Environmental, human rights and legal protests merge in Philippines miningPublished by MAC on 2013-10-28
Source: Statements, Inquirer, Bulatlat, Business Mirror (2013-10-27)
Philippines environmental groups have been celebrating a day of action against coal, promoting arguments for alternatives to the construction of coal fired power stations. They expressed disappointment at the Aquino administration's push for coal-fired power plants.
|Residents of coal-affected communities march to Mendiola
on 22 October 2013. Source: Danny Pata, GMANews
Human rights and indigenous support groups commemorated the massacre of anti-mining activist Juvy Capion and her two sons (see: Philippines: Tampakan violence claims the lives of tribal woman and her children), by stressing the lack of progress on the murder investigations.
The people of Marinduque are still searching for justice after the Marcopper disaster (see articles in Philippines: Realities of mining in Nueva Vizcaya laid bare). MAC editor Catherine Coumans laments the "crumbs" Canadian company Barrick Gold is finally offering the people of Marinduque in compensation, having fought legal battles for so long. A group that has fought for redress is rejecting the reported offer for being too small.
In company news, the American corporation St. Augustine is restructuring itself, with local partner Nadecor, to raise money for the King-king copper-gold project, and the Norwegian Intex Resources looks like it may finally have resolved its long running legal battle with local partners Atok-Big Wedge Co.
Finally a lawmaker in Nueva Ecija is filing a bill to join other provinces to declare a mining-free zone.
Aquino urged to stop pushing coal power plants
By DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
22 October 2013
MANILA, Philippines -A civil society network advocating for reforms to help the country adapt to climate change expressed dismay on Tuesday, over the Aquino administration's push for coal-fired power plants, and renewed its call on government to tap cleaner and less wasteful sources of energy.
Aksyon Klima Pilipinas, in a statement, said it was disappointed with the apparent priority given to coal by government in supplying the country's energy needs.
"We are dismayed to see the government's renewable energy plans go to waste in favor of dirty and harmful energy. Our message is simple: Coal will cost us the climate, which in turn will cost all of us our lives and livelihoods," Voltaire Alferez, national coordinator of Aksyon Klima, said.
"It looks cheaper in the short term compared to renewable energy, but our lives and our environment are much more costly," he said.
Aksyon Klima noted that the Renewable Energy Law was passed in 2008, and the government later on followed it up with the National Renewable Energy Plan in 2010 seeking to triple the renewable energy capacity of the country by 2030.
Moreover, Aquino signed in 2011 the National Climate Change Action Plan, which identified sustainable energy as a priority, it said.
"However, Aquino has defended the building of more coal-fired power plants in his last State of the Nation Address by citing the limitations of renewable energy," the group said.
In addition, the Philippine Development Plan prioritizes coal-fired power plants in the next several years of this administration, affirming the president's SONA pronouncement, it added.
"Renewable energy technologies continue to improve while the costs continue to decrease," Alferez said.
"In the meantime, the sea continues to warm and rise, while typhoons are becoming more frequent and intense because of the burning of coal and other fossil fuels. [Mr. Aquino] has more than enough reasons to invest in renewable energy, but has yet to step up his game," he said.
Forty-three percent of carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion were produced from coal in 2010, compared to 36 percent from oil and 20 percent from gas, according to a 2012 publication of the International Energy Agency.
On the other hand, a 2011 United States study estimated that the economic, health-related, environmental, and other impacts of coal cost the United States a third to over one-half a trillion dollars annually.
Farmers, fishermen protest coal mines in Semirara, Caluya islands
Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga
22 October 2013
FARMERS and fishermen on Tuesday expressed alarm over the adverse environmental impact of massive extraction of coal in two of the country's largest coal mines and marked the International Day of Action against Coal with massive street protests in Antique province.
Led by Isalba ang Caluya, some 400 farmers and fishermen called on the local officials of Antique to stop the expansion of the coal mines in the province.
The government is looking to Semirara Mining Corp. to supply coal for the majority of the 35 new coal fired power plants planned to start operations in the coming years.
The group said a landslide in February at Semirara Mining Corp.'s coal mine left 10 people dead but the tragedy was hardly reported in the media.
They said violations of environmental and labor laws have been flagrant over the years-waste are dumped into the ocean and land grabbing and loss of fishing grounds have been happening in the area.
On the other hand, in Caluya, various stakeholders are now up in arms against the open-pit mining for coal.
"Despite more than 30 years of open-pit mining in Caluya, people have been afraid to speak out. Today they are breaking their silence and are participating, along with 14 other sites across the Philippines in this Day of Action," the group said.
Resist Coal! RE-Energize All!
20 October 2013
Coal is one of the biggest source of energy for the Philippines as well as worldwide. And in the last decade it has been the fastest growing global energy source.
Coal energy has been actively pushed by transnational corporations, international financial institutions, international energy investors, and governments of both developed and developing countries including the Philippines - with the justification that coal is a cheap source of energy and is an important part of the strategy for ensuring "Energy for All". In the past decade, especially in light of increasing awareness of and resistance to the dirty and harmful nature of coal energy - international financial institutions, energy investors and corporations and many governments especially those of coal producing countries are trying to sell the idea of "Clean Coal".
In the last 5 years, the Philippine government:
- Approved the building of 17 new coal plants in addition to 15 existing coal plants, and 20 more are proposed.
- Approved 21 new coal mining permits bringing the total number of existing coal mining permits to 60 coal mining existing permits
To all these we say:
1. Coal is NOT cheap. It comes with a horrifyingly huge cost to people and the environment.
The excessive burning of coal is a major contributor to the historical accumulation of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere and it is the biggest source of current global green house gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 45% or 14.2 gigatonnes of the total 31.6 gigatonnes of global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel combustion in 2011 came from burning of coal. The excessive concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from historical as well as current emissions is causing global warming and climate change.
Coal mining and combustion processes have serious toxic effects on the health of people and the environment. These in turn severely weaken resilience and undermine the capacity of people and communities to deal with the impacts of climate change.
Coal mining destroys forests, mountains and watersheds -- which has many serious consequences including the exacerbation of climate disasters.
2. There is NO such thing as "Clean Coal." Coal kills.
"Clean coal" technology - or the use of circulating fluidized bed combustion system, emit four (4) times more coal ashes compared to ordinary coal plants. According to Environmental Protection Agency (EIA) of the US government, the risk of getting cancer is 900 times higher from coal ash exposure compared cigarette smoking.
3. This is NOT energy for all
The Philippine Energy Plan will power a "development" strategy that keeps our economy oriented towards global market demands instead of our peoples' needs and keeps our doors open to plunderers of our natural resources. Meantime, majority of our people can barely afford the current electricity rates or are not even connected.
The new coal power plants to be built in SOCSARGEN region in Mindanao -- the 200 megawatt plant of Conal Holdings and the proposed 400 megawatts plant of the Alcantara Group -- are mainly intended to fulfil the 900 megawatts required by the Xtrata/Glencore mining project in Tampakan, South Cotabato to be fully operational.
4. This is a BETRAYAL of the Philippine government's commitment to shift to renewable energy systems and contribute to the global effort to address the climate crisis.
The Philippine government's "coal push" will lock-in the country to dirty and harmful energy and extend Philippine dependence on coal for at least the next 2 decades.
We, therefore call on the government to immediately implement a moratorium on all new coal plants and coal mining, pending a national review of energy options with civil society, scientific community and affected communities.
Whitewash of Capion massacre a push for plunderers and murderers-Karapatan
22 October 2013
"All along, the whitewashing of the massacre of anti-mining activist Juvy Capion and her two sons is the intent of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as they compromised the physical evidence and crime scene, and desecrated the remains of the victims to justify the massacre and the continuing military operations against the indigenous people's defending their ancestral lands."
Karapatan, through its secretary general Cristina Palabay issued the statement after the Office of the Provincial Prosecution in Digos City, Davao del Sur, in a resolution, found no probable cause against the soldiers led by Lt. Col. Alexis Bravo, Lt. Dante Jimenez and 14 other members of the 27th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army for the murder of Capion and her sons.
Karapatan said that the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor disregarded the statements of several witnesses who were at the site of the massacre shortly after it happened, which are vital testimonies to establish the liability of the AFP troops.
"One of the witnesses even heard the soldiers talk about ‘finishing off' a child who survived the massacre so no witness remains. Witnesses attested how the military cordoned off the area, having sole control over the crime scene and the lifeless bodies," Palabay said.
Karapatan said the resolution came as "no surprise as the BS Aquino government has been consistent in exonerating perpetrators of human rights violations."
"Impunity reigns. The BS Aquino regime has gone berserk in its attacks against the lives and livelihood of the people, in favour of murderers and plunderers. The Capion massacre showed the extent of protection the government grants plunderers like the SMI-XStrata Corporation, a large-scale mining company. The subsequent dismissal of the case against the perpetrators from the Armed Forces illustrates how lopsided our justice system is in favour of those in power," she added.
"This is not the first, and definitely not the last. Cases of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture continue to increase as the BS Aquino government dash to the finish line of Oplan Bayanihan's Phase 1 by year end," Palabay said.
Earlier Karapatan opposed the dropping of charges against Brig. Gen. Eduardo Año, Lt. Col. Melquiades Feliciano, Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano and Dir. Gen. Avelino Razon Jr. who were charged with arbitrary detention, murder and obstruction of justice on the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos. In September, Brig. Gen. Eduardo Año was confirmed by the Commission on Appointments to assume the post as Intelligence chief.
"Similarly, perpetrators who were already charged in court like Gen. Jovito Palparan and the Reyes brothers remain free and unpunished. BS Aquino has no qualms about being repressive and corrupt. And, he does it with his haciendero-style of arrogance, unmindful of the growing people's resistance against his regime. But, history has shown us where his kind ends up," concluded Palabay.
Reference: Cristina "Tinay" Palabay, Secretary General, +63917-3162831
Angge Santos, Media Liaison, +63918-9790580
Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
Operations of Glencore-Xstrata mining linked to killings of indigenous people?
By Marya Salamat
21 October 2013
MANILA - "The Aquino administration is lightning fast in defending the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) and DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) including his associates implicated in pork scams, but is slothful in pursuing justice for the Capion family and the more than 30 victims of extra-judicial killings from indigenous tribes during his first three years." This is the statement of indigenous group Katribu Partylist as they marked the first anniversary of Capion massacre late last week.
With the virtual exoneration of the accused soldiers and paramilitary group in the strafing that killed an unarmed woman and her two children, indigenous peoples groups fear that more killings could follow in the same area.
"Five members of the Capion clan have already been killed. Three members of the Freay clan, another B'laan family, are the latest victims of mining-related killings. The other day, was the second anniversary of the killing of Fr. Pops Tentorio, a well-known Italian missionary who dedicated his life to solidarity with the Lumad people against development aggression," said Leon Dulce, spokesman of Task Force Justice for Environment Defenders (TF-JED), a support network for environmental advocates' rights.
He questioned President Aquino's hand in the environment department's granting of Tampakan Project's environmental compliance certificate even when it has "this history of violence towards environmental advocates and defenders."
"The respect for human rights should always be part of the environmental impact assessment, and Glencore-Xstrata-SMI has clearly failed that assessment," Dulce said.
Up to now, Katribu reports that the paramilitary group Task Force KITACO (Kiblawan, Tampakan, Colombio) organized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines still freely roams and sows fear among the IPs in the SOCKSARGENDS region (South Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat-Sarangani-General Santos City-Davao del Sur). Task Force KITACO was tagged by witnesses in Davao del Sur as the perpetrator of the gruesome murders of unarmed leaders of the Blaan tribe. Specifically, they have filed charges against Lt. Col. Alexis Bravo, Lt. Dante Jimenez and fourteen other members of the Philippine Army, but the local prosecutors dismissed it last week supposedly for lack of substance.
The Task Force-Justice for Environment Defenders (TF-JED) viewed the case dismissal as a dismissal as well of the peoples' case against the large-scale mining company Glencore-Xstrata-SMI, which, a congressional probe revealed, has been keeping in its payroll certain local executives and members of state security forces.
Dismissing the case against the accused murderers of Juvy Capion and her sons, Pops and John, "was a ‘go-signal' for military and paramilitary groups to continue killing civilians opposed to big mines and other destructive projects," warned Dulce.
The apex of recent killings of anti-mining activists under the Aquino government is in the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project involving 10 of the 28 mining-related killings, the TF-JED noted.
The Tampakan copper-gold mine aims to start commercial operations, but after being delayed three times by massive opposition from local communities, environmental groups and local governments, its target date has now been pushed back to 2019. The Capions are among families of the B'laan indigenous people who are staunchly opposed to the Tampakan mine.
"It is deplorable how quickly the court decided to view the evidence of the massacre of the Capion family as ‘insufficient,' when the facts clearly implicate the paramilitary group sponsored by Glencore-Xstrata-SMI under the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Task Force KITACO. A year after the barbaric act, justice remains elusive and the threats posed by what will be Asia's biggest mining project continue ," said Dulce of Task Force-Justice for Environment Defenders (TF-JED).
Large miners still hope to continue commercial mining in Tampakan
The Philippine-based operator of the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project announced a massive retrenchment of its workforce two months ago following the takeover of Xstrata by Glencore. The long-expected merger created the world's fourth largest mining company, the Glencore-Xstrata, at a time when the global mining industry is viewed as nearing a downturn (or a standstill, as various analysts differed).
Despite the change in the controlling ownership of the biggest mining project in the Philippines, most local big businessmen have maintained their stake in the Tampakan project. They are led by presidential uncle Danding Couangco and tycoons Manuel V. Pangilinan, Henry Sy and the Alcantara family. They maintained their stakes in the local operator of the project, the Sagittarius Mines, Incorporated (SMI), and adopted a wait-and-see attitude. In mainstream media reports, Pangilinan and Ang were both quoted expressing their desire to see the Tampakan project start its commercial operations.
But for the mining-affected communities, that future commercial operation has already proved fatal to residents.
"The killing of the Capion family bared the true face of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) Oplan Bayanihan and how they are being used as Investment Defense Forces to protect big investors' interests. The fact that they can evade court proceedings against them and that they are being tolerated by the Department of "InJustice" and other government agencies shows the reign of impunity in many communities in the countryside. This also shows the utter disregard to indigenous peoples' rights to their ancestral domain and self determination," read a statement of an alliance of the religious sector and indigenous groups called SKIPNet (Stop the Killings of Indigenous Peoples Network).
The group said the Blaan's opposition against the mining operations of Glencore-Xstrata-SMI is legitimate and a means to defend their ancestral domain. They said that once the company starts full blast operations, thousands of Blaan would be displaced. It said also that SMI is even requiring the people of Bong Mal to be relocated, meaning they would be uprooted from their ancestral domain.
Bong Mal (meaning big river) is at the heart of Tampakan gold-copper project's mines development site. It is surrounded by mountains deep into the jungle, estimated to be around 1,300 meters above sea level, with its forest feeding the Mal River that courses down and feeds in turn the lowland agricultural farms in South Cotabato.
KALGAD, an organization where Juvy belonged before she was killed by soldiers last year, is a community-based organization and not an armed group, the SKIPNet asserted, adding that this group has been joining protest actions in major cities in South Cotabato and Davao del Sur to voice their opposition to the mining activities of Glencore-Xstrata-SMI in their territory.
"The members of the Capion family were gunned down defenceless, showing the brutality of the state to people whom they consider as hindrance to their twisted development agenda," SKIPNet said.
Kalgad stands for the defence of ancestral domain against destructive projects. Indigenous peoples group said its very existence is a way for the Blaan to practice self-determination.
In a rally in front of the Justice department on the first death anniversary of Juvy Capion and her two sons, members of IP groups and the TF-JED asked Justice Sec. Leila de Lima to look into the matter of ongoing military operations against civilians in mining-torn areas and to hasten the cogs of justice for the Capion family.
TF-JED urged De Lima to institute "protocols on ensuring the rights and safety of environmental advocates in conflict-affected sites of development aggression." They urged the former outspoken Human Rights commissioner to "give up her illusion that there are no more human rights violations under the Aquino regime, beginning with this issue by dismantling all paramilitary groups which her boss BS Aquino approved to be deployed to mine sites."
At the same time, the TF-JED urged the justice department to do its job in holding accountable those with track records of human rights violations. (http://bulatlat.com)
Marinduque is ‘pushed to the wall'
By Catherine Coumans
16 October 2013
The island-province of Marinduque has become known as a cautionary tale about the ravages of irresponsible mining. It took Canadian mining giant Placer Dome a couple of decades to wreak environmental destruction on major coral reefs in Calancan Bay and to severely contaminate the Mogpog and Boac Rivers with toxic mine waste-none of which has ever been cleaned up. The ongoing environmental impacts are only part of the story.
Fishermen from numerous villages around Calancan Bay lost their livelihoods as the bay filled up with more than 200 million tons of mine tailings dumped there between 1975 and 1991. Two children died when they were buried in mine waste as a shoddy dam burst and the Mogpog River was flooded with toxic mine silt in 1993. The banks of the Boac River still hold tall mounds of tailings that were left to continuously pump acid and heavy metals into the river after another catastrophic dam failure filled that river with mine waste in 1996. These contaminated rivers no longer support the livelihood and economic activities of nearby villages, as they once did. Placer Dome, which had managed two copper mines in Marinduque, fled the Philippines in 2001, leaving the mess behind.
Canada's Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold mining company that bought out Placer Dome, has spent the better half of a decade fighting the province in court rather than owning up to the company's responsibility to put things right in Marinduque. Once again, Marinduque is the bellwether-evidence that for all its rhetoric about "responsible mining," the mining industry is still more concerned with its bottom line than in doing what's right.
In spite of a long legal struggle with competent American lawyers, on Sept. 17 Marinduque provincial administrator Eleuterio Raza told the Inquirer that Barrick had offered the province around $20 million, take it or leave it. According to the Inquirer report, "[T]he amount, however, would further be reduced to $13.5 million after litigation expenses had been paid. ‘These are crumbs,' said Raza, ‘but we are being pushed to the wall.'" It is perfectly clear that this extremely low level of recovery from Barrick is woefully inadequate to protect the health and safety of the people of Marinduque.
Numerous independent scientific studies of the ravages of mining on Marinduque, including by the United States Geological Survey, confirm the ongoing toxic impacts of uncontained mine waste and unrehabilitated rivers and coastal areas. Furthermore, numerous dams and structures have not been maintained since the mine ceased operations in 1996. Placer Dome's own consultants, Canada's Klohn Crippen, warned in a 2001 report, leaked just before Placer Dome fled the Philippines, of "danger to life and property" related to inadequate mine structures holding back waste.
Any recovery from Barrick has to be applied to the immediate stabilization of these dangerous mine structures, rehabilitation of contaminated rivers and coastal areas, and permanent solutions for the tons of mine waste still at the defunct mine sites in the mountains of Marinduque. What Barrick has reportedly laid on the table is woefully inadequate for this task. The cleanup of mine waste in contaminated sites around the world indicates that rehabilitation on a scale that is required in Marinduque can easily run into hundreds of millions of dollars. Canada's Teck Resources spent $55 million just on studies to prepare for the rehabilitation of areas it contaminated by dumping 9.97 million tons of slag containing heavy metals into the Columbia River. The cleanup has been estimated to run as high as $1 billion.
It's not that Barrick cannot afford to do the right thing. The mining giant paid its new cochair $17 million in 2012, including an $11.9-million signing bonus. Barrick's fine for an environmental breach at a mine that is still under construction in Chile came to $16 million, more than Marinduque would apparently get for 30 years of environmental damage.
For the "crumbs" it is offering Marinduque, Barrick is demanding highly valuable settlement provisions in return to secure the firm permanent legal immunity in this case. One of these, the Inquirer reported, is a clause stating that Placer Dome never operated on the island. "That's something difficult for us to accept. It's common knowledge that Placer Dome was a managing partner of Marcopper," Raza was quoted as saying. Recent reports indicate that the provincial board has rejected the current settlement agreement, described as "onerous."
What President Aquino, his adviser on environmental protection Secretary Nereus Acosta, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the people of Marinduque have to recognize is that if the true costs of ongoing contamination of the environment and risk to human health and safety from the legacy of irresponsible mining in Marinduque are not covered by Barrick, these will ultimately be borne by taxpayers, locally and nationally. Barrick's unwillingness to shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that the environment and people of Marinduque are made secure means that the province's unfortunate role as the poster child for irresponsible mining, past and present, will surely continue.
Catherine Coumans, PhD, of MiningWatch Canada, lived in Marinduque in 1988-1990 and has since returned to it many times. She says it was her experience with irresponsible mining on the island that led her to leave an academic career in favor of working with local communities to counter the damaging effects of mining.
Group rejects offer for mining tragedy
By Maricar Cinco
Inquirer Southern Luzon
19 October 2013
A church group stood its ground against the indemnity being offered by a mining company for the damage that resulted from almost 30 years of mining operations on Marinduque Island.
Negotiations between the provincial government of Marinduque and Barrick Gold Corp. continued with a $20-million compensation offer on the table, that, if signed, would end an almost 10-year legal battle in a US court.
Barrick Gold bought out Marcopper Mining Corp. and its parent company, Placer Dome, after the 1996 mine tailing spill on Marinduque's major river system, now considered the worst mining disaster in the Philippines.
The Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (Macec), however, said the proposed settlement should be rejected, "not only because the amount was too small, but because of certain conditions absolving the company of environmental damages."
"Among those conditions is that the settlement proceeds can never be used for the repair and rehabilitation [of the damaged rivers and mining structures] when it was the purpose [of the lawsuit] in the first place," Macec executive director Elizabeth Manggol said in a phone interview on Monday.
Macec, a multisectoral group under the Diocese of Boac, has been at the forefront of the $100-million lawsuit the Marinduque government filed against the company in 2005.
The Philippines still a hotbed of opposition to Canadian mines, says priest
By James Munson
27 October 2013
When Canadian politicians began studying in earnest the ethical conduct of the extractive sector overseas as a foreign policy problem, one of the first countries they looked at was the Philippines.
In 2005, the House of Commons' Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development held hearings on TVI Pacific Inc., a Calgary-based firm, and its Canatuan zinc and silver mine on the southern Filipino island of Mindanao.
The allegations - which included disrespecting indigenous rights, damaging the environment and allowing violent crackdowns on dissenting locals - were wrapped together with other reports of bad behaviour around the world and then used by the government to design a formal policy response, the 2009 Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector.
Today that strategy is getting a full-on makeover. The strategy's piece de resistance - a counsellor's office in Toronto who can mediate mining conflicts but only if the firm in question agrees to participate - is headless as of last week, according to the Ottawa Citizen. Perhaps not coincidentally, International Trade Minister Ed Fast is conducting a nationwide review of the policy. And critics of the strategy are mounting a campaign to replace it with something that has more teeth - an ombudsman that can force companies to respond to complaints.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, things haven't gotten much better. TVI Pacific told a Postmedia columnist this week that it's just escaped an email smear campaign begun by the firm's opponents that could have endangered the viability of its projects in Mindanao. Critics of the company's behaviour are still adamant the firm must be investigated.
Reverend Rex Reyes is one of those critics. The ordained Anglican priest, an ethnically indigenous man who hails from the mountainous northern part of the country known as the Cordilleras where mining has long been a contentious industry, is the general secretary of the National Council of Churches, which represents the country's non-Roman Catholics.
His church alliance, like the Roman Catholic bishops, has come out against massive resource extraction in the Philippines. Reyes says the way the country currently manages its resources overwhelms indigenous people who live near mines, doesn't adequately protect the environment and doesn't allow for royalties to be enjoyed by the average person.
Moreover, if marginalized groups in the Philippines try to file a complaint against a company's actions using Filipino institutions, it will more than likely languish for eternity, he said.
"Our justice system leaves a lot to be desired," said Reyes, during an interview this week in the Ottawa offices of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA). Reyes' ecumenical group has long brought alleged victims of TVI Pacific's practices to testify about their experiences in Manila. "The executive branch is of no use either," he said.
Despite a large economy and a front-row seat to Pacific trade, the Philippines suffers from a deep perception of corruption, according to Transparency International. Between 2007 and 2010, 69 per cent of people in a global survey by the group felt corruption had increased in the country. In places like Mindanao, the country also struggles with militant rebellion and widespread poverty. Twenty years of martial law has left the Filipino government with a "militaristic mindset" when it comes to dissent, said Reyes.
Conditions like this don't make the risky game of resource extraction any easier. Canadian firms like Barrick Gold and TVI have been opposed by groups there and their allies in Canada, while relatively recent natural gas projects off the western coast have brought on their own brand of corruption scandals, said Reyes.
To fix part of the problem, church groups have been asking for a repeal of the country's mining act, he said. "It's good on paper but it's terrible in terms of application." It offers firms a five-year tax holiday and doesn't ensure enough financial benefits end up with locals most impacted by mining, he said.
"It's difficult to talk about royalties because it's unheard of," said Reyes. "In other words, we don't feel the effects of the royalties. We have a government that is not quite transparent about how much it is actually receiving."
On this, the Filipino government is moving slowly to reform. In May, it was accepted by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as a candidate country. EITI is a decade-old effort to get resource firms and resource-rich countries to disclose all payments between them. In July 2016, the Philippines will have the first chance to prove it is EITI compliant. But until then, there is no independent assessment of how the country's corruption issues impact its resource sector.
Institutional failures like these are why Reyes wants Canada to step in. He says Canadian parliamentarians should support the renewed push for an extractive conflict ombudsman, which was launched this week by the CNCA and Amnesty International. The first complaint he would bring to Canada would be against TVI Pacific, which didn't respond to a request for comment on the recent email scam by deadline. The ombudsman's hearing would be a chance for both the company and its long-standing critics to flesh out their differences and find a path forward for the Canadian mining business, which has suffered repeated attempts to have its behaviour regulated by politicians in Ottawa since the 2009 strategy was released.
But the job would be tough. First, extractive conflicts are complex. They involve multiple layers of law and plenty of allegations that would need to be deeply researched to be proven. They also feature numerous disagreements on what the law should be. For instance, Canada and the Philippines are signatories to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes the right of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) over projects impacting their territories. And while Reyes said his country has failed to uphold the FPIC principle, it isn't accepted as law by federal government lawyers here either. An ombudsman would have their work cut for them.
Yet Reyes' power as a witness to unethical practices, along with the many others who visit Canada every year to advocate for a stronger foreign policy mechanism to regulate the extractive business, is what he uses now to push for the ombudsman office to one day become real.
Aside from Reyes, Canadian supporters also brought two Guatemalan women impacted by Canadian mining operations to Ottawa and Nova Scotia, as well a human rights representative from Mexico, this week.
"I can understand the cynicism of some Canadians," he said, when talking about why citizens here should consider the behaviour of Canadian firms a Canadian problem and not a Filipino one. "But you are talking to survivors. What other evidence and facts do you need than the story of these people?"
"If you honestly believe that we are not telling the truth, the only recourse for us is to politely invite you to our places and we'll feed you and we'll house you, just so you'll have a sense of what we're talking about," he said.
New bill would declare Nueva Ecija a mining-free zone
By Philippine News Agency
19 October 2013
MANILA, Philippines -- A lawmaker from Nueva Ecija has filed a bill that would declare the province a mining-free zone.
Representative Joseph Violago of the second district said House Bill 2816 bans all mining operations in the entire province and punishes violators with jail sentences of up to 12 years and fines of up to P500,000.
Violago cited the need to protect Nueva Ecija's rich heritage: its role in the nation's struggle for independence from colonizers; its reputation as the country's rice granary, "Milk Capital of the Philippines," and one of the top producers of onions, garlic, mango, calamansi and vegetables; its educational and research institutions; and many tourism spots and events.
"It is a giant waiting to be crowned as the next industrial, investments and transport hub in Central and Northern Luzon because of its sterling human resources, vast land resources and its strategic location and proximity to Clark, Pampanga and Manila," he said.
"Amidst its increasing role in the country's economic growth and food security, it is necessary to declare the entire province a mining-free zone," he stressed.
"It is the policy of the State to protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature," Violago said.
While acknowledging that rich mineral deposits like copper and manganese are also found in Nueva Ecija, especially in General Tinio, Carranglan and Pantabangan municipalities, Violago said: "Sadly, stories that the hills and mountains of Carranglan and Palayan City produce gold, have lured many unscrupulous and irresponsible miners in the province with their operations threatening to destroy more of the province's natural resources, its two big watersheds, the land's fertility and the integrity of its forests, wildlife, rivers, streams and ricefields."
Violago's bill directs Department of Environment and Natural Resources to promulgate the necessary rules and regulations.
US mining company soon to list in PSE
By Ben O. Tesiorna
Sun Star Baguio
17 October 2013
AN AMERICAN mining firm investing in a multi-billion dollar mining project in Pantukan, Compostela will soon be listing in the Philippine Stock Exchange after a restructuring by its Filipino partners.
Clyde Gillespie, country manager of St. Augustine Gold and Copper Limited (SAGCL), announced on Monday the restructuring of King-King Gold and Copper Project (KGCP) in Pantukan together with their Filipino partner Nationwide Development Corporation (Nadecor).
The KGCP restructuring will result in St. Augustine holding 100 percent interest in the joint venture milling company (milling co) as well as assuming full responsibility for organizing the financing for the project.
The structure of the joint venture mining company (mining co) will remain the same as agreed originally between the parties, with Nadecor owning 60 percent and St. Augustine owning 40 percent of mining co, in accordance with the nationality requirements under Philippine law.
The relationship between mining co and milling co will remain as originally planned, with mining co selling ore to milling co in pursuant to an ore sales agreement.
Milling co would process the ore and subsequently sell it to interested buyers.
The restructuring will also result in Nadecor shareholders owning 39.96 percent of St. Augustine.
Nadecor and St. Augustine's boards have both voted in favor of the restructuring. St. Augustine's strategic Philippine partner, Queensberry Mining and Development Corp. (Queensberry), has also signed the restructuring documents and expressed full support to it. Queensberry owns 18 percent of St. Augustine's.
The closing of the restructuring is subject to certain approvals and other conditions, including approval from the Toronto Stock Exchange where St. Augustine is listed.
Certain aspects of the proposed restructuring will be subject to corporate approvals by both companies.
Ian Gibbs of the Bromius Capital, St. Augustine's financial consultant to the project, said the restructuring is one of the conditions imposed by possible future investors to the project. It is anticipated that the cross listing would be completed in the second half of 2014.
Just last month, SAGCL and Nadecor officials announced the results of the Preliminary Feasibility Study (PFS) on the KCGP which showed that the planned operation has favorable economic potential, generating an estimated pre-tax net present value of $2 billion and an estimated pre-tax internal rate of return of 24.8 percent.
The mining partners said the result of the PFS confirm that KCGP is an attractive project with robust economics that will bring significant value to their shareholders and partners and the Philippines.
St. Augustine restructures Philippines' $2 bln copper-gold project
14 October 2013
Toronto-listed St Augustine Gold & Copper Ltd has restructured its stake in the $2 billion King-king copper-gold project in southern Philippines, one of Southeast Asia's biggest undeveloped mines, in a bid to kickstart funding.
St Augustine hopes to begin construction next year, although it faces similar problems to those hounding other big mining ventures in the mineral resources-rich country, including tax issues, security concerns and regulatory hurdles.
King-king, located on the west of the southern Mindanao island, could produce up to 3.2 billion pounds of copper, 5.4 million ounces of gold, and 11.7 million ounces of silver, based on St Augustine's 22-year mine plan.
Under the restructure with 50/50 joint venture partner the Philippines' Nationwide Development Corp (Nadecor), St. Augustine will own King-king's ore milling company and 40 percent of the mining concession. Nadecor will hold the rest of the concession and take a 40 percent stake in St. Augustine.
"This restructuring agreement puts St Augustine and Nadecor in the position to advance the King-king project," St. Augustine country manager Clyde Gillespie told a briefing, saying St Augustine would take take responsibility for raising funding.
St Augustine, which has a market capitalisation of $98.5 million, aims to list on the Philippine Stock Exchange by the second half of 2014 and bring in another foreign partner to help fund the project, Gillespie said.
The restive Mindanao region, home to Muslim rebels, is also the site of Glencore Xstrata Plc and Indophil Resources N.L.'s $5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold project, whose future is in doubt.
Glencore said in August it would eliminate up to 920 jobs and slash spending at Tampakan, which has faced a provincial ban on open-pit mining, public opposition and difficulty in winning regulatory approval.
Gillespie said King-king would face similar issues, but had worked closely with the local community.
"Security is a challenge, we're on Mindanao island. But what we've found is that as we work closely with the community and with the indigenous people in the area, that we have less challenges from the security perspective," he said.
However, Gillespie warned that legislation being drafted by Manila that would increase the government's share of mining revenues, could make the project unviable. (Reporting by Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Richard Pullin)
Atok, Intex finalize agreement on Mindoro mine suit
24 October 2013
MANILA, Philippines - Mining firm Atok-Big Wedge Co. Inc. announced it has finalized its agreement with Norwegian firm Intex Resources AS to terminate their case against each other pending before the Makati Regional Trial Court.
In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange released on Thursday, October 24, Atok said it has "finalized and completed its agreement with Intex...to amicably settle the dispute regarding the Mindoro Nickel Project."
Reaching an "agreement in principle" last September 10, the two firms stated they are no longer suing each other over a botched sale agreement involving Intex's nickel mining project.
Three years ago, the Norwegian firm, through its parent firm Intex Resources ASA's CEO Erlend Grimstad, offered the 100% sale of its equity of the nickel mine sitting in a 9,720-hectare property in Mindoro island.
Atok, the mining arm of the group led by Filipino billionaire Roberto Ongpin, wanted to purchase Intex's entire equity worth at least $10 million.
There was a failure to arrive at a sale agreement, as Grimstad's lawyers allegedly refused to send Atok the final drafts memorandum on Grimstad's instructions to renege any contract involving the project. This triggered the filing of civil cases.
A September 9, 2013 decision of the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Intex.
Following the appellate court ruling, both firms agreed "to cooperate on a framework where after the appropriate studies and once all regulatory approvals are obtained, Atok will either operate the Mindoro Nickel Project itself or find another operator who will operate the project."
Atok, however, had said in a statement that their September 10 agreement "renders moot and academic the decision of the Court of Appeals granting Intex's petition to have the case in the trial court dismissed." - Rappler.com