MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Indigenous advocate resigns over mining legislation

Published by MAC on 2012-08-28
Source: Manila Standard, Malaya, Reuters, Mindanews, PDI

There are still repercussions from the President's Executive Order (EO) on mining (see: Philippines: The President finally publishes, but arguments continue...)

Kalikasan Partylist and allies troop to Mendiola denouncing Aquino’s mining EO
Protestors march to the Presidential Palace denouncing
Aquino's mining EO - Photo by Jhun Dantes /

The Chair of the Government's National Commission on Indigenous People has resigned, primarily over the EO's laissez faire attitude to mining - though it looks like internal politics may also have played a part.

Meanwhile, the President's Office is already lining up privatisations to 'cash-in' on the supposed revitalisation of the industry.

The fall-out from the killing of a small-scale miner by TVI security at Balabag continues. Recent police evidence challenges claims by Canada's TVIRD that it was the small-scale miners themselves attacked the firm's security guards - seven of whom have been arrested.

Xstrata plc  has reluctantly admitted there will be delays to the schedule for its proposed Tampakan mine.

Rather ominously, a local mayor has requested the army come in to suppress  community members who have taken up arms against the project.

The company is also widening its search for a site for an accompanying coal-fired power plant and port facilities - acts which can only stir up more local antagonism.

Pawid quits tribal commission

By Manila Standard

24 August 2012

Chairman Brigida-Zenaida Pawid has announced her resignation from the National Commission on Indigenous People during last week's en banc meeting.

Pawid, a staunch anti-mining advocate, however, has yet to relinquish her post pending appointment of her successor, said sources who asked not to be named in the absence of a designated spokesman.

Lawyer Percy Brawner, one of the commissioners, is seen to replace her.

Malacañang is expected to act on the vacancy in time for the next NCIP en banc meeting on August 29.

Other commissioners are Roque Agton, Dionisia Banua, Conchita Calzado, Cosme Lambayon, Santos Usad and Executive Director Basilio Wandag.

Employees who were told earlier of her plans to quit would not discount the fact that Pawid's position became untenable following the mining policy enunciated by the Aquino administration.

NCIP sources said Pawid, who has been campaigning against mining particularly in Palawan together with Banua and ABS-CBN Foundation Managing Director Gina Lopez, found Executive Order on mining guidelines, contentious.

The EO would allow mining in certain areas which to her personal belief should not be allowed at all. The directive has delineated places exempted from mining operations but has allowed mining firms that already hold contracts with the government before the issuance of the order.

Not a few employees have learned from white papers and postings in the social network about Pawid facing charges before the Office of the Ombudsman.

A protégé of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and cabinet oversight of the NCIP, Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, she was appointed on June 7, 2011 to replace Agton.

She was a member of Cordillera People's Forum and was involved in the Social Reform Agenda that crafted the Indigenous People's Rights Act which created the commission.

Pawid was a member of the government peace panel that negotiated with the National Democratic Front during the Ramos administration, earning her a nomination alongside 26 Filipino women and 1,000 others from all over the world for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.

NCIP head quits

by Ducky Paredes


24 August 2012

‘It does not necessarily follow that the President not tippimg me off means a loss of trust. If that were so, the President would have told me so directly."

During the en banc meeting in Quezon City last week Chair Brigida Zenaida Pawid of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) announced her irrevocable resignation effective immediately.

Although she did not explain the reason for this, Pawid is known to be a staunch anti-mining advocate and it is believed that she disagrees with the President's EO 79, that sets the guidelines for mining activities.

She will have to talk to Malacañang, however, before actually relinquishing her post. It is expected Atty. Percy Brawner, one of the current NCIP board members, will replace her. Other members of the Commission are Roque Agton, Dionisia Banua, Conchita Calzado, Cosme Lambayon, Santos Usad and executive director Basilio Wandag.

The next NCIP en banc meeting will be next Wednesday, August 29.

Pawid has been actively campaigning against mining, particularly in Palawan, together with Banua and ABS-CBN Foundation Managing Director Gina Lopez, has shown her disappointment with the issuance of EO 79.

The EO allows mining operations in certain areas (such as Palawan) where, Pawid believes, should not be any mining. While the EO has delineated areas exempted from mining operations, it adopts the grandfather rule that allows mining firms which, before the issuance of the EO, had already secured a mining contract with the government, before the issuance of the EO, to continue in their concession areas. Pending and new applications are automatically disapproved.

NCIP sources say Pawid was pressured to resign because she failed to get the support of NCIP employees including mid-level executives and bureau directors. She has also been the subject of poison pen letters and "white papers."

In one instance, Pawid placed two NCIP officials on suspension for one year without pay allegedly on order of the Ombudsman even if she could not present any suspension order from the anti-graft body.

The field officials, a regional director and provincial officer questioned Pawid's suspension order. Other NCIP regional directors and provincial officers rallied behind the victims of Pawid's alleged illegal suspension order.

Philippine Army defends small-scale miners; denies mining firm claims of Balabag gun battle

Mindanao Examiner

20 August 2012

PAGADIAN CITY - The Philippine Army on Monday rejected claims by an affiliate of a Canadian mining firm operating in Zamboanga del Sur province that illegal miners attacked its security guards that resulted in a gun battle.

Major General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said one person Wilfred Catampungan was killed and six others wounded after security guards of the TVI Resources Development, Inc. opened fire on a group of small scale miners. The incident occurred on July 25 in Bayog town.

He said police filed criminal charges against 7 private security guards working for TVIRD.

"Using the pieces of evidence gathered to include accounts from several witnesses and sworn statements of the complainants, cases of two counts frustrated murder and six for attempted murder have been filed at a local court against the seven security guards of the TVIRD who are all under the Big JR private security agency," Cruz said in a statement sent to The Manila Times.

Cruz branded the security guards as members of a "pseudo-organization employed by the said mining company to execute dirty works" commonly known among miners in Balabag area as 'K9'.

He also quoted Police Senior Inspector Eilen Fermindoza, chief of the Provincial Investigation and Detective Management Branch in Pagadian City, as saying that "there was no actual gunfight between the two parties. Majority of the firearms used by the TVIRD security guards were 12-gauge shotgun and, surprisingly, only spent cartridges of the same firearm have been found at the crime scene. Furthermore, all the involved guards' firearms yielded positive on gun-powder residue upon examination."

According to Cruz, soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Battalion led by Captain Rafael Balincamaya also confirmed that all the spent cartridges they recovered in the area were from a 12-gauge shotgun. They cartridges, he said, were just a few feet from the security post where the laborers were situated and that Balincamaya did not find any bullet holes at the outpost, denying the allegation of the TVIRD those laborers fired at its security guards.

"Indigenous people of Bayog and Sindangan town in Zamboanga del Norte province condemned the illegal actions of the TVIRD management that resulted to the unjust killing and wounding of the Subanen small-scale miner-laborers. The truth shall always prevail," Cruz said.

"In the spirit of Bayanihan (cooperativism), we will always support whatever investigation will be undertaken by any investigative bodies such as our Philippine National Police counterparts when needed. Every Tabak trooper should remain vigilant and at all times be protectors of the people in our communities," he said.

TVIRD has strongly denied Cruz's allegations.

"We do not have pseudo organizations in our company; much less people whose responsibilities resemble that of ‘K9' dogs. Instead, we have functional departments carrying out specifics tasks and duties for our operations and our sustainable development work for the communities and the environment," said Yulo Perez, TVIRD's Vice President for Operations and Chief Operating Officer.

Perez added that Jungoy, a native of Bayog town, is tasked to report and carry apprehended illegal mining equipment of illegal miners and to support tree-planting activities carried out by the Security Force Department.

"The group of Catumpangan carried sacks of cyanide, blasting caps, illegal toxic chemicals, and diesel fuels. Police authorities and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau personnel are tasked to apprehend illegal miners who smuggle these restricted materials inside TVIRD Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) site in Bayog's Balabag mountain.

The TVIRD executive was deeply concerned by Cruz's irresponsible statement which described Jungoy as a member of an illegitimate organization that does "dirty" works for the mining firm.

"Before issuing libellous statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines should have read the police report on the Balabag incident. They could have known that the suspect was just defending his life against his attackers and that the company does not condone criminal acts," Perez said.

"We brought Jungoy to the police immediately after the incident. We did not hide him because we trust our law enforcers so justice can take its course. Instead of making irresponsible statements, authorities should stop these unprovoked acts of unlawful aggression," he added.

According to TVIRD, Jungoy told police that he and his team where on a routine inspection inside the MPSA when they ran into some 20 laborers engaged in illegal mining activities carrying cyanide, activated carbon and diesel fuel use in their outlawed gold processing plants.

"Jungoy related to the police that he was attacked and mauled when he tried to stop the group of laborers. He fired a warning shot, but the group ignored it and continued their attack. Sensing serious danger to his life, Jungoy fired another shot that unfortunately hit one of his attackers," TVIRD said.

TVIRD - an affiliate of TVI Pacific - said the company finds it necessary, together with local government and police authorities, to set up security checkpoints and patrols in Balabag due to the dangerous operations by illegal miners in the area.

It said even Zamboanga del Sur Governor Antonio Cerilles and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered a stop to all hazardous and illegal mining operations in Bayog town, particularly in Balabag.

Most of the miners operating in Balabag belong to the Monte de Oro Small Scale Miners Association, but the Provincial Mineral Regulatory Board recently passed a resolution denying MOSSMA's application to have the area declared as "peoples' mining area' because it does not comply with the requirements set forth by law to conduct mining activities.

Illegal miners have been operating in Balabag for more than a decade now and were largely blamed for the destruction of the mountain and environmental pollution in the town, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau. (Mindanao Examiner)

Xstrata unit may delay start of $5.9bn Tampakan project


23 August 2012

MANILA - A unit of global miner Xstrata Plc warned on Thursday it may delay the start of production at its $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project in the southern Philippines as a result of regulatory and security concerns.

Until now, Sagittarius Mines has said it was confident it would be able to start production in 2016, despite being denied permission to start building the mine, which is believed to contain one of the world's biggest copper-gold deposits.

The firm had wanted to obtain environmental clearance early this year but the government refused, meaning mine construction -- expected to take 2-3 years -- is unlikely to start in 2013 as planned.

"Our project has experienced a number of challenges, particularly in the past twelve months," Sagittarius spokesman John Arnaldo said in an e-mailed statement.

"Until we have addressed these challenges, and obtained the necessary approvals from the government and community, it is difficult to nominate a definitive production date," he said.

The mine is estimated to contain 15 million tonnes of copper and 17.6 million ounces of gold. It is the biggest of several mining projects expected to bring in up to $12 billion in new investments to the Philippines in the next five years.

A provincial ban on open-pit mining has been in effect since 2010. South Cotabato's governor Arthur Pingoy told Reuters last month that the mining ban in his province, which is home to Tampakan, could be lifted only by a court order.

Citing that ban, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has not issued environmental clearance for the project sought by Sagittarius, which is also part-owned by Australian miner Indophil Resources NL.

Security problems around the project site have also restricted Sagittarius' field activities, Arnaldo added. Local media reported that a security guard at the site was shot dead in June, about a month after another security guard was injured also in a shooting incident.

Tampakan, which will have a 17-year lifespan, is believed to be potentially the largest mine in the Philippines, a country that sits atop an estimated $1 trillion worth of mineral wealth.

Mayor says soldiers, not cops, should secure Davao del Sur mine

By Orlando Dinoy

Inquirer Mindanao

16 August 2012

KIBLAWAN, Davao del Sur, Philippines-Kiblawan Mayor Marivic Diamante said Thursday she has asked for the pullout of policemen helping secure the facilities of Xstrata's Sagittarius Mines Inc. here and their replacement by the Army.

Diamante made the announcement barely a week after another policeman was killed in an ambush allegedly by B'laan natives opposed SMI's presence here and in nearby South Cotabato.

P01 Rommel Paccial, a member of the Kiblawan police, was escorting Insp. Efren Luzon, the Kiblawan police chief, to the provincial police headquarters in Digos City when they were ambushed on August 9.

Luzon escaped unscathed but Paccial was critically wounded and died while undergoing treatment at a hospital.

The ambush was the latest attack blamed on a group of armed B'laans, allegedly led by the brothers Dagil, Kitara and Batas Capion, whom Diamante described as plain bandits.

On June 26, retired police Supt. Villamendo Hectin, a security consultant of Sagittarius Mines Inc., was killed in a similar attack. A few days after Hectin's death, suspected B'laan natives ambushed another convoy of vehicles associated with SMI, wounding a police officer.

The attacks prompted SMI to suspend operations in the area last month.

"This time we have to be tough," Diamante said, vowing to pursue the perpetrators. "My patience has run out."

Diamante said she has met police and military officials to draw up a plan on how to suppress the armed men. She said a meeting with village officials of Kimlawis, Balasiaw, Bololsalo and Tacub was also held in connection with the plan, which she declined to elaborate on however.

Diamante said she was asking for military intervention because the town's police force had no capability to run after the armed men.

"I don't want this incident to happen again," she said.

Meanwhile, Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of the Diocese of Marbel said an investigation into the cause of the problem should be conducted instead of dismissing the attacks as plain acts of banditry.

Rita Dialang, a sister of the Capions, said earlier her brothers were not bandits and that they were making "a sacrifice in defense of the tribe's ancestral land and in defense of our way of life."

"Forest, to us, is like a vast market. We get everything we need out there. It is our hunting ground, our drugstore, our farmland and our sanctuary. Destroy the forest and you also destroy our lives," she said. With a report from Eldie Aguirre, Inquirer Mindanao

Tampakan miner now eyeing Sarangani town for power, docking facilities

By Bong S. Sarmiento


17 August 2012

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/16 Aug) - Foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. is now considering Maasim town in Sarangani as a potential site for its coal-fired power plant and port facilities in support of its Tampakan copper-gold project, a company official confirmed on Wednesday.

John Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines external communications and media relations manager, said they have commenced early this week the public consultation for its off lease infrastructure projects that also include the concentrate pipeline and the filter plant.

Sagittarius Mines earlier identified Malalag town in Davao del Sur province as the site of its power plant and port facilities.

"Maasim is now part of the option although we are not abandoning Malalag. What we are doing is assessing which is the best option," he told MindaNews after the company's launching of its interactive Community Information Resource Center here.

Maasim is also the site of the $450-million, 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant of the Alcantara-led Sarangani Energy Corp., which is now gearing for the construction phase.

The town hosts one of the country's best scuba diving spots, and critics, including the local Catholic Church, have feared that a coal power plant would destroy the diverse marine ecosystem and will endanger human health.

MindaNews sources said that officials from Sagittarius Mines have been holding meetings in Maasim town in line with its planned infrastructure projects there.

Sagittarius Mines had disclosed that it needs some 500 MW to support its Tampakan copper-gold project. At least $900 million have been allotted for this dedicated power station.

The company plans to go on commercial stream in 2016 but the environment code of South Cotabato that bans open pit mining poses a hindrance to this target.

Sagittarius Mines' application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) had been trashed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, as well as its ensuing appeal for reconsideration, on the basis of the open-pit ban.

The company has already appealed the DENR decision to the Office of the President.

Arnaldo said they have started the public scoping or consultation as part of the firm's environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the firm's off lease facilities.

Results of the EIA will form part of the document that will be submitted when the mining company applies for a separate ECC for its off lease infrastructure projects.

From the mining site in Tampakan, South Cotabato, Arnaldo said they will build an underground pipeline that would ferry the minerals towards Maasim for loading to the ships.

Alongside the pipeline, which will be one meter deep from the surface, will be the transmission lines of the power plant, he added.

This would span a length of 100 kilometers, Arnaldo said.

The Tampakan project is touted as the largest known undeveloped copper and gold reserve in Southeast Asia.

The estimated contained copper at Tampakan in total resources has risen from 13.9 million metric tons to 15 million MT while estimated contained gold has risen from 16.2 million ounces to 17.9 Moz, according to a company study. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

No such thing as ‘responsible large-scale mining' - Cordillera Peoples' Alliance

By Kimberlie Olmaya Ngabit-Quitsol

Northern Dispatch

14 August 2012

BAGUIO CITY-The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) reiterates call for a total mining ban saying that the recent leakage of toxic waste from Philex Mining Corporation's tailings dam 3 during the onslaught of incessant monsoon rains in Luzon is enough proof that responsible large-scale mining is a myth.

On August 4, Philex Mining Corporation announced that they were able to plug the leak from tailings dam 3 after affected residents of Barangay Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet reported that mine wastes were flowing down Agno river. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Cordillera ordered Philex to stop operations pending the repair of the dam. As of press time Philex operations is still on hold.

CPA Chairperson Windel Bolinget in an interview stressed that Philex and other mining firms have been boasting that their tailings containment facilities could withstand any weather condition but the leak of tailings dam 3 says otherwise. He said the collapse of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company's tailings dam 5A is yet another incident that belies the myth of responsible mining.

"The leakage of Philex dam 3 is a warning especially to government officials to muster enough political will to stop the onslaught of large-scale mining. They should act now before a disaster happens. Should we wait for the collapse of mine tailings dams of Philex and Lepanto before we say enough to mining?" Bolinget asked.

He added that the experience of the people of Itogon with the Benguet Corporation, and the people of Mankayan with Lepanto, give enough lessons and solid proof of how devastating and detrimental large-scale mining is to the environment and to people's lives.

The CPA chairperson reiterated that Benguet Corporation's century-old mine operations ravaged Itogon and the continuing operations of Lepanto resulted in the destruction of rivers and agricultural lands due to toxic waste contamination from the mining operations wastes or mine tailings.

"Let us also not forget the Marcopper mining tragedy in 1996 that killed the Boac River in Marinduque," he added.

The Marcopper mining tragedy is considered to be the most dreadful legacy of large-scale mining in Philippine history.

Bolinget challenged the provincial officials of downstream communities affected by the flowing of mine wastes of Lapanto, Philex and other mining companies in the Cordillera into the Agno and Abra rivers to step up and join the fight against destructive mining. He pointed out that the San Roque Dam serves as a catch basin of toxic wastes that flow down the Agno river. He explained that when the dam releases water just like recently due to incessant rains, contaminated water also flooded adjacent communities of Pangasinan and Tarlac.

In the same manner, he said the recent Philex dam 3 incident should serve as a wake-up call to downstream communities of Ilocos Sur that serve as repository of toxic wastes.

"Local government units of affected communities should take a more active role in the fight against large-scale mining before it is too late. They should act now before the whole of Central Luzon and Ilocos is covered with mine waste," he stressed.

Bolinget also urged concerned government agencies and officials to make these erring mining firms pay for their crimes. He stressed that the royalties these firms are paying, which are only 1-percent of the total revenues they get out of the country's resources, are not enough to pay for the long-term environmental devastation and damage to people's lives.

"Mining companies should be punished for their crimes against the environment and the people. The government must close down these large mining firms to stop further devastation and give time for impartial investigations," he said.

The CPA chairperson also highlighted the impact of large-scale mining on the current climate change and climate disasters the country and the whole world is facing. He emphasized that the region is identified as among the most vulnerable to climate change and disaster.

He added that the tailings containment areas of these dams were built years back when the problem of climate change was not yet evident. He said it is logical to assume that these tailings dams are not made to withstand the impact of climate change.

"Philex dam 3 was damaged by monsoon rains alone. With the erratic weather brought about by drastic changes in our climate, how can we be sure that the tailings dam will be able to withstand upcoming typhoons?" he stressed.

He further said that should the tailings dam collapse the owners and top officials of these mining companies are not the ones who will suffer. "If only the silt and mine toxic wastes could be directed into the homes of mine firm officials so that they will experience firsthand the devastation their operations cause," he said.

"This is a challenge to government at various levels - to declare a moratorium on mining, scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, EO 79 and all other mining laws that serve the interest of corporate greed and pass the peoples mining bill and reorient the mining industry to be more environment-friendly and adaptive to climate change," he said.

Philippines Agency Plans to Sell Mining Assets: Southeast Asia

By Karl Lester M. Yap and Norman P. Aquino

Business Week

14 August 2012

The Philippines will sell stakes in mining holdings as President Benigno Aquino seeks to nudge forward efforts to boost investment after two years in office.

The government will auction stakes in four nickel, copper and gold mines, as well as shares in Semirara Mining Corp. (SCC), said Karen Singson, executive director of the Privatization and Management Office, one of several state agencies managing asset sales. She declined to give the potential value of the disposals.

"We're lining up the projects we plan to privatize in the near- and medium-term," Singson, 33, said in an interview in her office in Manila yesterday. "There are more foreign investors talking to us because of improvements in governance and transparency."

Aquino has struggled to accelerate asset sales and bidding of infrastructure projects, with the government awarding just one project under its private-partnership program since he took office in 2010. The momentum may be aided by rising investor confidence after credit rating upgrades from Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings, as the nation takes steps to reduce corruption and contain the budget deficit.

Ayala Land Inc. was the highest bidder in an auction of 74 hectares of state-owned Food Terminal Inc.'s property in Manila, Singson said today. The company bid 24.33 billion pesos ($580 million) compared to a reserve price of 10.25 billion pesos set by the government, beating offers from rivals including Robinsons Land Corp. and Empire East Land Holdings Inc.

The nation aims to raise about 2 billion pesos each in 2012 and 2013 from privatization. The government is seeking more than $16 billion of investments in roads, schools and airports, with the goal of boosting growth to as much as 8.5 percent by 2016.

Investor Favorite

"Management of the economy and fiscal consolidation have paid off with a lot of inflows," said Trinh Nguyen, a Hong Kong-based economist at HSBC Holdings Plc. "The Philippines has become a favorite among investors. The fact that the government is taking steps to improve investment bodes well for growth."

The peso has risen more than 4 percent this year, becoming Asia's best performer among the 11 most-traded currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The Philippine Stock Exchange Index (PCOMP) surged to a record in July.

The $225 billion economy expanded 6.4 percent in the first quarter, the fastest in Southeast Asia and the most since 2010. S&P in July raised the country's credit rating to one level below investment grade, its highest since 2003.

The Privatization and Management Office plans to sell three or four entities to net 500 million pesos in 2013, excluding the mining shares, said Singson, who previously managed $2 billion of emerging-market stocks at Boston Company Asset Management.

Hiring Advisors

The government plans to hire financial advisors to assess the value of the mining stakes, said Singson, declining to provide any further details on the timing of the sales or the size of stakes being sold.

The only private-partnership project awarded in Aquino's term was a contract to build a four-kilometer (2.5-mile), four- lane paved toll road to provinces south of the capital. It was won last December by a consortium led by Ayala Corp. that bid 902 million pesos.

The country's last big asset sale was the 2007 auction of a 25-year contract to operate and expand the nation's power transmission system, which was awarded to a group that included State Grid Corp. of China after it offered $3.95 billion.

The Privatization and Management Office owns 769,450 shares in mining company Semirara, according to Singson. That is about 0.2 percent of the company and amounts to 171 million pesos, based on today's prices as calculated by Bloomberg News.

Neighbors including Vietnam and Indonesia have also stepped up plans to sell state assets and lure more foreign investors.

Investor Confidence

Vietnam has made the restructuring of state-owned companies one of three areas of focus through 2015 as it tries to revive a more than decade-old share-sale program known as equitization. In Indonesia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's efforts to fight corruption and spend more on infrastructure have helped restore investor confidence.

The Philippines climbed to 129th place on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index in 2011 from 141st in 2008, below Thailand at 80 and Indonesia at 100, according to the Berlin-based watchdog's website.

The Philippine Senate in May ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona for concealing his wealth. Aquino had sought to remove the judge as a crucial step in ridding the nation of corruption.

The nation is seeking to harmonize national and local mining policies, even as Xstrata Plc, which is pursuing a $5.9 billion gold and copper project in South Cotabato, is appealing the government's denial of an environmental permit.

Aquino last month unveiled a new order expanding a mining ban and extending a moratorium on project approvals until Congress legislates a higher government share in resource contracts. The privatization office has implemented rules to prevent irregularities including collusion among bidders, Singson said yesterday.

"We're asking them for a lot of paperwork," said Singson, a graduate of Harvard Business School. "We want to check the financial strength of the bidder. We don't want bids from black- listed companies. Everyone is on equal ground; we're making it a competitive process."

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