anti-mining activists who have lost their lives.

Campaigners have continued their national advocacy with a Senate hearing on 8th December to discuss legislation that will affect the mining industry. Concerns around food security were foremost in the debates.

At the local level, large-scale protests continued.

On the island of Mindanao, there was another five-day march by local people against Xstrata's Tampakan project.

More than five thousand residents of Zamboanga del Sur province participated in a two-day march to protest the growing number of mining applications in the province.

And the government of neighbouring Zamboanga Sibugay looks like it may also enact an open-pit mining ban. Meanwhile, in the same province, there was a little-reported clash between communist rebels and the military, who were riding a vehicle owned by mining company TVI Pacific.

Finally, communities from across the northern Cordillera reiterated their opposition to large-scale mining.

2011 a fruitful year for anti-mining movement, group says

By Erwin Mascariñas


9 December 2011

Butuan City - An anti-mining group has claimed that this year has been a fruitful year for them and the rest of anti-mining movement in the country.

"Amidst the continued implementation of mining projects in almost every corner of the country, we have achieved significant advances in our struggle," said Carl Cesar Rebuta, project development officer of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK).

In a telephone interview, the Cagayan de Oro-based anti-mining campaigner noted that South Cotabato has held on to its environment code that bans open pit mining, giving headaches to those behind the planned $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project of the foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, while the Save Palawan movement also launched its "No to Mining" campaign.

Rebuta cited, too, of the people's awareness of the "writ of kalikasan" in seeking redress against companies believed to be abusing the environment. The write of kalikasan draws its mandate from the 1987 Constitution that guarantees citizens the "right to a balanced and healthful ecology."

He said that because of the advances in the overall anti-mining campaign, the current administration was forced to create a special body to craft a new mining policy.

The government has stated that it is planning to come up with a new mining policy that will ensure the gains from extraction of mineral resources and at the same time setting up mechanisms that will lessen the environmental impacts of mining.

LRC-KsK, Rebuta said, will be stepping up its campaign on alternative minerals management law as it held a briefing on the planned management framework held at Xavier University today in Cagayan de Oro City.

Gerry Arances, campaigns paralegal of the LRC-KsK, said that the minerals management bill they are pushing seeks to scrap the present Mining Act of 1995 with the enactment of the "Philippine Mineral Resources Act of 2010".

"The bill champions conservation of non-renewable mineral resources for the benefit of both present and future generations of Filipinos by adopting a sustainable, rational, needs-based minerals management geared towards effective utilization of mineral resources for national industrialization and modernization of agriculture," he said.

With several legislators pledging support for the bill, the group has plans in setting up regional campaign sites all over the Philippines to help support ongoing community actions and educate the people on the mineral bill.

The group plans to make similar briefings in Iligan City on Sunday (Dec. 11) and in Butuan City the day after for its networks to be updated with a new action plan for 2012. (Erwin Mascarinas / MindaNews)

Justice for environmental defenders still nowhere in sight under Aquino, green groups say

Kalikasan PNE Press Release

10 December 2011

Activists under the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment echo calls of justice for environmental activists and advocates who had fallen victim to political killings and other human rights violations (HRVs) as the international day for human rights approaches.They have slammed the Aquino administration for its gross inaction in all 50 recorded cases of HRVs against environmental advocates since 2001, of which none has been resolved to date.

"To have not uttered a single word about the military's murder of botanist Leonard Co and not done any action on the assassination of Dr. Gerry Ortega gives no ascendancy for Aquino to be called PH's greenest president. On human rights day, let us show Aquino that we have had enough of his pretentious daang matuwid that is littered with the blood of our environmental defenders," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan.

According to the Task Force - Justice for Environmental Defenders, 46 of these 50 HRVs are political killings of environmental defenders. The latest high-profile killings include Dr. Gerry Ortega, a broadcaster and environmentalist in Palawan who opposed large-scale mining in Palawan, and Fr. Fausto ‘Pops' Tentorio, an anti-mining Italian missionary who was gunned down by Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary (SCAA) paramilitary units trained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in North Cotabato only this October.

In a statement, Justice for Environmental Defenders said that "the death of renowned taxonomist Leonard Co, who was killed by the military alongside peasant guide Julius Borromeo and forest guard Sofronio Cortez, has already observed its first anniversary with no positive progress in the case. Dr. Ortega's case is also about to suffer a similar fate."

"Most of these killings stem from the militarization of communities affected by extractive and destructive industries such as corporate logging and large-scale mining. We cannot help but think that Aquino is waiting for another Fr. Pops to come along to be a victim of the AFP-trained paramilitaries, which he has approved to militarize mining areas in Claver, Surigao del Norte, for instance," Bautista pointed out.

Kalikasan pointed out that equal to the lack of policies and laws protecting our environment and natural resources are the dearth of laws that defend environmental workers, scholars and activists from HRVs. Congress has apparently sat on House Bill 3593 or the Anti-SLAPP (or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) Bill which was filed by progressive lawmakers to give protective measures to the freedom of speech and to seek redress by activists.

"Kalikasan calls on the people, especially the families of victims, to continue the campaign for justice for the victim environmental defenders despite the odds presented by a turtle-pace justice system. More importantly, let us carry on the struggle, not only in the halls of justice, but in the congress, senate, and the parliament of the streets. We will hold the Aquino regime accountable for its despotic disregard of the environment and its defenders," ended Bautista.

Mr. Leon Dulce, 0917 562 6824
Campaign Coordinator, KALIKASAN

Mr. Clemente Bautista Jr. 0922 844 9787
National Coordinator, KALIKASAN

Philippine mining industry: Boon or bane?

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC


9 December 2011

MANILA, Philippines - On Thursday, mining industry leaders and anti-mining groups including the Save Palawan Movement faced off as the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food, and Environment and Natural Resources opened an inquiry to discuss legislation that will affect the mining industry.

Malacañang is in the process of drafting a national policy on mining.

In a position paper submitted to the study group, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines blamed small-scale mining for its alleged disregard for the safety of communities and the environment.

The chamber said small-scale miners, backed by unscrupulous operators, use explosives and heavy equipment underground.

"A population of 300,000 people generating some P42.8 billion in unreported total gold output from their 'small-scale' mining activities. If properly regulated, this output would have given the national government P857 million in additional taxes," said Atty. Ronald Residoro, vice president for legal policy of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.

"We suggest that small-scale mining standards adhere to requirements set for big mining companies," he said. "There should be a strict regulation of small-scale mining and indiscriminate issuance of mining permits by local government units."

Republic Act 7076 and Presidential Decree 1899 currently govern mining activities, giving local governments authority to issue small-scale mining permits.

The group also insists it engaged in responsible mining, investing P1.7 billion in reforestation programs.
Platform for development

Speaking at the Senate inquiry, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said mining is a platform for development, and mining companies bring basic services which the government can't provide.

"When Philex goes into Benguet, or Lepanto operates in Mancayan, it brings in a first-class hospital, first-class education, commerce, roads, development into these areas, same thing for DPI in Mindanao, Surigao del Norte."

"The Chamber maintains that mining is not a cure-all. Mining does not claim to solve all of the country's problems. Mining can provide the basic platform for world communities to develop, to help assure sustainable growth within communities, and provide a platform for improved quality of life."

Proposals from stakeholders during the inquiry include the creation of a mineral volume verification system that provides for the exact amount of minerals removed from a territory.

"Hopefully, we can find that middle road and find a way to make proper use of these natural resources, so we take advantages of the natural resources we have been blessed with and at the same time don't ruin the rest of the economy in doing that," Senator Bongbong Marcos said.

Environmental cost

But Christian Monsod of the Save Palawan Movement said mining operations can't be conducted without affecting the environment and the community. While mining focuses on investment flows, he added, it seldom focuses on the environmental cost.

"The country is not getting a fair share of the value of mineral resources and this can be calculated by empirical data," said Monsod, noting large-scale mining does not properly declare its income.

Director Leo Jasareno of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the DENR said the operations of City Nickel in Narra, Palawan caused siltation in some farmlands downstream.

He noted that mining operation have been suspended until such time the cause of siltation is addressed by the company.

However, some farmers insist that the company's operations continue.

"Itong pagmimina na ginagawa, maliit man o malaki, ang nagsasakripisyo ho and kalikasan at kaming magsasaka. And City Nickel sige-sige pa rin pong nagooperate, 24 hours huwag lang ho umulan ay may operation ho sila," said rice farmer Ariel dela Cruz.

He said the mining company did not comply with rehabilitating agricultural areas affected by nickel tailings, and small farmers are paying for rehabilitating the fields themselves.

They noted that crop yields have gone down since mining operations began.

"Kailangan i-rehab ang lupa... Kada-cropping, nagrerehab kami dahil hindi namin kaya na mag-rehab ng kabuuan... Nasa 70 kabans per hectare dati ang ani, ngayon nung nag operate and mining pababa ng pababa, ngayon nasa 20 to 30 kabans na lang kami."

"Wala ho talagang responsible mining," he noted.

"Ang mining operation ay malaki talaga ang perwisyo na idinulot. Ang lugar na pinagmiminahan nila ay watershed area. Yung irrigation na pinagawa ng NIA [National Irrigation Administration] para sa mag-supply sa farmers ay apektado na. Ang aming mga ilog ay pinasok na ng laterite at ito ang sanhi ng pagbaba ng aming mga ani," said Danny Cabigen, another farmer from Narra, Palawan.

"Yung aming kailugan ay madumi na at tuloy-tuloy ito sa dagat."

No mining in island ecosystems

Citing evidence of destruction from mining activities, the Save Palawan Movement insists there should be no mining in areas of biodiversity and island ecosystems like Palawan.

The group's "No to mining in Palawan" campaign has mustered more than 3 million supporters.

In a full-page ad published recently, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines accused the Save Palawan Movement of lying, saying grade school students propped-up the movement's signature campaign.

It added signatures were also secured from people in public places "by spreading wrong information and using scare tactics to make them believe mining will destroy Palawan."

ABS-CBN Foundation Managing Director Gina Lopez, who spearheads the movement, denied this.

"The power of our signature campaign comes from the truth and the way it's done, I actually take offense to that. When we say there are 3.5 million signatures, those are all adults who care," Lopez said.

"We've had mining in this country for many decades and there's nothing to show. We have abandoned mine sites, communities that suffer, children that suffer. What we have is a trail of suffering and devastation... They're devastating our farmlands, our fishery resources. There are farmlands they devastated with laterite. In San Isidro, the Chinese vessel rammed into 979 square meters of coral reef... We have documents and pictures and people these are historical fact."

Lopez also opposed the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines' claim that mining does not and will not affect agriculture, fishing, and eco-tourism in Palawan.

Mining is seen as not feasible in lateritic areas in Southern Palawan which holds the local rice granary.

"The area of Brookes Point where they want to spend P1 billion to extract mineral, is an agri-community. The National Irrigation Authority (NIA) has given many loans so they can do irrigation so how can the Chamber of Mines say the area is not feasible for agriculture?"

"I have literally gone to islands, 3/4ths of which have been mined, and they have asked me for help and I can't even help. They admitted to me it's ugly. How can you say it doesn't affect tourism? Tourism and mining are antithetical. You can't have tourism in an area which has been mined."

In its ad, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said the Save Palawan Movement misrepresented the facts, when it referred to poverty incidence in the mining sector going up by more than half from 1988 to 2009. It said the increase accounted for the migration of unskilled workers to the sector.

Numbers don't lie

However, Lopez said the numbers don't lie. "I'm not misleading the public, I'm using the same figures and they have skewed up the interpretation to poke holes into the figures that are the truth."

"The fact that people have migrated there, they have migrated into construction, manufacturing, the incidence of poverty improves but in mining, it has gotten 74% worse in 20 years, and it's the only sector with that kind of record. There has to be something wrong," Lopez said. "How can the mining sector claim to be able to eradicate poverty in the country when they can't even eradicate poverty in their own sector?"

The movement cited figures from a study on the dimensions of poverty in the Philippines by Professor Arsenio Balisacan, dean of the University of the Philippines School of Economics.

Balisacan, who has been examining the nature, causes and consequences of poverty for the past 15 years, said poverty across all sectors of the economy has tended to decline, with the exception of mining. However, he admitted that evidence of any supposed link between mining activities and surges in poverty is purely anecdotal.

"Poverty across sectors is trending downwards, though at a slow rate. You see progress over time in the last 15 years. That is not the case for mining, where both in incidence of poverty and the absolute number of people in the sector increased. However, that does not suggest that mining per se is the cause of the problem, it might have contributed to the problem but there are other factors."

"If you want to address the bigger picture what really drives poverty in mining, we have to also look at many other factors including migration... For so long as you have so much unemployment, so much poverty, especially in low-paying jobs in agriculture and other areas, mining development is likely to attract migration of unskilled workers, usually the poor and their families, from these areas."

Mining: boon or bane

Amid the raging mining debate, Balisacan said mining can be a boon or a bane, depending on the quality of institutions and policies put in place.

Before declaring if the area is good for mining, Balisacan said it is vital that governments have a clear policy and governance framework on mining, providing the parameters of engagement, especially safeguards, protocols, and rules of the game.

A proper resource valuation framework on mineral resources has to be adopted to ensure that all the costs and the benefits, including direct and indirect, on-site and off-site, of mineral extraction are adequately accounted for.

The governance of the mining sector should be informed of this framework. Mining should not be undertaken in areas where the costs to society outweigh the benefits.

But without a well-defined policy framework, he warned, mining may only spell danger for communities.

"We are openly inviting investors without specifically saying what the rules of the game are. For example, would you allow open-pit mining in ecologically-sensitive areas? The policy framework and governance structure [should come] first, clearly defining what the standards and protocols are, so investors are properly guided and choose technologies for mineral extraction consistent with those standards. Would you allow open-pit mining in ecologically sensitive areas?" Balisacan said.

"Those have to be well-defined. If they're not well-defined, institutions not developed to address problems like pollution and migration, then you will get this conflict between incomes and the sustainability of the environment.

"The policy framework should define those safeguards so when you go to an ecologically-sensitive area, then eco-tourism may be the better alternative, but in areas where the economic gains are tremendous, the social cost can be contained, then why not? Make sure you price it properly so there's something left to the country which can be used for education and rebuilding out the environment. That's how you can balance the interest.

"There's no such thing as one-size-fits-all. There are areas where mining may be warranted, but also areas where the better use of resources would be eco-tourism.

"There are costs and there are benefits... the net should promote the common good, the economy is advanced, poverty is reduced, inequality is not aggravated."

Win-win solution

"There is a win-win solution. It's realizing there are potential problems, at the same time there are potential gains, economic and social gains from using properly mineral resources and transforming them into activities, goods, even human capital so that poverty is reduced and inequity is not," Balisacan said.

"Any extraction of resource must promote the common good so public welfare can be advanced. You have to make sure that the social costs are not more than the social benefits you extract from mining."

Balisacan noted that officials may need to study Palawan's own experience with drawing natural gas, how local institutions and governance applied existing policies, and whether the resource drawn has benefitted communities.

Balisacan noted mining has contributed significantly in countries like Australia and Malaysia.

"In many countries around the world where mining is an important economic activity, mining tends to be adverse to local conditions to local communities, the poor in those areas, if the policy in mining is not well defined, local institutions are not equipped to address the adverse consequences of mining. But not in areas where there are enough safeguards and the institutional environment is clear, predictable, well-defined and says what's allowed and what's not.

"Surely there's a common ground, an appropriate policy framework government has to settle. [If] that framework defines what's allowed, what the responsibilities of the responsible parties are, then we should have no conflicts and the common good will be promoted."

Balisacan said the challenge lies in local governments organizing themselves to closely monitor mining practices, to make sure they are done with the least cost and the greatest benefit to communities.

"In island ecosystems, the very fact of mining there is irresponsible. Palawan is our last old growth forest, it's our UNESCO biosphere reserve, it holds one of the Seven Wonders of Nature. Why will we allow it to be cut up for selfish interests. Why don't we preserve it," said Lopez.

"If we preserve Palawan, it's not only our country that stands to benefit, it's the world."

Position Paper for the Joint Senate Hearing of Committee on Agriculture and Food and Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, for P.S. Resolution No. 641

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines - National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA)

8 December 2011

Mining or extractive industry is destructive to the environment - "Our experiences of environmental tragedies and incidents with the mining transnational corporations belie all assurances of sustainable and responsible mining that the government is claiming. Increasing number of mining affected communities, Christians and non-Christians alike, are subjected to human rights violations and economic deprivations. We see no relief in sight" (CBCP, A Statement on Mining Issues and Concerns, January 29, 2006).

The Church challenges the government policy on mining and categorically declares that: "the Mining Act destroys life. The right to life of people is inseparable from their right to sources of food and livelihood. Allowing the interests of big mining corporations to prevail over people's right to these sources amounts to violating their right to life. Furthermore, mining threatens people's health and environmental safety through the wanton dumping of waste and tailings in rivers and seas" (CBCP, A Statement on Mining Issues and Concerns, January 29, 2006).

When balance of nature is disturbed or sacrificed, we risk becoming victims of our folly, as the late Pope Paul VI warned us: "Man is suddenly becoming aware that by an ill-considered exploitation of nature he risks destroying it and becoming in turn the victim of this degradation." (Octogesima Adveniens No. 21).

We have our moral obligation to preserve the integrity of creation by effecting concerted action for ensur­ing just and sustainable management of our natural resources, particularly our forest and river eco­systems. We need to work together to save our environment and to prevent the destructive effects of un­balanced ecology and to ensure food security.

We pursue our advocacy for a sustainable ecology because it is part of our Christian responsibility. With the late Pope John Paul II, we believe that "Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith" (The Ecological Crisis No. 15, Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II for the celebration of the World Day of Peace).

The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines also emphasized the issue of human accountability due to neglect of the ecol­ogy: "Because the integrity of Gods creation is violated, our people suffer the destruction brought about by droughts and floods. Those disasters cannot be traced merely to uncontrollable powers of nature, but also to human greed for short term economic gain . . ." (Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, Acts 323).

Premises considered, we reiterate our positions and pastoral statements calling for policy reform in the mining industry:

1. The country faces more and more environmental problems because of the government's liberal policies on extractive operations - "The government mining policy is offering our lands to foreigners with liberal conditions while our people continue to grow in poverty. We stated that the adverse social impact on the affected communities far outweigh the gains promised by mining Trans-National Corporations (TNCs)" (CBCP, A Statement on Mining Issues and Concerns, January 29, 2006).

The Mining Act of 1995, which lays down the policy for the government's near-fanatical campaign to attract foreign investors to invest in the mining distorts the goal of genuine development. By single-mindedly pursuing the economic benefits or financial gain, it failed to weigh the greater consideration in the equation - the human and ecosystems well-being, the human rights of the indigenous peoples and the local communities, the food security and ecological integrity of our country.

Therefore, the Church together with the civil society advocates, call for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and the enactment of an alternative law on mining and environment protection. The Church has thrown its full weight on the campaign for the passage of the alternative Minerals Resources Act, which offers a far more sustainable approach to utilization and protection of our country's natural resources.

2. Recognizing, however, the long duration of legislative procedures, the Church joins the local communities and the civil society in calling for a mining moratorium to put a stop to the plunder of our natural resources by the transnational mining companies. The large- scale mining operations, under the guise of development, promise to bring the much-needed for­eign investment to the detriment of the environment and the welfare of our people. We believe that environment should never be sacrificed - that "an economy respectful of the environment will not have the maximization of profit as its only objective, because environmental protection cannot be assured solely on the basis of financial calculations . . . The environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces." (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 40: AAS 83 (1991), 843).

3. We call for the government and private corporations to respect the rights of the indigenous peo­ples (IPs), particularly their right for self-determination as enshrined in the legal obligation requiring for any projects the granting of their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). As it had been in the past, the encroachment on their land by mining and logging companies had continued unabated. In almost all instances, the FPICs were obtained deceptively, or through indirect bribery. In the spirit of Christian solidarity, "we must join them (IPs) in their struggle and be "on their side so that their ances­tral domains, their cultures, rights and the integrity of their environment be defended, preserved and promoted" (PCP II, Acts 379).

4. We reiterate our objection to the prevailing neo-liberal pitch that there is no other path to development except through further economic liberalization, especially in mining industry. Recent empirical researches show otherwise - "Mining has the highest poverty incidence (48.7%) of any sector in the country. It is the only sector where poverty incidence increased between 1988-2009."

Therefore, we demand for a cost-benefit analysis of the mining industry vis-à-vis its impact to ecology and food security. As our experience on the ground confirms: "the adverse social impact of affected communities, especially our indigenous brothers and sisters far outweigh the gains promised by large-scale mining corporations. Our people living in the mountains and along the affected shorelines can no longer avail of the bounty of nature. Rice fields are devastated and bays rich with sea foods become health hazards" (A Statement of Concern on the Mining Act of 1995, February 28, 1998).

For the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines - National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA)

Executive Secretary

Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez
Executive Secretary
470 Gen. Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila, PHILIPPINES
(02) 353-9346; 527-4147; 527-4163 / fax: (02) 527-4144

Mining industry review sought to avert food supply threats

Sun Star Manila

8 December 2011

THE Philippine mining industry must undergo a review to prevent threats to the country's food security, Senator Francis Pangilinan said Thursday after a joint hearing by the Senate committees on the environment, and on agriculture and food.

"Clearly, there is a need to address the loopholes in the regulation and practices of mining companies that operate in the country. We cannot sacrifice our food security for the sake of tapping the potential of an industry that obviously needs further evaluation based on data that we have received today," he said.

He made this assertion after Marinduque Governor Carmencita Reyes said lead deposits have rendered the Kalangkang River in her province unable to support life. Waste from open-pit mines leached into the river system and caused floods in 1993 and 1996. Reyes also blames the waste for children in the area having trouble concentrating. Some have also developed aplastic anemia, a disease that causes bone marrow failure.

The Save Palawan Movement also said tailings from mines in the province have cut rice production and have contaminated water meant for irrigation. One farmer said production, which used to be at 70 cavans, has been reduced by more than half since mines came to the island.

Lawyer Ronald Residoro, representing industry association Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, argued large-scale mining companies bring hospitals, schools, and roads to communities where they operate. Large-scale mines also help reforestation efforts, the lawyer said. He added hazards to the environment come from small-scale miners and not from members of the chamber.

According to the Mining and Geosciences Bureau [sic], "responsible" mining requires mining firms to maintain sustainable growth, uplift the quality of life of residents near the mines, and to monitor the environmental impact of mines. Residoro said while large-scale companies comply with government regulations, small-scale miners do not.

"I am not against mining per se, but as we saw and heard today, irresponsible mining is a grave threat to our efforts in attaining food security," Pangilinan, who is considering a halt on granting mining permits, said.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat on Social Action earlier called for a halt to mining and a repeal of the Mining Act, the law that allows and regulates mining.

In a statement, it said mining trades "the human and ecosystems' well-being, the human rights of the indigenous peoples and the local communities, (and) the food security and ecological integrity of our country" for economic gains. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)

Aquino effigy burning caps 5-day protest march vs. Tampakan mining

By Bong S. Sarmiento


11 December 2011

KORONADAL CITY - Groups opposing the Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. completed on Saturday their five-day, 150-kilometer protest march here, capped by the burning of the effigy of President Benigno C. Aquino III aboard a back hoe.

It was the second long march against Sagittarius Mines, which is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world's fourth largest copper producer, since last year.

This time, tribal members, farmers, youth, church-backed and militant groups, walked from Digos City in Davao del Sur to this city, beginning December 6, a reverse of the route they had last year.

The culmination was timed in today's commemoration of International Human Rights Day.

An estimated 500 protestors joined the culmination of the march, dubbed "Lakbayan II: Tuloy ang Laban Batok sa Dinagkung Pagmina ug Pagpanglapas sa Tawhanong Katungod" or "The Fight Continues Against Large-Scale Mining and Human Rights Violations."

It caused traffic jams as the protesters walked four kilometers to the downtown proper, occupying one lane of the highway.

They held the closing ceremonies near the old city hall building, occupying a block that was closed to traffic.

"We braved the heat and bear the rains as we progressed to this city because we want to inculcate in the public mind that SMI should not be allowed to operate," Ryan Lariba, spokesperson of Bayan SOCSKSARGEN, told MindaNews.

After Digos City, the protestors, estimated at 200, advanced to Malalag town in Davao del Sur, where SMI plans to build a coal-fired power plant, then proceeded to General Santos City, where the company holds administrative and operational functions.

From General Santos, they went to Tampakan town, which the company listed as its "headquarters," en route to Koronadal, the regional seat of government for Southwestern Mindanao.

The protestors, whose number swelled as they advanced, carried placards and tarpaulins calling for the abolition of the 1995 Mining Act of the Philippines, and urging SMI to abandon the project, among other issues, including human rights violations, militarization and labor wages.

Despite the searing heat, the culmination protest in this city lasted for about five hours, ending around 2 p.m.

Chants of "SMI palayasin" (kick out SMI) reverberated in the air in between speeches of the speakers.

As a highlight of the protest action, they burned the effigy of Aquino, whom they clad in a military uniform carrying an Armalite rifle.

Apparently not contented, they then bashed him with sticks and kicked the backhoe, which was fashioned from plywoods, until they were a total wreck.

Aquino, in his early days in office, had expressed support to the venture of Sagittarius Mines, noting the huge investment that the country can gain from the venture.

During the speeches, calls for justice for the slain Eliezer Billanes, who was believed to have been killed for his staunch resistance against SMI's operations, also rang out from the mobile speakers loaded into a truck.

His daughter, Ma. Lorena Billanes, now secretary general of Hustisya Socsksargen, said that justice remained elusive for their family since the father was killed in March 2009.

"Maraming namatay dahil sa walang hiyang military. Si Boy [Billanes' nickname] ay pinatay ng military," Lorena told the crowd.

She also accused the mining firm of allegedly ordering the military to do the hit.

Sagittarius Mines and the 27th Infantry Battalion separately denied earlier that they were involved in the killing of Billanes.

Officials of Sagittarius Mines have said they "respect" those who are against their mining project.

Sagittarius is still in the exploratory stage and plans to go into commercial operation by 2016.

Its venture, however, is facing an obstacle with the environment code of South Cotabato that bans open-pit mining.

Sagittarius Mines is also hobbled by security threats from the New People's Army and tribal members who lately organized into an armed group. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

Zamboanga del Sur hosts biggest anti-mining protest

By Jun Pasaylo Home

Philippine Star

10 December 2011

PAGADIAN CITY, Philippines - More than five thousand residents of Zamboanga del Sur province started a two-day march Friday (Dec. 9) to protest the dozens of mining applications in this so-called last bastion of mineral-rich area in Western Mindanao.

Dubbed as "Journey and Sacrifice for Life", parishioners from the 24 towns of the province embarked the protest walk calling for responsible officials to deny the applications of several mining industries in the area.

At present, Canatuan Mining, owned by TVI Resource Development (Philippines) Inc., headed in the over 40 pending mining applications in several municipalities of Zamboanga del Sur.

Among the areas that the investors are eyeing are the gold, silver and copper deposits within the towns of the Salug Valley section and the Baganian Peninsula area.

In an interview, Pagadian Bishop Emmanuel Cabajar said the move was aimed at waking local officials in the province on the ill effect of mining activities in the environment and to their constituents.

On top of its anti-mining agenda, he said the protest gathering likewise re-echos of the opposition of the Catholic Church in Mindanao in the controversial Reproductive Health bill and the looming divorce measure.

"This is to express the position of the diocese and its people that we are against mining, we are against the RH bill, and we are against the violation of human rights," he said.

Resident-protesters started the walk at 4:00 a.m. Friday from various starting points -- from as far as the northernmost town Mahayag (45 kilometers from this city) and the southernmost municipality of Pitogo (60 kilometers from this city).

Protesters from the four corners of the province will converge here today to solidify their call for the government to scrap in the Philippine Mining Act that accordingly puts the country's natural resources in the hand of environment poachers.

In a gathering that is apparently the one of the biggest anti-mining protests in the country, the Diocese of Pagadian expected to gather a total of more than 10,000 protesters today.

"This is to awaken the local government units to be more conscious of their primary obligations to the people, and to awake those who are not aware of this urgent need of the country," Cabajar pointed out.

In a separate interview, Father June Nilo Vics of San Jose Parish in Dumingag town said the protest gathering revealed the pulse of the people on the mining policy of the government and to the controversial RH bill.

"The mining act, it destroys the environment. The RH bill, it destroys life. So all of these are anti-life," he pointed out.

He also expressed frustration on the approval of the provincial government, headed by Gov. Antonio Cerilles, on the entry of mining entities in his area to extract its mineral resources.

"Despite being an anti-mining town, the provincial governor approved the entry of mining firms in our area," he added.

Apart from the 24 parishes and two sub-parishes of the diocese, participating groups included the Diocese of Dipolog, Iligan, Ozamiz and Ipil; Diocesan Catholic schools in the region; several civil society organizations and non-government organizations; interfaith groups; and DIOPIM bishops, among others.

"Our message is clear - no to mining, no to RH bill."

Zamboanga Sibugay eyes ban on open-pit mining

Mindanao Examiner

1 December 2011

ZAMBOANGA CITY - The southern Philippine province of Zamboanga Sibugay is likely to declare a ban on open-pit mining following the move of neighboring Zamboanga del Norte.

Governor Rommel Jalosjos said they will not allow any open-pit mining in the province citing its destructive effect on the environment. "No. I am not for open-pit mining. Over my dead body," he said when asked by reporters during a news conference if he would allow open-pit mining in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Jalosjos, who had worked at a mining firm in Australia, said: "I've seen what they have done."

South Cotabato has first declared a ban on open-pit mining as part of its environment code and also put at risk billions of dollars of investments in the province, but saved the environment from further destructions.

Zamboanga del Norte followed after provincial lawmakers passed a resolution recently banning open-pit mining in the province. But mining firms have challenged the provincial ordinance in courts, citing that the ban is not in accordance with the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

Manila said the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and its Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations is considered in the industry today as one of the most socially and environmentally-sensitive legislations in its class.

It has specific provisions that take into consideration the following - Local government empowerment; Respect and concern for the indigenous cultural communities; Equitable sharing of benefits of natural wealth; Economic demands of present generation while providing the necessary foundation for future generations; Worldwide trend towards globalization; and Protection for and wise management of the environment.

Mining executives said they follow responsible and sustainable mining and provided health care and other benefits to the host community aside from tax it pay the local and national government.

But mining firms - gold, silver, copper among other minerals and deposits - in Mindanao also attracted sustained attacks from communist New People's Army and Muslim rebels who are opposed to the destructive activities in the volatile, but mineral-rich region.

Ethnic tribesmen and church leaders, including environmentalists, are also destructive mining activities in Mindanao.

"We are opposed to destructive mining, especially in our ancestral domain," said Timuay Noval Lambo, chieftain of the Gukom sog Pito ko Dolungan, the highest Subanon authority in Western Mindanao.

Lambo said they wanted to develop their community, but gets no support either from the national or provincial government where mining taxes go. He also questioned the provincial ban on open-pit mining in Zamboanga del Norte, saying, they were not consulted about this.

"We should have consulted first about this provincial ordinance because we are the ones affected by these mining activities in our own ancestral domain. We want our community developed, but we get no support from the national and provincial governments," he said.

It was not immediately known whether Zamboanga del Sur would also pass a resolution banning open-pit mining in the province. Small scale gold mining activities are also rampant in Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte. (Mindanao Examiner)

Captured Army major outwits NPA rebels

By Zaff Solmerin

Business Mirror

4 December 2011

OVERHEARING communist rebels were about to hold him hostage in their radio conversation, an Army major jumped into a cliff and vanished into the woods as the rebels were busy attending to their other captives - three other soldiers and two civilians - on Saturday in Sitio Mahayahay, Barangay Guinoman, Diplahan, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Col. Gerardo Barrientos Jr., commander of the Army's 102nd Infantry Brigade, said Maj. Ramon Torres hid in the bushes as the rebels tried to find and recapture him.

At about 7 p.m. on Saturday, Torres crawled to the road and was able to convince a motorist to take him to the camp. He reunited with his wife Hermelinda, 35, who was anxiously waiting for him for 12 hours.

At about 7:30 a.m., the brigade spokesman, Lt. Col. Billie Tagapulot, said about 40 New People's Army (NPA) rebels wearing military uniforms and others disguised as mediamen flagged down a Mitsubishi Strada pickup that Torres's team and two civilians were riding.

Toronto Ventures Inc. (TVI), a mining company, owns the vehicle.

"The three captured soldiers and two civilians, except Torres who outwitted the rebels, were later released after the rebels took the soldiers' firearms," Tagapulot said.

The rebels burned the vehicle and fled with four high-powered rifles and six handguns from the soldiers before government reinforcements arrived.

"The NPA rebels were demanding ‘revolutionary taxes' as part of their extortion activities against TVI and from the local populace. This incident is alarming and disturbs the livelihood of the people in the area," Barrientos said.

(Zaff Solmerin)

Mine-affected communities mine their experiences at opposing large-scale mining

By Alma B. Sinumlag

Northern Dispatch

1 December 2011

BAGUED, Abra - "I am very glad to see many people here. It means that we are not the only ones fighting against corporate mining." This is how Dominga Gaspar, member of the Barangay Council of Gambang, Bakun, Benguet, started her testimony at the Benguet, Abra, Mt. Province, Ilocos Sur (BAMPIS) Mining Summit held here last November 18.

Gaspar recalled how their community has staunchly opposed mining exploration starting from when the first mining application into their area was submitted. Community members said they held numerous activities, wrote opposition papers, manifestations and many more just to register their rejection of any large-scale mining activities in their area.

The village of Gambang hosted the Cordillera Day in 2009 where Gabriela Womens Partylist (GWP) Representative Luzviminda Ilagan attended and witnessed their strong opposition to the Exploration Application of RoyalCo Philippines Inc., said Gaspar as example.

She said they also trooped to the House of Representatives in Quezon City to be heard by Congressmen in the region in 2010. Also, they hosted the On-site Congressional Inquiry of the National Cultural Communities specifically on the violations to the Indigenous Peoples Rights by the RoyalCo, most especially with regard to the subdivision of their village into various ‘phases.' They submitted their manifestations to concerned offices and government agencies.

But all these had not been enough, Gaspar said, because the RoyalCo is always changing its name until now. And it is still insisting on entering their domain.

"Our consent was fraudulently taken through the company's divide and rule tactic that even the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) had not questioned." Still, she said they remain "firm in their position and since several months ago, they have in fact been barricading all entry points to their village to block the entry of any mine equipment."

Because of these, the company is now harassing the village people by submitting their names to the Provincial Director of the Police and accusing them of being members of the New Peoples' Army (NPA).

Felix Dengaey of Lamag, Ilocos Sur, shared their experience, this time of how their ancestors had fought the entry of BCI since its first application. The biggest problem they have confronted to date was apparently the engineer hired by Newcrest to court their approval of mine exploration- he was a local and a relative.

Dengaey proudly reported that their elders had not been swayed by bribes offered by the company through this local engineer and relative. The basis of his community for refusing mining, he explained, was the experience of Benguet specifically their neighbor, the town of Mankayan.

They also noted that when a mining company applies for exploration or operation, truck loads of army troops inevitably follow. Dengaey said that while it is true that the military troops are telling them they will not meddle in their decision about whether to allow the mines or not, he said the troops are also persuading them to say yes.

For Ama Kawi of Sagada, Mt. Province, the communities that are not yet mined out and explored should strongly oppose these mining applications that cover almost the entire area of Cordillera.

"We do not need to experience the disaster that befell Mankayan before we say no," he declared.

Rudy Reyes of Lacub, Abra said that in their town, mining companies, local government units (LGU) and the military are cooperating with each other to let the mine firm enter. The mining firm's promised "development" has transformed the LGU into the protector of its interest against the community's strong opposition. The LGUs and the mining firm are using goons and military to harass the villagers.

He noted that since Golden Lake filed an application for mining exploration, army troops have been deployed in almost all villages of Lacub, instilling fear among the residents.

Reyes added that there had been many documented and undocumented human rights violations as a result of militarization. Soldiers court girl-children and married women.Their community has also documented a rape case involving soldiers in Pacoc village. Because of all these, communities continue to call for the pull-out of the military from their villages.

Why fight corporate mining?

A delegate of the Philippine Independent Church asked the speakers about what there is in mining that people are often opposed to it? Albert Diego from Colalo, Mankayan replied that mining in Benguet particularly in their town has depleted their water sources, sunk their lands, polluted the rivers where they used to fish, and it continues to sink Poblacion, Mankayan. He expressed their community fear that they are in danger of being erased from the Philippine map altogether because of the continuing subsidence.

Mayor Jeremy Jesus Bueno III of Santa, Ilocos Sur, the catch basin of all mine wastes dumped into the Abra River, said they had been experiencing fish kills and coral bleaching since the 1970s. Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) was operating at the time.

As for magnetite mining (off shore mining) which their town experienced during the Marcos regime, it quickly depleted their land area. Their shoreline rose up to the mountain edge and narrowed. If the offshore mining companies operate in their town, he warned that the whole of Santa would be submerged and erased from the map just like what Diego fears for Mankayan in Benguet.

Lulu Gimenez of Apit TAKO said that if you mine the earth like for instance through large-scale mining, the earth is disturbed, making it prone to landslides. She reiterated how the collapse of several old tailing ponds had caused not only pollution in the river but thick silt covering vast rice fields near the river. This turned it very acidic and unproductive.

The delegates formed a network of organizations, individuals from BAMPIS municipalities and advocates to strengthen and coordinate efforts with regard to onshore and offshore mining and campaigning for human rights. They called their network the BAMPIS Mining Watch.

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