Philippines: Mining abuses continue with no promised changes in the law
The drama over the proposed Executive Order of the Philippine President, Nonoy Aquino, continues (see 'Philippine Mining Act cannot be saved by executive order'). There are further hints about its coming out, but when, how - or indeed if - it will appear is now anyone's guess.
A recent article explains that the mining development on Nonoc island remains stalled thanks to incompetence and corruption. It hints at the difficulties any such order will have in dealing with the endemic problems of the Philippine mining industry.
And, while everyone waits, the abuses pile up. The controversial Tampakan project hits the headlines as communities blockaded the company once again, this time over relocation issues. Although the issue has apparently been solved, it bodes ill for continuing development of the project (. It should be on hold anyway, considering the failure to get environmental clearance and the provincial ban on open pit mining).
Human rights abuses are also to the fore, with alleged new threats to the environmentalist nun, Sister Stella Matutina; a build-up of military activity in the Caraga mining region; and in Mankayan, where an army officer has been accused of the rape and sexual abuse of two minors.
These accusations coincide with continued opposition by communities in Mankayan to the expansion of Lepanto's and Goldfield's Far South East Project.
A fact-finding mission has reported on the environmental and human rights issues of the indigenous Aeta of Zambales, as they face increased mining operations.
There have also been calls from civil society and local government for mines to clean up their mess in Claver Bay.
Finally, a newly launched book "Gentle Treasures: Stories of women against mining" catalogues the lives of community leaders and activists who have struggled to get their voices heard in defence of their communities, their land and Mother Earth.
One can only hope the President has taken a copy with him for the Easter break...
Mining may be banned in ecotourism areas-Aquino
By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
29 March 2012
MANILA, Philippines-If adopted, the government's draft policy statement on mining would lead to a mining ban in areas that would be reserved for ecotourism, President Aquino said Thursday afternoon.
Aquino confirmed that the concerned economic and environment clusters of his Cabinet had already submitted a draft policy statement that officials earlier said would be the guide in proposing amendments to the country's mining laws and in drafting related executive issuances.
Aquino, however, said that the policy statement would still be presented to stakeholders such as mining industry leaders, environment protection advocates and local government units.
"That is the proposal; to preserve them as ecotourism sites," President Aquino said when asked if mining would be banned in 78 such areas.
Aquino, nonetheless, said that the document he was presented on Wednesday didn't include a list of these ecotourism sites, where mining would be banned.
"I'm as excited as you are to see the finished draft. But the proposal yesterday was... to engage these various stakeholders in the five points of what has been discussed by the economic cluster," President Aquino said in an interview on Thursday.
Asked if the adoption of the policy statement would still take a few more months, he said, "It shouldn't take months."
"What they presented appears to be a policy statement. This will be vetted or passed through the various stakeholders. They asked for permission to go through a series of consultations with all of the stakeholders before adopting this final draft. So it's not yet finished," the President said.
Aquino added, "They will still have to discuss with the various entities that are very much concerned with the mining in our country. So that includes the ecological groups, the mining groups, the local government units and so on and so forth. So it's still not a finished policy. It's still a work in progress."
New mining policy to be issued piecemeal
By Louella D. Desiderio
The Philippine Star
29 March 2012
SINGAPORE - The government may release a series of policies for the regulation of the mining industry instead of just one executive order (EO) as some proposed changes may require legislation, an official said.
"The mining policy may not be a one-shot deal. It may not come in one EO and may come in a series of policies," Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Leo Jasareno said at the 8th Asia Mining Congress here Monday night.
He said that some proposed reforms, particularly, increasing the share of the government by raising taxes from mining operations would require legislation.
"Part of it will be legislative, meaning part of the policy will be for the executive to ask Congress for some laws that will address the issues, so it is not just one policy," he said.
He said that for the government to collect higher taxes from miners, for instance, Congress, would have to look into the possibility of imposing taxes through legislation.
He said that while the government is leaning on pushing to collect more from mining firms, it has yet to finalize the appropriate mechanism on how to increase its share from mining.
He said in his speech at the same event that the government through its mining study group, is currently formulating a mining policy to address the different issues faced by the mining industry.
"This mining policy is envisioned to address the raging environmental and social issues and bring about stability in the business of mining," he said.
Among the challenges faced by the industry, he said, are the perception of mining being destructive to the environment as well as the lack of monitoring capability of the government and inventory of the country's mineral resources.
The government, he also said, is not getting sufficient share in revenues from mining which has resulted in some local government units opposing such operations in their respective areas.
He said the mining industry is facing other challenges such as security of investments and small-scale mining operations which have unsafe mining practices.
He said that discussions for the formulation of the mining policy are covering certain focus areas such as ensuring that mining operations contribute to sustainable development and that international best practices to promote good governance in mining are adopted.
In ensuring that mining would contribute to the country's sustainable development, discussions, he said are being held on creating an inter-agency council on mining, conducting public auction for mining tenements and looking into insurance coverage for the environment as well as perpetual liability for the discussions on adopting international best practices, he said, include supporting the participation of the country in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which sets the global standard for transparency in revenue management derived from extractive industries like mining, oil and gas, as well as the creation of a task force against illegal mining.
Other focus areas being discussed in the formulation of the mining policy, he said are how to ensure environmental protection by identifying additional areas closed to mining as well as how to guarantee equitable benefits from mining through the promotion of joint venture agreements and financial or technical assistance agreements (FTAA) which provide better sharing schemes.
Under the FTAA, a license which allows a foreign corporation to legally own and control a majority stake in large-scale mineral resources in the Philippines, he said, the government gets a bigger share or 50 percent of the miners' revenues.
He said discussions have likewise covered how to harmonize regulations and the affirmation of the primacy of national laws over local ordinances as well as how to undertake effective and efficient management of both small and large scale mining operations through the conduct of training, establishment of provincial or city mining regulatory boards and cultural mapping of indigenous peoples areas.
He said the government has not set a new target date for the release of the new policies for the mining sector.
"There is no specific timetable but it (mining policy) is considered an urgent one,"he said.
President Benigno Aquino III earlier said the mining policy would be released in February but the rules were not issued as planned as the government cited the need for more consultations.
The government, Jasareno said, is moving fast to finalize the policies as it seeks to ensure that the industry would be a viable option for growth and that the country would remain a key mining destination in the world.
The country's metal output rose nine percent to P122.15 billion in 2011 compared to the previous year amid favorable metal prices in the world market.
Nonoc and the future of mining
J.A. de la Cruz, Coast-to-Coast
25 March 2012
Surigao del Norte Rep. Lalo Matugas is in a quandary. Coming from a province with one of the country's richest mining deposits, his constituents expect him to advocate the unlocking, as it were, of this natural resource to uplift their lives and move Surigao del Norte forward to a sustainable future. The widespread sentiment is: Why can't Matugas and his allies who now control the province do something about it especially since he also happens to head the House Committee on Natural Resources?
Precisely because he is the chairman of the committee that is now refereeing the increasingly toxic debate on the future of mining in the country, Matugas has to be extra careful not to be caught in the crossfire. He has to be fair with the pro- and anti-mining groups by allowing them to tell their stories about their positions on the issue.
As the committee holds public hearings and hears out the views of various sectors and stakeholders in the mining industry, I have no doubt that Matugas would be able to steer clear of the hard-line, extremist positions being taken by both sides of the debate, separate the theories and "what should have beens" and get to the more realistic and appropriate discussion points. He could be in the best position to expound on the "pitfalls and promises" of the mining industry. Why so? Because as a native Surigaonon, he has seen firsthand the "best and the worst" the industry can offer.
By sharing Surigao del Norte's experience with the Nonoc Mines Project, which in the 1970s was touted as one of the most promising industrial undertakings in the country, he will be able to provide the proper perspective to ensure that our rich mining deposits get to be unlocked and used for the greater national good. Not just for the few who have managed to get around the rules and their obligations, especially to the host communities. After all, the Nonoc Mines Project was just one of a number of such promising mining ventures that never achieved their full potentials. These projects underscored problems that need to be addressed if we are to break the logjam engulfing the mining industry.
The failed promise of Nonoc
As early as the 1950s, the 250,000-hectare Nonoc Island in Surigao del Norte was known to host Southeast Asia's richest nickel deposits with traces of cobalt and uranium. That potential was confirmed by further studies in the early 1960s such that in 1968, after commissioning a series of studies, the Cabarrus family through Marinduque Mining and Industrial Corp. (MMIC) entered into an operating contract with the government to get designated parcels of the Surigao Mineral Reservation into production.
That contract called for the setting up of an integrated mining operation on the island complete with a refinery to process the ores into high-grade nickel and other processed materials. It also stipulated the setting up of a self-contained and living community similar to the mining towns that hosted huge mining and industrial operations in Canada and Australia. It was also envisioned that the largesse from the Nonoc operations would cascade into the nearby towns and communities in Surigao del Norte, thus weaning the province away from its agricultural roots and transform it into one of the most progressive and economically diversified provinces in the entire country. That promise never came to pass.
Although commercial production was commenced in 1974 and the integrated mining venture seemed on track to become a model operation, 10 years hence in 1984 after shipping out a total of 22.4 million tons of ores, the venture was foreclosed by the banks for reasons that have remained unanswered. In March 1986, barely a month after Edsa Uno, it was shut down as President Corazon Aquino and her band of avengers went on a virtual rampage forcing every business operation with any so-called Marcos connection, perceived or otherwise, into submission.
These businesses were taken over without any documentation at all (Meralco, ABS-CBN and related enterprises) or consigned to the whims and caprices of the Salonga-led PCGG or turned over to an innocuous but powerful Asset Privatization Trust (APT). It was from the APT that an alleged Cabarrus-led group called PhilNico Mining and Industrial Corp. (PhilNico Industrial) took over the Nonoc venture. Production resumed intermittently. Then, in 1995, another group, Pacific Nickel Holdings (PhilNico Holdings), controlled by a group headed by Evaristo "Jun" Narvaez Jr. acquired 90 percent of PIC shares with a promise to rehabilitate the entire Nonoc operations. This time, Narvaez promised to pay up the $300 million, which the venture owed government, set up the refinery and revive the entire operations.
Philnico's ‘lucky streak'
Out of the $300 million, Narvaez and company paid only $1.5 million but has since held on to the entire property doing whatever they chose to do with nary a squeak of protest from government. Again, despite the loose monitoring of its operations and commitments, the Narvaez group failed to get the venture into shape. The refinery was never set up, it sub-contracted the mining operations to two groups and used its hold on the property as a platform to "bid out" participation in the entire venture.
We are told that the Narvaez group was so successful in parading this property to the world they were able to get advances from potential investors like China's Jinchuan Group, South Africa's Impala Platinum, which is the world's second-largest platinum producer, and even some high-flying Australian and Canadian operators. These "road shows" gave the group breathing space and diverted the attention of every administration since Edsa Uno away from their original and principal obligation to put the mining venture back on track to world-class efficiency and competence. Every time government obliges them to get the project on track, they come up with an "investors and negotiations" show only to drop the whole shebang at the last minute.
The Jinchuan group, for example, committed at least $1.5 billion in investments to get the venture into fruition. This dragged on toward the middle of the second Arroyo administration only to bog down at the last minute. But that "show" enabled the Narvaez group to hold on to the property for yet another "try." If that trick fails, they go to the courts in Surigao del Norte all the way up to Manila to tie down the project in lengthy litigation. Up to now, almost two years into the six-year term of this administration, there seems to be no solution in sight even as Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima has given a deadline for the Narvaez group to put up the full payment or else. Government has even canceled the MPSA and served notice that it will no longer allow mining operations in the area in the meantime. To no avail. Why Purisima and company cannot even get Narvaez to pay up or take over the venture and bid it out to more productive venturers remain a mystery to many people. In fact, some groups including SMC President Ramon Ang, have submitted proposals to get things on the move but the administration seems to be dragging its feet.
Up to now, the sub-contracting operations, which extracted millions of tons of precious ore at a time when world metal prices reached stratospheric levels, continue. Using the worn-out cover of "testing" the ores and "finalizing" the studies (they made no less than three such studies to support the rehabilitation plan as well as their application to make Nonoc a special economic zone) and with their sub-contractors, the Narvaez group allegedly hauled billions of pesos worth of ores mainly to China. The problems pile up but government seems inutile to even make a move to stop the leaking.
Lumads block Tampakan mining project
By Bong S. Sarmiento
26 March 2012
TAMPAKAN, SouthCotabato -Tribal communities within heart of the mines development site of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) have set up barricades anew in the latest show of opposition to the Tampakan copper gold project.
Journalists, upon invitation by the local Catholic Church, on Saturday saw at least five roadblocks spanning barangays Danlag in Tampakan, South Cotabato and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.
Lumad (indigenous peoples) communities in the hamlets of Bongsbang and Alyong in Barangay Danlag in Tampakan and Nakultanaand Lapla in Bongmal District of Barangay Kimlawis set up the barricades to oppose the company's relocation plan for them.
The roads blocked by the B'laan tribe serve as crucial arteries for the mining firm to move around the mountains.
The roadblocks, according to several members of the tribe who spoke through an interpreter, were established after SMI posted tarpaulins outlining the terms for its proposed relocation project, without allegedly explaining to them what it was all about.
Most of the Lumads could not read or write or understand Cebuano, the language used in the tarpaulin notice. SMI's tarpaulins announced that March 22 would be the cut-off date for those who would want inclusion in the relocation plans.
If the Lumads fail to beat the deadline, they will not receive any compensation for infrastructure and farms that will be affected by the mining project, the tarpaulins said.
The cut-off date would likewise signal the start of the census or survey of those who will be affected by the project, it said.
"The community was shocked by the relocation notice. I don't want my family relocated," Juli Samling, father of three, told MindaNews.
"Here in our community, everything is almost free. You have a land where you can plant to put food on the table. In the relocation site, you have to pay for everything to sustain the family," added Samling, a cousin of Dalina Samling, the tribal chieftain in Barangay Danlag who supports the Tampakan copper-gold project.
Samling said the barricades were set-up by the community members on their own volition.
"This mining project only benefits the few like the tribal chieftains, the military, and those in the lowlands," Kidtol Sagandi said through an interpreter.
Across the villages of Danlag and Kimlawis, the military has set up detachments in strategic locations.
In a press conference last week in Koronadal City, Col. Alexis Bravo said their presence within the Tampakan mining project is not intended to intimidate the tribal communities into supporting the venture of Sagittarius Mines.
He said the Tampakan project is facing threats from the communist New People's Army and "we don't want to give them an opportunity to strike again."
He recalled the incident on New Year's Day 2008 when the rebels burned the base camp of SMI in Barangay Tablu, Tampakan town.
Fr. Guillarme Joy Peliño, Social Action Center director of the Diocese of Marbel, said the barricades initiated by the Lumads are an expression of their discontent.
"They have spoken and their voices should be respected by the company," he said.
Peliño denied allegations that the local Catholic Church egged the Lumads into setting up the barricades.
But in the chokepoint at Sitio Lamla, tribal leader Flao Saluli said they set up the barricade not because they are opposed to the mining project of Sagittarius Mines.
"We are supportive of the mining project only that we have problems with their commitments. If we can settle it, which should include concerned government and private organizations, then no problem," Saluli said.
But he also questioned the continued activities of SMI in the mines development site, showing the January 9, 2012 letter of Juan Miguel Cuna, national director of the Environmental Management Bureau, to Peter Forrestal, president of Sagittarius Mines.
Cuna told Forrestal "to refrain from undertaking any development activity in areas mentioned in the application for ECC until the same is issued in your favor including permits from concerned government units."
In an e-mailed statement on Sunday, John Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communication manager, said they have conducted initial dialogues with the tribal and barangay council leaders of the "project-affected persons" (PAPs) who may be resettled if theTampakan copper-gold project is approved.
Arnaldo said the consultation process is in accordance with the Philippine government's regulatory requirements, relevant International Finance Corp. standards of the World Bank and the policies of SMI and its managing shareholder, Xstrata Copper.
As part of the resettlement consultation process, SMI posted the cut-off date to serve as reference of assets as of 22 March, Arnaldo said.
"This process has been widely appreciated by the respective tribal and barangay council leaders of affected communities, and for them to communicate this to their community members," he said.
"But in the case of Bong Mal, there was a lack in disseminating this to some community members," Arnaldo admitted.
He said the company will continue to work with the community leaders to further explain the cut-off date concern, and ensure all affected stakeholders are informed and consulted on all resettlement activities.
"The company recognizes its obligation to the indigenous peoples and affected communities and we respect their rights," he said. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews
SMI, tribesmen reopen talks on resettlement issue
By Jun Pasaylo
30 March 2012
DAVAO DEL SUR, Philippines - The B'laan tribes in Bong Mal village in Kiblawan town here opened their communities for talks to settle the apparent "misunderstanding" between them and Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), especially on the resettlement program of the mining company in the impact communities.
This after the negotiation bogged down for nearly a week when the villagers established barricades in key entry points of Bong Mal following the cut-off date announcement of SMI.
The mining company earlier sets a March 22 deadline for the villagers to plant and build new structures within the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project, which includes Bong Mal village.
SMI said the purpose of cut-off date is to ensure a fair and just determination of eligibility for compensation and resettlement assistance.
The mining firm also noted that it will not provide compensation and resettlement assistance to people who move into the area, build structures or plant crops after the cut-off date.
The tribesmen however understood that if they fail to comply with the deadline, they will not receive any compensation for their infrastructures and farms that will be affected by the mining project.
But during the three-day consultation, which concluded Thursday, SMI clarified that the cut-off date was to prevent the entry of new settlers, especially those "financiers" who will exploit the monetary needs of the B'laan tribes.
These as there were instances that some of the settlers sale their claims to lowlander buyers, who will then sale the rights to SMI at a higher price.
In an interview, tribal chieftain Dot Capion said the B'laan populace in the area "misunderstands" the announcement, creating chaos in their hearts.
"The people fear because what they understand is that they will be demolished. We do not understand because the company does not conduct consultation before making the cut-off announcement," he said in a local dialect.
This prompted the people to block the road networks in the area to prevent the entry of SMI vehicles as they understand that the mining firm will conduct demolition operation against their houses in the area, according to the tribe leader.
But after a dialogue, the chieftain noted that SMI clearly explained the purpose of the cut-off date, citing that it was for the protection of the impact communities and the mining company.
"After the talks, we remove the road blocks because then we understand the purpose of it. If they let us understand first before posting the announcement, we could have prevented the barricades," he pointed out.
"We understand that there should be a cut-off date so outside exploiters will be prevented from coming in. After all, when we give in to them (outside financiers), the original settlers will not fully benefit from the mining project," he added.
He cited that majority of the people of the community were supportive to the mining interest of SMI, noting that such is among the major ways to uplift the lives of the people in the area.
He reiterated the call of his community for the company to prioritize the tribesmen should there be any possible employment opportunity in the area.
"Our people here are poor, and if this is the only way that our lives will improve then we will support this project to the end," he added.
SMI relocation plan still in the works
By Bong S. Sarmiento
20 March 2012
KORONADAL CITY - Foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. has yet to firm up its relocation plan to those that will be dislodged by its Tampakan copper-gold project, a project partner admitted on Monday.
"The current work program at Tampakan continues to focus... on reaching agreement with the community and [national and local] governments on a range of social impacts, including the need to undertake a substantial resettlement program," the 2011 annual directors' report of Indophil Resources NL showed.
Indophil owns a 37.5% stake at Sagittarius Mines, which is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world's fourth largest copper producer.
The Tampakan project has suffered a setback after the Philippine government rejected last January Sagittarius Mines' application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC), without prejudice to reapplication.
It cited as reason the unresolved open-pit mining ban imposed by South Cotabato, where the Tampakan project is located.
Sagittarius Mines had filed a motion for reconsideration of the national government's decision last January 27.
As of Monday, there was still no decision on the petition and that the open-pit mining ban remains in place, Indophil said.
The Tampakan project is feared to dislocate an estimated 2,600 families, mostly belonging to the B'laan in the mines development site, which would span some 4,000 hectares.
In an undated statement from the local government unit of Tupi in South Cotabato, it said that Sagittarius Mines is eyeing the village of Miasong as relocation site.
Miasong is Tupi's farthest barangay known for its cool climate and vegetable production.
The statement said the multi-national mining company is eyeing Miasong for its resettlement and housing project.
Sagittarius Mines has commenced the study of the suitability of Barangay Miasong for its housing project. They are now into data gathering and validation activities, it said.
Bella Lechonsito, superintendent and engagement and partnership stakeholder of Sagittarius Mines, had requested Julgen Dajay, the Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator, to furnish Tupi's data.
Sagittarius Mines reportedly commissioned Parsons Brinckerhoof to conduct a feasibility study for the resettlement program. Parsons Brinckerhoff is a global consulting firm assisting public and private clients to plan, develop, design, construct, operate and maintain critical infrastructure, its website said.
Parsons Brinckerhoff needs ample data to prepare a due diligence of the identified host community, the Tupi LGU's statement said.
The data requested includes an updated municipal profile; baseline information (population, population growth rate, population forecast by age/gender, student population by grade/year level, morbidity and mortality rate); existing community infrastructure facilities; social and cultural activities or practices of the community; peace and order situation; and transportation means to the Tupi poblacion, it said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)
Vilification of Benedictine nun shows continuing attacks on environment defenders under Aquino
Plea to disband paramilitary groups, and stop the military operations in mining affected communities
PANALIPDAN MINDANAO Press Statement
3 April 2011
A Benedictine nun in the Philippines, Sr. Stella Matutina has been vilified of by the 28th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) showing that defenders of the environment continue to be attacked by state security forces.
Sr. Matutina, Secretary General of Panalipdan! Mindanao (Defenders and Advocates of Environment, Creation, and Patrimony), was alluded to as a "communist" and member of the New People's Army (NPA) during a barangay assembly called by the 28th IB in Lantawan, Lupon, Davao Oriental in the island of Mindanao on March 2nd. The AFP were forming a Barangay Defense System in the area. 1st Lt. Hermie Montelibano alledgedly said that Fr. Fausto Tentorio PIME was killed in October last year because he was a member of the NPA, and that there is 'a nun named Stella who is an NPA' and only 'pretending to be a nun'. Sr Stella worked with the Columban inspired Working Group on Mining in the Philippines - UK in 2009 and 2010 in the case study on BHP Billiton mining project in the Pujada Bay area of Davao Oriental.
Sr. Stella has played an active role in the struggles of local communities in Davao Oriental against large-scale mining and commercial logging. She and two other environmental advocates, Ma. Fe Matibo and Wencislao Mapa, were detained for 8 hours in a barangay hall in Cateel by the 67th IB in 2010 after conducting an environmental education session for the community.
This latest threat against Sr. Matutina reflects the Aquino government's support of multinational large-scale mining at the expense of local communities and natural resources. Davao Oriental has fourteen approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs), the largest number in Region XI. 1st Lt. Lingat of the 28th IB previously confirmed at a
barangay assembly in Mati in November last year that their deployment in the province is part of the Investment Defense Force, a President Arroyo creation to defend mining investments that continues under President Aquino.
Aquino has also foregone his campaign promise to revoke former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Executive Order 546 to established paramilitary groups in defense of mining companies.
This raises concern for environment defenders as violence continues to be unleashed against the people who struggle to protect their land and livelihood since the start of Aquino's presidency in 2010.
The latest victim is Matigsalug-Manobo leader Jimmy Liguyon, officer of KASILO in Bukidnon, who was shot dead by paramilitary men on March 5. Members of the New Indigenous Peoples Army for Reform (NIPAR) shot him because he opposed mining investments in his ancestral community in Dao, San Fernando.
Ricky Manrique, a small-scale mining leader in Pantukan who opposed the entry of Russell Mining and Minerals, Inc. was killed last April 2011. In March 2011 Rudy Segovia, who was picketing at the gates of Toronto Ventures Resource Development, Inc. (TVIRD) in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, was shot by Special Civilian Auxiliary Army (SCAA) guarding the company.
Military operations have targeted mining communities, such as the recent aerial raids in the boundary of Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur by the 30th IBPA and 3rd Special Forces of the 402nd Brigade. These operations caused the evacuation of 387 Mamanwa people to Butuan City. Their ancestral lands are targeted for mining
exploration by Minimax Gold Exploration while SR Mining, Inc is already mining gold in the area.
The 73rd and 27th IBs were also recently deployed to areas in South Cotabato and Davao del Sur where B'laan communities who are under threat of eviction by SMI-Xstrata have set up barricades to defend their land.
Unless President Aquino reverses his policy and interest in large-scale mining, more blood and more natural disasters will stain the Mindanao landscape. Panalipdan Mindanao states that "Not only are we being robbed of our mineral wealth, the lives of our people are literally being sacrificed by the Aquino government for the sake of foreign business interests. We urge the Aquino government to reverse its interests in large-scale mining, disband paramilitary groups, and stop the military operations in communities."
Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB
Secretary General, Panalipdan Mindanao
Militarization in Caraga
By Anabelle E. Plantilla
31 March 2012
One of the proposed mining no-go zones criteria is the existence of human rights violations and conflict zones. In some cases, the advent of mining activities brings in the conflict. This is what is happening in Caraga. The Kahugpungan sa Lumadnong Organisasyon sa Caraga (KASALO-Caraga), an indigenous peoples (IP) organization, relates that in the mountain areas of Cabad-baran and Kitcharao in Agusan del Norte and Alegria in Surigao del Norte, military elements from the 30th and 38th IBPA and the 3rd Special Forces of the 402nd Brigade encamped in civilian communities, occupying public places, even staying in civilian houses with the residents. Hyper-vigilance of soldiers in combat mode has resulted in their holding civilians at gunpoint, using them as shields and indiscriminate firing of high power firearms at populated areas. Random aerial strikes and bombings were launched near communities and in IP hunting grounds in the tri-boundary area of the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte and Sur, putting the lives of residents in these communities at great risk.
As these intensive military operations are carried out in mountain areas rich in mineral resources and at a time when mining and other investments are about to operate, KASALO-Caraga has come to the conclusion that these clearing operations are a means of suppressing their resistance against such incursions onto their ancestral lands and demands an end to militarization of civilian communities.
Contrary to the military claims that their counter-insurgency campaign, Oplan Bayanihan, would bring development, it has so far only resulted in the displacement of mountain communities, most of whom are lumad-Mamanwas. Unable to go to their farms to gather food or hunt, and facing hunger and danger daily, 233 families with 787 individuals evacuated to neighboring communities. More than half of the evacuees are women and children with 10 pregnant, 35 nursing mothers and 165 children.
In the face of this, KASALO - Caraga, with Kayapan - Amihan, its local inter-municipal organization in the municipalities of Kitcharao, Jabonga and Santiago, together with representatives from other Mamanwa communities in Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte, strongly call on concerned government agencies and officials to immediately provide assistance to the evacuees in different evacuation sites in Agusan del Norte.
For decades the people of Caraga, the government and local and foreign resource extraction companies have benefited from the resources of their ancestral lands except the lumads. With the present dislocation of their livelihood, shelter and other needs, all they ask is assistance until they can safely return to their communities.
Militarization has to end and the IPs safe return to their communities should be expedited.
Testimonies of evacuees tell of the fear, harassment and threat to lives experienced during the recent military operations. While the military commanders declare that they do not enter civilian communities during military operations as it is a violation of human rights, the IP experience exposes these as lies. All the lumads want is to return to their communities and livelihood, without the military in their communities. However, it seems that the military will continue operations despite their protests.
The lumads also call for the upholding of their right to life, thus, the bombing and shelling of civilian communities and farm areas should stop. Their lives remain in grave danger if military operations persist leaving them with no means to farm, hunt and earn their livelihood making their children in constant threat of diseases.
The displacement of lumad communities is virtual genocide. KASALO-Caraga would also like to see the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. This is the only way that the root causes of the armed conflict can be addressed.
Rules of engagement dictate that civilians be treated as such and not as enemy forces of the AFP. Because they are not members of the NPA, the AFP should respect them. They believe that peace talks can be an effective means to come up with long term solutions to the war in their midst.
Stop large mining and pull-out military troops in indigenous communities!
Cordillera Peoples Alliance statement
5 April 2012
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance strongly condemns the rape and sexual abuse of two minors from Mankayan, Benguet by Army Captain Danilo Lalin, formerly of the 50th Infantry Battalion and now with the 86th Infantry Battalion, that are both under the 5th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The perpetrator must be punished, and we challenge authorities to swiftly act on this situation for what remains of the justice that can be done for the victims and their families. Justice delayed is justice denied.
The tandem of large mining and militarization in the Cordillera has always resulted in numerous rights violations of affected communities, ranging from civil and political rights, to violation of collective rights of indigenous peoples. The sexual abuse and rape of the two young indigenous women from Mankayan by the military is not an isolated case, as there have been similar documented cases of such in other mining-ravaged, mining-affected and militarized communities in the Cordillera, such as Abra, Kalinga and Mountain Province.
As a means to soften community resistance to large mining and militarization, our indigenous women are wooed by the military, impregnated and eventually abandoned. Justice was hardly ever served in these heinous crimes perpetrated by the military, and worse, these are continuing. The AFP is hounded with the exposés on its practice of plunder and corruption. Is rape, sexual abuse and other forms of violence against women also its practice?
Where there are large mining applications and operations, there too is militarization, not to mention paramilitary groups, and Special Cafgu Active Auxiliaries, that are all utilized to augment the large mines' security forces including securing the State's economic interests. Thus, the mining companies are also accountable for the sexual abuse of these indigenous women and youth. In particular, Lepanto and Goldfields must also be held accountable. Elsewhere in the Cordillera region, military troops are deployed to secure mining operations and applications.
In Cordillera indigenous cultural values, the ili/tribal society has high regard and respect for women and children, the way it is consistently concerned for future generations. We hold our women in high esteem-they are the source of life all of us are borne of our mothers. Thus, these sexual abuses and rape of our women is outrageous and must immediately stop-there should be no more victims. We call on Cordillera brothers and sisters, especially those in the military and police, to denounce these violations of human rights and dignity, in demanding for justice for the victims and for the perpetrator Captain Lalin to be punished. We challenge the AFP not condone criminals and rights violators from among its ranks-it should not condone Lalin and should instead ensure he is apprehended and brought to the bar of justice.
On this matter, CPA will also seek support from other advocates of indigenous peoples' rights in other Philippine regions including the international community. On Cordillera Day 2012, which CPA is organizing in all 6 Cordillera provinces and Baguio City, expect that there will be protest actions, lobbies and petitions that will be carried out to fight for the respect and recognition of indigenous peoples' rights; for the pullout of military troops in indigenous communities, and for a stop to large mining in indigenous communities.
Groups want informed consent before entry of military
Sun Star Baguio
4 April 2012
VARIOUS progressive groups are asking for a Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) before soldiers could enter a community.
Bayan Muna, Anak Pawis, Gabriela and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) attended two congressional inquiries on human rights and culture last month in the House of the Representatives.
Secretary-General of the CHRA Jude Baggo said the first inquiry was on human rights under the committee of Representative Rene Relampagos.
Baggo said there should be an FPIC before military can enter a community. He said FPIC should not only apply to mining companies wanting to operate in the Cordillera.
Baggo revealed one issue brought out is the situation of different organizations or individuals being tagged as enemies of the state, which he said is not fair. He said they are reacting on this because they have cases.
He cited a student of the Mountain Province Polytechnic College charged with multiple murder and frustrated murder in Ifugao by the military. The military claimed the student is connected with the New People's Army.
Baggo added in aid of legislation, they suggested for leaders in Congress to pass a law that prohibits the act of tagging progressive organizations as enemies of the state.
Moreover, Baggo explained another issue talked during the inquiry is on the alleged use and attack of school buildings by the military. He said the army uses the schools as military barracks and supply deposit area.
He said there are cases in Sadanga, Mt. Province, and Abra wherein schools are used as military camps.
The groups also asked Congress to review Republic Act 7610 or known as "An act of providing stronger deterrence and special protection against child abuse, exploitation and discrimination." Baggo said there should be a strict implementation of the law.
Meanwhile, the groups also attended another congressional inquiry under the Committee on Culture chaired by Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr.
One of the issues raised is on the militarization of cultural communities, which allegedly lead to various abuses on residents. Baggo said these military groups stay in some schools and even residential houses in communities.
The CHRA called on an immediate pullout of the military camps from the community and also from schools in the region.
Baggo is hopeful Congress will act favorably on their suggestions. (Rubyloida Bitog)
Mankayan council says no to new mining firm
By Rubyloida Bitog
Sun Star Baguio
27 March 2012
MANKAYAN, Benguet -- The Municipal Council wants mining corporation, Gold Fields, out because of non-compliance to existing laws.
The Municipal Council with Vice Mayor Paterno Dacanay as presiding officer passed Resolution 16 series of 2012 last February 28 during its regular session.
The resolution is an endorsement of the clamor of the Save Tabio Organization on the "No drilling shall ever be conducted nor be permitted at Madaymen, Tabio, Mankayan, Benguet."
Save Tabio Organization was organized by concerned folks of Barangay Tabio. It is a vibrant testament on the active participation of the community towards environment protection and sustainability. It is composed of 42 officials headed by its president Cupido Banias.
The organization submitted a letter to the council on their appeal about the operation of Gold Fields-Far Southeast Gold Resources Incorporation. It stated the company did not comply with the customary laws and the IPRA law before its operation. The organization requested the council to pull out the company's drilling machines and equipments and even its employees.
"This body agrees that there was indeed inadequate observance if not total non - compliance (of the company). This body further agrees that the company's drilling machines and equipment shall be pulled - out from the area to prevent any untoward incident from happening," stated the decision of the council stipulated in the resolution.
On the plea for sobriety of the Save Tabio organization, it stated members of the organization believe "appropriate process ought to be followed by the Goldfields and Lepanto Company.
"We believe in democratic process however, if such is abuse to widespread corruption and social injustice, it will become a mirage," read the plea.
As a recall, there was a dialogue conducted between the mining company and the residents of Tabio. It was to determine whether the residents are in with the intended drilling operation of Goldfields.
"The residents vehemently opposed the intended drilling activity. Despite the consensus of the residents of Tabio, we were surprised when the company immediately delivered their equipments, installed and started with the drilling operation," stated the protest letter of Tabio residents.
Furthermore, the residents of Tabio found out the company directly talked to affected land claimants and executed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) dated January 7.
The residents further narrated in their protest letter: "While the land claimants are communicating regarding the MOU, we were surprised to know that another MOU was executed between the company and a certain Tabio Indigenous Peoples Organization (Taipo). The formation of which (organization) was never informed to the residents of Tabio nor were the residents notified for it. Worse, said Taipo acted as the representative of the residents of Barangay Tabio."
They stated the Taipo has no personality to represent the residents of the barangay much more represent the residents in dealing with the company on the drilling operation.
Moreover, two of the land claimants, the Poliwes and Bocanog families, joined the stand of the residents.
There were 92 residents who signed the protest letter. The 25 members of Bocanog family made a separate protest letter which was also forwarded to Gary Ames, site manager of Far Southeast Gold Resources Incorporation.
In an earlier report of Sun Star, Gold Fields Limited chief executive officer Nick Holland stated the acquisition of the company on its 40 percent share interest in the Far Southeast Project in the Mankayan town's Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company site.
Holland sealed the deal with a $220 million payment to Liberty Express Assets, following the option agreement signed between Gold Fields and Liberty in September 2010.
Indigenous peoples commission awaits mine's side
Sun Star Baguio
30 March 2012
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet - A summary hearing at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples is set to decide the fate of the due diligence drilling of QED, a contractor of South African company Gold Fields Philippines in its Far Southeast Project.
Counsel for Far Southeast Gold Resources Inc. Omar Evangelista and Vladimir Bumatay with lawyers Richard Kilaan, Sunny Sacla, and Noel Magalgalit representing the indigenous peoples group, Teeng Di Mankayan, and protesters to the activities were all present during Tuesday's hearing.
The NCIP will now await the reply of the company to the position paper filed it filed before it makes its decision on the request for injunction, putting a stop to drilling activities in Madaymen, Mankayan.
Earlier, the NCIP released its decision, granting the 20-day temporary restraining order to members of the Teeng Di Mankayan.
Goldfields Philippines Inc. recently announced its acquisition of 40-percent share interest in the Far Southeast Project located in Mankayan town's Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company site, a site where the community groups are protesting.
The Far Southeast ore body is located under the Victoria and Teresa Mines, which is currently being operated by LCMC.
The Far Southeast Gold Resources Inc. is a subsidiary of LCMC which it used to co-own with Liberty Express Assets, an offshore holding company.
Gold Fields bought the 40-percent share of Liberty when it exercised its option last week.
Prior to the acquisition, Gold Fields conducted due diligence studies which involved drilling in several parts of the municipality to verify the data presented by Lepanto. The due diligence process does not require an FPIC because it was covered by the Mineral Processing and Sharing Agreement issued to Lepanto for the FSGRI in 1990 prior to the implementation of the IPRA in 1995.
FSGRI through Lepanto applied for a Foreign and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau which in turn referred it to the NCIP for the conduct of Free Prior and Informed Consent in the IP communities.
The protests filed by indigenous peoples groups in the area remained to be the sole hurdle of the project aiming to expand the LCMC reach.
Madaymen residents are affected by the present drilling and are up in arms in protest.
A SAVE Mankayan movement has likewise been gaining ground with more people joining the advocacy to halt expansion of LCMC's Far South East site.
The complaints were originally directed to Goldfields country manager Brett Mattison and site manager Garry Ames as well as Andrew Watansil, but Gold Fields was dropped in the charge sheet by the NCIP.
At present, a picket still stands at the Lepanto area in protest of drillings made by Gold Fields. It is now in its third month. (Ma. Elena Catajan)
Zambales folk resist mining
"Before the mining started, the environment was pristine. We lived on farming, and the harvest was plentiful. Now, when it rains, red water rises."
By Dee Ayroso
21 March 2012
Mineral-laden red soil becomes fertile ground to people's resistance against destructive mining.
In the past six years, some residents of Guisguis village in Sta. Cruz town were able to buy motorcycles, as well as to improve the structure of their houses. Residents called it "katas ng mina" (fruit of the mines), as those who could afford were the few employed by the mining companies operating in the village.
But this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the toll that the mining operations had exacted on the environment, and consequently, on the health, livelihood and safety of the villagers. This was the finding in a report of the Movement for the Protection of the Environment (Move Now!), the alliance of environment advocates in Zambales, which also voiced out the people's sentiments calling for a stop to mining operations in the area.
From March 12 to 13, a fact-finding mission led by Move Now! gathered stories from residents in the villages of Guisguis, Canaynayan, Guinabon and Lomboy in Sta. Cruz. The report reflected the villagers' collective grief about the ongoing environmental destruction and looming threat of disaster brought about by the mining operations in the mineral-rich Zambales mountain range.
"Before the mining started, the environment was pristine. We lived on farming, and the harvest was plentiful. Now, when it rains, red water rises," a woman from Canaynayan described life before the mining companies came.
Villagers blame farm losses and rising flood waters to the mining operations that had gradually carved out forest cover and mountains in Sta. Cruz. Loosened soil of red-orange hue and laden with minerals slide down and clog the waterways. When it rains, silted water spills out into the irrigation system and rice farms.
The fact-finding mission report named the seven mining companies present in the area: Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc. and its contractor DM Consunji Inc. (DMCI), Eramen Minerals Inc., Shangfil Mining and Trading Corp., Filipinas Mining Corp., PhilAsia and Loren and Leoni (LnL).
The companies employ open-pit mining to extract nickel and chromite ores, which are then hauled to waiting barges in a wharf in another village.
Regional groups Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL), Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights (Karapatan), and the Katribu partylist joined Move Now! and its local member organizations, Agapan ang Kalikasan at Kabuhayan or AGAP-Zambales and Sagip-Zambales. A representative of the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) was also part of the fact-finding team.
Red dust in the wind
On the rutted road leading to the communities at the foot of the mining area, one gets a good powdering of dust, a sample of the mountain soil loosened by the extractive operations. Dust hovers along the whole length of the furrowed dirt road, as dump trucks go to and from the mining site, at the rate of three trucks per five minutes. Following barangay regulation, they stop only at 9 p.m. and resume their noisy, thundering trips from 4 a.m., waking people up before they intend to.
Children and adults alike suffer from chronic coughs, runny nose, itchy eyes and throats, skin irritation and respiratory ailments which they suspect to be caused by the possibly nickel-laden dust.
In front of the Canaynayan Elementary School, teachers by way of protest had put up two signs saying: "The future is bright, if the environment is not destroyed; Dust and mud, the cause of children's illness."
The flowing river and creeks where villagers used to bathe and wash their laundry is now stagnant, with orange-red water. Gone are the shrimp, and most fishes which used to be in abundant supply. Residents have no interest to catch, let alone eat, the surviving tilapia and other fish, which they said have infected scales.
Rice farms used to yield 70 to 100 cavans per hectare two to three times a year. It is now down to 30 to 50 cavans, or a decrease of 30 up to 50 per cent. Harvest is lowest during rainy season.
A farmer from Lomboy described how the siltation from the mined-out mountains affects the waterways and rice fields below: "When you irrigate your farm while the water is red, when it dries up, the soil hardens, like cement."
The rice plant is stunted, its stems wedged stiff in the soil. Applying fertilizer would have no effect on the plant.
Even carabaos starve when the silted waters overflow into the pasture areas. Farmers wait for rains to wash away the silt from the grass before letting the animals feed.
Lives and livelihood
It's not just our livelihood that is at stake, but our very lives," said a Lomboy resident.
The fact-finding team also documented cases of human rights violations which happened in 2006, when the mining started. Soldiers of the 24th Infantry Battalion who conducted military operations assaulted residents in sitio Sto. Niño, Guisguis and Lomboy, not sparing even the barangay council officials in Lomboy.
One former Lomboy councilor can no longer walk as a result of the mauling by soldiers in 2006. A soldier hit him in the spine with the barrel of an M16 armalite rifle.
Today, it is the private security guards of mining companies who keep watch around the mining area. Village folk are banned from getting their supply of lumber and other forest products from the mountains. The fact-finding mission learned about incidents when the villagers who brought down logs for house construction were held at a checkpoint, where they were ordered to leave the logs behind.
Flood waters used to rise only up to shin level, and occurred only once a year. Now, with no more trees in the mountains, the floods come more often, faster and higher. "Before, we used to sleep soundly because of the rains. But now, just a few hours of rain and we're anxious about where to evacuate," a Canaynayan farmer said. In the 2009 flooding, his house collapsed amid rushing flood waters, and his crops were washed out. His family had to evacuate to higher ground every time the floods come.
The fact-finding team also interviewed several women in Guisguis whose husbands work for the mining companies. They said their spouses earn P 370 ($9) for eight hours of work, more than double the P150 ($3.65) a day they used to earn as farm workers during planting and harvesting season. Their spouses are among the 300 residents employed by mining companies, out of the total 3,500 registered voters in Guisguis.
Yet, these women are among the village folks who want the mining to stop. The mining companies should heed the lesson of the flashfloods in Leyte and in Mindanao, they said.
"What good would it do to build a big house, if it will all be gone?" one woman said. "We can do without the mines)," she said.
Indeed, everyone can do without mining of the damaging kind. Calling the mining in Zambales "a plunder of our national patrimony," the regional peasant group AMGL supported the villagers' call.
"Mining in Zambales is not only an issue of (the province) and the region, but also of the entire country," said AMGL chair Joseph Canlas.
The report by Move Now! also cited other communities in Zambales that are threatened by the environmental destruction by mining companies extracting magnetite, copper and gold.
"We have nothing to hope from the Aquino government as the president is a promoter of mining in the country. We call on the people, direct and indirect victims of mining in Zambales to unite and struggle against it," said Canlas.
*Dee Ayroso was a member of the Move Now! fact-finding mission team.
Mining firms told to clean up Claver Bay, 'chocolate river' by 2013
By Vanessa L. Almeda
30 March 2012
CLAVER, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews/29 March) - Mining companies operating along Claver Bay have until next year to clean the coastlines and the "chocolate river" of Hayanggabon, the House committee on natural resources declared.
Surigao del Sur 1st District Rep. Philip Pichay gave the marching orders to Environment and Management Bureau regional director for Caraga Ester Olavides, and the four biggest mining companies operating at the Red Mountain namely Taganito Mining Corporation, Platinum Group Metals Corporation (PGMC), Taganito HPAL Nickel Corporation, Adnama Mining Resources, Inc. (AMRI) and Zhenshou Mining.
"Will you guarantee that after what these (companies) are doing now the water will be clear? Answer me with a yes or no!" Pichay boomed at Olavides.
"Yes, Sir," replied Olavides, who was repeatedly cut short by the congressman while trying to explain what EMB, Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the mining companies are presently doing to address the massive siltation in the bay.
On Friday, a day after Congress went into recess, the committee concluded a two-day hearing on mining issues in Surigao del Norte that started in Butuan City Thursday in response to "complaints from the public on massive siltation, fishkill, destruction of swamps and coral reefs and other abuses caused by mining," Ako Bikol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe said at the start of the hearing.
"We're here because we want to verify reports by various media organizations, and to know what the LGUs (local government units) are doing, and what mining has done," he added.
Batocabe authored House Resolutions 1193 and 2124 to probe into the reported massive siltation in the coastal waters of Claver.
Pichay, who hails from Cantilan town which is known for its strong anti-mining sentiment, scored mining companies for reportedly turning Hayanggabon River into a "chocolate river."
"We now have a new tourism destination in our midst. While in Bohol they have the Chocolate Hills, here in Surigao we have the ‘Chocolate River'," he told hundreds of pro-mining participants at the Claver Gym.
The lawmaker said he will take a bath in Hayanggabon River and drink water from it once Olavides and the mining firms have cleaned it up.
Olavides said that in February this year the EMB and MGB central offices held a technical conference together with the mining companies concerned.
The conference was in response to a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) memorandum requiring the four mining companies to explain in seven days the massive siltation in Claver Bay and Hayanggamon River.
In the said conference, the companies signed a "commitment" to remove heavy silt from Claver Bay and Hayanggabon River starting February this year until next year.
MGB Caraga regional director Alilo Ensomo said the firms have undertaken the "first step" of their commitment.
Olavides said the firms have been doing dredging activities immediately after the conference.
TMC resident mine manager Engr. Jose B. Anievas explained how they prevent siltation by conducting mining operations during the dry season.
But Batocabe told Anievas to go straight to the activities that the company has undertaken to address the problem.
Anievas tried to finish his explanation but Pichay butted in and expressed his "big disappointment" at the mining companies.
"There are four of you large-scale mining companies operating here who have a notice of violation. And I always defend you, but it is a very big disappointment because you have a siltation problem here," Pichay said.
"Hindi ako naniniwala na kaya may (I don't believe that there's) siltation because of rain. It is always raining here. I won't buy that justification," the congressman said, adding there was no siltation in Tubay town in Agusan del Norte where SR Metals Inc. operates.
"We made an ocular inspection there yesterday (Thursday) and we didn't find anything but here in Surigao it is (a) chocolate river," he said.
Pichay said SR Metals has only been for more or less five years but has been able to control silt from going to the seas and rivers, while Taganito Mining which has been operating for the last 25 years has not addressed the problem.
Anievas told reporters after the hearing the companies were undertaking a "holistic approach" to address the siltation problem in the coastlines of Claver. It means the companies will implement their respective measures as well as work with each other in avoiding wastes from going downstream.
Dredging activities have been undertaken at the Hayanggabon River by Taganito HPAL and in Urbiztondo River by AMRI. TMC is constructing seven catch basins for the run-off from all its ridges.
Anievas also explained the brownish discoloration in the bay "is not necessarily" siltation based on "certain standards to be followed."
Siltation occurs if 90 ml per liter of waste is found in the water, he said
Asked why Taganito is only acting on this issue now, Anievas said "it is a matter of enforcement by government agencies."
He said no one paid much attention several years ago when the industry was on a decline unlike now that the prices of minerals have gone up.
"I hope they can understand that what we're trying to say here is that the water really turns turbid when it rains," he said, referring to his earlier explanation that was cut short.
He added the activities undertaken by the mining companies now should not be misconstrued as temporary saying "this is a continuing activity."
At the sidelines of the hearing attended by hundreds of mining supporters, several Mamanwas and some clerics from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) held a prayer protest 200 meters from the municipal gym.
Fr. Richie Navarro of IFI said those who were invited at the hearing were mostly "pro-mining" while those who are directly affected by the mining operations were not invited "especially the Mamanwas' who despite receiving the 1% royalty are still suffering from indignity and still the poorest of the poor of our brethren."
"Police and some military personnel blocked us from coming near the venue even if we were not creating a noise. We went there so we can pray," Fr. Navarro said.
UCCP Pastor Juvy Cabillo said the companies could not claim they are doing "responsible mining" since it has not benefited the majority of the people in the province and even the whole region.
Claver remains one of the poorest municipalities in the province based on government figures. Surigao del Norte ranks as the poorest province in the region.
The Mamanwas said they joined the prayer rally because they realized that mining did not help alleviate their economic conditions but they have instead experienced military operations.
Datu Geni Calingasan of Sitio Bungogon in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte appealed to the President to help them saying the military operations have made it difficult for them to go back to their homes.
Calingasan said the royalty they received from mining companies has not improved their lives but only divided their tribe.
Joan Hukman, tribal chieftain of Sitio Palilihan, Barangay Mahanob, also in Gigaquit, said: "The royalty we received (in the past) was only a penny compared to what we are suffering now. We are still poor." (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)
Enviromentalists, human rights groups launch new book on women's fight vs. destructive mining in the Philippines
30 March 2012
MANILA - Filipino environmental and human rights activists have launched a book that tells stories of women who are leading the fight against destructive mining across the Philippines.
The book "Gentle Treasures: Stories of women against mining" was released by Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) in Quezon City, marking their contribution to Women's Month celebration.
"The launching of the book is a fitting occasion to commemorate the contributions of Filipino women in the struggle against destructive large-scale mining and the promotion of human rights," said Dr. Nymia Simbulan, executive director of Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights), in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.
Gentle Treasures contains stories of different women leaders, coming from various backgrounds, including community leaders, professionals, legislators, elected local officials and activists.
One of the stories tell how Representative Kaka Bag-ao, of Akbayan Partylist, continue to push for the repeal of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and champion the alternative mineral management bill in Congress.
Also featured in the book are the struggles of indigenous peoples, such as Ka Badang, a Mangyan from Oriental Mindoro who led a hunger strike in front of the DENR in 2009, and Robina Poblador, a tribal leader of the B'laans from Sarangani Province, who bravely faced death threats for campaigning against the Tampakan Mining Project of Sagittarius Mines Inc. and Xstrata.
Judy Pasimio, an advocate of indigenous women's right, related in the book that, contrary to the propaganda of a mining firm that "there is life in mining", the women's stories reflect personal misery, economic displacement, broken relationships and environmental degradation. "Is this the life we want?" she asked.
"Gentle Treasures reflects both the stories of women struggling against mining, and celebrating their efforts. This is our simple way of honoring them for risking their lives and sharing their expertise and resources to uphold human dignity, conserve the environment, promote sustainable communities, and ensure that the next generations still have enough resources," said Anabelle Plantila, executive director of HARIBON Foundation.
Other stories in the book tell of the plight of Mayor Sadeka Tomaneng, of Tubay, Agusan del Norte, and the volunteerism of Pearl Harder and Sherryl Mindo Fetalvero, a businesswoman and a teacher respectively, in Romblon that triggered massive actions against a Canadian mining company, forcing the company to abandon its plan to mine.
"With this book, we hope that the public would understand that our opposition in mining is not just bounded by the unfair sharing of revenues in the mining industry. It covers important issues about women, including violations and abuses of human rights, disrespect to indigenous peoples and marginalization of women," said Jaybee Garganera national coordinator of ATM.
"This is just an initial compilation. By the end of this year, we will be publishing a collection of more than 100 stories to expose the harsh impacts of mining across the country and how our mothers, wives, sisters and friends showed their strengths and courage to protect our land and Mother Earth," Garganera added.