MAC: Mines and Communities

Protestors mark the 20th anniversary of the Philippine Mining Act

Published by MAC on 2015-03-23
Source: Statement, Star, PDI, Business World, Manila Times (2015-03-22)

March is traditionally a month for mining protests in the Philippines, to commemorate the anniversary of the much reviled 1995 Mining Act (which provides the legislative framework for mining in the Philippines). This year, those protests were magnified by it being the two decade anniversary.

Protests took place in Manila, and around the country, emphasising how the Act is not delivering on its decades-long promise of economic development. A national gathering of local communities was conducted, called 'Pagbawi 2015: communities struggling for land, life and rights’.

The Joint Foreign Chambers continue to praise the Act as a 'model', with the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce stressing how proper implementation is better than any amendments proposed (particularly amendments on revenue sharing, although it no doubt refers to the 'pro-people' mining bills being discussed in the Congress). It is true that implementation is important, but any such increased implementation is more likely to benefit the companies over the affected communities, or the environment.

A number of campaign groups used the opportunity to stress the problems the act had caused, from Negros and Rapu Rapu to Mindananao. There was a specific Manila-based picket of OceanaGold's offices, in opposition to its ongoing operations and the expansion of its Didpio mine to underground operations. The picket took place not long after the company announced an $12 million dividend.

Alongside these processes, the Philippines released its report for the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). (see – http://www.ph-eiti.org/#/EITI-Report/First-Country-Report). Company participation is currently voluntary – with some companies, such as Semirara Mining not complying – but there are suggestions for the Philippines to join the few countries who have legislated for mandatory reporting. Even with the data to hand the NGO Bantay Kita estimates the Government has lost P2 billion in potential mining revenues because of the income-tax holidays it is granting to large-scale miners.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food visited the Philippines, and noted that “mining activities .. drive the indigenous peoples away from their ancestral lands”.

Meanwhile, on the ground Philippine miners continue to get into proverbial hot water. Berong Nickel has been fined for illegally constructing a road network on the Palawan river. Lepanto Mining is seeking arbitration in order to not consult local indigenous peoples over the renewal of its 25 year license (which was granted before indigenous peoples had the right to be consulted).

The Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision that three mining companies – including Narra Nickel - violated the constitutional provision that limits foreign ownership in mining companies to 40 %, as well as confirming that small-scale miners in Compostela Valley do not have the license to mine there. Finally, local politicians are being pursued in the courts over pubic funds being used around black sand mining in Pangasinan.

For 20 years of continuing pollution and plunder, indigenous peoples, environmental advocates demand: ‘Scrap the Mining Act, PNoy resign!’

Kalikasan PNE Press Release

3 March 2015

On the 20th year anniversary of the Mining Act of 1995, hundreds of indigenous peoples, environmental advocates and grassroots activists marched to Malacanang today bearing torches, makeshift spears, and a 10-foot effigy depicting President Noynoy Aquino as a backhoe-bulldozer monster. The protesters called for the scrapping of the mining law and the resignation of Aquino, saying “this policy brought two decades of pollution and plunder, and this pernicious president pushed its implementation to the breaking point.”

“The Mining Act of 1995 is a complete failure—from  its sell-out of our national patrimony, to its perpetuation of a culture of impunity towards mining-affected communities, down to its unending string of environmental disasters. That Aquino perpetuated more of the same is a betrayal of the people and is basis enough for his resignation,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).

Sr. Mary Francis Anonuevo, spokesperson of the Defend Patrimony! Alliance, further explained that “under BS Aquino’s five years of presidency, we experienced the biggest mining disaster in history, the most number of anti-mining activists killed, hundreds of billions of pesos worth of minerals depleted, and massive destruction of our biodiversity rich areas. Mining-affected communities have long suffered from Aquino’s criminal greed and neglect, and are calling for the scrapping of the Mining Act and for Aquino’s resignation.”

With Aquino’s presidency not taking any measures to reverse the orientation of the Mining Act, two decades under this policy regime have produced the following:

·         The number of large-scale mine projects increased from 17 to 46, and the number of approved mining applications increased from 282 to 999 covering 869,292 hectares (1997-2014)

·         The Philippines received only 10 percent of the average total gross production value in mining, as mining production value amounted to P1.31 trillion while taxes, fees and royalties amounted only to P132.39 bilion  (1997-2013)

·         The industry contributed only 0.44 percent to the employment rate and 0.7 percent to the GDP (1997-2013)

·         A total of at least 19 major mining disasters were recorded, none of which were properly or sufficiently rehabilitated and compensated to date (1995-2015). Philex mining spill in 2012 was the worst accident in recent mining history.

·         A total of at least 66 cases of extrajudicial killings of anti-mining activists were recorded, none of which have been resolved in any court to date (2001 to 2014). Thirty seven of these cases occurred under Aquino.

“It is only under the Aquino regime that colonial-era mining patents, which essentially grant full and perpetual rights over mineral lands to mining corporations, were revived. This goes to show Noynoy Aquino’s disregard of our constitutionally guaranteed national patrimony, and how shameless pro-corporate his Administration is,” Bautista explained.

Amidst growing public clamor to pass proposed new mining policies such as House Bill 171 or the People’s Mining Bill, Aquino responded with the Executive Order 79 (EO 79) which overrode local environment codes and mining moratoriums and other national laws concerning large-scale mining. The Aquino administration also prioritized House Bill 5367 in Congress which would only minimally increase taxation, albeit still favoring corporate mining.

“BS Aquino should resign. It would be much better for our environment and indigenous peoples if such a callous and incompetent president will be removed from Malacanang!” Anonuevo ended.#

Reference: Clemente Bautista, national coordinator – Kalikasan PNE – 0922 844 9787


Scrap Mining Act, protestors asks

Visayan Daily Star

4 March 2015

Environmental groups and people’s organizations in Negros Occidental yesterday reiterated their call for congress to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act 7942) and rescind all permits granted to mining companies.

Rev. Bob Menguito, chairperson of the Defend Patrimony-Negros, said in a press release that the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 turned 20 and, like the day it was signed into law, it was greeted with widespread protest and condemnation from various sectors and groups and most especially from those who bore the brunt from mining operations.

The Mining Act of 1995 liberalizes the mining industry allowing foreign mining firms to explore and develop mines in the country. It also grants perks and privileges such as income tax holiday of 6 to 8 years, accelerated depreciations of equipments and full repatriation of income and profits, the press release said.

Menguito also said they are granted the right to clear forest through timber rights, right to exclusive use of water resources in tenement areas and the easements rights that includes the right to destroy and relocates communities.

He added that the Mining Act of 1995 institutionalizes the landgrabbing of farmlands, destruction of the environment, plunder of national patrimony by big foreign mining firms and violations of people’s rights.

The latest data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau show that there are 50 approved and pending mining tenements covering more than 350,000 hectares in Negros Occidental, he said, adding that the approved and pending tenements cover almost a third of the land area of the province.

Southern Negros is the focal point in mining destruction and struggles of the people. Four of the six Mineral Production Sharing Agreement are located there, adjacent to each other. These are Philex Mining, Maricalum Mining, Selenga Mining and Vulcan Mining, the press release also said.

Defend Patrimony-Negros supports the passage of House Bill 171 (People’s Mining Bill) now pending in congress, the press release added.


Environment groups assess 20 years under the Mining Act: ‘economic plunder—not growth

Kalikasan PNE Press release

24 February 2015

The large-scale mining policy regime under Republic Act 7942, or the Mining Act of 1995, is not delivering on its decades-long promise of economic development.

This was one of the major assessments of environment and grassroots groups under the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) as they prepare for nationally-coordinated protest activities across the Philippines on March 3, 2014.

“From 1997 to 2013, the country only received a paltry P1.00 in every P10.00 profit of the large-scale mining industry, which reaped an estimated total of P1.14 trillion in mineral exports. This is not just a case of lost revenues but of our squandered national patrimony. It is a case of over a trillion pesos worth of investment opportunities in national industrialization and genuine people’s development lost to foreign mining plunder,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

In the said period, large-scale mines produced a total gross production value of P1.31 trillion. From 2004 to 2008, there is an apparent under-declaring of mineral production, as tallied mineral exports were greater than total mineral production values.

“Big miners have milked our mineral wealth through two decades’ worth of legalized tax evasions vis-à-vis tax holidays, full capital repatriation, and other fiscal and non-fiscal guarantees by the Mining Act of 1995. Mining projects that have figured in tailings dam failures and other mining-related disasters have done their best to avoid or minimize payments to incurred damages and rehabilitation costs,” Bautista further explained.

Amidst calls to scrap and comprehensively overhaul the national mining law, the Aquino administration instead further strengthened RA 7942 through Executive Order 79, which aimed to override local government opposition and other national laws, and kept quiet on outstanding concerns on the communities, environment, and the economy.

EO 79 also served as an impetus for the government’s focus on the issue of mining revenue sharing, and has identified as priority legislation in Congress the House Bill 5637, which only sought to increase government shares in mining by 10 percent.

“The dismal contributions of mining to our national revenues and GDP validate the fact that the Mining Act of 1995 is designed for foreigners to profit from our mineral resources, bereft of significant contributions to our national economy. This core orientation of the Mining Act cannot be addressed by amendments alone, and should be scrapped and replaced with a new, pro-people and pro-environment mining policy,” asserted Bautista.

The groups are set to further discuss their assessment of the Mining Act of 1995’s historical and present impacts on the economy, people and environment, and announce their series of actions in Pagbawi 2015: A People’s Forum on Communities struggling for Land, Life and Rights this coming February 26 at the Balay Kalinaw in the University of the Philippines – Diliman campus.#

--
Leon Dulce
Campaign Coordinator
Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment
Web: http://www.kalikasan.net
Office Tel No: (+63 2) 924 8756
Mobile No: (+63) 917 562 6824


‘Inutile Mining Act must be scrapped’

Center for Environmental Concerns – Philppines press release

26 February 2015

Green NGO calls on gov’t to enact pro-people, patriotic People’s Mining Bill

Center for Environmental Concerns – Philppines (CEC) joined the call of various green and indigenous peoples groups and called on the government to junk the “inutile” Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and pass the alternative mining policy People’s Mining Bill into law, in a forum today at UP Diliman Balay Kalinaw.

“After 20 years of PMA, 10 years of mining revitalization, what has the Philippines gained? How much of our foreign debt have mining revenues paid? How much have we lost in terms of biodiversity? How many lives been ruined and killed? How much have mining companies gained? The Philippines is still poor, backward and indebted, thanks to PMA,” said CEC Executive Director Frances Quimpo.

The Philippine Mining Act (PMA), enacted in 1995 under the administration of Fidel Ramos, is on its 20th year and has been heavily criticized for liberalizing the local mining industry. The contentious provisions of PMA on foreign ownership and control of the country’s land and mineral resources were even declared by the Supreme Court (SC) to be unconstitutional and void in its decision on the 2004 case LA BUGAL-B’LAAN TRIBAL ASSOCIATION, INC. vs Ramos.

In the forum PAGBAWI, mining communities from Eastern Samar, Rapu-rapu, Nueva Vizcaya and Zambales recalled how mining destroyed livelihoods, natural ecosystems and caused diseases. Several tailings spills and mining disasters also occurred during the PMA’s 20 years, including the Marcopper Spill in Marinduque in 1996 and the Philex Tailings Storage Facility breach in 2012.

“It is urgent that we stop mining liberalization, scrap PMA and enact PMB, which was crafted to reorient the mining industry towards national industrialization and local development, while ensuring the protection of the environment and upholding respect for human rights and the well-being of communities,” added Quimpo.

The PMB, or House Bill 171 in the 16th Congress, is filed by Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate; ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio; Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus; and Kabataan Partylist Representative Terry Ridon. It was first filed in 2011, and after four years is still pending with the Committee on Natural Resources.

PMB advocates for pro-people and patriotic mining, by reinforcing community participation in the approval of mining permits, setting stringent terms for foreign participation in mining, and recognizing human rights and indigenous peoples rights.

“The past two decades of mining have proven that this country’s government has always ruled with impunity. Aquino’s government tolerates and continues mining plunder and should be made accountable for the environmental degradation and human rights violations that mining has caused. Recent events only add fuel to our call, make Aquino accountable, five years of his administration is enough,” ended Quimpo.

Reference: Frances Quimpo, 920-9099


Two decades of plunder and pollution belie Joint Foreign Chambers claim of Mining Act as ‘model’ mining framework

Kalikasan-PNE press release

26 February 2015

People’s forum highlight community struggles 20 years under the Mining Act of 1995

Disputing repeated claims by the Joint Foreign Chambers and other mining industry lobbyists that Philippine mining laws provide a ‘model’ framework for sustainable development through its environment and social safety nets, legislators, environmental advocates and grassroots leaders presented harrowing cases of social and environmental impacts suffered by communities and the environment during the two decades of implementation of the Philippine Mining Act  of 1995 during a people’s forum held today at the University of the Philippines – Diliman.

“The concrete experiences of affected communities and outcomes of independent investigations debunk the preposterous claim of the Joint Foreign Chambers and the Aquino Government that the large-scale mining regime in the Philippines are socially responsible and environmentally safe. In the two decades of implementation of the Mining Act, there are already a total of 19 major mine spills—not including the slow but continuous outflow of harmful tailings from the facilities of countless mines across the country—have  dispossessed communities of their lands and livelihood,  and have caused massive pollution and negative health impacts,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan.

In September 2012, Philex Mining suffered a mine spill incident which disposed 20 million metric tons of toxic mine waste. This made the Balog River biologically dead and massive siltation to San Roque Multipurpose Dam. The Philex mine spill is said to be one of the biggest mining disasters in the world. Also among the major mine disasters include the Marcopper Mining Disaster in Marinduque a year after the Mining Act was passed, and the series of spills in Rapu-Rapu Island, Albay.

“The Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay has left in ruin not only the island-ecosystem of Rapu-Rapu Island but also the Albay Gulf. Fisheries productivity is still in decline amidst continuing fish kills after mining corporation KMP-Resources attempted to close without rehabilitating their mines. Because of the massive degradation of marine ecosystems, the majority of the residents of Rapurapu Island are now exepriencing widespread hunger and poverty,” said Vince Casilihan of Karapatan Bikol and the Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance.

The Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project owned by South Korean company KMP-Resources (Korea Malaysia Philippine Resources)  was declared as the flagship mining project during the Arroyo administration. A few months after the commencement of its commercial operations in 2005, a series of huge tailings spills occurred in the island. KMP-Resources is reportedly closing the mine after 8 years of minerals extraction, but without a decommissioning plan.

“Zambales is currently being plundered by 16 different mining corporations for its nickel reserves. Rivers have run dry in Sta Cruz, its various waters polluted with heavy crimson siltation that even we can not use it for washing our clothes. In coastal areas near Bolitoc Port, small fishers are forced to fish beyond five kilometers from the shore as the sea is heavily polluted with silt and laterite,” says Cristeta Sison of the Movement for the Protection of the Environment- Zambales or MOVE Now!.

Bolitoc Port is where nickel products are transported to be shipped overseas out of Zambales. It also serves as a standby stockpile area for nickel extracted by mining companies in Zambales. The average tonnage of nickel products transported out of the port is 54,000 metric tons per ship. In 2011, mining companies DMCI owned by the Consunji family and Benguet Mining Nickel Corporation owned by the Romualdez family alone has recorded a total of 10 million metric tons of nickel shipment.

In the typhoon-battered island of Manicani in Eastern Samar, residents decried similar conditions of marine pollution caused by nickel mining in the island. The nickel mining projects owned  by Nickel Asia Corporation which is controlled by the Zamora family. Members of the Save Manicani Movement (SAMAMO) said that the mining operation have also caused several cases of human rights violations such as killings, harassments and the illegal detention of anti-mining activists.

The group said “the brutal repression and environmental destruction caused by big miners in Eastern Visayas compound to our disaster vulnerabilities—we suffered typhoons Yolanda, Ruby, and Seniang, but way before those typhoon disasters there was Nickel Asia.

In response to the people’s clamor for radical policy reforms in the mining sector, President Noynoy Aquino issued Executive Order 79 or the Mining Executive Order in 2012, which had token provisions on the environment that allowed the continuation of  existing mining operations in environmentally critical areas. The EO, which Aquino said was meant ‘harmonize’ various mining-related laws with the Mining Act of 1995, also undermined the ordinances of local government units banning large-scale mining projects in their provinces.

“The Aquino administration, who instead of repealing or radically overhauling the Mining Act, actually pushed for more mining liberalization policies that further allows foreign mining corporations to deplete our mineral resources, leaving us with grave environmental destruction, pollution, and plunder in the process. This is a pattern of criminal negligence towards communities affected by disasters and environmental destruction that joins the growing plethora of atrocities that President Aquino continues to perpetrate. If foreign interests to plunder our nation’s wealth weigh more than the people’s lives for our Philippines’ pernicious president, then Noynoy Aquino must immediately resign,” Bautista ended.

The forum, entitled ‘Pagbawi 2015: communities struggling for land, life and rights’ was organized by Kalikasan, Defend Patrimony, Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines, AGHAM, AGHAM Youth, and in partnership with Save Rapu Rapu, SAMAMO, MOVE Now!, Minggan UP-Diliman, and the Junior Philippine Geographic Society.#

Reference: Clemente Bautista, national coordinator – Kalikasan PNE – 0922 844 9787


Eco-activists slam 3 mining firms tied to LP for over-extraction of nickel

Danilo V. Adorador III

Inquirer Mindanao

3 March  2015

SURIGAO CITY, Philippines—Environmental advocates marked the 20th anniversary of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 Tuesday with a protest, even as they accused Malacañang of shielding mining firms with close ties to the Liberal Party (LP).

Hundreds of protesters belonging to the environment advocacy group, Caraga Watch, descended on the regional office of the Mines and Geosciences (MGB) here, calling on Congress to scrap the current law that has been governing mining operations in the country.

While accusing MGB and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of failing their mandate to protect the environment, Caraga Watch blamed the Mining Act of 1995 for a creating an “imbalanced system” that favored large-scale mining interests.

“The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has become a tool for the dynastic political class to perpetuate their hold on power, using the law to protect their favored mining companies,” said Rev. Peter Vargas of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines.

Vargas, a Caraga Watch coconvenor, cited the plunder case against SR Metals Inc. (SRMI), San R Mining and Galeo Equipment and Mining—the corporate trio behind the controversial nickel mines in the coastal town of Tubay, Agusan del Norte.

In 2006—then jointly operating as small-scale mine —the three mining companies were ordered closed after government regulators found they had exceeded their allowed combined annual output of 150,000 metric tons (MT) of ore. Supreme Court records show that in less than a year of operation, the trio had already extracted over 177,000 MT of nickel ore.

“Nothing has been done about the injustices and abuses committed by these mining companies. Is it because their owners are closely affiliated with the Liberal Party?” Vargas said. He noted that at the time the plunder complaint was filed against the mining firms in 2007, Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, an LP stalwart, was listed as its president.

The other owners of SRMI, Miguel Alberto Gutierrez and Eric Gutierrez, are said to be close political supporters of both President Benigno Aquino III and Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas. The Gutierrezes were identified in media reports as the owner of the helicopter that was used to make an aerial video footage of the so-called Hacienda Binay in Rosario, Batangas, which President Aquino’s allies claimed has been among the hidden wealth and assets of Vice President Jejomar Binay, rival of Roxas to the presidency in 2016.

Rev. Pio Moreno, another Caraga Watch coconvenor, has expressed their group’s willingness to intervene in the SRMI case, following the recent Supreme Court ruling that jolted to life the years-long case against SRMI, San R Mining and Galeo.

They challenged DENR’s interpretation of the 50,000-MT limit before the Court of Appeals (CA) in 2007, but lost. It elevated the case to the high court, which recently issued a decision finding that indeed, SRMI and its partner companies were guilty of excessive extraction of minerals.

“With the 50,000-MT (metric ton) limit likewise imposed on small-scale miners under R.A. 7076, the issue raised on the violation of the equal protection clause is moot. The fact is, the DENR treats all small-scale miners equally as the production limit applies to all of them,” the high court said in a ruling promulgated June last year but only released on December.

“There is therefore no more reason for the mining corporations to not recognize and comply with the said limitation,” it added.

Telephone directories listed on SRMI’s website turned out to be wrong numbers when the Philippine Daily Inquirer tried to call for a comment.


PHL better off enforcing current mining law -- ANZCham

By Melissa Luz T. Lopez,

Business World Online

4 March 2015

THE GOVERNMENT should focus on better enforcement of the current Philippine mining law instead of changing the mining revenue regime if it wants to further maximize the benefits from natural resources, an official of the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (ANZCham) said.

“We think the Mining Act has got the reputation as one of the best pieces of legislation, we should stick by it and enforce it,” ANZCham President Ian W. Porter said in an interview at the sidelines of the Arangkada forum last Tuesday.

ANZCham, along with other business groups of the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines on Tuesday, said the mining sector remained frozen with no new exploration permits being granted.

Both local and foreign business groups have registered apprehensions over the new revenue-sharing bill being proposed by the Malacañang’s Mining Industry Coordinating Council and submitted to Congress last month for deliberation and possible enactment as House Bill 5367.

If passed, the new measure will lift the government’s moratorium on the grant of large-scale mining permits, which has been in place since 2011 and extended indefinitely through Executive Order 79 signed July 6, 2012.

As “owner of the minerals,” the government gets a 55% share in adjusted net mining revenue, or 10% of a company’s gross revenue, whichever is higher; and 60% of any windfall profit above the net revenue threshold.

This is higher than the sharing scheme provided by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 currently in place, in which the government gets a 50% share in profits of foreign miners operating in the Philippines under Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements, and a 2% excise tax on actual market value of output under Mineral Production Sharing Agreements with local companies.

The new measure also provides, however, that the government’s share comes in lieu of corporate income tax, royalty to indigenous cultural communities, duties on imported specialized capital mining equipment, mayor’s fee and/or business permits “and other fees and charges imposed by host local government units.”

However, mining companies will still have to pay value-added tax, capital gains tax, stock transaction tax, documentary stamp tax, withholding tax on passive income, donor’s tax, environmental fees, real property tax, Securities and Exchange Commission fee, water usage fees, as well as administrative and judicial penalties when incurred.

Business groups earlier said that changing mining policies and further raising duties to be paid by investors would further turn away potential investments, and would run counter to government’s goal of cornering a bigger share of mining output.

“Mining is not moving at all,” Mr. Porter said. “If a good piece of legislation is not being enforced or acted upon, why go to another piece of legislation?”

In a keynote speech during Tuesday’s forum, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said the Senate will “review and possibly enact” the proposed mining revenue sharing scheme, but only after “taking into consideration the role of the government as the owner of the minerals and the impacts of mining activities on environment and community.”

The Malacañang said it wants the new bill to be approved by June, a timetable which Congress leaders could not assure, citing the need for more consultations with stakeholders.


JFC worried over bills banning mining in some provinces, cities

By Louella D. Desiderio

The Philippine Star

26 February 2015

MANILA, Philippines - Foreign businessmen have raised concerns over bills seeking to ban mining in certain areas, citing that such are not consistent with the Mining Act.

In a letter dated Feb. 16 to Senator Loren Legarda, who chairs the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) expressed reservations on pending bills designating certain areas as mining-free. These bills are House Bill (HB) 45 – Cagayan de Oro City, HB 670 – Catanduanes, HB 3667 – Nueva Vizcaya, HB 3780 – Eastern Samar, HB 4363 – Second District of Sorsogon, HB 5260 – Nueva Ecija, HB 5261 – Biliran, and HB 5262 – Davao City, which are currently under deliberation by the committee.

“The JFC recommends that the Philippine Mining Act be respected and implemented evenly throughout the nation. It is our position that the proposed ban on mining in certain provinces and cities under the various HBs are inconsistent with Republic Act (RA) 7942,” it said.

The foreign business group noted that mining could be promoted as a viable industry under existing constitutional and legal structures which could create jobs, empower communities and enable sustainable ecological and economic development.

RA 7942 or the Mining Act, the groups noted, was enacted to promote the development of the industry by providing significant social and environmental safety nets.

The Mining Act is considered at par with mining laws of other countries such as the United Kingdom, US, Australia, and Canada, if not better, as it includes social and environmental obligations of mining companies.

Given the country’s rich mineral resources, many mining companies have expressed serious interest to invest here, with target investments ranging from hundreds of millions to several billion dollars.

According to think tank Fraser Institute of Canada, the Philippines is among the top 10 countries most attractive for mineral development based on mineral potential alone.

While there is interest from companies to invest in mining here, the government’s moratorium in approval of new mining contracts, however, has stalled the growth of the industry.

The JFC is a coalition of the American, Australian- New Zealand, Canadian, European, Japanese and Korean Chambers in the Philippines and the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Headquarters Inc.

It represents over 3,000 member companies engaged in over $230 billion worth of trade and $30 billion worth of investments in the Philippines.

As the foreign business group seek to promote the creation of an investor-friendly environment in the Philippines to achieve inclusive growth, it has come up with a list of recommendations through the Arangkada report launched in 2010.


The Destructive Impacts of Corporate Mining in the Philippines: The Tampacan Copper-Gold Mining Project in Mindanao

By Dr. Belinda F. Espiritu

Global Research

14 March 2015

The Philippines has an estimated $840 billion worth of untapped mineral resources, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Philippines which is responsible for giving permits to mining companies to do exploration of mining areas and to commence operation. Small-scale mining industries have contributed to national revenues.

A big problem ensued with the signing of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 authored by then Senator Gloria Macapagal Arroyo which allowed 100% ownership of the claimed mining land area and minerals by foreign multinational mining corporations. Large-scale mining is destructive as it uses the method of open-pit mining which entails clearing thousands of hectares of rainforests and agricultural lands, deep excavations to extract minerals, the use of toxic heavy metals and chemicals to process mineral ores, and the consumption of millions of liters of water – all of which negatively impact the lives of the Filipino citizens with the grave disregard for their right to health, life, food security, livelihood, and a clean environment. This is the social justice issue of large-scale mining. Large-scale mining is against the sustainability of the environment and of the people’s cultural identity and quality of life.

Corporate mining permits multiplied under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III in the belief that large-scale mining tax revenues would spur economic growth. However, environmentalists blame the liberalized mining sector for the greater destructiveness of natural disasters in the country. According to Marya Salamat of bulatlat.com (2013), environmentalists blame mining companies for contributing to massive siltation of the rivers, poisoning the waterways and agricultural fields with toxic chemicals and rendering communities more vulnerable to flooding. At the same time, local communities affected by mining bewail the loss of their former livelihood in fishing, agriculture and forestry, “as some of them were forced to become mineworkers instead, or service workers for those at work in the mines, including some women becoming prostitutes, reportedly driven to it by the combination of their family’s loss of land, livelihood and influx of men working in the mines” (Salamat, 2013).

If realized, the proposed Tampacan copper-gold mining project by the Sagitarrius Mining Incorporated in South Cotabato, Mindanao would be the largest open-pit mine in the Philippines and one of the largest of its kind in the world. The open pit would reach an extent of 500 ha and a depth of 785 meters while the topsoil stockpile would cover an area of 5 ha and the pit ore stockpile 49 ha, according to conservation and development consultants like Clive Montgomery Wicks. On February 2013, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau under the Department of Enviroment and Natural Resources issued an Environmental Compliance Certificate to SMI. But various civil society groups and church leaders strongly oppose the Tampacan copper-gold mining project because of its disastrous impact to the environment, to the watershed area spanning three major rivers in Mindanao, to agricultural production, and to the displacement of 5,000 people living in the area where the proposed mining will be done.

The sad and unfortunate concomitant to the struggle against the Tampacan copper-gold mining project is the lack of in-depth analysis of most mainstream media news on the issue, and instead of providing an assessment of the impacts vis-à-vis the alleged benefits from the mining project, tend to provide news on the corporate affairs of the multinational corporations which have interest on this project. In contrast, alternative media like bulatlat.com and davaotoday.com provide news reports with in-depth analysis of the mining situation and show the alternative viewpoints of those who are against the mining project. In 2012, Bulatlat.com reported on what has not been reported by the mainstream media: the massacre of a B’laan family whose head declared a tribal war against SMI. Davaotoday.com reported on the Catholic Bishops’ plea to President Aquino to stop the Tampacan mining project on strong moral grounds. Civil society groups which are against the Tampacan mining project such as Kalikasan Peoples’ Network for the Environment, Alternative Forum for Research in Mindanao, Center for Environmental Concerns, and international non-profit, cause-oriented organizations such as War on Want, London Mining Network, Banktrack, and Indigenous Peoples’ Link have posted press releases, investigative reports, and analytical articles on the destructive impact of the proposed large-scale mining project and expressed a clear, strong opposition to the proposed mining project.

The proposed mining project straddles the jurisdiction of two regions, four provinces, four municipalities, and nine barangays. If this mining project will be realized, its environmental cost and negative impact to the livelihood, health, and quality of life of the Filipinos living in affected areas in four provinces of Mindanao (South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, and Davao del Sur) will be immense and incalculable, to say the least. The open pit will not be back filled, and according to Dr. Godilano (2012), the billions of tons of acid forming waste rocks and mine tailings that the mining corporation will leave behind will require management in perpetuity. According to the Catholic Church in South Cotabato, if Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) will be allowed to operate, it will destroy the environment by massive clearing of 6,935 hectares of rainforests and agricultural lands, contaminate three major watersheds (ridge-rivers-reef) for five provinces, and dry up the irrigation systems in the lowlands and the aquifers in General Santos and Koronadal City. It will result to the dislocation of almost 6,000 surface dwellers, mostly B’laans, from their ancestral land, and has actually led to human rights violations with the killing of anti-mining indigenous people and activists and the restrictions of access by the indigenous people to the forests and agricultural lands claimed by the mining corporations.

In addition, it impacts negatively the people’s health, safety, food security and right to life and livelihood by the constant risk of breakage of the dam that will hold the mine tailings and the contamination of water, soil, and air by toxic chemicals and heavy metals that will be used for processing the mineral ores from the mining area in Tampacan. The added risk is that the Tampacan mining area sits on fault lines, which increases the risk of seismic activity that poses threat to the spilling of the dam for mine tailings and the contamination of flood waters with toxic mine wastes due to the deforestation of the area, soil erosion, and siltation of rivers, which further aggravate and are aggravated by climate change.

Because of these huge environmental, social, and cultural costs, allowing the SMI to operate tantamounts to a betrayal of the Philippine nation and of the Filipino people because no amount of taxes that will be obtained from SMI can compensate for the environmental destruction and long-term negative impacts on the health, food security, and right to life and livelihood of the Filipinos in five provinces of Mindanao- South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur, and Maguindanao – and the cities of General Santos and Koronadal. The promises made by the mining company to provide scholarships and provide livelihood to the affected people, especially the indigenous B’laan tribe, are mere palliatives in comparison to the massive environmental destruction and long-term negative impacts of this proposed large-scale mining project.

The government must listen to the cry of the Filipino people to stop the Tampacan mining project. The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 which allows for 100% ownership of mineral ores and land covered in the claimed mining area should be repealed because it is against national sovereignty and against sustainability of the environment, cultural identity, quality of life, and livelihood of the Filipinos that will be most affected by the large-scale mining projects. President Benigno Aquino should learn to adopt the principles of sustainable development, repudiate neoliberal economics which is pro-corporate profits and breeds grave inequities in the world, and repudiate the impositions of World Bank, World Trade Organization, and International Monetary Fund.

Citizens who understand the situation must shout together the protest against the evils of neo-liberal capitalism exemplified by large-scale, corporate mining and must put a stop to the desecration of nature and the violation of human rights of the poor and the indigenous peoples of the Philippines and other developing countries.

Professor Belinda Espiritu is the Coordinator of the Mass Communication Program at the University of the Philippines, Cebu.


Look What Large-Scale Mining Did to These Four Beautiful Philippine Islands

Global Voices Online

13 March 2015

The Philippines has more than 7,000 islands. Maybe you are familiar with some of them, such as Boracay, Cebu, Bohol, and Palawan, which are all famous tourism destinations. But you probably have not heard of Marinduque, Rapu-Rapu, Manicani, Homonhon – four small islands that have been ravaged by mining in recent years.

The Philippines is a mineral-rich country, and the government has actively promoted mining to boost the local economy. As of 2014, the government has granted 999 mining permits across the country. But environmentalists are worried about the destructive impact of large-scale mining on the ecosystem, while some activists are critical of the foreign domination and corruption in the mining sector.

The stories of Marinduque, Rapu-Rapu, Manicani, and Homonhon highlight some of the social issues linked to the mining industry.

When mining operations started in Rapu-Rapu Island ten years ago, it was hailed by the government and the mining industry as an example of “responsible mining”. But after one year, cyanide poisoning around the mining site caused a massive fish kill that destroyed the livelihood of fisherfolk. Rapu-Rapu is a small island municipality in Bicol region, located in the eastern part of the Philippines.

Antonio Casitas, a senior peasant leader and environmental activist, was interviewed by alternative news website Bulatlat about the impact of the operations conducted by Australian mining firm Lafayette on the island:

"Rapu-Rapu Island was once so beautiful. It was like paradise. Our lives there were simple — we lived off nature, and we took care not to damage it because we knew it was the source of our livelihood and means of survival. When the mining companies came, everything changed. Now, 97 percent of Rapu-Rapu Island is virtually under the control of these environmental destroyers, and what was once paradise is a wasteland."

The island province of Marinduque, located in the central part of the Philippine archipelago, continues to suffer from a toxic mine spill in 1996, caused by the collapse of a tailings dam operated by Marcopper mining. (See video above) The Marcopper tragedy was at that time the country’s worst mining disaster. Joseph Israel Laban, a filmmaker and native of the island, wrote on Facebook that the mining company has failed to rehabilitate the communities affected by the disaster:

"After 18 years and four Presidents, the river is yet to be cleaned and rehabilitated by Canadian mining firm Placer Dome/Barrick Gold. For me, this is personal. I grew up about 10 minutes away from the Boac River. Every time I pass by that waterway when I visit Marinduque, I am reminded that there really is no justice in the Philippines. Not for the poor people. But for us Marinduqueños, we will never forget."

The biggest disaster in Eastern Visayas was the destructive impact of typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) in 2013. But there were also other environment disasters in the region caused by mining activities. In the small island of Manicani, the people have been opposing the return of a mining company whose operations have severely damaged the natural resources of the island. Leading the opposition is the Diocese of Borongan of the Catholic Church, which released a statement asserting that “it cannot remain deaf and blind to the excesses of mining while our people suffer the consequences of actions not of their own making.”

Another island in Eastern Visayas that struggles to recover from the dirty legacy of mining is Homonhon. Mining operations in the island started in 1983 and have left a trail of environment damage that stirred the residents to fiercely oppose the expansion of mining in the island. The Bulatlat news team witnessed this scenery on the island:

"The team was greeted by glorious beaches, but as the journalists went near the mountains, they saw telltale signs of fires, streams without water, the loose soil only a few meters away from the nearly 10 deep pits in every mining site."

A local leader told Bulatlat that the residents “will continue our resistance and if we need to establish barricades in order to halt their operations, we will do it.”

The environmental pollution and loss of livelihoods in Marinduque, Rapu-Rapu, Manicani, and Homonhon should make local leaders in other small island ecosystems think twice before they welcome the entry of large-scale mining into their homes.


Environmental groups picket OceanaGold office as hazardous tunneling commences in its Didipio mines

Kalikasan PNE press release

4 March 2015

Provincial and national environmental groups held a picket protest at the national office of Australian large-scale mining corporation OceanaGold today, as tunneling activities for its underground mining commenced today amidst widespread opposition from local communities.

“OceanaGold’s demonstrates once again its penchant to brazenly bulldoze over the mounting opposition of communities in commencing its expansion towards underground mining. With virtually no legitimate consultation in this phase of its mine project, and with multiple outstanding violations of environmental, socio-economic and land rights, OceanaGold’s potentially hazardous expansion should immediately be stopped and its operations should be halted,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).

The picket protest was also joined by the University of the Philippines-based environment group Minggan, the Didipio Earth Savers Multipurpose Association or DESAMA, and the Alyansa ng mga Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan or ANNVIK.

The protesters formed a visual timeline of Didipio’s destruction, showing the relatively preserved state of Dinkidi Hill in the area back in 2008, its open-pit mining destruction taken during a scoping study in 2013 just months after its commercial operation, and its current state as seen in a recent Australian-PH fact-finding mission held during the first week of February this year.

An environmental investigative mission held in 2014 by Kalikasan PNE, in partnership with ANNVIK, scientist group AGHAM, and ANNVIK, and supported by the Ecosystem Alliance, revealed that sediment samples were 7.4 times above the severe-effect level for benthic organisms, and that water samples meanwhile were two times above the safe levels for irrigation use and eight times above the safety levels for aquatic organisms.

According to Bautista, “local communities are already experiencing damages to their properties because of OceanaGold’s constant blasting activities right beneath their lands. The freshwater table is also reportedly quickly drying up as the mine operations continue to deplete its reserves.”

“While Novo Vizcayanos are suffering from land subsidence, heavily silted and polluted rivers, and massive community displacement spurred by OceanaGold, we continue to gain nothing in return from their enterprise. OceanaGold continues to refuse payment for its outstanding tax obligations to local government and its undelivered promises of compensation to landowners in Didipio. That it has already plundered at least 30,000 metric tons of copper means that there is 30,000 metric tons worth of what could have been used for genuine national industrialization and people’s development,” Bautista furthered.

The groups vowed to step up their pressure for OceanaGold’s immediate suspension and investigation, and to raise concerns over its operations in Congress.#

Reference: Clemente Bautista, national coordinator – Kalikasan PNE – 0922 844 9787
--
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756  Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Email: kalikasan.pne[at]gmail.com
Website: http://www.kalikasan.net


OceanaGold declares $12-M dividend

by Leander C. Domingo

Manila Times

20 February 2015

AUSTRALIAN miner OceanaGold Corp., which owns and operates the high-grade gold-copper Didipio Mine in northern Luzon, has declared a $0.04 per common share dividend, or an aggregate dividend of about $12 million, after posting a record profit for 2014.

On Thursday, OceanaGold said that for a second consecutive year and despite a lower average gold and copper price received, it achieved record revenue of $563.3 million and a net profit of $111.5 million.

“This follows another strong year of financial and operational performance across the Company where we achieved record annual revenue and earnings and generated significant free cash flow,” said Mick Wilkes, managing director and chief executive officer of OceanaGold.

He said that despite the lower gold price over the past two years, the company has strengthened its balance sheet through the repayment of nearly $150 million in debt while increasing its cash position.

For the full year 2014, its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was $239.8 million.

It said it achieved production at the high end of the guidance range with 307,463 ounces of gold and 25,010 tonnes of copper produced for 2014.

Wilkes said that for the same year, Didipio exceeded its production guidance range with 106,256 ounces of gold and 25,010 tonnes of copper, which included record quarterly gold production of 34,783 ounces in the fourth quarter.

In New Zealand, he said the company also achieved its consolidated full-year guidance for the operations with 201,207 ounces of gold produced.

Wilkes added that the company also expects to produce 295,000 to 335,000 ounces of gold from the combined New Zealand and Didipio operations and 21,000 to 23,000 tonnes of copper from the Didipio operations in 2015.

Meanwhile, the company said that last year it reduced its total debt by $77.4 million while increasing its cash position to $51.2 million. “Over the past two years, the Company has reduced its total debt by $149.4 million,” it said.

OceanaGold is a significant multinational gold and copper producer with over 24 years of operating sustainably in New Zealand and more recently the Philippines. Its flagship operation is the Didipio Mine located in Kasibu Town in the province of Nueva Vizcaya in northern Philippines, which commenced commercial production on April 1, 2013 and has a current mine life to 2030.

In New Zealand on the South Island, OceanaGold operates the country’s largest gold operation at the Macraes Goldfield and the Reefton Gold Mine on the west coast.


Group seeks transparency in local mining, oil, gas sectors

Philippine Daily Inquirer

27 February 2015

Advocates for increased transparency in the mining, oil and gas sectors are pushing for legislation that would make it mandatory for companies to open their books to the public, as well as waive their privacy rights over income declarations.

This proposal, if passed, may end decades of inequity in so-called “extractive” industries that have allowed firms to profit from the country’s national resources without paying back their fair share to society.

Marie Gay Ordones, national coordinator for the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), said talks had taken place on mandating more transparency in the mining, oil, and gas industries.

Efforts, however, may face stiff opposition. Some of the biggest mining companies have completely ignored calls for more openness, while government agencies have shown varying degrees of support.

“We want to make this mandatory, or at least incentivize participation,” Ordones told a briefing this week.

EITI is an international campaign involving nongovernment organizations, and the private and public sectors, which aims to promote better disclosure practices in extractive industries. EITI’s Oslo-based secretariat supervises the creation of multilateral reporting standards in these sectors.

Locally, the goal is to ensure that the government and the taxpayers earn their fair share from extractive industries.

At the moment, participation in EITI, which would have companies open their books to the public, is voluntary. In the Philippines, companies that agree to EITI provisions also have to sign waivers to lift the secrecy of their income tax returns.

Ordones said only Nigeria and Liberia had made EITI participation mandatory. She admitted that on one hand, the “beauty” of the EITI program was its voluntary nature, which shows companies that participate are more serious about transparency. However, she said benefits from more transparency in extractive industries should not be contingent to the whims of companies.

Ordones said the group hoped to have a bill filed in Congress by the third quarter of the year.

So far, 30 mining companies, and six oil and gas firms have agreed to participate in EITI.


Perks costing government P2 billion in mining revenues

by Jonathan L. Mayuga

Business Mirror

11 March 2015

The government has lost at least P2 billion in potential mining revenues because of the income-tax holidays it is granting to large-scale miners.

This was disclosed recently by the group Bantay Kita, a coalition of civil-society organizations pushing for transparency and accountability in the extractive industries.

The figures were based on its analysis on the Philippine Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) report released recently.

Dr. Cielo Magno, national coordinator of Bantay Kita, said the report revealed a major problem besetting mining-industry regulation, particularly in terms of properly accounting the potential revenues that people can benefit from.

Magno said the first Philippine EITI report, submitted to the international secretariat on December 31, 2014, states that the government got P6.2 billion in mining revenues, and P52.7 billion from oil and gas production in 2012.

Magno said simple calculation using the financial statement of companies submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) shows that the government lost about P2.01 billion, or almost 25 percent, of the proceeds from mining because of income-tax holidays granted to mining companies, including Carmen Copper Corp., Carrascal Nickel Corp., Marcventures Mining & Devt. Corp., SR Metals Inc., TVI Resource Development Inc., Adnama Mining Resources, Berong Nickel Group and Apex Mining Co. Inc.

According to Bantay Kita, Semirara Mining Co., which refused to participate in the Philippine EITI, reported an income of P5.2 billion in 2012 to the SEC. The company only paid P1.2 million in income tax and around P1.6 billion to the Department of Energy as the government’s share in the extraction of coal, according to the EITI report.

This is about 30 percent of the company’s profit in 2012. As owners of the natural resources, the Philippines should get more than the 30-percent share in profit, the group said.

All incentives awarded to extractive companies should be canceled, the group said.

“Extractive companies invest in a country because of the value and quality of the minerals, and not the incentives given to them by the government,” Magno said.

The Philippine- EITI report also highlights the failure of the government to protect the rights of indigenous peoples (IP).

According to the report, the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples could not validate if the indigenous communities, indeed, received P52 million in royalties that the miners are claiming they remitted to the IP communities hosting mining operations.

The Philippine EITI report also highlighted the problems in the monitoring of the different environmental funds.

According to Bantay Kita, these are the funds for Environmental Management and Protection Program (EPEP), Mine Waste, Mine Monitoring Trust Fund and Tailings Reserve and the Mine Rehabilitation Fund.

Supporters of the Mining Act of 1995 claim these environmental funds to be among the key features of the law to ensure protection of the environment.  The government and the companies could not agree if these funds actually exist or not, and if they exist, they could not explain how the monies were spent.

“Mining requires effective government regulation. We cannot allow mining if the government cannot guarantee a fair share in natural-resource extraction or protection and rehabilitation of the environment,” Magno said.

Bantay Kita supports the passage of the alternative mineral management bill and advocates for the review of the fiscal policy governing the extractive industry.


UN envoy cites factors vs right to food

Niña P. Calleja

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2 March 2015

MANILA, Philippines – A visiting United Nations envoy on Friday cited massive land conversion, mining activities and climate change as age-old truths that have devastating effects on food production.

Hilal Elver, UN special rapporteur on the Right to Food, was in the Philippines on an eight-day official visit to assess the country’s efforts to realize the people’s right to food.

Elver, who was here on the invitation of the government from Feb. 20 to 27, will write a final report to be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2016.

Elver met with officials of agencies in charge of the country’s food security and access to food, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Agriculture and Department of Social Welfare and Development.

In a briefing, the UN envoy presented her assessment and recommendations to reporters, highlighting one strong irony: “Those working in the agricultural sector are particularly prone to hunger due to low rural incomes, whether as farmers or farm workers.”

Farmers in the countryside lack access to resources like land, seeds, water and capital and remain vulnerable to extreme weather events and armed conflict, she said.

“[These have had] a significant impact on their ability to earn a living,” Elver said.

“Similarly, the issue of land conversion has also had an impact on food production with large land owners selling off land for commercial use,” she said, noting that legal steps must be taken to address this.

Mining activities, on the other hand, drive the indigenous peoples away from their ancestral lands, she said.

In urban centers, Elver said access to adequate and nutritious food was hampered by poverty and income levels, with the obvious disparities between the poor and the rich.

“Many seemingly are benefiting from all the comforts of modern life while others are forced to live in extremely precarious conditions,” she said.

Elver listed recommendations for the Philippine government to address the problems on food, among them the adoption of a national strategy that sets time-bound benchmarks and effective implementation per region.

She also urged the Congress to pass pending bills that would aid the government’s efforts to curb hunger and increase access to food, particularly the Right to Adequate Food Bill, the National Land Use and Management Act, and the Agrarian Reform Extension Law.


Berong Nickel Corp. fined P120 million for illegally constructing road network on Palawan river

Celeste Anna R. Formoso

Philippines News Agency

18 March 2015

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY - The Palawan Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) has recommended the imposition of a P120-million fine against large-scale mining company Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC) in the southern town of Quezon for illegally occupying and constructing a road network on a key river for gravel and sand.

It also strongly recommended the cancellation of all mining operation permits of the company, including its mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) issued by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Department of Environment and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR), the environmental compliance certificate (ECC), and the strategic environmental plan (SEP) clearance provided by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

Provincial Legal Office (PLO) Chief Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview Tuesday that the BNC caused the destructive construction of a four-kilometer road at Llabongan River in Barangay Berong without permit from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Matta, who is also the vice chairman of the PMRB, said the road system provides easy access to the river for the hauling of construction aggregates for BNC’s use in its mining operation.

“It’s right smack on the river. The road network is occupying around 50 percent to 60 percent of Llabongan; it has shrunk the river,” he stated, adding that the town mayor, Ronilo Caputilla, reported the BNC’s alleged violation.

On 30 January 2015, Matta said the PMRB issued a notice to the BNC regarding the fine and the recommendations based on on-site inspection conducted by its technical team.

The violation was committed against PMRB Resolution P-018-2015 for illegal extraction and hauling of gravel and sand, and also the Philippine Mining Act.

He said, however, that on February 11, BNC executive Rufo Cabanlig Jr. wrote to the PMRB requesting for an opportunity to comment and to file their counter-proposal.

But until February 23, the BNC has failed to do so. On February 24, PMRB received a letter that failed to explain the violation.

BNC management only explained that their “act” was by virtue of an endorsement resolution by the barangay dated May 5, 2014 for the construction of a dike.

“As per his explanation, it is also for a road for the barangay [Berong],” he said, adding that last week, the PMRB finalized its decision rejecting the BNC’s explanation, and imposing with finality the fine of P120 million, or P1,000 per cubic meter of construction aggregates extracted.

The BNC is engaged in the exploration, development, and mining of mineral properties in the Philippines. Aside from its nickel mining project in Barangay Berong, information on the company said it also “holds interest in an exploration permit, which covers an area of approximately 1,069 hectares, situated in the municipalities of Quezon and Aborlan.” It was incorporated in 2004 and is based in Mandaluyong City, and operates as a subsidiary of Nickeline Resources Holdings Inc.


High court: 3 mining firms broke ownership law

Jerome Aning

Philippine Daily Inquirer

16 March 2015

MANILA, Philippines–The Supreme Court has affirmed with finality its April 2014 decision prohibiting three mining firms from operating in the country for violating the constitutional provision that limits foreign ownership in mining companies to 40 percent.

Voting 4-1, the high court’s Special Third Division recently denied the motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners Narra Nickel and Mining Development Corp., Tesoro Mining and Development Inc. and McArthur Mining Inc.

The high court affirmed that the three foreign companies were not allowed to enter into mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs).

“We deny the motion for reconsideration with finality. No further pleadings shall be entertained. Let entry of judgment be made in due course,” the court said in the resolution dated Jan. 28 and written by Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr.

The case stemmed from a suit filed by Filipino-owned Redmont Consolidated Mines Corp. in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Redmont questioned the rights of Tesoro, McArthur and Narra to engage in mining activities through MPSAs, which are reserved for Filipino citizens.

Foreign companies barred

Redmont took an interest in mining and exploring certain areas in Palawan and, in 2006, discovered that the areas had pending applications for MPSAs in the names of Narra, Tesoro and McArthur covering more than 12,100 hectares in the island-province.

In December 2007, a DENR arbitration panel ruled that the three companies were foreign firms and therefore barred from engaging in local mining activities. The MPSAs were declared null and void while Redmont’s application for an exploration permit was granted.

The Mines Adjudication Board, however, reversed the panel’s ruling in September 2008, prompting Redmont to take the case to the Court of Appeals which granted a favorable ruling in October 2010.

Of the other division members, Justices Diosdado Peralta, Jose Mendoza and Francis Jardeleza concurred in the ruling, while Justice Marvic Leonen dissented.

The court did not give merit to the claim of the three mining firms that the tribunal’s 2014 decision was not in accord with the law and logic.

Nationality questioned

On April 21, 2014, the court upheld the ruling of the Court of Appeals that there was doubt as to the petitioners’ nationality since a 100-percent Canadian-owned firm, MBMI Resources Inc., effectively owned 60 percent of the common stocks of the petitioners by owning equity interest in their other majority corporate shareholders.

In the new ruling, the majority justices rejected the petitioners’ claim that the case had been rendered moot and academic since their MPSAs had been converted into financial technical assistance agreements and that MBMI had divested itself and sold all its shareholdings in the petitioners, as well as of their stockholders, to a Filipino company—DMCI Mining Corp.

The justices said that a final ruling on the controversy was needed because it involved a “blatant” violation of the Constitution’s provision on minimum Filipino ownership and that issues involved were “of paramount public interest.”

Describing the “corporate layering” strategy apparently adopted by the petitioners to circumvent the requirement as “deftly exceptional in character,” the justices said a “controlling principle” must be adopted to guide the courts, the legal profession and the public in future cases.


Cases loom over 3-km black sand mining wall

Marlon Ramos

Philippine Daily Inquirer

19 February 2015

Officials of Pangasinan province face another case in the Ombudsman over the use of public funds for a 3-kilometer wall that residents of the coastal town of Lingayen said not only protected illegal black sand mining but also denied fishermen access to the sea.

Rolando Rea, a resident of Lingayen who had sued Gov. Amado Espino Jr. and other provincial officials for black sand mining in his town, had asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to dismantle the wall for being illegal.

Public funds

“Public funds have been appropriated for this anomalous project and those involved in this anomaly should be held accountable,” Rea said.

“If the DENR won’t remove the structures, we will be compelled to file a case to pave the way for the demolition of the illegal structure,” he said.

Residents of coastal villages in Lingayen are up in arms against the 6-foot high wall which they claimed had allowed the illegal quarrying of black sand in the area.

In a statement, Rea said the concrete barrier had no permit from the DENR.

Completed in 2012, he said the structure straddled the waters of the seaside villages of Estanza, Sabangan and Maimpuec in Lingayen. He said the residents referred to it as the “Great Wall of Lingayen.”

COA probe

Besides filing graft charges in the Ombudsman, he said residents would ask the Commission on Audit (COA) to look into how the provincial government spent public funds for the project.

“Since DENR has not issued any permit or ECC (environment compliance certificate) for the magnetite mining, all structures related to it, including the so-called Great Wall of Lingayen, should be dismantled,” Rea said.

In a letter to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Rea said armed men had been guarding the concrete structure round-the-clock which, he said, “deprives the residents of access to the sea which is the source of the livelihood of most poor residents.”

Erosion

He said the structure has been preventing fishermen from going out to sea for at least five years already.

He said black sand mining had also heavily eroded the shores of the villages.

He said the cases that residents filed against the local officials over black sand mining in Lingayen had led to the dismissal from government service of provincial administrator Rafael Baraan and Provincial Housing Urban Development Council Office head Alvin Bigay for grave misconduct.


Lepanto seeks arbitration over Benguet mine

By Daphne J. Magturo

Business World Online

24 February 2015

LISTED Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. has sought arbitration in its dispute with the Environment department over a provision of a 1997 law that requires it to seek endorsement from indigenous people for its Victoria mine in Mankayan, Benguet province.

The listed miner has been operating the Victoria and Teresa gold deposits in Benguet, but its 25-year contract for the Victoria mine is expiring in March.

“[T]he company has initiated arbitration proceedings against the Republic of the Philippines, represented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in relation for renewal of its MPSA (Mineral Production Sharing Agreement),” Lepanto said in a disclosure to the stock exchange yesterday.

At the heart of the issue is a provision of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), or Republic Act (RA) 8371, which states that indigenous peoples must give “free and prior informed consent” on matters involving their ancestral domain.

Under the law, “free and prior informed consent” refers to the consensus of all members of the indigenous people, “to be determined in accordance with their respective customary laws and practices, free from any external manipulation, interference and coercion...”

RA 8371 was enacted in 1997, seven years after Lepanto secured its 25-year MPSA from the government.

That mining agreement is renewable for another 25 years.

“The nature of the dispute is the applicability of certain provisions of the IPRA to the renewal of the MPSA,” the miner said in the disclosure.

Lepanto said it applied for a renewal of its MPSA on June 4, 2014.

It also wrote the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in November last year, MGB Director Leo L. Jasareno said.

“They (Lepanto) wrote us a letter, saying that they are not covered by IPRA’s requirement of free and prior informed consent,” Mr. Jasareno said in a phone interview yesterday.

“They said their contract must be renewable under the same terms.”

Lepanto also said yesterday that it filed a Petition for Interim Reliefs with the Regional Trial Court.

At present, the company’s application for renewal of the MPSA is still undergoing “initial evaluation,” according to Mr. Jasareno.

He also noted that the MGB, which is under the DENR, has not yet received formal communication regarding the arbitration.

An MPSA is a mineral agreement wherein the government shares in the production of the contractor as owner of the minerals, while the contractor gets the rest. In return, the contractor must provide the financing, technology, management and personnel for the mining project.

The Victoria Project has produced over 1.3 million ounces of gold from 1997 to 2013, according to the company’s Web site.

On July 2013, Lepanto secured the vote of community elders and leaders of the indigenous people of the affected barangays in Mankayan, Benguet for a financial or technical assistance agreement (FTAA) to its Far Southeast Gold Resources, Inc., according to the company’s latest annual report.

The endorsement from the indigenous people, it said, is a prerequisite to the partial conversion of its MPSA into an FTAA in favor of Far Southeast Gold, enabling its foreign partner -- global mining giant Gold Fields Ltd. -- to take majority position in the undeveloped project.


High court junks small miners’ claims

Business World Online

15 March 2015

A SUPREME COURT division junked the long-running claims of small miners over land set aside for them in Mount Diwalwal in 1998, after subsequent events rendered the matter moot and academic.

In an 18-page ruling, the high court’s Second Division denied the petition of Moncayo Integrated Small-Scale Miners Association, Inc. against the Court of Appeals’ (CA) August 2001 amended decision in favor of Southeast Mindanao Gold Mining Corp.’s (SEM) conflicting claim.

The assailed CA ruling overturned the March 1999 decision of the Compostela Valley Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) to carve a 729-hectare People’s Small Scale Mining Area out of the 4,941-hectare parcel covered by SEM’s exploration permit within the Agusan-Davao-Surigao Forest Reserve.

However, the ruling penned by Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen stated that “due to supervening events, we declare the petitions moot and academic.”

SEM, it said, had no more basis to claim any right to the disputed area because its exploration permit expired in July 1994. In June 2006, the permit -- originally issued to Marcopper Mining Corp. in February 1994 -- was voided.

Meanwhile, the same ruling had already declared as illegal the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Administrative Order (AO) No. 66, the 1991 order that declared the parcel as forest land open for small-scale mining purposes subject to existing, valid private rights which the court said was issued in excess of authority.

Because the PMRB decision and the DENR’s subsequent affirmation were based on that order, these were “consequently overturned for lack of basis in delineating the 729 hectares...”

Even if SEM had rights over the parcel, the court noted that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued in 2002 Proclamation No. 297, which excluded an 8,100-hectare area in Monkayo, Compostela Valley, as a mineral reservation and an environmentally critical area.

Meanwhile, DENR AO No. 2002-18 declared an emergency situation in the area and ordered the stoppage of all mining operations.

Despite the manifestation of one of the respondents, Paper Industries Corp. of the Philippines Resources, Inc. (PICOP), that Mrs. Arroyo’s proclamation was revocable because of the lack of congressional concurrence, the high court declined to touch upon its validity.

“The validity of Proclamation No. 297... is not an issue in these cases. This subsequent development was not litigated, and this is not the proper case to assail its validity,” the ruling explained.

The high court also decided not to rule on whether the appeals court erred in ruling in favor of SEM despite earlier denying its petition on the grounds of forum shopping and litis pendencia or initiating simultaneous legal actions on cases founded on the same facts.

SEM contested the PMRB decision before the CA even as it had a pending petition on the legality of a previous decision by Mines Adjudication Board in 1998 in favor of the small miners, which eventually led to the 2006 Supreme Court decision.

Mrs. Arroyo’s administration was eventually beset by allegations of flouting legal processes by parceling out the contested areas to foreign mining companies after delineating the so-called mineral reservation and declaring an “emergency situation,” despite the tangle of unresolved legal issues. -- Vince Alvic Alexis F. Nona

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