MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Earth Day celebrations focus on mining woes

Published by MAC on 2015-04-26
Source: Statements, Inquirer, Sun Star, GMA News, Rappler (2015-04-26)

Demands on the subject of mining featured heavily in demonstrations to mark Earth Day (22nd April) in the Philippines. These included the scrapping of the 1995 Mining Act, a moratorium on all new coal-fired power plants and investigations into the deaths of environmental activists.    

If these were familiar calls, then recent developments on other news stories sounded equally familiar. The same campaign groups presented a petition to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) calling for the suspension of the license of OceanaGold at Didipio, because of accusations of environmental destruction and human rights abuses.

At the same time these requests were being made, news filtered through that the Government had reinstated the permit for Intex Resources' nickel mine on Mindoro, which had been earlier revoked. This led to cries of protest from concerned local citizens & their supporters.

The MGB also chose to speak out recently on the controversial Tampakan project, proffering the opinion that the project had all the necessary local government agreements in place, despite the continuing ban on open-pit mining in South Cotabato.    
 
Indigenous peoples have been marching in Palawan to shut down Citinickel's mine because of complaints over pollution. In Zambaonga del Sur the Subanen people have asked for investigations over allegedly illegal mining happening on their land.

In Surigao, indigenous Mamanwas erected a barricade against the operations of Red 5, because of non-payment of royalties. The nearby Taganito mine suffered a hydrogen sulfide gas leak which led to a number of people being hospitalised.

In the Cordillera, the indigenous Igorot mayor of Itogon has called for the temporary suspension of the operations of Benguet Corporation. Meanwhile, the nearby operations of Lepanto Consolidated were allowed to continue operating despite ongoing arbitration proceedings with local indigenous peoples.

The Philippine company Philex has been both expanding in the south of the country (with regulatory approval for the Silangan copper-gold project in Surigao del Norte), and accepting voluntary redundancies of workers in the north at their Padcal mine. 

In Davao Oriental communist rebels carted off 74 firearms in a deadly raid on a mining firm owned by a town mayor (which although a fairly common occurrence is surely one of the largest hauls in these attacks). 

At the national level, it has been suggested that time is running out before 2016 elections to pass the much discussed, and long-awaited, law on mining revenue-sharing. To emphasise this legislative congestion, civil society groups have also been calling for the approval of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill.

Yet there have been moves by the Government to clamp down on so-called illegal small-scale mining and associated gold smuggling. Whether such a move will be beneficial for the miners involved in this sector, and effective, is doubtful given past policies and practice. Meanwhile, a suspension order on three large-scale companies in Zambales has been lifted.

So basically it is business as usual. It would appear the powerful escape the force of the law, while the powerless are feel its impact. As Yogi Berra might say, it's like deja vu all over again ...

People’s ultimatum on the environment vs. Aquino gov’t delivered on Earth Day, environmentalists call for president’s resignation

Joint Press Release

22 April 2015

QUEZON CITY, Metro Manila - Disgusted over President Noynoy Aquino’s performance on managing the country’s natural resources and protecting the environment, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), fisherfolk federation PAMALAKAYA, scientist group AGHAM, and other green groups demanded for BS Aquino’s resignation as they delivered their ‘People’s Ultimatum’ on the environment to the Aquino administration during the 2015 Earth Day commemorations.

Displaying a tableau depicting President Noynoy Aquino ‘dumped’ in a trash can, over 100 grassroots and environmental activists held a protest action today at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Download photos here

“The past five years of Aquino’s environmental, economic and military policies has done nothing to arrest and has instead promoted development aggression that has led to widespread environmental destruction and natural resource plunder. If Aquino and his environment officials are unable to take substantial action on outstanding issues of pollution, plunder, and militarization, they should resign from their post and be held to account for their environmental crimes,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

The protesters also held a protest ‘art attack’ visualizing the environmental demands of the People’s Ultimatum:

1.     Scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and impose a moratorium on all foreign, large-scale mining projects.

2.     Impose a moratorium on all new coal-fired power plants that have displaced communities and have caused serious environmental destruction or pollution.

3.     Bring justice to the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda and other recent major disasters through just compensation, rehabilitation and risk reduction measures, with due emphasis on addressing the growing crisis of climate change.

4.     Pull out all military and paramilitary troops that have been serving as investment defense forces of big mines, plantations, and other forms of development aggression. Immediately resolve the 47 cases of killings victimizing environmental advocates.

5.     End the Visiting Forces Agreement, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), and all other onerous military treaties that have allowed US troops to despoil our environment with impunity.

6.     Revocation of the National Reclamation Plan and cancellation of all approved reclamation projects, especially those covering protected areas and major sources of livelihood.

7.     Compel the resignation if not ouster of Aquino, to subject him to genuine mechanisms for accountability of his various environmental and political crimes, unimpeded by his allies in government.

“After five years, the Aquino administration perpetuated 47 cases of environmentalist killings, criminally neglected the world’s historically strongest typhoon disaster and mine spill disaster, and further sold out our sovereignty through US-PH military agreements, and put up our national patrimony for sale through policies such as the Executive Order 79 on mining, or sweetheart coal and large dam deals under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act,” explained Bautista.

The protesters said the demands served as a platform for immediate important reforms in the country’s environmental policy regime, which they planned to advocate in various venues, ranging from government dialogues, the proposed People’s Transition Council, down to the upcoming 2016 national elections.

“There should be proactive action in demanding much-needed social change and the accountability of the Aquino regime for its various crimes to the people and the environment. We challenge the Philippine environmental movement not to shy away from this political fight and take up this challenge of standing up to the gargantuan environmental crimes of Aquino on this Earth Day,” ended Bautista.

Reference: Clemente Bautista
National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: +63 (2) 924 8756
E-mail: secretariat[at]kalikasan.net
Site: www.kalikasan.net


As Earth Day approaches: DOJ castigated over failure to resolve killings of environmental activists

Kalikasan PNE and TF-JED press release

20 April 2015

Days before the celebration of the 2015 Earth Day, environmental and human rights advocates held a picket protest at the Department of Justice (DOJ) castigating what they said was the ‘dismal performance’ of public officials over the growing number of political killings and other human rights violations or HRVs towards environmental activists.

“The families, friends and comrades of environmental activists recorded to have been politically killed since 2001 are surely disappointed that five years have gone by under the current Aquino administration with still no resolution to their cases. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima seems to have spent a great deal of her office time lawyering for the various crimes of the Aquino government instead of working on their mandate to deliver justice to the various HRV victims,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) and spokesperson of the Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders (TF-JED).

The TF-JED has recorded at least 83 cases of extrajudicial or political killings since 2001, and has noted that more cases have now been recorded under Aquino (47) over the previous Arroyo regime (36). None of these cases have been resolved to date.

“Secretary De Lima and President Noynoy Aquino should be held accountable for virtually promoting a culture of impunity towards environmental defenders. Five years of inaction over the various outstanding killings of environmentalists have set a precedent for normalized violence towards people and communities who are justly struggling to defend their lives, environment, and access to resources,” lamented Dulce.

Highlight cases, including the killing of botanist Leonard Co and the rest of the Kananga 3, the illegal detention and trumped-up charges against physicist Kim Gargar, and the bloody Lacub Abra killings which include NGO worker Engr. Delle Salvador, have been filed in the upcoming 2015 International People’s Tribunal.

Convened by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the National Lawyers Guild, and Ibon International, among others, the IPT 2015 aims to expose ongoing violations of the Filipino people’s rights and hold perpetrators of these HRVs accountable before the international community.

“If our justice system will continue to serve as a tool of repression that has made environmentalists into an ‘endangered species,’ then it leaves us no other recourse but to seek justice in higher venues of struggle. The IPT is one such venue where the peoples of the world can be the judges who will not allow themselves to be cowed by the wheeling and dealing of corrupt and tyrannical politicians,” explained Dulce.

“Let us not forget our environmental heroes this coming Earth Day. Let us make its commemoration meaningful by committing to continue searching for justice for our environmental martyrs and for the accountability of the Aquino government over these continuing crimes towards the people and the environment,” ended Dulce.

Reference: Leon Dulce – 0917 562 6824
--
Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: +63 (2) 924 8756
E-mail: secretariat[at]kalikasan.net
Site: www.kalikasan.net


Suspension, investigation, compensation: green groups air demands to gov’t mining regulators

Kalikasan PNE Press Release

16 April 2015

A plethora of grievances and demands regarding the operations of Australian large-scale miner OceanaGold were presented by environmental advocates and community leaders to Director Leo Jasareno and other head officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in a dialogue held yesterday at the MGB national office.

“The evidence is strong that OceanaGold’s Didipio Mine has caused much destruction to the environment, lives, and livelihood of the frontline grassroots and indigenous communities in Nueva Vizcaya suffering from the mine’s adverse impacts. We demand the immediate suspension of OceanaGold’s operations until the necessary investigative, rehabilitative and punitive measures are implemented,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), one of the lead participating organizations in the dialogue.

The other petitioners include the AGHAM-Advocates of Science & Technology for the People, Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (ANNVIK), Samahang pang Karapatan ng Katutubong Magsasaka at Manggagawa (SAPAKKMMI), University of the Philippines – Minggan, and the Office of Bayan Muna Party-list. Rep. Karlos Zarate.

In a position paper presented to the MGB, Kalikasan PNE and its local and national partner organizations cited fact-finding and environmental investigative mission reports from 2013 to the present which documented various cases of economic, social, cultural and other human rights violations involving OceanaGold, as well as scientifically testing the pollution levels in the water and sediments of river systems directly affected by the mine’s tailings facilities.

“The case of OceanaGold’s Didipio mine, widely acclaimed within the large-scale mining industry as ‘the overall safest mining operation in the Philippines’, is illustrative of the pollutive, destructive, and dangerous brand of ‘responsible mining’ permitted and encouraged by our mining laws and other related policies,” the groups said in a position paper presented to the MGB.

Aside from the petition for immediate suspension and a subsequent comprehensive investigation, the groups also called for the just compensation to communities and the environment that were affected by OceanaGold’s environmental and socio-economic impacts, and a review of local and national policies relevant to the case of the mining company, including but not limited to the Mining Act of 1995, Pollution Control Law, and the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, among others.

Dir. Jasareno agreed that the recommendations of the petitioners were “very sensible,” and proposed a multi-disciplinary team investigation in the soonest possible time involving representatives from all parties concerned. Jasareno also promised the MGB’s full cooperation with the efforts of the environmental groups to hold OceanaGold accountable, including the petitioners’ request for relevant public documents.

The environmental advocates noted of early stumbling blocks, however, as their request for a copy of the company’s Environmental Impact Statement from the MGB had inhibitive costs for reproduction and certification amounting up to P30,000.00.

“We are very much open to a joint and independent investigation with the MGB, but hope the process does not play out as a tool to prolong the confirmed ongoing impacts of OceanaGold’s Didipio Mine. OceanaGold’s operations should immediately be suspended until the investigation and its subsequent remediations are concluded,” reiterated Bautista.

--
Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: +63 (2) 924 8756
E-mail: secretariat[at]kalikasan.net
Site: www.kalikasan.net


Environmental activists declare Mines bureau ‘closed’

By Diana Tomale

Davao Today

22 April 2015

DAVAO CITY – The Panalipdan Southern Mindanao together with sectors and communities affected by mining disasters staged a protest rally in front of Mines and Geosciences Bureau XI (MGB) office on Tuesday April 21.

The environmental advocacy group declared MGB “inutile and not worthy of the Filipino taxpayers’ money.”

Panalipdan – SMR spokesman Kim Gargar said the Mining Act of 1995 has worsened the poverty in the country.

“Years have already passed after the Marinduque mining disaster where Canadian Marcopper Mining destroyed the beautiful island of Marinduque. Victims are still denied justice up to now. People who were affected by the mining disaster have yet to be given attention,” Gargar said.

Gargar also said they have been calling for MGB to disallow and disapprove foreign large-scale mining corporations.

“But until now MGB has not heeded the call of the people,” Gargar said.

He added that they wanted the immediate closure of the agency to stop all mining activities in the region.

The protesters put up a “Notice of closure” signage at the MGB office, but its employees took it down.

“Wala man pud silay gipakita nga closure order sa amo, ila lang man ng kaugalingon,” said Engr. Edilberto Arreza, MGB Regional Director.

Arreza explained they are just public servants implementing the law passed by Congress.

“It seems that they are barking at the wrong tree. Because we, in the bureau, are just implementing the law. This law was passed by congressmen so they should address their demands to them,” he added.

Arreza urged the protesters to go to Congress if they want their complaints to be heard.

“In fact, they have several partylist representatives who can support them. We here are hopeless, we are just public servants,” Arreza repeated.

He also said that small-scale mining activities have resulted to pollution of rivers because of improper waste disposal.

“Who caused the pollution? It was the small-scale miners who are untouchable,” he said.

Arreza said that in the region there are only two large-scale mining companies, Apex Mines and Holcim.

But Gargar said MGB as an agency is “interpreting only the letter of the law and not balancing whether these laws would benefit the country or not.”

“Therefore, the MGB has accelerated the destruction of the environment,” Gargar said.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Sheena Duazo said the MGB should not be recognized as a government agency that supposedly considers the interests of the people.

“As an agency that issues permits and clearances to mining companies, they only serve the interest of mining corporations who are accountable for the destruction of the environment and the livelihood of the communities especially during calamities,” said Duazo.

The group cited several cases of environmental destruction such as “the pollution of the river in Padcal due to the mishap of Philex Mines; the wide-scale destruction of marine life in Claver, Surigao del Sur, due to the operations of Taganito Minerals Corporation; and the suffering of the people 15 years after Marcopper Spill in Marinduque.”

 


 

Groups want operation of Aussie mining firm suspended

Davao Today

16 April 2015

Environmental advocates presented a petition for the immediate suspension of the Australian Oceana Gold Didipio Mine in Nueva Vizcaya to the officials of Mines and Geosciences Bureau in a dialogue on Wednesday at the MGB national office.

Members of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) presented their grievances to Engr. Leo Jasareno, director of MGB.

The other petitioners include the AGHAM-Advocates of Science & Technology for the People, Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (ANNVIK), Samahang pang Karapatan ng Katutubong Magsasaka at Manggagawa (SAPAKKMMI), University of the Philippines – Minggan, and the Office of Bayan Muna Party-list. Rep. Karlos Zarate.

“The case of OceanaGold’s Didipio mine, widely acclaimed within the large-scale mining industry as ‘the overall safest mining operation in the Philippines’, is illustrative of the pollutive, destructive, and dangerous brand of ‘responsible mining’ permitted and encouraged by our mining laws and other related policies,” the groups said in a position paper presented to the MGB citing results of fact-finding missions held from 2013 up to present.

Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan said they have strong evidence against OceanaGold’s Didipio mine.

“We demand the immediate suspension of OceanaGold’s operations until the necessary investigative, rehabilitative and punitive measures are implemented,” Bautista said.

Aside from the petition for immediate suspension and a subsequent comprehensive investigation, the groups also called for the just compensation to communities and the environment that were affected by OceanaGold’s environmental and socio-economic impacts, and a review of local and national policies relevant to the case of the mining company, including but not limited to the Mining Act of 1995, Pollution Control Law, and the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, among others.

Jasareno said the recommendations of the petitioners were “very sensible,” and proposed a multi-disciplinary team investigation in the soonest possible time involving representatives from all parties concerned. Jasareno also promised the MGB’s full cooperation with the efforts of the environmental groups to hold OceanaGold accountable, including the petitioners’ request for relevant public documents.


A Betrayal to Mindoro

ATM/ALAMIN/NASSA Statement on Reinstatement of Intex ECC

14 April 2015

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), a coalition of more than a hundred environmental advocates and organizations along with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA) and Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN), a Mindoro-based people’s organization against mining, express their frustration and utmost disappointment with the reinstatement of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) of Intex Resources' Mindoro Nickel Project.

In November 2009, hopes rose for the people of Mindoro when the DENR temporarily revoked Intex’s ECC due to anomalies on how the company acquired the certificate in question. The people of Mindoro stood their ground and resisted the entry of the mining company for more than a decade. However, the Aquino administration opted to pursue corporate capitalist interest over the threat to peoples’ lives and the environment when it reinstated the revoked ECC.

According to Jeff Rafa, Secretariat of ALAMIN, “the people of Mindoro are now in rage because of this very unfortunate event. Intex’s ECC reinstatement is a symbol of the Office of the President and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) undeniable betrayal of the Mindoreños welfare and trust.”

Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina called on the Office of the President and DENR “to revoke the reinstatement of Intex’s ECC as the action taken by the respective offices has no valid grounding and contrary to the position of the local government and the affected communities. He further stated that Malacañang and DENR should be ashamed of themselves for putting corporate business interest above the best interest of Mindoreños and the environment.

“Mindoreños are one in opposing mining in the province, as this will destroy our fragile ecosystem. The people of Mindoro does not deserve this kind of betrayal from the government, the very same that should be upholding and protecting our rights and our environment.” Said Fr. Edu Gariguez, Executive Director of CBCP-NASSA.

“We will not let this betrayal extinguish our fire of passion to protect our lands and mountains against corporate greed, pursued in collusion with our own government. Intex had long been trying to start their mining operation, with all their deceptive strategies and alleged bribery. They will never win. The Mindorenos will continue to heroically stand their ground to save and protect the province from outright destruction.” Gariguez concluded.

###

For more information:
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator (0927) 761.76.02 nc[at]alyansatigilmina.net
Check Zabala, ATM Media and Communications Officer (0927) 623.50.66 media.comms[at]alyansatigilmina.net


Mindoro Nickel ECC Reinstated

Intex Resources statement

7 April 2015

Oslo - The Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), acting on the instructions of The Office of the President of the Philippines, has today lifted the suspension and reinstated Intex’ Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC). The ECC was suspended in November 2009 and the ECC has been reinstated with full legal force, without any new conditions and with validity of 4 years and 10 months. The suspension of the ECC had effectively halted the progress towards developing Mindoro Nickel forward. The reinstatement is therefore crucial regardless of which way the Mindoro Nickel is developed.

"After a long period of constructive dialogue with various national authorities and governmental bodies in the Philippines, the Company is pleased and relieved with this decision. The reinstatement of the ECC clears a major regulatory hurdle in the further development of Mindoro Nickel ", says CEO Henno Grenness.

Christian L. Holst, Chairman of Intex comments, "The reinstatement of the ECC is obviously extremely helpful in the strategic processes we have undertaken. Following years of continuous efforts, the reinstatement is a direct consequence of strong teamwork across our renewed organization in the Philippines".

Intex Resources ASA Henno Grenness
CEO
Tel: +47 911 44 658

Christian L. Holst
Chairman
Tel: +47 952 55 849


Anti-mining groups question reinstatement of ECC to mining firm in Mindoro

GMA News Network

16 April 2015

A unit of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines on Wednesday questioned the government's reinstatement of Intex Resources’  Environmental Compliance Certificate for its Mindoro Nickel Project.

The CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action joined Alyansa Tigil Mina and Alyansa Laban sa Mina in voicing anger over the decision, which it said betrayed the people of Mindoro and their natural resources.

"We will not let this betrayal extinguish our fire of passion to protect our lands and mountains against corporate greed, pursued in collusion with our own government," CBCP NASSA executive director Fr. Edu Gariguez said on the CBCP news site.

“Mindoreños are one in opposing mining in the province, as this will destroy our fragile ecosystem. The people of Mindoro do not deserve this kind of betrayal from the government, the very same that should be upholding and protecting our rights and our environment,” he added.

The CBCP news site article said Gariguez voiced confidence Mindoro residents will stand their ground to protect the island from environmental degradation.

In November 2009, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources temporarily revoked Intex’s ECC due to questions over how the firm got the certificate.

ALAMIN's Jeff Rafa said the people of Mindoro are now in "rage" because of this very unfortunate event.

"Intex’s ECC reinstatement is a symbol of the Office of the President and the (DENR)’s undeniable betrayal of the Mindoreños welfare and trust,” he said.

ATM coordinator Jaybee Garganera called on the Office of the President and DENR “to revoke the reinstatement of Intex’s ECC."

He said the act was "invalid and contrary to the position of the local government as well as of the affected communities.”

Also, he said Malacañang and DENR must “feel ashamed” for putting corporate business interest above the best interest of Mindoreños and the environment. — Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News


Tampakan copper mine gets LGU endorsement

by James Konstantin Galvez reporter

Manila Times

22 April 2015

Major mining company Glencore Xstrata has cleared a crucial hurdle for the development of what could be the largest copper-gold mining project in the Philippines.

Leo Jasareno, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), said that the Glencore Xstrata-led private contractor for the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project has secured majority local government endorsement, which is one of the main requirements for its Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility (DMPF) to be approved.

“They were able to acquire endorsement of the majority. They have the support of all the local government units, including all the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Bayan and Barangay, affected by the project,” Jasareno told reporters.

Under the Mining Act of 1995, a mining company should have the endorsement of the majority of LGUs to secure government approval for its DMPF.

DMPF – which includes a proponent’s final rehabilitation plan for the venture and an environmental protection and enhancement program, among others – is the final requirement for a mining company to commence development of a project.

“As far as the MGB is concerned, they have already met the requirement,” he added.

Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) is the local contractor of the Tampakan project in behalf of its shareholders Glencore, Indophil Resources NL and the Tampakan Group of companies.

Tampakan, which has one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits, straddles four provinces in Mindanao –  South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.

At present, the MGB chief said only the South Cotobato provincial government has yet to endorse the project, mainly because of the current ban on open-pit mining under its Environment Code.

Asked whether the majority endorsement by the LGUs would supersede South Cotabato’s ban on open-pit mining, Jasareno said: “The ban is still in place. But the Philippine Mining Act only requires majority LGU endorsement, which SMI has already complied with. So as far as the rules are concerned, they have already met it.”

He also noted that both the late Jesse Robredo, former secretary of the Department of
Interior and Local Government Secretary, and current DILG Secretary Mar Roxas have already issued a national government position on the open-pit ban, saying that a local government ordinance that is inconsistent with the Constitution must be struck down.

Having secured majority LGU endorsement for the project, SMI will now have to address two remaining issues – agrarian reform claims and the project’s fiscal regime or profit-sharing with the national government, Jasareno said.

“If they meet these requirements, then we can endorse their DMPF,” Jasareno said.

Tampakan, which represents one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the Southeast Asia-Western Pacific region, is estimated to have reserves of 15 million tons of contained copper and nearly 18 million ounces of gold.

Total taxes and royalties that would accrue to the Philippine government over the 20-year life of the project is estimated at P346 billion or $7.2 billion.


“Stop the operation of Citinickel!”

Palawan indigenous people holds protest action to demand the closure of Citinickel

Press Release

24 March 2015

Thousands of indigenous people belonging from the Palaw’an tribe held a protest action at the Freedom Park of Sofronio Espanola, Palawan last March 23 to pressure Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation to stop its operation.

“Since 2010, the operation of Citinickel destroyed the environment, our livelihood, health, and culture. Because of this, we are being pushed deeper into poverty,” said Pinagtibukang Kaundang-undangan it Palaw’an (PKP) secretary general Fermin Queron.

According to the indigenous people’s leader, their rivers, especially Pulot River, continue to be poisoned because of the chemicals from Citinickel. They said that the fish kill in October 2012 proves this.

“Aside from destroying our livelihood and the environment, Citinickel has not fulfilled any of its promises about the development that their operation will bring to our community. After almost 5 years of operation, they have not provided educational, health, and other social services to us. They also promised clean water, electricity, and livelihood projects. But we did not get any of those,” said Queron.

“Citinickel also violated the rights of indigenous people in our town. The process of their getting Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) was dubious,” added Queron.

“Worse, even after the dubious FPIC and Memorandum of Agreement were signed, Citinickel did not fulfill its responsibilities that were written in the MOA. They did not pay for the damages that they have caused our land, ancestral domain, rivers, and crops. They did not pay royalty taxes to us,” said Queron.

“But we are not after those promises any more. We do not want them to pay us royalty taxes. We want them to stop their operations. We want them and all other mining companies out of Palawan,” Queron said firmly.

“Also, we are calling for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA). These laws made Citinickel’s plunder of our ancestral lands possible. We want a mining law that truly serves the interest of the Filipino people, and that is the People’s Mining Bill.

For more information, please contact Fermin Queron at 0906-153-04-59.
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Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo sa Timog Katagalugan
Federation of Southern Tagalog Indigenous People
Blk. 3 Lot 20 Camella Fairfields Mambog I Bacoor City, Cavite


Surigao mining firm pays initial P5 million to Mamanwas, barricade lifted

By Roel Catoto

MindaNews

26 March 2015

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 March) – Mamanwas have lifted their barricade against a mining firm on Saturday after Greenstone Resources Corporation initially paid at least P5 million to the tribesfolk, belated reports said.

Vicente Baldoza, provincial director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), said Mamanwa lumads ended their six-day barricade at the Greenstone mining site in Cawilan, Tubod town in Surigao del Norte.

Baldoza told MindaNews on Wednesday afternoon that the P5 million was an initial payment of the P19 million demanded by the Mamanwas.

Last March 16, around 400 Mamanwas made shanty encampments along roads to block the mining firm’s heavy equipment from operating because the company allegedly did not pay royalty share for using their ancestral domain, as provided for by law.

The barricade effectively blocked heavy equipment from crisscrossing to the waste dump site, the mine pits, the milling plants and even the fuel storage.

Baldoza said the Mamanwas should have gotten the payment early from the mining company, saying that Greenstone sought the legal opinion of the NCIP’s provincial and national offices whether or not the Mamanwas are entitled to get one percent royalty share.

He said the company was adamant to pay the royalty share, saying only the waste dump site belonged to the Mamanwas’ ancestral domain. The rest of the mining area, Greenstone reportedly claimed, “are not within the ancestral domain.”

Baldoza said the Mamanwas and Greenstone have an existing memorandum of agreement signed in 2002.

He added the mining company’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement covers the area of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) 048, except the extraction area or the open pit.

“I don’t know why they delayed the payment. It looks like they are using dilatory tactics. The company was already given legal opinion from our office since last year,” Baldoza said.

He pointed out that the Mamanwas’ stance last week had affected the mining firm’s production, noting that all the company’s heavy equipment were grounded.

Greenstone, a subsidiary of Australian-based miner Red5 Limited, has been producing 1,250 ounces of gold per week at its mine site at Barangay Siana in the municipality of Mainit, also in Surigao del Norte, since the start of commercial production on April 26, 2012.

Greenstone stopped operations in 2013 when a crack occurred at their tailings dams.

The company resumed commercial operation last January after the Mines and Geosciences Bureau had lifted the ceased and desist order.

Until today, Greenstone has remained silent on the royalty share issue.

Dionestio Aidao, one of the counsels of the Mamanwas representing the Budlingin Community, told MindaNews that five host communities blocked the heavy equipment of the mining firm. These communities are from Budlingin, Camp Edward, Cawilan, San Juan and Motorpool.

Speaking in behalf of their tribal chieftain Datu Emiliano Gedi, Aidao claimed that since Greenstone began its commercial operations in 2012, the company failed to pay the one-percent royalty share to the Mamanwas.

Aidao said Greenstone is operating in their ancestral land, after the Mamanwas entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the mining firm as early as 2002.

Section 7-b of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 entitles indigenous peoples to “negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural resources in the areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection and the conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary laws.…”

The Mamanwas got their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) 048 on September 22, 2006.

The CADT has an area of 48,870 hectares covering five towns in Surigao del Norte – Claver, Gigaquit, Bacuag, Tubod and Alegria – including a portion of Kitcharao town in Agusan del Norte.

Under the Mining Act of 1995 and the Ingenious Peoples Rights Act of 1997, Lumads are entitled to one percent of the gross earnings of mining operations in their ancestral areas.

Aidao said the tribe was supposed to get P16 million for 2012 and P3 million more for the current year.

Recardo Labao, one of the Mamanwas, said that the P5-million initial payment was divided among the tribesmen.

He said if the company would not pay the balance, they would probably stage the barricade again.


Mamanwas set up barricade against Surigao mining firm

By Roel Catoto

MindaNews

19 March 2015

TUBOD, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews / 19 March) – For alleged non-payment of royalty share to the Mamanwas, tribesfolk have set up barricade against a mining firm operating in this municipality.

Since last Monday, around 400 Mamanwas made shanty encampments along roads to block heavy equipment from crisscrossing to the waste dump site, to the mine pits and to the milling plants of Greenstone Resources Corporation.

Dionestio Aidao, one of the counsels of the Mamanwas representing the Budlingin Community, said five host communities are now blocking the heavy equipment of the mining firm. These communities are from Budlingin, Camp Edward, Cawilan, San Juan and Motorpool.

Speaking in behalf of their tribal chieftain, Datu Emiliano Gedi, Aidao claimed that since Greenstone began its commercial operations in 2012, the company failed to pay the one-percent royalty share to the Mamanwas.

Aidao said Greenstone is operating in their ancestral land, after the Mamanwas entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the mining firm as early as 2002.

Section 7-b of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 entitles indigenous peoples to “negotiate the terms and conditions for the exploration of natural resources in the areas for the purpose of ensuring ecological, environmental protection and the conservation measures, pursuant to national and customary laws.…”

The Mamanwas got their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) 048 on September 22, 2006.

The CADT has an area of 48,870 hectares covering five towns in Surigao del Norte – Claver, Gigaquit, Bacuag, Tubod and Alegria – including a portion of Kitcharao town in Agusan del Norte.

Under the Mining Act of 1995 and the Ingenious Peoples Rights Act of 1997, Lumads are entitled to one percent of the gross earnings of mining operations in their ancestral areas.

Aidao said the tribe was supposed to get P16 million for 2012 and P3 million more for the current year.

Aidao and the rest of the Mamanwas at the barricade said that aside from non-payment of the royalty share, they have not received any livelihood projects yet, noting that Greenstone started working in the area since 2002.

Greenstone stopped operations in 2013 when a crack occurred at their tailings dams.

“Now they are back into operations, and they have nothing for us. They just continue to ruin the environment and displacing us because of their mining operations,” Aidao stressed.

MindaNews tried to get the side of the company but security guards told this writer that no one could give statements since everyone in the office was busy.

Some workers who refused to give names said the blockade has affected production. “Milling continues because we have some stockpile left but we don’t have operation in the open pit area because of the blockade,” one worker said.

MindaNews could not reach the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in Surigao del Norte for comment. The Mamanwas are now seeking the help of NCIP’s office in Surigao del Norte and the incumbent local leaders to fast-track payment of their royalty share.

Greenstone, a subsidiary of Australian-based miner Red5 Limited, has been producing 1,250 ounces of gold per week at its minesite at Barangay Siana in the municipality of Mainit, also in Surigao del Norte, since the start of commercial production on April 26, 2012.

Siana Mines was actually an abandoned mine site previously operated by Surigao Consolidated Mining Company, Inc. (Suricon) and was first opened in the 1930s.

Closed down during World War II, it was reopened in 1946, producing 4,800 kilograms of gold and 8,000 kg of silver. It was closed down again owing to mine flooding and underground fire.

The abandoned mine site was not rehabilitated until Red5 Ltd. secured a mining permit in 2002. It was granted an environmental compliance certificate in April 2009 despite a prior scheduled Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan expected late May of the same year, according to Alyansa Tigil Mina.

The Siana Gold Project is made up of both an open pit and an underground mine. The project, as originally designed, will deliver a minimum 849,000 ounces of gold production a year at a cash cost of under $400 per ounce over a 10-year life.

Greenstone used Suricon’s old tailings dam that suffered a crack.


Surigao Norte town to probe gas leak from nickel processing plant

By Roel Catoto

Mindanews

23 April 2015

CLAVER, Surigao del Norte (MindaNews / 23 Apr) – The municipal government of Claver, through the municipal council, will be conducting an investigation on the pre-dawn gas leak from a nickel processing plant in Surigao del Norte, where residents complained of nausea and headache, with six of them rushed to the hospital.

Municipal administrator Ernesto P. Sulapas told MindaNews Wednesday that the gas leak at Barangay Taganito occurred 3:12 a.m. last April 14.

Taganito High Pressure Acid Leaching Nickel Corporation (THPAL) acknowledged the leak to the media the day after.

“The company will be summoned by the municipal council and they have to explain what really happened last week,” Sulapas said.

“Several persons suffered headache and nausea and there were reportedly six people who were rushed to the hospital,” he added.

Sulapas said the company had sent its entire medical staff to the suffering villagers.

Claver Mayor Eddie Gokiangkee and the local health unit, Sulapas said, also responded by dawn.

THPAL said that based on their preliminary investigation, it was learned that the leak may have been “due to a closed electronic isolation valve which may not have been completely closed for some reason.”

The company produces mixed sulfides of nickel and cobalt from low-grade ore through a process called high-pressure acid leaching (HPAL). The process entails the use of hydrogen sulfide ­– a poisonous substance – and other chemicals.

From its multi-stage scrubber facility, the company said a “small residual volume” of hydrogen sulfide had reached the community in Barangay Taganito, where its plant is located, particularly Puroks 1, 3, 4 and 5.

The leak occurred during the “purging activity” in its multi-stage reactors, the company said.

As a result, the leak released hydrogen sulfide into the air at the levels of around “4-5 PPM” (parts per million), or 6 to 7.5 milligram per cubic meter.

The company claimed such levels are within the emission standards set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

It acknowledged, however, that the residents “affected by the leak complained of nausea and headaches.” The company said “countermeasures were immediately taken and the situation is back to normal and safe condition.”

It said consultations with the affected residents and local officials were immediately conducted, while medicines were dispensed to those who experienced discomforts.

The company also asked for apologies, saying it was “confident that incidents like this will be eliminated in the future.”

“The company will exert its best efforts to coexist safely and progressively with everybody in the community,” it added.

On July 4, 2013 people in Taganito also panicked as the company emitted foul odor when it was commissioned for testing.

THPAL started its commercial operations on September 4, 2013 and has a lifespan of 30 years. It is a joint venture of Sumitomo Metal Mining, Nickel Asia Corporation and Mitsui Corporation.


Foul odor from Surigao nickel plant sickens 107

By Alvin T. Guanzon

Manila Standard

24 April 2015

Claver, Surigao Del Norte—Seven residents of Barangay Taganito in this town and nearby areas were brought for treatment in hospitals in Surigao City while around 100 hundred other residents—mostly children, women and the elderly—have complained of vomiting, headache, and stomach pains after smelling a foul, unusual odor believed to have come from nearby Taganito High-Pressured Acid Leach (THPAL) nickel processing plant.

Municipal health officials said the seven patients were brought to Surigao City on April 13 and that the others who complained were given free medical consultations and treatment by said office in cooperation with medical unit of THPAL.

Nobody among the patients, however, was found to have toxic poisoning.

Sought for reactions, THPAL plant officials refused to give any comments, with their office guards saying that only those with prior appointments would be entertained.

Citizens of this town as well as some lumad residents living near the plant had already requested for the help of the Environmental Management Bureau and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Health, and their local government officials about the foul-smelling chemical coming from the said plant. There have been no developments on their request.

According to tribal leader Antonio Patac, the foul odor continues to seep out at least every other day from 10pm to early dawn.

 


 

Temporary halt to Benguet Corp. operations urged

Giovani Joy Fontanilla

Sun Star

1 April 2015

ITOGON Mayor Victorio Palangdan wants Benguet Corporation's operations temporarily suspended.

Palangdan is seeking for the issuance of an order for temporary suspension of the operation of the Benguet Corporation and its contractor ACMP Contractors in Itogon, Benguet from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-CAR.

In a letter dated March 5, 2015, the mayor raised the threats of danger brought about by Benguet Corp.'s Tailings Storage Facility No. 2 which was approved to be raised up to 775 meters above sea level (masl).

"The daily discharge of mine wastes generated due to the operation of the BC-ACMP to the company's Tailing's Storage Facility No. 2 or Phase II is posing great dangers to its adjacent and low-lying communities," he said.

"The daily disposal of tons of fresh tails including waste water thereat contributes to the weakening of the dam due to water saturation hence there is already an established great probability of its untimely collapse," he added.

With the rainy season approaching, Palangdan wants appropriate action and the best prevention he thinks is the temporary stoppage of the mining company's operation.

Palangdan claimed the company's facility still lack proof of structural integrity and stability as he listed factors which could contribute to the possible occurrence of a disaster.

These include the non-functional penstocks; the non-functional and partially renovated diversion tunnels; the lack of a spillway and the fact that the dam has already exceeded its allowable freeboard.

Palangdan also alleged Benguet Corp. failed to secure a Certificate of Pre-Condition as required under the Indigenous People's Rights Act, proof of endorsement from its host communities and a construction permit.

He also said the community has not been paying the appropriate taxes and it has not been complying with its commitments and responsibilities to host communities, one of which is the relocation site for the affected households.

In response to the issues and concerns raised by Palangdan, Benguet Corp. general manager Engr. Valeriano Bongalos Jr. wrote a letter to the MGB-CAR to clarify the allegations.

Bongalos noted the company has been faithfully complying with the commitments it has given to its host communities in Batuang, Lower Dalicno, Maligaya, Poblacion, Dalupirip and Tinongdan.

He acknowledged the claim the mining company was not able to acquire a Certificate of Pre-Condition, but clarified it was because the National Commission on Indigenous People's no longer required them as the facility has been existing before the IPRA law was passed.

For the spillway, while funds have long been prepared, the general manager explained they cannot implement the construction due to pending claimant's issues which it is still waiting to be resolved.

The mining firm has also completed the rehabilitation of some two diversion tunnels while some other repair works are ongoing.

In addition, Bongalos refuted claims that Benguet Corp. has not been paying its tax obligations and has not been complying to its commitments and obligations such as the identification of relocation site and contingency plan.

"BC would like to reiterate that there are no substantial and valid grounds to cause the suspension, stoppage or closure of its mine operations," said Bongalos.

"It has not committed any violations of mining laws, rules and regulations, nor has its operation been cited by the regulatory agencies for any serious breaches or lapses of its environmental duties.

Bongalos said while he appreciates the mayor's concern, suspending the mining firm's operation will only cause loss of employment and jobs and will worsen the scenario of the tailings facility as constructions or rehabilitation works which serves as mitigating measures will not be implemented.


Normal mine operations despite case

By Daphne J. Magturo, Reporter

Business World

19 March 2015

LEPANTO Consolidated Mining Co. can operate normally in Benguet province despite ongoing arbitration proceedings in its dispute with the Environment department, a court order issued on Wednesday said.

Last month, the listed miner sought arbitration over a provision of a 1997 law that requires its Victoria mine in Mankayan to secure endorsement of indigenous people.

The Regional Trial Court of Makati released a writ of preliminary injunction, preventing the respondents “from performing any act that would disrupt, disturb or impede” the operations of the petitioners -- Lepanto and its joint-venture firm Far Southeast Gold Resources, Inc., according to a disclosure to the stock exchange.

The respondents are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the NCIP Regional Hearing Office-Cordillera Administrative Region.

The endorsement from indigenous people is required under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, which Lepanto claimed it is exempted from because it secured its agreement with government seven years before the law was enacted.

It is seeking to renew its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) under the original terms.

In the same court order, the respondents are also prevented from doing “acts that would hinder, prevent or delay the Petitioners from exercising their rights and/or from discharging their obligations under the MPSA... until such time that a final and executory award is issued” on the arbitration.

The order also told respondents to “perform all acts necessary and proper to maintain and protect the validity and/or enforceability” of Lepanto’s rights under the MPSA, “during the pendency of the arbitration proceedings.”

Sought for comment, MGB Director Leo L. Jasareno said in a mobile phone reply yesterday: “We have not received such a writ. The renewal application is under evaluation.”

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.

Lepanto’s 25-year contract for the Victoria mine is expiring in March, and is renewable for another 25 years.

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


Zambo Sur tribe urges probe into illegal mining

Sun Star Zamboanga

31 March 2015

THE Subanen tribe is calling on the government to investigate a miner's cooperative that has begun illegal operations in its ancestral land in Zamboanga del Sur.

The tribe, represented by the Pikumpongan Subanen Gataw Tebed Association Inc. (PSGT), said the illegal miners are in the village of Deborok and Lourdes in Pagadian City, the provincial capital.

Timuay Braulio Anlimon, the PSGT chairman, said the miners belong to the Zamboanga del Sur Small-Scale Mining Cooperative.

The miners are not Subanen and do not have the right to mine in the tribe's ancestral domain land, which covers Pagadian City and the municipalities of Labangan and Sominot, Anlimon said.

He said the tribe's council of elders submitted a resolution to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Department of Justice to investigate the presence of illegal miners. (Bong Garcia)


More than 400 Philex workers opt for voluntary retirement

They account for 20% of the present workforce of Philex Mining, which projects that its Padcal mines may last for only 5 years more

Jessa Mardy Polonio

Rappler

7 April 2015

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Instead of being retrenched, at least 447 workers of a giant mining corporation operating in Benguet have applied for voluntary retirement following the announcement of manpower reduction this year to save on operational costs.

With only about 5 years left in the projected lifespan of Philex Mining Corporation’s Padcal mines, the company has revisited its operational manual and realized that there is a need to cut down on personnel expenses.

Instead of retrenching workers, the company has offered a voluntary retirement package for those nearing 50 years of age and above, said Philex legal counsel Eduardo Aratas said.

Aratas said the 447 workers who applied for voluntary retirement accounted for 20% of the present workforce of Philex. This, he said, is part of the final closure plan that the company will have to implement in case the Padcal mines will no longer yield mineral resources.

Meantime, Aratas revealed that the company has found at least 6 villages in Tuba, Benguet, to have additional mineral resources. The company aims to extend its operating lifespan beyond 2020. These are sitios Tapsan, Sta. Fe, Allapang, and barangays Camp 1, Ansagan, and Camp 3 Proper covering the areas of Mangga, Antamok, Norte/Sur, Agpay, Mansuman, Don-oy, and Loakan.

This was based on the report of the community relations department of Philex Mining Corporation, which conducted community immersions in the areas that will be affected in the proposed exploration activity.

Clan representatives and residents have been consulted on the proposed exploration expansion, while a draft memorandum of agreement has been given to affected communities for review.

Aratas said the expansion plan will undergo due process and shall acquire the necessary permits needed before any development starts. The mining company forecasted an additional 110.9 million tons of mineral resources in its expansion sites.

This, he said, corresponds to metal content of 473 million pounds of copper and 1.342 million ounces of gold. – Rappler.com


Philex receives approval to develop $1.2bn Silangan mine in Philippines

Mining-technology.com

21 April 2015

Philex Mining has secured regulatory approval to commence operations at its $1.2bn Silangan copper-gold project in Surigao del Norte, Mindanao, Philippines.

Through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued the declaration of mining project feasibility (DMPF) to proceed with development works.

Production at Silangan mine is expected to begin in 2018.
"The declaration bars the company from conducting mining in portions of the contract area within Mainit town."

Philex Mining chairman Manuel Pangilinan told media sources that the company plans to secure 70% of the required financing for the copper-gold project through bank loans.

The company expects to complete the feasibility studies by the third quarter.

Pangilinan said that Silangan's prospects are quite good, in terms of both the tonnage of the reserve and the grade of copper and gold.

The project is estimated to contain five billion pounds of copper and nine million ounces of gold.

Interaksyon reported MGB director Leo Jasareno as saying that the declaration bars the company from conducting mining in portions of the contract area within Mainit town, as indigenous groups are opposing mining activity around the Mainit Lake.

The Silangan project, combining the Boyongan and Bayugo deposits, will allow Philex to continue operations after the closure of its Padcal copper-gold mine in Benguet in 2020.


Philippines communist rebels steal 74 firearms in deadly raid on mining firm

By Edwin Espejo

Asian Correspondent

21 April 2015

Communist rebels have claimed they carted off 74 firearms in a raid at a mining firm owned by a town mayor in the southern Philippine province of Davao Oriental a week ago.

Ka Aris Francisco, spokesperson of the NPA’s Comval-North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command, said the raid netted the rebels a total of 54 high powered rifles including three M-60 machine guns and 20 other assorted hand guns and sub machine guns.

It was the biggest rebel haul in recent memory.

The NPAs also reportedly seized more than 14,000 rounds of ammunition.

A company guard was killed when he put up a fight in the five-minute rebel raid. Also slain was a government militiaman when a separate rebel unit attacked a nearby military detachment.

The military said the attack on the military detachment was a diversionary plot in addition to three roadblocks to prevent the police and government soldiers from reinforcing the beleaguered mining company owned by Monkayo town mayor Joselito Brillantes Jr.

Ka Aris said the raid was in retaliation to the mayor’s actions, which included, “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law for building and maintaining a private armed group in pursuit of mining interests.”

The NPA haul was the biggest since April 2007 when guerrillas in the same region raided the armory of Davao Prison and Penal Farm and escaped with 101 firearms, including 50 rifles.

The NPA has been waging a Maoist-inspired protracted guerrilla war since 1969.

From a ragtag army with only 35 vintage rifles, it grew to become a nationwide guerilla army operating in over 72 provinces in the Philippines.

The military however said it has greatly diminished the arms capability of the rebels and has reduced their strength to a little more than 4,000 armed regulars, compared to 20,000 at the height of the Marcos dictatorship.

The Communist Party of the Philippines, the political organization of the NPA, however said it has recovered it armed strength to the level where it was in 1986 when President Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in a popular revolt.


Time running out for mining revenue-sharing bill

By Melissa Luz T. Lopez

Business World Online

7 April 2015

THE PHILIPPINES may run out of time to pass a proposed law that contains a new mining revenue-sharing scheme as discussions about it is slated to take off by July the earliest, a congressional leader said.

The House of Representatives will start deliberations on House Bill (HB) 5367 by the “third regular (session) realistically,” Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. said in a text message last week when asked for updates on the measure.

Asked whether the legislative can still pass the bill within the 16th Congress given the narrow window for discussions, Mr. Belmonte yesterday said: “That is true. We are running out of time.”

However, he added that “[the chances for the mining law] are not zero. There is still a possibility [for the bill’s passage].”

All tax measures must first be approved by the House before it can be taken up by the Senate, as indicated in the Constitution.

Congress is currently on a six-week summer break and will return for a month-long session from May 4 to June 11 to close the second regular session. They will reopen on July 27 for their third and last regular session, which is expected to end earlier in light of the May 2016 presidential elections.

On Feb. 3, Marikina Rep. Romero Federico “Miro” S. Quimbo (2nd district) filed HB 5367, which is the product of consultations of the Malacañang-created Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) since 2012.

Passage would lift ban on issuing mining permits

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

Its passage would also effectively lift the nationwide ban on the grant of mining permits in place since 2011 and extended indefinitely through Executive Order 79 signed July 6, 2012.

The measure also provides that mining companies will enjoy exemptions from corporate income tax, 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 taxes, among many other taxes.

The measure was then referred to the House committee on ways and means which Mr. Quimbo chairs, but has not been tackled in a committee hearing so far.

Asked to confirm the timetable, Mr. Quimbo said the committee is still in the process of soliciting inputs from stakeholders prior to picking up formal deliberations on the proposed bill.

“We want something that is competitive and realistic. Too high a tax will make the country uncompetitive,” he said in a text message last April 1. “We’re not the only game in town, so to speak. But we cannot stay idly by as the status who effectively favors the proliferation of small-scale mining that both destroys the environment and at the same time completely avoid tax payments. It’s a double whammy.”

Malacañang earlier said that it wants the bill approved by Congress by June, to which chamber leaders remained noncommittal.

Since its filing in February, industry leaders have opposed the new revenue-sharing scheme, saying it is disadvantageous for miners.

Narrow Timetable

Business groups expressed alarm anew with the narrow timetable set by House leaders, saying it could further dampen the attractiveness of investing in the Philippines despite its rich resources.

“The serious negative consequences of the proposed new Mining Fiscal Regime need an objective public review and should not be rushed through Congress just to please anti-mining groups without much more in-depth discussion,” Julian H. Payne, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (CanCham), said in a text message.

“Increasing [tax] rates will discourage future domestic as well as foreign investment in well-regulated environmentally and socially responsible large-scale mining. As a result, total future revenue from such mining for the government will almost certainly be less (not more) and the potential for very much-needed growth in long-term employment possible with such mining in remote areas will be foregone. It will leave the Philippines wide open for increased irresponsible and usually illegal small-scale mining which does not yield any revenue to the government, [which] is the well-known cause of widespread environmental degradation, and encourages local corruption to avoid effective regulation.”

Ian W. Porter, president of the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Philippines, Inc. (ANZCham), said that “the sector will not develop unless there is certainty and a fair regime which is internationally competitive. With present low commodity prices there is a great deal of competition.”

CanCham and ANZCham host a number of international mining companies operating in the Philippines.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines was of the same view.

“Yes, we feel the timeline is too short to iron out the measure. There are a number of considerations to look at because this concerns every company’s bottom line and the country’s competitiveness,” Executive Vice-President Nelia C. Halcon said in a text message.

No rubber stamp

Mr. Belmonte said Congress will not necessarily heed the MICC’s new proposal, saying: “That (bill) is what the Executive wants, but we have a real power to try to reach the best formula that can be passed by the majority. It’s not a yes or no situation.”

For his part, MICC member and Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo L. Jasareno warned that not having enough time to enact the bill into law would stand as a serious setback for the Philippine mining industry.

“Government may have to come up with alternative measures to cushion the impact of delays in passage of the law.”


Passage of ‘green bills’ urged

By Ronald Reyes

Manila Standard

23 March 2015

At least four environmental groups have called on for the approval of National Land Use Act, Forest Resources Bill, Alternative Minerals Management Bill and the Protected Areas Act – collectively known as green bills.

The groups say the country is bracing for more extreme climate change events like droughts from another El Nino, and stronger typhoons.

In a statement signed by Forest Resources Bill Network, Green Convergence, Alyansa Tigil Mina, and Ecological Society of the Philippines, the groups urged legislators and political leaders to fast tract the passage of said bills.

“As the world celebrates the International Day of Forests, the Philippine forest cover drops 22.8% or 6.84 million hectares according to the latest data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 2012 Forest Facts and Figures,” according to Lodel D. Magbanua, convenor of Forest Resources Bill Network.

“The United Nations Forest and Agriculture Organization reported that the country lose forest at an average rate of about 54,750 hectares per year between 1990 and 2010. While Conservation International issued a report in 2011 saying, only seven percent of Philippine forests remain intact,” Forest Resources Bill Network added.

Citing various studies, Forest Resources Bill Network recommended “forest restoration to increase forest cover in municipalities, private and public lands included, by at least 40% (Cruz, 2011) to 54 %(Sajise et al, 1996) to sustain basic ecological processes.”

“All remaining natural forests, including primary, secondary and residual forests should be protected. This requires a stable set of policies that curb forest loss, promote biodiversity and incorporate climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies,” it said.

Although saying that “logging, legal or illegal as well as charcoal making may be the top drivers of deforestation and forest degradation respectively”, the environmental groups maintained that government also should look into the “runners up” which include mining and forest conversion to non-forest use like for road construction, settlement, conversion into built-up areas based on the study by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

“Mongabay.com article on drivers of deforestation in Southeast Asia showed plantations and dams at 8% topped logging at 2-5%. While government struggle over enforcement and corruption issues in curbing logging and timber poaching, it seems to favor mining industries, industrialization and dam constructions as significant drivers of deforestation and forest degradation,” said Forest Resources Bill Network said.

“While the same government penned Executive Order No. 23, banning logging in natural forests and institutionalizing the National Greening Program, the same approved large-scale government projects that contribute to forest loss,” it added.

In 1997, the country experienced severe drought resulting in loss of lives and livelihoods due to El Niño phenomenon, recalled Forest Resources Bill Network.

“The great Sierra Madre is the only area that did not suffer rain deficit because of its topography with the existence of large tracts of intact rainforest in the mountain range (Tan, 2000).

 “There’s no easy access to get to Sierra Madre, and this isolation helped preserve forest and the coral reef systems downstream. Rainforests provide clean water. Once a rainforest goes, so does the water,” the statement said.


Philippines clamps down on illegal miners, gold smugglers

Reuters

13 April 2015

MANILA - The Philippines is tightening oversight of the roughly 300,000 small-scale miners in the country as it looks to curb illegal mining and gold smuggling, as well as to protect the environment, a government official said on Monday.

The Philippines is sitting on mineral reserves worth $1.4 trillion, among the world's biggest, but mining accounts for less than 1 percent of total GDP, as policy bottlenecks and a strong anti-mining lobby led by the Roman Catholic Church hamper development.

Illegal gold shipments from the Southeast Asian country, which its government says holds the world's second largest reserves of the precious metal, remains a concern as some small miners try to avoid paying local taxes, Leo Jasareno, head of the Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB), told Reuters.

"Smuggling activity could still be prevalent," he said, adding many small-scale miners also operate without proper permits. By law, all gold produced by small-scale miners must be sold to the Philippine central bank.

Data from the MGB showed gold sold by small-scale miners and traders to the central bank in 2014 was worth only 180 million pesos ($4 million) based on current foreign exchange rates, compared with $25 million in 2013, $47 million in 2012, $764 million in 2011 and $962 million in 2010.

"Gold production (by small miners) in 2014 was about 18 tonnes, down from about 30 tonnes before the BIR started collecting taxes from small miners," Jasareno said, referring to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which in 2012 ordered the imposition of a 2-percent excise tax and 5-percent withholding tax on gold purchases.

The government will attempt to closely monitor operations in what was previously a loosely regulated industry.

Small-scale mining of metallic minerals, which is rampant in many provinces, will be limited to gold, silver and chromite, and will be confined to certain areas, Jasareno said.

Provincial or city mining regulatory boards will be set up to govern small-scale mining contractors who will be required to pay a so-called "government share" on top of the usual taxes, he said.

Big miners support the government's move to clamp down on illegal small-scale miners, but oppose other reforms such as a proposal to increase the state's share of mining revenues.

($1 = 44.6 pesos)

(Reporting by Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Joseph Radford)


Zambales mining ban lifted

By Anna Leah E. Gonzales

Manila Standard

7 April 2015

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau regional office in Central Luzon has temporarily lifted the suspension order imposed on the operations of three nickel mining companies in Zambales province.

MGB Region 3 issued the suspension order in July 2014 against lnl Archipelago Minerals Inc., BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc. and Eramen Mineral Inc. in response to complaints by local residents about alleged nickel siltation of river systems, farmlands, fishponds and seashores.

MGB said while it lifted the suspension order, the three mining companies should still comply with certain mitigating measures and environmental compliance.

It said these included the construction of an alternative mine haulage road, full payment of claims for compensation of the damaged fishponds, sediment flux monitoring, and rehabilitating the adversely affected river systems and the inactive mining areas to address the issue of large disturbed mining area.

MGB said the companies should also implement a systematic mining method, such as observation of proper benching, bench slopes stabilization and safety berms.

“All extracted minerals [nickel ores] should be transferred to a well-engineered stockpile area at the mine site,” MGB said.

MGB said the mining companies should also maintain and enhance existing environmental structures, observe road safety standard during hauling, maintain and repair the existing hauling road currently being utilized from the mine site to national highway to port and mitigate the dust generation and mud accumulation during hauling.

“The involved mining companies were also required to submit periodic reports on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations,” MGB said.

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