MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines Update

Published by MAC on 2006-06-25


Philippines Update

25th June 2006

There have been severe repercussions from the Philippine government's decision to order a 30 day trial period of operation at Lafayette's Rapu Rapu mine, despite the advice of its own Commission set up to investigate two cyanide spills. Further criticism has come from the Church, environmental movement and other civil society groups, and there have been calls for Environment Secretary, Angelo Reyes (who took the controversial decision) to resign.

Meanwhile opposition is growing to the quarrying of "Tea Rose" marble at the culturally important site of Biak-na-Bato.


SCIENTISTS ON DENR DECISION TO RE-OPEN LAFAYETTE: UNSCIENTIFIC, UNSOUND AND ILLOGICAL

16th June 2006

AGHAM PRESS RELEASE

According to its very own summary of findings, the DENR found that: a) The mine spills in Rapu-rapu were preventable; b) Lafayette was guilty of lapses; c) Lafayette does not measure up to standards of a responsible miner; d) The DENR failed to adequately monitor the Rapu-Rapu operations; and e) The sharing of benefits from the mining operations is grossly unfavorable to the Philippine government

Despite such negative findings, the DENR makes the illogical decision of allowing a 30-day test-run of mining in Rapu-rapu Island.

"It is a brazen example of how unscientific and illogical our government can be" according to activists scientists from AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People).

"How can Malacañang and Secretary Angelo Reyes reach a decision to allow Lafayette to operate when they themselves, from their very own findings, have pointed out long-term and substantial defects in LPI's operation?", asks Dr. Giovanni Tapang, National Chairperson of AGHAM.

"Clearly the decision to allow the resumption of mining was not based on the technical findings of the Bastes Commission which was concurred to by many experts from different scientific disciplines.The decision to allow the resumption of mining in the Island was a result of political kowtowing to foreign interests and ignoring the clear and comprehensive scientific evidence from the Commission", adds Dr. Tapang.

"If the decision-making process in government was trully scientific and democratic, Lafayette Philippines Inc., would not be allowed to operate", says Ricarido Saturay, Jr. geologist at the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences and AGHAM member. "This kind of unscientific policy making is what lowers the morale of scientists who are frustrated over unsound decision making process of the national government which often ignore scientific evidences that do not conform with its political agenda.

"Given the Marinduque mine spill of ten years ago, it is our conclusion that when it is the interest of the many versus the interest of a few foreign corporations like Lafayette or Marcopper, the government almost always sides with the foreign plunderers", conlcudes Saturay.

"For us, the decision to allow Lafayette Philippines to operate is a lose-lose solution for the people. This unscientific, unsound and illogical reasoning allows for the continued destruction and plunder of our environment to the detriment of local peoples and the entire country", declared Dr. Tapang

REFERENCES:
1. Ricarido Saturay, Jr.,09279556940/rmsaturay@agham.org
2. Giovanni Tapang, Ph.D., 09158507307/gtapang@agham.org

AGHAM
132 B Matahimik St.
UP Village, Quezon City
PHILIPPINES 1104
TELEPHONE +63 2 9266636
TELEFAX: 9263139
agham@agham.org
http://www.agham.org


Lafayette’s 30-day test run - A Simple Gimmick?

The government’s decision to allow a mining company to have a 30-day test run angered the members of a fact-finding commission that found Lafayette negligent and responsible for the mine spills that happened in October. According to them, the decision shows the administration’s bias for transnational mining corporations.

BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN, Bulatlat - Vol. VI, No. 19

June 18-24, 2006

Nothing but “a simple gimmick.”

The Rapu-Rapu Fact Finding Commission (RRFFC) used this phrase to describe the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) decision to allow a mining company’s 30-day test run.

RRFFC’s Dr. Aloysius Baes said that the test does not actually involve Lafayette Processing, Inc (LPI) environmental capability, especially on major issues like acid mine drainage (AMD) or containment of mine wastes. Baes said that these cannot be tested in just 30 days.

Baes also said that the decision was not surprising, considering that DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes previously said that only an accident similar to the October mine spills would make him change his mind.

As a result of the DENR’s decision, Defend Patrimony (Movement Against Mining TNCs and Plunder of Resources), a group against large-scale mining, demanded the resignation of Reyes as DENR secretary.

Baes said that the DENR’s decision shows the bias of the administration’s economic advisers for mining transnational corporations (TNCs). Baes added that Reyes seemed to balance things at first.

A June 16 press release of the Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan (Agham or Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) noted that the DENR found, among others, that “the mine spills in Rapu-rapu were preventable.” However, it was also established that “Lafayette was guilty of lapses” and that it “does not measure up to standards of a responsible miner.”

The DENR also admitted that it “failed to adequately monitor the Rapu-Rapu operations and (t)he sharing of benefits from the mining operations is grossly unfavorable to the Philippine government.”

“Kaya nga medyo skewed, walang logic ‘yung conclusion,” (That is why the decision is a little skewed, the conclusion has no logic.) Baes said.

There were reports that experts, including Baes, would be invited to observe the 30-day test run. This early, Baes who has not yet received any invitation from DENR said that he will not participate.

“Collective dismay”

The RRFFC also expressed their “collective dismay” over the DENR decision in a manifesto last June 16. “We do express a profound sadness that the DENR made the attracting of foreign investments its new mandate.”

The manifesto, however, was not signed by RRFFC member Greg Tabuena. Earlier, he said that he “cannot, with a clear conscience, conclude that the commission has been fair to all interested parties and that the report was indeed an impartial and objective one.” He also said that no connection had been established between the Rapu-Rapu mining spills and the fishkill in Sorsogon (600 kms southeast of Manila).

Baes said that Tabuena is being “insincere and dishonest.” He stressed that Tabuena was the one who suggested to look at LPI’s economic and financial aspect. “Ngayon ko lang naisip na siguro sinabi niya ‘yon para ma-off set ang environmental at health issues,” (Perhaps he said that to offset the environmental and health issues.) he said.

Small-scale mining

The manifesto also disagreed with the DENR’s claim that revoking LPI’s environment compliance certificate (ECC) would mean the entry of “small-scale miners who are likely to use mercury in their extraction of gold.”

Unlike in other mining areas like Mt. Diwalwal in Compostela Valley where gold nuggets can be extracted, Baes said that Rapu-Rapu has lost much of its gold last year.

“Walang small-scale miners na susubok magmina dito dahil mahirap ang proseso ng pagtanggal ng maliliit na amount ng ginto sa copper at zinc ores,” (No small-scale miners will try to mine here because it is hard to extract small amounts of gold from copper and zinc ores.) said Baes.

Fr. Felino Bugauisan, assistant parish priest of Rapu-Rapu and chair of Sagip-Isla (Save the island), for his part called on the military in Rapu-Rapu to leave because the people are afraid of them. Sagip-Isla is a multi-sectoral organization opposed to mining operations in the island off Legazpi City in Albay (550 kms southeast of Manila).

Local strength

Even then, neither the military intimidation nor government decisions favoring LPI would weaken the resolve of the anti-mining Rapu-Rapu locals and their advocates. Bugauisan said that about 20,000 people protested the DENR decision in Legazpi City on July 15.

Bugauisan said that they are planning to file criminal cases against LPI for the effects of their operations on the environment and the people’s health. He said that fisherfolk used to place their improvised fish shelter near the shore. But after the mine spills, they now need to go to the middle of the sea just to put their fish shelters.

On the other hand, they will file administrative charges against Sangguniang Bayan (SB, town council) members who allegedly signed LPI’s memorandum of agreement. Bugauisan said an SB member told him that P150,000 ($2,824.06, based on an exchange rate of P53.115 per US dollar) was offered for those officials who would agree for the resumption of the company’s mining operations. Bugauisan added they would include Reyes if found conniving with LPI.

Bugauisan said a week after the RRFFC report was released, Reyes went to the LPI office on the island and asked the people there to reveal the identities of those who were against the mining operations. “Sinong magsasalita dun? Nakakatawa naman,” (Who would speak there? It is so funny.) Bugauisan said.He added a source texted him that people were given money, about P200-P300 ($3.76-$5.65) each, by the company.

Resolved

Meanwhile, the manifesto stressed that the “report can speak for itself and neither the DENR review nor personal attacks against Commission members can diminish the veracity of our findings and conclusions.”

Baes said that there are senators who expressed interest in availing of their services to study other mining areas. Their evaluation of Rapu-Rapu and other mining operations in the country, would be used for the review of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. He expressed willingness to help, if only to give “more credibility to the call for a review of the mining act.” Bulatlat


Church, NGOs call for Reyes' resignation over Lafayette

Mark Ivan Roblas, Manila Times

17th June 2006

DISMAYED over the permit granted to Lafayette Philippines Inc. to conduct a test run on Rapu-Rapu Island in Albay, environmental groups on Friday asked Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes to resign for failing to protect the country's natural resources.

Trixie Concepcion, spokesman for Defend Patrimony, expressed doubts that Reyes, a former soldier, would be able defend the interests of the public after allowing the test run of Lafayette.

"Secretary Reyes should stop pretending that he is capable of protecting our environment and managing our natural resources. He is better off as a salesman or even a defender of foreign mining companies than anything else," Concepcion said.

She said allowing the test run is unacceptable considering the "blatant" violations of Lafayette as attested by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources itself.

Bishop Solito K. Toquero, convener of Stewards of Creation, a national network of Church leaders and lay people for environmental protection, said Reyes' decision disregarded the work of the Rapu-Rapu fact-finding commission which, according to him, did a very thorough and credible study on the effects of the operations on the residents.

"This is a very unfortunate, considering our experiences with mining: that transnational corporations gain the profits while the people suffer," Toquero said.

Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, said Reyes has turned away from "the ideals of heroes" in favoring Lafayette.

"In the face of massive destruction, we will be remiss in our responsibility as stewards of God's gifts if we do not raise a strong voice against this travesty," she said.


Philippines mulls tough mining regulations

By Roel Landingin, Manila, Financial Times

22nd June 2006

Mining companies in the Philippines may have to pay more taxes and submit to tougher environmental regulations following a waste-water spill that has revived opposition to large-scale mining projects.

Angelo Reyes, environment secretary, last week allowed a polymetallic mine run by Australia's Lafayette Mining to reopen for month-long tests seven months after it was shutfor accidentally spilling cyanide-contaminated wastewater.

However, the environment department's detailed report on the accident also outlined measures to strengthen environmental regulations and increase the government's share from mining revenue.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, president, wants to attract up to $6bn in mining investment between 2005 and 2010 to revive the industry and hasten economic growth, but faces opposition led by influential Catholic bishops.

The department will soon issue administrative orders increasing fines and penalties for violations of environmental standards, appointing "round the clock" resident government inspectors to watch over critical or large-scale mining operations, and requiring separate permits for each stage of the start-up process before commercial launch.

It wants to increase government mining revenue by disallowing income tax breaks for mineral processing. It has urged tax authorities to use a stricter methodology in computing excise taxes on mineral output that could increase the mining companies' tax liabilities.

Nelia Halcon, executive vice-president of the chamber of mines, said mining companies could probably live with tougher environmental rules but may balk at a higher tax that could push down investment returns.

The environment department estimated that withdrawing Lafayette's tax breaks would more than double the government's projected revenue from the project from $59m to $123m, but would cut the share of Lafayette and other investors from $185m to $104m.


Biak-na-Bato destruction scored

Manila Times

29th June 2006

SAN MIGUEL, Bulacan: For mountaineers like Everest conquerors Leo Oración and Erwin "Pastor" Emata, the sight of the historic Biak-na-Bato being slowly destroyed by marble quarrying is more excruciating than climbing the world's highest mountain.

"We are mountaineers and our lives revolve around mountains. This sigh is not only cruel and harsh but also feels like a different kind of torture for us," Oración said, shortly after he and Emata and other members of the First Philippine Mount Everest Expedition Team reached the top of Mount Manalmon in Biak-na-Bato.

The two mountaineers scaled the slopes of Biak-na-Bato and reached the top of Mount Manalmon in a record 30 minutes as part of their campaign to save the historic site.

Biak-na-Bato was the mountain hideout of the Filipino revolutionaries in their war of liberation against Spain. It also became the site of the peace treaty between the Spanish and the Filipinos on August 9, 1897.

The expedition members were joined by 200 mountaineers, environmentalists, representatives of civic groups, students, local policemen and the media. Together, they witnessed the destruction of the nearby Mount Nabio due to the extraction of marbles through dynamite blasting.

Mount Nabio is the site where the Rosemoor Mining and Development Corp. is extracting the expensive "Tea Rose" marble.

Gov. Josie de la Cruz of Bulacan has repeatedly criticized the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for failing to act on the government's petition to withdraw the company's mining permit.

Oración and Emata said they toiled in thin air, braved the below-zero temperatures in their historic conquest of Mount Everest, so the sight of the destruction and degradation of Biak-na-Bato was frustration.

"We must all join hands and work together to preserve and protect Biak-na-Bato, we cannot just sit down and watch an important part of our national heritage being wantonly desecrated and slowly being wiped out," the mountaineers said.Cecil Yacob, chief of the provincial public affairs office, said the support being shown by Oración and Emata has ignited greater awareness among the Filipino people on the importance of saving Biak-na-Bato.


Biak-na-Bato mining put to a halt

By Blanche Rivera, Philippine Daily Inquirer

23rd June 2006

THE government has again suspended the transport of ore from the Biak-na-Bato National Park in Bulacan where marble quarrying is being opposed by the provincial government and environmentalists.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau would not issue a new ore transport permit (OTP) to Rosemoor Mining and Development Corp. (RMDC) until the case lodged by Bulacan officials and antiquarrying groups is resolved, MGB regional director Angel Bravo said.

"It's suspended until the resolution of the case. We have to respect our superior," Bravo said in an interview after a forum at the Manila Pavilion yesterday.

Environment Secretary Angelo T. Reyes has created a committee to investigate allegations that the RMDC did not have an environmental compliance certificate for its quarrying operations and that the acquisition of the firm's Mineral Production Sharing Agreement was anomalous.

The committee, led by MGB executive director Jeremias Dolino, held its first hearing with the representatives of RMDC, Bulacan local government and environmental groups two weeks ago.

Dolino said the committee would finish its review of the allegations next week and would submit its recommendations to Reyes, who will eventually decide whether or not to cancel the permits given to RMDC.

"We can make do with what we have to come up with a decision," Dolino said.Dolino said there has been no activity inside Biak an Bato for the past two weeks, or since the investigation started.

The MGB also did not renew the OTP that allowed RMDC to transport 400 cubic meters of ore last month.

The Bulacan government also wants the DENR to recommend the restoration of the roughly 3,000-ha Biak na Bato to its previous status as a national park. Only about 658 ha of Biak na Bato were declared a national park in 1989. Another 938 ha were declared a watershed forest reserve, 480 ha a forest reserve and 953 ha a mineral reservation.

The MPSA awarded by the DENR under former Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez to the RMDC allows the company to extract marble from a 330-ha area within the mineral reservation.

Reyes belied the accusation of Bulacan Gov. Josefina de la Cruz that he has become the "blatant enemy of the Filipino people" for allegedly failing to protect the Biak na Bato."

Reyes told the Inquirer on Wednesday that if there is one individual who truly protects our environment and natural resources, it was him. "You cannot find anyone more concern in the protection of our environment more determined and serious than me," he said.

[With a report from Carmela Reyes, PDI Central Luzon Desk]

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