MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippine Senate bill seeks repeal of Mining Act

Published by MAC on 2004-12-30


The following articles address the Philippine government's recent attempts to promote mining as the salvation of its faltering economy. The moves are based on the Supreme Court's decision, in December 2004, to reverse an earlier ruling outlawing certain aspects of the 1995 Mining Act. Despite the government's attempts to talk up a new form of "sustainable mining" there is a strong conviction on the part of many Filipino/as that nothing has really changed - except for the worse.

A recent Christian Aid/ PIPLinks publication (Breaking Promises, Making Profits) documents the impact of mining on indigenous communities in the Philippines. It shows that, under current practices, environmental damage is commonplace, government regulation and protection grossly inadequate, and human rights abuses, intimidation and corruption, widespread. But the strident opposition to mining by affected communities and Indigenous Peoples is being systematically ignored.

Senate bill seeks repeal of Mining Act

Business World Online

Thursday, December 30, 2004

A bill repealing the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has been filed by the Senate in a bid to prevent large-scale mining from inflicting further damage to the environment In filing Senate Bill 295, Sen. Sergio R. Osmeña III said there is a need to avert disasters by putting in place a "farsighted approach to economic development."In a recent interview, Mr. Osmeña said the Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutionality of Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act will not deter him from pushing for the passage of his bill.

He expressed doubts that foreign and local large-scale mining companies will be interested in investing despite the Supreme Court ruling. "It will be very difficult for them to recover their capital. They would have to dig very deep into our soil before they get minerals," Mr. Osmeña said. In the bill's explanatory note, he said the 2003 output of the mining and quarrying industry, which was equivalent to PhP17.966 billion or 1.52% of gross national product, was minuscule compared to the amount of damage caused to the environment.

"Some of the cost of environmental damage such as pollution of the waterways and the poisoning of water resources, the collapse of mountains, are not clearly reflected in the income accounts, but they are already being shouldered by communities around the mining sites. Future generations will bear the cost, as they fall victim to similar disasters," Mr. Osmeña said.

The National Economic Development Authority estimates some $840 billion worth of mineral wealth remains untapped, and Mr. Osmeña said this will not go to waste if the government allows local small-scale mining companies to conduct the exploration.

"In the absence of the Philippine Mining Act, it is hoped that subsequent mining activities will be restricted to small-scale miners who with their long-term stake in their respective communities tend to be more responsible about preventing environmental damage," he said.

"The numerous disasters to (sic) environmental damage emphasize the importance of a more farsighted approach to economic development. Clearly, the short-term profits from large-scale extraction of our natural resources should be weighed against the costs, both in the present and future, of damage inflicted on our environment," he added.

Early this month, the Supreme Court upheld the Philippine Mining Act as well as the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement between the government and Western Mining Corporation Philippines, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Western Mining Corporation Holdings Limited of Australia. The High Court ruling was lauded by economic managers as well as business groups who said the decision would revitalize the mineral industry and accelerate export growth.

The Board of Investments said a total of 23 mining and mineral processing projects are in the pipeline or have begun just begun commercial operations.


The Battle is Far From Over

A Press Statement from the Women and Men of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan

20 January 2005

Friends of the Earth-Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils)

Quezon City - Lawyers representing indigenous cultural communities today filed a motion for reconsideration of the controversial decision of the Supreme Court allowing large foreign-owned companies to engage in large-scale mining.

“The battle is far from over. The decision is not yet final.” says Attorney Marvic Leonen of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, lead counsel for the petitioners in the La Bugal et al vs. Ramos et al.

“The Revised Rules of Court allow each party to file a motion for reconsideration on every decision that the court makes,” he explains. “In this case, the decision of the Supreme Court last December 2004 constitutes a new decision that we ask them to reconsider.”

Last December 1, 2004, as the country reeled from landslides caused by two super typhoons, the Supreme Court reversed its earlier ruling that nullified the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement of Western Mining Corporation Philippines and provisions pertaining to financial and technical assistance agreements in the Philippine Mining Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations.

Counsels for petitioners officially received last January 5, 2005 a copy of the decision of the Supreme Court overturning its earlier decision dated January 27, 2004. Exactly fifteen days after, they filed a motion asking the Hight Court to reconsider the December 1, 2004 ruling and declare the Philippine Mining Act unconstitutional.

The communities in Columbio that are bound to be affected by the full blown operations of the Tampakan Mineral Resource Corporation (TMRC) formerly know as Western Mining Corporation Philippines have not lost hope and refused to cease struggling against the mining giant. The Supreme Court case is only one of the fora where they have sought to defend their lives and their land.

Other mining-affected communities have also joined the La Bugal petitioners in their struggle against the open pit mining project in Tampakan. They fear that the decision will result in a deluge of mining activities all over the country. They call on the Supreme Court to reconsider their decision and exhort that “FOOD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MONEY. We can have food even if we have no money, through the natural resources granted to us by our Creator.”

LRC-KsK cites several studies showing that, contrary to the government’s claims mining can lead to a lower growth rate. Resource-abundant countries tend to be high-priced economies and, consequently, tend to miss-out on export-led growth. Natural resource abundance can crowd-out drivers of growth, such as traded-manufacturing activities, education, and even growth-promoting entrepreneurial activities.

LRC-KsK concludes that a Filipino first policy as contained in our Constitution, in a globalized age, still makes sense. It compels the State, through all its organs and agents, to examine the unstated and unverified assumptions of simple theories of investor behavior and free markets. It does by providing those that interpret law authoritatively act to consider that the Filipino community is not a homogenous lot. It is bisected by class, gender, ethnicity and dependence on natural resources in each of its community’s unique ways. One size does not fit all.

Dependence on largesse, the trickle down seasonal manual employment that will be provided by large transnational interests bringing in their own unique capital intensive technologies in labor surplus economies may not fit our needs. It is a Filipino first policy that gives us pause - after all, the 1987 Constitution is a Filipino constitution.

Far from creatures of economics, constitutional provisions seek to change behavior, provide rules so that markets and large powerful investments can be tamed in favor of empowering marginalized Filipino communities. The role of the judiciary should become as relevant as before. It is that branch of government expected to decide critically, above the simplified theories that are proposed by powerful commercial interest who do not wish to understand real lived nuances outside their disciplines and are not easily quantifiable – things such as ecological burdens, cultural displacement, social disruption, political marginalization in all their dimension.

Lodel Magbanua
OIC Team Leader for Policy Advocacy
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Inc. - Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Phils.
Unit 337 Eagle's Court Condominium, #26 Matalino St.,
Central East District Diliman,
Quezon City
lodel@philonline.com


Unjust, unsustainable mining industry

Kalikasan-PNE Press Statement

January 10, 2005

Contrary to the claims of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Horacio Ramos, in his recent press statment, the Mining Act of 1995 which embodies the mining program of the Arroyo government remains defective, unsustainable and environmentally devastating.

Ten years after its enactment, the Philippines was neither brought to economic development nor alleviation from poverty. It has caused more hardship and environmental catastrophes. The mining liberalization program of the government resulted not to a prosperous and vigorous local mining industry instead it has perpetuated the country's backwardness.

Since the early 1980's world prices for metal products started to fall dramatically which triggered widespread bankruptcy in the local mining industry. It intensified the crisis of the pre-industrial, export-oriented and import dependent production of the local mining. From a total mineral export value of $1.24 billion in 1979, it was reduced to $893 million in 1995. Mining corporations either closed down or reduced their production. During its production peak, there were 45 metal mining corporations in 1980 but this was drastically reduced to 17 in 1995.

Instead of nationalizing the industry and making it serve for our own country's industrialization, the government passed the Mining Act in March 3, 1995 which laid-out a pro-foreign investment climate in the hope of reviving the century-old mineral production for export. The Mining Act provides several and important economic incentives and political rights to foreign transnational mining corporations (mining TNCs) such as 100% ownership and control of over 81,000 hectares of land for 50 years.

In 1994 the mining industry employed a meager 0.44% of the total employment but this was further reduced to 0.39% in 2002. Metal productions continued to decline and mining corporations closed down. In 2002 there were only 11 metal mining corporations in the country. Among these are the Atlas mine, once the biggest copper mining in Asia, Dizon mine in 1998 due to a mining disaster and the Maricalum mine in 2001 because of financial difficulty. What little downstream mineral industries we had, such as the National Steel Corporation (NSC) and Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation (PASAR) which partly processed the minerals extracted also closed down.

This is largely due to the continued depressed prices in the international market. Mining investors pulled-out of the country in spite of favorable mining investment because it has not been profitable then to extract minerals in the Philippines and export these abroad. Up to now almost all the metal minerals extracted in our mountains and forest are exported abroad as raw materials.

Ironically while we are so rich with mineral resources, we remain heavily dependent on imported metal manufactures. In 2002, we imported iron, steel and copper manufactures totaling $786.8 million while we exported the same products worth $38.11 million with a balance of $-748.69 million.

Even the promised hundreds of thousands of jobs to be generated under the mining liberalization program failed to materialize. In 2003-04 the Arroyo administration approved 3 large-scale mining projects with a total potential investment of $202 million (Php 17 billion) but it will only generate less than 1,000 jobs during the actual commercial production. As of now the mining industry employs around 114,000 people, most of who are employed in the quarrying and small-scale metal mining production.

These facts attest that the Mining Act and the mining liberalization program of the government has failed to solve the bankruptcy upsetting the mining industry. Yet, the government, the international financial institutions and the mining TNCs are still harping that the crucial and key factor in the development of the local mining industry is the entry of foreign investment in the country.

As affirmed by the recent reversal of the Supreme Court (SC), they want foreign mining TNCs to 100% own and control our mineral resources and lands. This is an affront to our national sovereignty and transgresses over the exclusive right of the Filipino people to exploit, utilize and develop our national patrimony such as our mineral resources.

The Arroyo administration is pushing hard to promote its mining liberalization scheme, as though it is a tried and tested formula for economic development. We have been in this situation before. From the start of the direct colonial rule of the United States in 1900 until 1974, when the Parity Amendment expired, foreign individuals and corporations were 100% allowed to participate not only in mining but to all economic sectors and activity in the country. In 1971, of the top 17 mining corporations, 5 were American-owned. These five mining firms accounted for 75% of the total sales, income and equity of the top mining companies.

Yet, these have not freed the Filipinos from poverty. Neither have this brought industrialization to the country. Did these ensure the protection of our environment and prevention of man-made calamities such as landslides and flashfloods?

History and the present situation of the mining industry tell us they did not. The abject condition of the Filipino people and the degraded state of our environment attest to the ultimate objective of an export-oriented and foreign investment-driven mineral industry -- sheer plunder and profit for foreign mining corporations and their local cohorts.

Up to now the government continue to brush aside and resist the call of the people to nationalize and develop our mining industry within the framework of genuine national industrialization and development. A truly just, sustainable and prosperous mining industry serves the needs and demands of the people and of the development of the environment and not the vagaries and interests of foreign capitalists.

Now that prices of metal in the international market is back on the up trend, mining TNCs and their local cohorts are drooling as this is an opportune time again to rake in billions of profit. On the other hand, this will fire up the people's ire against the Arroyo administration and further strengthen and widen their struggle to defend their rights, land and environment against foreign transgression and plunder.


Marinduque villagers fear collapse of 5 dams

January 03, 2005

By Ronnie E. Calumpita, Manila Times

Villagers in three towns in Marinduque who were affected by the Marcopper Mining Corp. mining disaster have expressed concern over the imminent collapse of five mine-tailing dams, especially during storms and heavy rains.

Joveth Molado, chair of the Marinduquenos for the Nation and the Environment (Mine), said the residents are in constant state of alarm during storms and heavy rains in Mogpog, Boac and Santa Cruz in Marinduque where the Maguila-guila, Upper and Lower Makulapnit, San Antonio and Bol River dams are located.

"We urged the government to check on the dams because of their possibility of collapsing as stated in the Klown Crippen and the USGS [United States Geological Survey] studies," he said in an interview.

The results of the study on the structural flaws of the dams conducted in 2001 by Klown Crippen, a Canadian consultancy firm commis­sioned by the Placer Dome, a mining partner of Marcopper, was confirmed by the USGS in 2004.

Molado said the USGS stated in its study that the Maguila-guila Dam in Barangay Maligaya in Mogpog is the most critical one.

Despite the findings of the USGS, Mine and the Center for Environmental Concerns were not satisfied with the analysis of the US engineering team because it only recommends a detailed structural analysis of each dam instead of urging the government to move for the dams' speedy rehabilitation.

The USGS also recommend further analyses, monitoring and studies before any rehabilitation work can be made in Boac, Santa Cruz and Mogpog. The study on the assessment of the impacts of Marcopper mining in Marinduque cost the government P20 million.

The study, the results of which were released in July 2004, was supposed to provide detailed assessment of the damage caused by mining that will lead to the much delayed final environmental remediation.

Besides rehabilitation, the people of Boac, Mogpog and Santa Cruz also want Marcopper to compensate them for destroying their properties, including their rice fields and farmland.

Several people who were exposed to heavy metal poisoning after drinking contaminated water and eating contaminated fish and other seafood and vegetables have already died. They lost weight little by little.

The Maguila-guila Dam overflowed on December 6, 1993, bringing volumes of mine tailings to the Mogpog River, Delta Bay and several hectares of rice fields and farmland, which became unproductive.

Three years later, on March 24, 1996, the infamous mine-tailings spill by Marcopper mining operation occurred when the plug of the drainage tunnel of the Taipan open pit, where toxic mine tailings were disposed of, malfunctioned.

This affected several communities in Boac and Santa Cruz, including the Calancan Bay in Santa Cruz and the rivers of Boac, Makulapnit and Mogpog. The operation of Marcopper was stopped.

Even before the two mine-tailing spills, the Calancay Bay had long been the recipient of volumes of toxic mine tailings when the Marcopper allegedly disposed of its wastes to the bay since 1975 following the decommissioning of the San Antonio tailings pond.


Has anyone been surprised by the Arroyo government's rise to the most corrupt list of the world?

Kalikasan-PNE Press Statement

January 28, 2005

The recent findings of the survey of World Economic Forum (WEF) naming the Philippine government as 2nd to the most corrupt in the world surprises no one. Since 2001, the Arroyo administration has been plagued by numerous corruption scandals like the Jose Pidal account, the $400 million IMPSA project scam, the Php1.1 billion Macapagal Boulevard, and Major Gen. Garcia's military scams, etc.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Php100 billion of the annual budget is lost to corruption while Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo estimates it to be around Php200 billion a year. This money could build more than 1,050,000 houses for the poor or could support 4,550,000 children through six years of elementary education, expand road networks, build bridges, construct more irrigation facilities and purchase medicine for the indigents.

Corruption has been becoming more entrenched with every president. It has become common practice in just about every branch of the government so much so that most people reacted with nonchalance to the above-quoted news, inured to the reality of corruption in official circles. According to a Social Weather Station survey in 2004, most business firms in the country set aside 22% of their budget for bribes to get government projects approved. A recent Asian Development Bank survey also says that foreign corporations offer bigger bribes and allot more of their revenues for grease money.

Recently, word has been getting out that big transnational oil and mining companies provided a hefty $50 million as 'slush fund' to campaign for the reversal of the January 2004 decision of the Supreme Court (SC) declaring the Mining Act of 1995 unconstitutional and violates our national patrimony. In December 1, 2004, the SC reversed itself and uphold the said Act.

This is not surprising. Big oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and US-based Texaco, both of which own 90% of the Malampaya natural gas project, and mining transnational company, Climax Arimco, which is a 100% foreign owned company, raised their "concerns" over the decision. They were worried that the SC decision would affect their existing multibillion peso projects in the Philippines.

Consequently, the top officials of the land particularly President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, House Speaker Jose De Venecia, Senator Richard Gordon, NEDA Secretary Romulo Neri and DTI Secretary Cesar Purisima expressed disappointment with the earlier SC decision and chorused with their "unsolicited opinion" that an SC reversal will be good for the people and the economy. International financing institutions such as World Bank provided funds for the government to implement its program and projects to promote mining liberalization. Not one from the government raised hell that this smacks of foreign intervention, a simple case of influence peddling or political pressuring.

On the SC reversal, the justices said that the "mineral wealth and natural resources of the country are meant to benefit not merely a select group of people living in areas affected by mining activities but the entire Filipino nation, present and future, to whom the mineral wealth really belongs."

But we ask, will the Filipino people really benefit from the mining liberalization program of the government? Can we really hope for genuine development with the world's 2nd most corrupt government salivating over the dream of generating mining wealth of $840 billion?

It is stupidity to even think that the answer to both is in the affirmative. But how much more stupid is it of the government to expect that the Filipino people will stand by its abject corruptibility.


Influx of mining projects to do more harm than good?

Ibon Foundation

January 25 2005

Manila - The destructive impact of large-scale mining on the environment offsets any potential income from foreign investments, the think tank Ibon Foundation yesterday said.

"The projected earnings from mining investments are petty compared to the environmental destruction and displacement of rural and upland communities caused by unhampered, large-scale mining," Ibon Research Director Antonio Tujan said.

The administration has said it expects some $6.5 billion in mining investments in the coming years.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that the Philippine Mining Act is constitutional, paving the way for the signing of several service contracts with foreign investors.

Mr. Tujan said that following the High Tribunal's ruling, the government went into an "aggressive mode" to push 23 new and expansion mining projects expected to harness $840 million worth of mineral potential.

He said the country will lose more if it fully opens up mining to foreign transnational corporations or TNCs.

Mr. Tujan cited the contamination of the Abra River in Benguet, reportedly due to the operations of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co., which now threatens the livelihood of some 197,630 residents. Apart from this, the environmental and health effects caused by the Marcopper mine waste spill in Marinduque in 1996 are still being felt today, he added.

"It is ironic how the government wants to revitalize mining by foreign investments, yet leave the issue of mine rehabilitation unattended," he said.

He claimed TNC mining operations have only worsened poverty, displacing residents and harming their sources of livelihood.

"Filipinos are also left to deal with long-term effects of mine tailings, contaminated water systems and denuded forest lands. Worse, government and mining officials have failed to account for their responsibilities, while the people pay for the costs," he said.

"In the end, it is not the investments that matter but the genuine social development of communities and sustainability of the environment."


Philippine Mining: Open for Business, Sold to the Highest Bidder

Legal Rights and Natural Resources Centre Inc. - Kasama Sa Kalikasan / Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK) Press Statement

02 February 2005

In an order dated 01 February 2005, the Supreme Court denied with finality the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the petitioners in the case of La Bugal – B’laan Tribal Association, et al. versus Ramos, et. al., thus upholding the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 7642 or the Mining Act of 1995.

In a span of twelve days, without even asking the mining companies and the DENR to respond, the Supreme Court En Banc immediately struck down the motion for reconsideration filed by the B’laan petitioners for allegedly being a rehash of arguments already resolved in the 01 December 2004 Decision of the Court and for allegedly not raising any new issues that would warrant a reconsideration of the decision.

On the contrary, however, the 41-page motion for reconsideration did raise new issues in order for the Court to declare the Mining Act as unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court refused to see the new issues. It has not passed upon all the issues that the petitioners raised. The petitioners were not given a chance.

The assumption in the decision that Filipino-owned corporations cannot put up the capital and that foreign-owned corporations are not willing to provide large amounts of financial assistance are belied by the very facts of the case.

Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), the transferee of the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) that is the subject of this case, from Western Mining Corporation Philippines (WMCP), has a paid-up capital of only Php 16-M. Yet, it was able to secure loans amounting to almost Php 621-M from Western Mining Corporation Australia and Indophil Resources NL, both Australian mining companies.

The generous financial arrangement that these transnational mining corporations have with a small Filipino corporation indicates what the industry is really willing to do in order to participate in the exploration, development, and utilization of our natural resources. It is not true, therefore, that Filipinos need to put up huge amounts of financial capital nor that reputable international mining corporations require that they fully own the mining operations. It is possible to organize a majority Filipino-owned corporation, put up a small capital, and reasonably expect reputable international mining corporations and investors to participate only through financial assistance.

The Court, in interpreting the constitution, said that only foreign-owned corporations could engage in large-scale mining through an FTAA. However, a reading of the constitutional provision in its clear and ordinary meaning would show that even Filipino-owned corporations under a joint venture, co-production, or mineral sharing agreement can engage in large-scale mining operations. Large-scale mining is not limited or reserved only for foreign-owned corporations, contrary to what has been said in the Decision.

In the meantime, however, WMCP (now Tampakan Mineral Resources Corporation or TMRC) has a pending Motion for Correction, Clarification, and Partial Reconsideration that has yet to be passed upon by the Supreme Court, inspite of the Court having declared its Decision of 01 December 2004 as final and executory.

But the legal aspect of the mining campaign isn’t over yet. It is far from over.

LRC-KSK looks forward to further challenging the FTAA regime in the lower court on even entirely different issues and it will be filing cases that seek to emphasize those compelling issues. To date, there is still another case pending before the Supreme Court, questioning the constitutionality of the Mining Act and of the FTAA regime that this law created.

For details please contact:

Lodel D. Magbanua
Tel. No. (02) 928 1372;
Mobile: 0919 247 20 65
Email: lodel@philonline.com


CPA Press Statement on the International Mining Investment Conference - February 2-4, 2005, Makati Metro Manila

February 2, 2005

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) condemns and denounce the GMA administration and the Philippines Chamber of Mines, for facilitating the total sell out of the peoples resources for profit to multinational mining companies.

Inspite of the pronouncement made by GMA that the government will hold consultations with concerned non government groups and sectors, this is simply a lip service, devoid of any sincerity to address the peoples concerns on mining. Instead, it has been working hard to entice foreign investors and to offer so many incentives and tax holidays to foreign mining companies by organizing the International Mining Investment Conference. While exempting foreign mining companies from tax payments, it has chosen to put more burden to the poor by pushing for the collection of value added tax (VAT). This is highly deplorable and un-acceptable as an anti-people policy and adding insult to injury on the impoverished Filipino people, whom the government is suppose to serve.

This International Mining Investment Conference aims to get foreign investors interested in 23 mining projects. Yet the affected communities of these projects have not been consulted properly, and there is an obvious lack of transparency in the process of the planning and identification of these projects. The government is hooked on foreign investments as part of imperialist globalization, disregarding the rights of affected communities and the protection of the environment. As a result, more conflicts will take place in the areas of these 23 projects and other areas opened up for mining as the people will continue to assert their rights and defend their resources from imperialist plunder.

Credible studies have shown that countries who have primarily relied on foreign investments in their mining industry as a means to develop remains still the poorest of the poor and are facing series of catastrophies, disasters and conflicts. These countries include Zaire, Bolivia and Sierra Leone. It has already been established that corporate mining severely limits the ability of a nation to sustain economic growth. In fact, dependency on foreign investment and foreign aid has resulted to more impoverishment, than peoples self development like the case of the Philippines. It is then evident that foreign investment will never be a viable solution to the chronic economic and financial crises of the country

Thus, any claim of the government and the mining companies on beneficial impacts of billions of funds to be made available by foreign mining companies, and its so called multiplier effect is highly doubtful and unreliable. On the other hand, mining companies have amassed tremendous profit from their exploitative operations, leaving behind a legacy of irreversible damage to the environment. Likewise, foreign investment in the country is a major source of graft and corruption which is already at an alarming level, generating international concern. The question then remains as to who actually benefits from this government hype for foreign investments by mining companies.

We call on mining companies to take their hands off the mineral resources of the people.

We demand the full respect to our collective rights as indigenous peoples and the patrimony of the Filipino people over our natural resources. We will not allow the plunder of our land and we will resist and expose all attempts of deception and coercion by the government and mining companies. As long as social injustice remains, we will tirelessly oppose the further trumpling of our rights and the imposition of imperialist globalization in the name of " development".

Reference person: Joan U. Carling, Chairperson


IP, Environment, Church Groups Picket International Mining Confab

Bulatlat Vol. V, No. 1 February 6-12, 2005

BY Noel Godinez

"We have had enough of big foreign and local companies that compromise environmental protection and respect for indigenous peoples and their ancestral domain in their pursuit for maximum profits." - Rev. Fr. Allan Jose Arcebuche, OFM.

BAGUIO CITY -Some 200 protesters, many of whom traveled all the way to Manila from different regions, greeted the opening of the International Mining Investment Conference at the New World Hotel last Feb. 3. The two-hour picket condemned the sell-out of mineral resources to multinational mining corporations.

The protesters belonging to the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Kalikasan network, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP or Alliance of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines), Bayan Muna (People First), and the Promotion of Church People's Response (PCPR) converged in front of the hotel in Makati City at 10 am.

Rev. Fr. Allan Jose Arcebuche, OFM, of the coalition Defend Patrimony, said "We condemn this government-sponsored mining summit which promotes the business of massive extraction of gold mines and other minerals with the grave consequences being left to poor Filipinos. How many more denuded forests, poisoned waters, killer flashfloods and displaced communities will it take before the government seriously stops massive logging and open-pit mining? We have had enough of big foreign and local companies that compromise environmental protection and respect for indigenous peoples and their ancestral domain in their pursuit for maximum profits.

We condemn the latest Supreme Court ruling that declared the Mining Act of 1995 as legal."

Joan Carling, chair of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), said the conference aims to get foreign investors interested in 23 mining projects yet the affected communities of these projects have not been consulted properly.

The 23 mining projects are Batong Buhay Copper-Gold Project in Pasil, Kalinga; Far-Southeast Gold Project, Itogon Gold Project, and the Teresa Gold Project in Mankayan, Benguet; Padcal Expansion Project in Tuba, Benguet; Didipio Copper-Gold Project in Kasibu, Nueva Viscaya and Nagtipunan, Quirino; Adlay-Cagdianao-Tandawa Project in Surigao del Sur and Claver, Surigao del Norte; Amacan Copper Project/Hijo Gold Project, Diwalwal Direct State Utilization Project, King King Copper-Gold Project in Compostela Valley; Aroroy Gold Project in Masbate; Boyongan Copper Project in Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte; Canatuan Gold Project in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte; Mindoro Nickel Project in Oriental Mindoro; Nonoc Iron Fines Project and Nonoc Nickel Project in Surigao del Norte; Palawan Nickel Project in Bataraza, Palawan; Pujada Nickel Project in San Isidro & Gov. Generoso, Davao Oriental; Rapu Rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay; San Antonio Copper Project in Marinduque; Siana Gold Project in Surigao del Norte; Tampakan Copper Project in South Cotabato; and Toledo Copper Project in Cebu.

Furthermore, Carling emphasized that there is "an obvious lack of transparency in the process of planning and identification of these projects" wherein the government has "disregarded the rights of the affected communities" as well as "the protection of the environment." She also warned that conflicts will arise in the areas of these projects because "the people will continue to assert their rights and defend their resources" from mining companies.

She also criticized the government for believing that corporate mining is a solution to the chronic economic and financial crisis citing the experiences of Zaire, Bolivia and Sierra Leone which relied primarily on foreign investments to develop their mining industry but until now have remained among the poorest of nations. Furthermore, these countries are facing catastrophes, disasters and conflicts brought about by the operations of mining corporations.

Tax holidays

Carling criticized the government for giving out tax holidays and incentives to foreign mining corporations while bleeding the Filipinos dry by way of additional taxes like the increase of the value added tax. "We demand the full respect to our collective rights as indigenous peoples and the patrimony of the Filipino people over our natural resources. We will not allow the plunder of our land and we will resist and expose all attempts of deception and coercion by the government and mining companies," Carling ended.

In Mindanao, religious groups particularly the Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN), Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, and the Religious of the Good Shepherd, and non-government organizations affiliated with the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (INPEACE) have "vowed to take the fight in the communities and work with Lumads and farmers in Mindanao in opposing the entry of foreign mining firms in the country."

Moreover, the groups vow to support mass actions of communities as the only way to "reverse" the Supreme Court's legalization of the entry of transnational, open-pit mining in the country led by American, Canadian, and Australian corporate giants.

According to Sr. Carmen Dianne Cabasagan, SAMIN chairperson and INPEACE Convenor, the Supreme Court decision on the legality of the Philippine Mining Act "was clearly rushed to please foreign investors attending an the international mining conference."

The mining conference, organized by the Philippine Chamber of Mines and supported by the Office of the President, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Department of Trade and Industry is aimed to put the Philippine mining industry "back on the global map."

According to a conference flyer, the country's mineral deposits are spread across nine million hectares and are "worth a potential US$840 billion."

Church Leaders, Lumads Gear for Anti-Mining Protests in Mindanao

By Tyrone Velez

The Supreme Court has upheld with finality the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995 but the struggle against this law that allows transnational corporations to engage in destructive mining activities continues, especially in Mindanao.

Church Leaders, Lumads Gear for Anti-Mining Protests in Mindanao The Supreme Court has upheld with finality the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995 but the struggle against this law that allows transnational corporations to engage in destructive mining activities continues, especially in Mindanao.

DAVAO CITY - With the Supreme Court (SC) deciding with finality on the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995, the fight against it is now in the communities of lumad (an indigenous group in Mindanao) and farmers in Mindanao.

Religious groups and non-government organizations (NGOs) thus said last week as they vowed to raise opposition against the entry of foreign mining firms in the country.

The Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (Inpeace), Sisters Association in Mindanao (Samin), Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS) condemned the SC ruling of Dec. 1. Last week, the high court quashed the motion for reconsideration lodged by the legal counsel of La Bugal B'laan Tribal Association questioning the former's earlier ruling on the legality of the law allowing transnational mining in the country.

Sr. Ma. Carmen Diane Cabasagan, Samin chairperson and Inpeace convenor, condemned the decision as it was clearly rushed to please foreign investors attending the international mining conference of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.

Human rights lawyer Joel Mahinay, another convenor of Inpeace, said the SC did not consider the new information and arguments presented by the lawyers of La Bugal.

Legal, moral

"The Supreme Court ruling reminds us of the long upheld principle 'what is legal may not necessarily be moral,'" Mahinay said."It is now up to the people to be affected by large-scale mining to assert their political rights over their land and livelihood."

Sister Cabasagan said that the Mining Act is more than a legal issue. "It has become a moral issue because it affects the well-being of the majority especially the poor, as the few transnational investors and their Filipino partners stand to gain billions of dollars while wiping out whole communities and destroying the environment," she said.

She said it is urgent to support mass actions of communities as the only way to reverse the SC's legalization of the entry of foreign mining firms led by American, Canadian, and Australian corporate giants. Datu Tomas Ito, chairperson of the Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations, said, Lumad groups "will muster all their powers to resist this renewed assault on the last frontiers of Mindanao which are our ancestral domains."

Unity statement

The groups earlier led a signing of a unity statement in a forum held last Jan. 29 in Davao City calling for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995. One hundred-sixty participants from religious orders, environmental groups, NGOs, local governments and academe signed the statement.

The statement called for a moratorium on large-scale mining in the country and the cancellation of Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) given to foreign mining corporations. The signatories also demanded that foreign corporations own up to rehabilitating areas ravaged by their operations and to respect the indigenous communities.

The Mining Act of 1995 was a "scheme of the national government that spells wholesale surrender of our national patrimony to foreign countries," they said.

Lawyer Gus Gatmaytan of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center - Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KSK) criticized the government's economic strategy which is foreign investment-dependent and export-oriented. Such economic policy, he said, may "bring prosperity but not progress." Profits will only benefit a few, he said.

Five of 23 mining showcases in Mindanao

The LRC revealed that of the 23 mining showcases by the government, five are in Mindanao.

The Australian firm Indophil Resources is tying up with the local Sagittarius Mines Inc. (formerly Tampakan) copper project in South Cotabato which is considered the largest undeveloped copper field in Southeast Asia. Estimates showed the reserve has a potential value to earn $14 billion.

Mining firms are also eyeing the gold-rich Compostela Valley in Southern Mindanao. Already, the Indophil-Sagittarius Mines are applying for exploration permits in Nabunturan. Another Australian firm is eyeing a partnership with North Davao Mining in exploring the mountains of Masara in Maco.

In Davao City, the Solid North Company is set on exploring limestone minerals in Bunawan, covering 5,000 hectares. A reported 820,494 hectares of land in Southern Mindanao are covered by 13 FTAA applications of 11 mining corporations. Bulatlat.

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