Philippines: A climate of fear and destructionPublished by MAC on 2015-12-03
Source: Statements, Inquirer, Manila Bulletin, Reuters (2015-12-03)
While much of the world's attention has been taken up with the advent, and start, of the latest global climate change conference in Paris (see: Are we heading for another COP-out?), groups in the Philippines have been mobilising around the November Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila.
Civil society groups used it as the opportunity to raise concerns relating to mining, but particularly making links to the associated problems of climate change (in the run up to Paris) and human rights abuses (particularly those affecting indigenous peoples). There were specific calls for action to the new Canadian and Australian Prime Ministers, given the involvement of companies from their respective countries.
The link between coal & human rights abuses has been stressed as a new Philippine push for coal is blamed for the violence unleashed on the indigenous peoples (Lumad) of the Andap Valley in Surigao del Sur. Although a good reminder of the human rights costs of coal mining, it is only one of a number of on-going violations against the Lumad being linked to mining (see: Mining-related violence ignites protests in the Philippines).
While the causes of climate change are considered, via coal, the effects of it were also in the headlines with more powerful typhoons wreaking severe damage. The construction of Metals Exploration's Runruno mine in Nueva Vizcaya was suspended post Typhoon Lando, and a huge - mining tunnel-related - hole has opened up in Virac village in the Cordillera. Concerns have also been raised around tailings containment, particularly around the Lepanto mine and Philex's Padcal mines, also in the Cordillera, which have both had problems in the past.
On Mindanao, the Governor of Zambales has called for a halt in mining operations in Santa Cruz, while the environmental issues were considered post Typhoon Lando. A report on the revival of the King-king mine has highlighted concerns for endemic wildlife species in the region.
At the national level the Senate is considering the strict enforcement of protected areas to ban mining, while disucssions have continued around national iniatives to ban child labour and mercury use.
Finally, the mining industry has laid a list of its demands at the door of the President. Given these were delivered just before he left to address the Paris COP 21 meeting, we have to hope he gave full consideration to the issues above before considering any reply.
APEC Missing the Point on Climate Change, While Aquino Energy Policy Exacerbating It
AGHAM Press Release
4 November 2015
As different leaders, ministers, scientists and technocrats converge at the Crowne Plaza in Ortigas, Manila for the 2015 APEC Climate Change Symposium, scientist activist organization AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People held a protest action against APEC and the BS Aquino government plan to further commercialize our energy resources.
“The APEC is missing the point on climate change. Instead of addressing the roots of global warming, APEC technocrats and ministers are pushing for band-aid solutions,” said Finesa Cosico, secretary-general of AGHAM. “While timely and accurate weather and climate information is very useful in mitigating the impacts of disasters brought by climate change, it is missing the entire point of global warming and its solution: we need to cut back on emissions and radically change our production and consumption patterns to truly effect a significant change”
The APEC Climate Change Symposium (ACCS) is an annual event organized by the APEC Climate Center since 2005. This year, the ACCS has for its theme "From Science to Action: The Use of Weather and Climate Information for Efficient Disaster Risk Management." According to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global temperatures are expected to rise by at least 3.7°C if nothing is done to address the unprecedented levels of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the Earth’s atmosphere. This is expected to severely impact coastal communities, local agriculture, food and water supply, which will devastate already vulnerable communities of farmers, fishermen, and the urban poor.
“With climate change seen to seriously and gravely impact the Philippines, President BS Aquino is spouting sham pledges to reduce GHGs buy as much as 70% by 2030 by, among other promises, tripling renewable energy capacity. In reality, however, his administration has given the go-signal to construct at least 52 coal-fired power plants, one of the top polluters and sources of man-made GHG,” adds Cosico. According to the IPCC, 35% of GHGs come from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, of which coal is the largest GHG emitter.
“If implemented, these coal plants will increase our energy dependency to dirty fossil fuels and increase by 50% our carbon emissions from coal.” In 2010, the Philippines emitted 24,947 kilotons of carbon from coal, which is 30% of total carbon emissions.
“The current policy of deregulating and privatizing the energy industry, in line with the goals of APEC, has placed the health, well-being, and interest of consumers second to the profit motive of energy companies. In order to extract maximum profits, these companies invest in cheap, dirty energy sources and technologies like coal while the deregulated regime allows them to jack up electricity prices at the slightest hiccup,” said Cosico. All coal power plants in the country are owned either by foreign or foreign-backed private corporations.
“Climate change responses must benefit the poor foremost, not energy companies or corrupt politicians. To truly address climate change, we need to address the economic policies that keep our people poor and without the capacity to face increased hazards. This includes the predatory pricing of power companies under the privatized and deregulated energy regime. A truly sustainable energy industry can only be achieved under a nationalized energy industry which places the interest of the populace first and foremost,” ends Cosico.
The protest action on the 2015 APEC Climate Change Symposium is part of a series of anti-APEC protests under the People’s Campaign Against APEC and Imperialist Globalization or PCAIG.#
Reference: Finesa Cosico, 0925-8884593 / 998-4226
Make science and technology serve the people!
ADVOCATES OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR THE PEOPLE (AGHAM)
127-B Scout Fuentebella St. corner Sacred Heart, Kamuning, Quezon City
T: +63 2 998 4226
Manilakbayan protest ‘APEC brand’ of mining plunder and militarization
Kalikasan PNE Press release
10 November 2015
Makati City, Metro Manila—Alongside more than 200 indigenous Lumad and peasant protesters, the environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) and the Manilakbayan today led the protest-hopping across offices of large-scale mining companies operating in Mindanao.
The groups condemned what they said was “the brand of plunder and militarization that will be promoted in the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.”
“The Philippines’ brand of ‘responsible mining’ that will be showcased in the APEC is fraught with massive land grabs, militarization, and plunder. The APEC brand of mining liberalization and its accompanying security policies has rendered the Lumad and countless other indigenous peoples homeless in their own ancestral lands. We reject the APEC’s policy prescriptions that allow foreign corporations such as Toronto Ventures and local compradors such as Alsons and DMCI to pollute and pillage our lands and resources,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
The caravan first stopped at the office of Canadian Toronto Ventures Inc.-Resources and Development (TVI-RD), which operates a 5,287-hectare large-scale mine in the Zamboanga Peninsula. In the past six years, a total of 25 extra-judicial killings and 157,040 forcibly evacuated individuals were recorded in the area, majority of which are attributed to the Canadian miner.
Local firms DMCI and Alsons were visited next. All mining companies are known to have private security or paramilitary groups that have been involved in various atrocities against Lumad and other grassroots communities in the various parts of Mindanao.
“Large-scale mining and other forms of plunder are inextricably linked to the country’s security and counter-insurgency programs, such as the Oplan Bayanihan. Oplan Bayanihan purports to be directed at armed rebels, but military operations have been trained at the indigenous Lumad and other frontline communities that oppose big mines and other forms of development aggression,” explained Bautista.
"In fact, the government sanctioned and operationalized the hiring of state military forces to serve as private security of these mining companies through the so-called investment defense forces,” Bautista added.
Solidarity with mine disaster in Brazil
The environmental activists and Lumad expressed solidarity with the citizens of Minas Gerais state in Brazil, where a massive mine disaster swept at least six villages and killed at least 15 people. The mine was owned by Australian BHP-Billiton, the largest mining corporation in the world. The disaster, they said, reflected the plight they faced.
“A mine spill or disaster has occurred in the Philippines annually on average since 1995. Beyond that, mine-affected communities are regularly afflicted by the disaster of militarization. BHP Billiton itself is in partnership with one of these polluter and rights violator companies in the CARAGA region,” Bautista said.
More than 500,000 hectares of land in Mindanao are currently covered by various mining applications and tenements. These lands are already subjected to military operations and community displacement even prior to commercial operations.
The APEC, composed of 21 member economies representing 60 percent of the world’s total GDP and 3 billion of the world’s total population, is a regional economic forum established in 1989 to promote globalization policies across the Asia-Pacific region.
The forum also represents 70 percent of global mining production and consumption, and has come out with a new APEC fund with an initial US$ 958,000 to further promote mining liberalization across the regime.
“APEC promotes global mining plunder. It pushes its poor member countries such as the Philippines to open up the industry to the unbridled exploitation of foreign mining companies. We oppose APEC and its schemes in robbing our country's natural resources, and essentially its future," ended Bautista. ###
Reference: Clemente Bautista – 0905 432 5211
Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: +63 (2) 433 0184 | E-mail: secretariat[at]kalikasan.net | Site: www.kalikasan.net
Canadian Premier’s help sought on mining abuses
by Thom PICAÑA
11 November 2015
BAGUIO CITY: Anti-mining groups led by Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) said they will make strong representation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help stop human rights violations allegedly committed by Canadian mining firms in the region.
This came at the heels of a statement that Trudeau has expressed a need for a “renewed, Nation-to-Nation relationship with indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.”
The Canadian Prime Minister is set to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Manila next week.
In the Cordillera, the CPA claimed, Canadian mining companies top the list of foreign mining investors, including Columbus, Magellan, Olympus Pacific Minerals, Solfotara and its subsidiaries such as Adanacex and Canex, Pacific Metals, and Metallum Canada.
These mining firms are in Bokod, Bakun and Kibungan in Benguet province; Baay-Licuan, Tubo, Bucloc, Boliney and Daguioman in Abra province, and Calanasan in Apayao province.
Santi Mero, CPA deputy secretary general, said the Cordillera experiences with Canadian mining companies confirm violation of the indigenous people’s rights and their human rights.
He said foreign mining companies “should be held accountable for their human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights violations and environmental destruction, not only to the host communities but also to their country of origin.”
A CPA statement said “We support the Canadian civil society’s clamor for a law that will put in place human rights, labour and environmental standards that Canadian extractive companies receiving government support must live up to when they operate in developing countries; create a complaints mechanism that allow members of affected communities abroad, or Canadian, to file complaints against companies that are not living up to those standards; and to create a possible sanctions for companies that are found to be out of compliance with the standards, in the form of loss of government financial and political support.”
The group urges Trudeau “to live up to his commitment in protecting the environment and respecting indigenous peoples’ rights not only in Canada but elsewhere where there are Canadian mining companies such as the Cordillera region.”
Manilakbayan protesters demand Aquino gov’t to close mines linked to paramilitaries—not their protest camp—in time for APEC
Kalikasan PNE press release
11 November 2015
Quezon City, Metro Manila—Over 200 indigenous Lumad protesters were joined by environmental activists under the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) in a picket action held today at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) central office, demanding the administration of President Noynoy Aquino to close mining operations with track records of environmental destruction and militarization of Lumad ancestral lands.
“Instead of trying to close the protest camp of the 700 indigenous Lumad who travelled more than 1,500 kilometers to Metro Manila to assert their marginalized voices, the Aquino administration should instead focus on issuing closure orders to various mining operations in Mindanao that have perpetuated militarization, plunder, and environmental destruction,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
With immense pressure coming from Malacanang, the Manila city government has cut short the allowed stay of the Manilakbayan, the protest caravan of Lumad from Mindanao to Metro Manila, from the end of the APEC Summit on November 19 down to just November 12.
“It should stop this clear attempt of green-washing over the realities of paramilitary troops burning down agricultural cooperatives and killing leaders of the Lumad to further the ‘APEC brand’ of mining liberalization the Philippine government has promoted over the past two decades,” Bautista furthered.
Yesterday, the groups led a protest caravan hopping around various mining companies with known links to paramilitary groups and military ‘investment defense forces,’ including Canadian-owned TVI-Resources and Development, and local middle-men companies ALSONS and DMCI.
Various other mining companies are known sponsors of paramilitary groups that terrorize peasant communities and indigenous ancestral lands, including the Tampakan mining project owned by ALSONS and previously funded by Anglo-Swiss mining giant Glencore, and the nickel mining operations of Nickel Asia, a local partner of Japanese miner Sumitomo.
These projects also have previously assessed major environmental threats and actual adverse impacts to water, agricultural lands, fisheries, and forests. Ironically, the mining companies that have interests in these mine projects are all members of the Chamber of Mines, the so-called ‘responsible mining’ lobby group of the mining industry.
“Aquino spent P10 billion for the rose-stained veneer of the 2015 APEC summit, not only by hiding street dwellers and urban poor sprawls away from the view, but by displacing the already dislocated and silencing the already voiceless Lumad. The MGB will play its role in this callousness by further ignoring the impunity of large-scale miners in Mindanao and elsewhere in the Philippines to perpetuate the lie of peace and economic development in the mining industry,” lamented Bautista.
The groups demanded a statement from officials of the MGB to categorically demand the pull-out of military and paramilitary troops from mine-affected areas in Mindanao.
“If the silence and inaction of the MGB will be the hallmark of mining liberalization policies that will be promoted in the APEC, then the people across all 21 member economies of APEC should reject these policy dictates of imperialist globalization,” ended Bautista.#
Reference: Clemente Bautista – 0905 432 5211
Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: +63 (2) 433 0184 | E-mail: secretariat[at]kalikasan.net | Site: www.kalikasan.net
An Open Letter to the Aussie PM attending APEC 2015
11 November 2015
Dear Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull,
Before you visit the Philippines, you should know that your country’s large-scale gold and copper mining company, Oceana Gold, is destroying the environment and the lives of the people in Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, a small community in the Northern Part of the Philippines.
After forcibly evicting the residents from their houses and bulldozed their farmlands in 2009, Oceana Gold is now destroying the water sources of communities adjacent to the mining site with their toxic mine tailings.
Last year, scientists under AGHAM (Advocates of Science and technology for the people) conducted an environmental investigative mission to check the levels of toxicity in the nearby rivers. The results revealed that the heavy metal copper greatly exceeded the maximum tolerable levels, and was even 6.5 to 7.4 times greater than the safety limits for benthic (lowest level of a water body) organisms. According to the scientists, copper poisoning can cause various diseases that can damage a human’s circulatory, excretory and digestive systems.
This gravely impacts the health and livelihood of the communities near the mining site and even the communities downstream whose source of irrigation water connects with the streams intersecting the mine.
Before the mining operations, water for consumption in Didipio comes from natural springs and water pumps which are free for everyone to use. But now, they have to buy mineral drinking water from refilling stations because the water in the area causes stomach aches and skin diseases to residents especially the children.
We are familiar with your stand in defence of your mining companies especially in coal mining; however, we only wish to inform you that the progress of your country brought about by your mining industry is at the expense of the lives of small indigenous peoples in a developing country like ours.
We would appreciate it if you can find it in your heart to help the people in Didipio that are mostly indigenous peoples and small farmers who base their livelihood from the land. OceanaGold took not only their lands away but also their chance of living a decent and healthy life.
We, Amianan Salakniban (Defend the North) the network for environment and human rights advocates in North Luzon, joins the residents of Didipio in their call to stop the destructive operations of Oceana Gold in the Philippines , compensate the affected residents and rehabilitate the areas they destroyed.
And if you wouldn’t mind, after your visit, please take OceanaGold home with you.
Fernando (Ampi) Mangili
Amianan Salakniban Spokesperson
(+63) 0998 864 9167, 09291349449
Philippine activists slam govt push for coal
29 November 2015
MANILA -- The battle for indigenous people's lands is the elephant in the room whenever the Philippine government discusses climate change mitigation programs.
Environmental watchdog Caraga Watch told ABS-CBN News that coal-mining on Lumad lands and the current frenzy for coal-fired power plants belie a government pledge for 70% reduction in Philippine carbon emissions by 2030.
President Benigno Aquino III's development thrust will also worsen the country's disaster record, Caraga Watch officer Jovy Alamban warned, as environmental groups prepared to join Sunday's climate change protest led by Roman Catholic bishops.
Caraga Watch, which monitors investments in one of the country’s most impoverished but mineral-rich regions, linked coal-mine projects to a spate of murders targeting Lumad leaders in the 60,000-hectare Andap Valley complex in Surigao del Sur.
The valley holds the world’s largest coal block reserve. It is home to 3,000 Lumad who fled Lianga town for the provincial capital after the September 1 militia killings of a school head and two IP leaders.
“Paramilitary forces threatened hundreds of witnesses with new massacres if they did not immediately leave their community,” Alamban said. “Now, soldiers have taken over Lumad schools and communities. Meanwhile, Abacus Coal Exploration and Mining Corporation has brought in coal-mining machinery into the Andap Valley."
The valley sprawls across nine towns. Mineral production-sharing agreements under Philex Gold Philippines Inc. and Rosario Mining Development Co., Rosario Consolidated Mining Corporation and Sta. Irene Mining Corporation cover more than 6,200 hectares in Lianga alone.
Other mining firms gearing for operations in the Andap Valley are Great Wall Mining and Power Corporation, PNOC Exploration, ASK Mining Exploration Corporation and Benguet Corporation, whose coal contract includes the towns of Lianga, Marihatag and San Miguel, where militia killed another Lumad this month.
COP21 ‘poster boy’
Mr. Aquino is expected to urge increased climate mitigation funding at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The Philippines is chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 20 nations most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
The event is also an opportunity for the Philippine president to tout his administration’s achievements in sustainable development, which includes a massive re-greening program.
Senator Loren Legarda is all praises for Mr. Aquino's move to extend the National Greening Program's (NGP) lifespan from 2016 to 2028. The government has planted trees on more than a million hectares of that target 7-million hectares.
Legarda, however, said the push for coal jeopardizes the country’s commitments to ease climate change.
Coal now dominates the country‘s energy mix, accounting for 42.5% of power generated, Legarda said. The government’s blueprint calls for a 30-30-30 energy mix with natural gas, coal and renewables each accounting for 30% with 10% reserved for alternative technologies.
Coal projects would account for 56% of the mix by 2020, with 23 new power plans starting operations in the next five years, said the senator.
“Barring any intervention, this will further increase to 75% by 2030— the highest share of coal among countries in Asia,” she added.
The Philippines’ coal expansion drive undermines the country’s role in any international agreements to tackle climate change, according to Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
“By embracing coal, the Philippines loses its credibility in fighting for a good climate change treaty,” the group said.
Activist groups launched an anti-coal caravan from Semirara island, site of a recent coal-mine disaster, to the national capital region.
Coal is acknowledged as one of the biggest sources of man-made CO2 emissions.
“From mining to combustion, coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels. A third of all carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal,” Greenpeace said. “Coal releases more carbon dioxide than any other fossil fuel and coal mining is responsible for 8-10% of human-made methane emissions globally.”
The Department of Energy's 2015 third-quarter report said five coal-fired power plants account for 1,745 megawatts (MW) of the 1,870-MW committed energy capacity in Mindanao.
San Miguel Corporation has confirmed the start of operations in 2016 of a 300-MW power plant in Malita, Davao del Sur and aims to eventually double the plant's output.
The conglomerate bought three coal mines in South Cotabato to help fuel a six-year, 3,000-MW energy portfolio, but a local government ban on open pit mining shelved a power plant project in General Santos City.
The Alson’s Power Group will start early next year commercial operations of the Sarangani Energy Corp’s (SEC) 210-MW coal-fired plant in Maasim.
Local folk fear the plant on the shores of Sarangani Bay could affect marine life in one of the country’s richest fishing grounds, said Primo Morillo, anti-mining campaign advocacy officer for the Philippine-Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI).
Alsons insists its power plant uses low sulfur coal and “the latest clean technology.”
Its corporate news website also cites the country’s “largest carbon offset program," with trees already planted on more than 1,000 hectares of a 7,500-hectare watershed under stewardship of 350 families from local Lumad called the B’laan.
Environmentalists charge that Alsons' coal plant will provide energy for the controversial Tampakan copper mine, which Mr. Aquino’s government approved despite South Cotabato’s ban on open-pit mining.
The power firm has denied this, saying the plant’s first section will provide power to 3 million residents from the provinces of Sarangani, Compostela Valley, Agusan del Norte, and Agusan del Sur; the cities of General Santos, Iligan, Bayugan, Butuan, Samal, and Tagum, and key municipalities in Davao del Norte and South Cotabato.
The Alcantara conglomerate recently bought Australian shares to acquire control of Indophil, which will operate Tampakan. The mining project is infamous for the killings of at least 10 people, including an Italian missionary priest. The conflict, which also displaced thousands of families, is expected to worsen in the coming years.
‘Coal is not cheap’
Legarda does not advocate closure of existing plants but worries about the numbers of projects in the pipeline.
“The Philippines needs more power, but it cannot be ‘we need power at all costs and we will develop at all costs’,” the senator said.
“They say that coal is cheap. I say, coal is not cheap. Coal affects our health, kills biodiversity and the environment, affects our waters and pollutes the air we breathe,” Legarda stressed.
Caraga Watch slammed Malacanang’s efforts to present “Mr. Aquino as the poster boy of COP 21," calling it a big insult to the Lumad.
The President approved the creation of privately funded “investment defense forces” or militia for mining firms, Alamban pointed out.
Michelle Campos, who lost her father, Dionel, in the Lianga massacre, told ABS-CBN News every sortie by soldiers and militia included demands for the Lumad to stop opposing mining.
She told ABS-CBN News Lumad resist mining because "when we protect our ancestral lands we also protect all Filipinos, especially Mindanaoans, from environmental devastation and food insecurity."
Campos said another environmental danger is the expansion of oil-palm plantations, blamed for the Indonesian toxic haze that wafts annually across Southeast Asia. Palm-oil plantation coverage in the Philippines doubled in the last 10 years, government data show.
Mr. Aquino has said his plans will provide peace and progress for 14 million, mostly poor Lumad.
The 2014 Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Report values the country's mineral reserves at US$1.387 trillion — five times the country’s 2013 gross domestic product. The think tank Ibon Philippines, however, says the mining industry's actual contribution to the economy is "miniscule," with large mining firms the main beneficiaries.
For Campos, the Lumad orphan, the equation is simpler. Mines and plantations and the attendant military and para-military operations represent “the peace of the graveyard” for her people.
Philippines coal demand to grow by up to 15 mln T a year -industry group
10 November 2015
MANILA - Annual coal consumption in the Philippines, one of the world's fastest growing economies, could rise by more than two-thirds to as much as 35 million tonnes over the next two decades, the head of a local industry group said on Tuesday.
That could be good news for the country's main coal supplier, Indonesia, and could also stimulate investment to develop local coal mines.
"We're looking at ... additional (annual consumption of) 10 to 15 million tonnes for the next 10 to 20 years," said Arnulfo Robles, executive director of the Philippine Chamber of Coal Mines.
The Southeast Asian nation's coal consumption soared to a record 20 million tonnes in 2014, while imports jumped to an all-time high of 15.2 million tonnes.
The country is counting on dozens of coal-fired power plants under construction or on the drawing board to boost electricity supply and support an economy growing between 5 and 7 percent annually.
That is despite a government push to reduce the nation's dependence on coal as part of an international shift towards cleaner energy.
The Philippines is heavily dependent on coal imports, mainly from Indonesia, the world's top seller of thermal coal. Australian and Russian coal are alternatives, but are costlier because of import duties.
Annual domestic output stands at around 8 million tonnes, but around 5 million tonnes is exported as the quality is not high enough for local power plants.
Robles said the Department of Energy is now encouraging power producers to build plants that can run on local coal.
"That's why we should have more local coal mining companies operating for us to be energy self-sufficient," said Robles, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a coal industry conference in Manila.
The Philippines still has untapped coal resources estimated at about 2.4 billion tonnes, he said. (Reporting by Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Joseph Radford)
The missing truth in the Philippines' climate change plans
Country wants to address climate change, but relies on dirty coal to fuel the nation
30 November 2015
Manila - Three mountains once loomed on the other side of a cove on the border of Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte provinces in the southern Philippines. Now, only one remains.
"I am jarred by how fast the mountains disappear," said Velvet, a researcher for anti-mining alliance Caraga Watch who travels around the southern Mindanao region several times a year.
"One year there, the next year, gone. They ship earth to be processed in other countries," she said.
At the foot of a bare mountain, she pointed to straggly patches of green and a river gliding on the last leg of its journey from peak to sea.
"This used to be the largest spawning area for fish but the mangroves are almost gone."
"Most of this," Velvet said, waving her arms as she turned full circle, "is the ancestral land of the lumad."
The indigenous people of Mindanao region in the southern Philippines are collectively known as lumad.
The battle for indigenous peoples’ lands is the elephant in the room whenever the Philippine government discusses efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Over two administrations, sustainable development programs have kept pace with anti-insurgency campaigns, snuffing out lives of tribal people and destroying their environment.
More than 60 lumad have been killed in the past six years. Military operations against communist guerrillas have forced at least 7,000 people to evacuate.
Mudslides have killed thousands on once pristine lands. Laterite runoff from nickel mines has choked marine life to death.
Now the battle is over coal and palm oil plantations.
'A green blanket'
In Tandag City in Surigao del Sur province, more than 3,000 displaced lumad spend nights reciting elegies to ancestral lands.
"A green blanket once covered our mountains, flowing down from cloud-covered peaks to the sea," declared 14-year old Amelyn.
She whispered as she covers her eyes. "There are only craters and choking dust, the color of dried blood, swirling through the land."
Amelyn and her people come from the mineral-rich Andap Valley complex in Surigao del Sur. Their crime: They belong to a lumad community resisting the fate of neighbors who were displaced by a planned mining operation.
The government has approved mining applications in Amelyn’s village, including one by a mining company responsible for the country’s highest mining death toll.
New mining operations have already started since the villagers fled starting Sept. 1.
The lumad of the Andap Valley are guardians of the world’s biggest coal reserve, of the highest grade [sic].
Aside from approving coal mine applications, the government is pushing construction of coal-fired power plants in Surigao del Sur and nearby provinces.
Officials say four plants will connect early next year to the Mindanao grid.
But coal plants are the biggest source of man-made carbon dioxide emissions linked to climate change, according to Greenpeace International.
The organization calls coal "the single greatest threat facing our climate" for the irreparable damage it brings to the environment, people’s health and communities.
Resistance turns deadly
The Philippines’ original energy blueprint was a mix of one-third coal, one-third natural gas and one-third renewable sources. But coal plants are overtaking the other sectors, according to Francis Giles Puno, an executive of a private power firm.
"That means we’ll have a more carbonizing energy program," he said.
Lumad of the Andap Valley have long resisted the entry of mining. The stakes recently turned deadly.
A local tribal organization recorded one murder of an anti-mining leader last year. Pro-government militia have killed four men in the last three months, including the head teacher at Amelyn’s school.
The tribal people claimed the attack was punishment for rebellion. Civilian officials say all the victims were civilians and known community mediators. A mayor identified the last victim, killed this month, as an employee of his local government unit.
United Nations experts, the clergy, the governor, senators, and the head of the government human rights body have called for the disbandment of the rampaging militia gunmen and the arrest of the killers. The national government ignored the pleas. The attacks continue.
In recent years, approved and pending applications to start mining operations could double the half-million hectares in Mindanao already covered with mines, with 80 percent targeting lumad lands.
Commercial plantations, which now account for 12 percent of Mindanao’s land area, also threaten tribal communities. Rubber and palm oil, the chief cause of Indonesia’s deadly haze, figure prominently in the government’s 1.6 million-hectare expansion plan.
In the last ten years, oil palm plantations almost doubled their reach in Mindanao from about 23,000 hectares to almost 43,000 hectares.
Militia leaders told journalists in October that they have been promised new lands and financing for palm oil farms. Mining firms are also part of the government’s plan to replant 100,000 hectares of denuded forests and mangrove areas.
"They tell us not to worry because they will re-plant. But they’re cutting more forests for new mines," said Velvet. "They’re killing the land faster than anyone can say reforestation."
By the time the new trees attain maturity, the lumad may have perished, either to the gun, or to flight because poisoned land and waters can no longer sustain them.
Inday Espina-Varona is editor and opinion writer for various publications in Manila.
BS Aquino and the AFP has Intensified Its Attack Against the Lumad People to Secure Coal Mining Operations in Surigao del Sur
Joint press release
11 November 2015
The Lumad people of Surigao del Sur strongly condemn the deployment of more military troops to Surigao del Sur. Such action shows utter lack of compassion for us victims of military abuses as we continue to grieve for our dead and suffer in the evacuation center. The 2nd Special Forces Battalion of the AFP has just been transferred from the Visayas to Surigao del Sur and is currently based in San Miguel. There are now 5 AFP battalions deployed in the 7 municipalities within and surrounding the Andap Valley Complex: the 36th IBPA, 75th IBPA, 7th, 9th and 2nd Special Forces Battalion of the AFP. They are concentrating their military operations in the Lumad and peasant communities located within coal rich Andap Valley Complex.
We have been demanding the pull-out of military troops from our communities and the relief and investigation of commanding officers of military units involved in the massacre of MAPASU chairman Dionel Campos, Kiwagan Datu Juvello Sinzo and ALCADEV executive director Emerito Samarca and the subsequent evacuations to Tandag City of 587 Lumad families with 2,914 individuals from 26 communities in 7 barangays in 5 municipalities of Surigao del Sur. We have been demanding these numerous times in our statements, in interviews and in dialogues with representatives of government and non-government agencies. We told Sec. Mar Roxas, that the military have been killing the Lumad people when he visited us at the evacuation center in Tandag City last September. We asked Sec. Dinky Soliman to help us return safely to our communities when she visited us last October. We continue to shout these demands in the streets of Surigao del Sur all the way to Manila. Thousands have joined us in condemnation of the massacre and the continuing injustice. Still, BS Aquino and his Armed Forces of the Philippines remain unyielding to our cries.
The paramilitary bandit group of Marcos Bocales, Marcial Belandres and Calpet Egua killed Onel, Datu Bello and Sir Emok in Km. 16 and Han-ayan in Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga last September 1. These bandit groups were organized, armed and continued to be used by the 75th IBPA and Special Forces of the AFP in counter-insurgency operations against the NPA. The Hasmin Acebedo paramilitary forces that killed the Tabugol brothers in Brgy. Siagao, San Miguel is supported by the 36th IBPA. The 36th IBPA, 75th IBPA and the 7th and 9th Special Forces of the AFP are all under the command of Col. Isidro Purisima, commanding officer of the 402nd Bde. These facts should have pushed BS Aquino to pull-out the troops involved in the massacre and other grave human rights abuses against the Lumad people. Such brutality should have made the president relieve Col. Isidro Purisima, the brains behind the brutal operations, and other commanding officers of the AFP and have them investigated for their culpability.
Instead of pulling out military troops the BS Aquino government has deployed more military units to Surigao del Sur under the command of Col. Purisima of the 402nd Bde. allegedly to “secure villages, especially the Lumads” from the CPP-NPA. But the truth is clear: the military has not been securing the villages and the Lumad people! The military has organized and armed paramilitary bandit groups that have been killing our leaders and attacking Lumad communities to ensure the entry of coal mining operations in the Andap Valley Complex!
Military COPD and combat operations are attacking communities and leaders of MAPASU as we have been vocal and steadfast in our opposition against large scale mining operations within our ancestral lands. They are vilifying our Lumad schools and our organizations to rationalize their attacks against our communities. They have been intensifying their attacks against MAPASU, TIPJUNGAN and other communities with progressive organizations to remove any opposition to coal mining operations in the Andap Valley Complex.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded coal operating contracts (COC) to Great Wall Mining and Power Corp., Benguet Corp., PNOC-Exploration Corp., Ask Mining Corp. and Abacus Coal Exploration and Development Corp. The COCs cover areas within the Andap Valley Complex, specifically in the municipalities of Lianga, San Agustin, Marihatag, Cagwait, Bayabas, Tago, Tandag and San Miguel. Abacus Corp. is set to start coal mining operations in the municipalities of San Miguel, Tago and Marihatag in Surigao del Sur and has scheduled community consultations this November. The AFP units are there to secure ABACUS Corp. and ensure its mining operations.
Surigao del Sur has been militarized to guarantee the entry of these mining operations within our ancestral lands. Our leaders have been killed, our schools and cooperatives are being burned down, our teachers and organizations are being vilified and our Lumad communities are being attacked because we remain steadfast in defending our ancestral lands from destructive mining operations and protecting it for our next generation.
* Pull-out military troops from our Lumad communities!
* Immediately arrest and prosecute Bobby Tejero, Loloy Tejero and Garito Layno, perpetrators of the Lianga massacre!
* Immediately disband and dis-arm the BOCALES-BELANDRES-EGUA and other paramilitary bandit groups!
* Investigate the involvement of Col. Isidro Purisima and other commanding officers involved in the Lianga Massacre and the killing of Henry Alameda and the Tabugol brothers!
* Defend our ancestral lands from large scale mining!
Reference: Josephine Pagalan, cp# 09099293840
Groups condemn gov’t indifference to Lumad
by Rachel Joyce E. Burce
15 November 2015
An unusual Sunday morning welcomed churchgoers at the Our Mother of Perpetual Help National Shrine Redemptorist Church in Baclaran, Parañaque City as Manilakbayan leaders and representatives of international groups gathered to show their solidarity in condemning the government’s alleged disregard for the plight of the Lumad people in Mindanao.
“We are here to support the Lumad people. We condemn multinational mining that are destroying the homes of our Lumad people. Your struggle is our struggle as well,” Lyn Meza of International Coordinating Committee of International League of People’s Struggle said in a press conference.
Sister Ma. Luz Mallo, MA, executive secretary of Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN), also graced the event and expressed their organization’s solidarity with the Lumad people fight for their protection and welfare.
“We support the call of Cardinal Antonio Tagle to help the Lumad in whatever way we can to bring attention to their plight. We are one with the Cardinal in his unequivocal call to pull out troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from Lumad communities,” Mallo said.
She even stressed that they are especially concerned with the “trauma and suffering of Lumad children due to the encampment of AFP in their schools and communities.”
Mae Fe Templa from the Save Our Schools Network (SOS) Mindanao and Redemptorist Church rector Fr. Joseph Echano, CsSR also joined the press con.
A solidary night between the Lumad folk and local and international groups was also scheduled at 5 p.m. yesterday.
“It’s appalling that our own government is much more willing to listen to foreign investors in APEC summit, acting like a pimp to sell the Filipino’s wealth, to sell our ancestral lands to foreign countries to invest in our country,” said Datu Jomorito Goaynon, head of Manilakbayan ng Mindanao. Goaynon disclosed that they will be staying in Baclaran Church until Nov. 22.
Mindanao tribes want troops, rebels out of their communities
By Gerg Cahiles
31 October 2015
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Around 700 indigenous people from Mindanao have been camped out at the University of Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City for almost a week.
They want to send a message to the government: Withdraw military troops from their ancestral domain.
In an interview with CNN Philippines on Friday (October 20), Jong Monzon, a member of the Mandaya tribe of Davao Oriental, said in Filipino: "When the soldiers arrived, our community was disturbed. Our leaders were killed right in front of us."
The military, Monzon said, accused them of being either members or sympathizers of the communist New People's Army (NPA) rebels.
He said the rebels had been staying in their area, but they did not meddle in their affairs.
"We just want to live in peace without any disturbance, so that like those in the cities we could study," he said. "We hope that we would be given the chance to study so that we won't remain ignorant."
Lumad Mindanao, a group of lumad — that is, native — leaders, had a different take on the issue.
Datu Jimid Mansayagan of the Aromanin Manobo tribe of North Cotabato said the conflict rose out of the natural resources in their land.
He said indigenous peoples were being displaced and taken advantage of by various groups such as the military, the NPA, mining companies, and local politicians for their own agenda.
He asked that they be left alone.
The lumad leader saids they had often been caught in the crossfire.
Mansayagan added they would also want the NPA out of their lands to end clashes with the military.
According to Human Rights Watch, an international groups, military and paramilitary groups have committed human rights violations against indigenous people in Mindanao.
On the other hand, it also confirms that some members of indigenous tribes have joined NPA activities because of government neglect to provide for their needs.
Carlos Conde of the Human Rights Watch said the government must ensure that basic services must reach area if it would want to appease the indigenous peoples.
Workers for PWRDF partner in the Philippines risk death
By Tali Folkins
10 November 2015
Abie Anongos, secretary general of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, says the biggest challenge to her group’s work is “the intense militarization in our communities.” Photo: Tali Folkins
Development and advocacy work everywhere comes with unique stresses. In the Philippines, it can mean risking your life.
Abie Anongos, secretary general of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), knows this first-hand. In 2006, besides having her house ransacked, she had a knife pressed to her throat.
Going home after work one evening, Anongos says, she was grabbed by a knife-wielding man wearing a bandana over his face. She counts herself lucky to have survived.
“He told me not to scream if I wanted to live,” she says. “Of course, my initial reaction was to scream and I just ran for my life.”
Anongos’ organization is an alliance of some 200 non-governmental and community groups from across the Cordilleras, a mountain range in Luzon, the largest island of the Philippines. A partner of The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) since 1985, the alliance promotes the rights of the Indigenous people living in the Cordilleras. According to a document on the PWRDF website, the alliance “supports grassroots mobilization for environmental and socio-economic justice through joint action, networking and capacity building.”
Often, simply put, this means fighting mining companies eager to exploit the region’s minerals—a daunting task, given not only their tendency to hire private enforcers, but also the Philippine army’s officially mandated role as “investment defence force” for industry, says Anongos.
“As far as our experience goes, where there are mining operations and applications, there is military deployment to suppress the opposing communities, to harass the local leaders and members, and this has resulted [in] a significant number of human rights violations across the country,” Anongos says. “It is a very bad experience for the leaders, for the women, for the children, because everybody becomes a victim.”
The year 2006 was especially violent, she says. In that year, one of the members of the CPA’s regional secretariat was gunned down in front of his son; another CPA leader, Dr. Chandu Claver, was ambushed with his family. He and his daughter survived, but his wife did not.
Meanwhile, she says, the killings and disappearances continue. One CPA member disappeared in 2011 and has not been heard from since, Anongos says. Over the past five years, she says, there have been more than 100 extra-judicial killings of Indigenous people in the Philippines.
Some dozen Canadian mining companies are now involved in partnering with Philippines-based companies, Anongos says—and it’s implausible to her that their leaders are unaware of the human rights violations.
“Surely they are aware,” she says. “In our efforts, and with the help of journalists also, we have come up with public information materials that have widely circulated. Actually, they are aware of these, because their local counterparts would issue counter-statements denying the violations....When we come up with alerts, we make sure to send them to the companies themselves.”
The role of Canadian mining companies in international human rights abuses is, many say, relatively unknown to Canadians themselves.
Asked to comment on whether innocent blood was being spilled in the Philippines to protect Canadian mining interests, Jessica Draker, director of communications for the Mining Association of Canada, replied that none of the association’s member companies were active in the Philippines. “Given this, we unfortunately do not have any knowledge of what you are referring to and are not in a position to comment,” she said.
Anongos spoke to the Anglican Journal when she was in Toronto for the PWRDF’s national gathering of board directors, diocesan representatives and youth council on November 4-7. She was expected to give a presentation on the CPA, including a summary of its project work this year.
Among the alliance’s accomplishments, she says, have been the establishment of seven new people’s organizations; the acquisition of draft animals in some communities to help with intense agricultural work; the setting up of simple waterworks systems providing drinking water; and the purchase of machines for rice-pounding.
Some of this project work, simple though it may sound, has had the added effect of developing the leadership potential of the region’s Indigenous women, she says.
“It has eased the burden on women, who are usually tied up with the domestic shores of the household...such that they have more time now to participate in the decision-making activities of the communities,” Anongos says.
The biggest challenge to the CPA’s work, she says, remains—simply put—survival.
“Even during project implementation, the biggest challenge that we met is the intense militarization in our communities,” she says. “Where there is strong community opposition to destructive projects, that’s where the military is…It is sad, in the sense that the work we are doing is in the service of the people. The work that we are doing should be the work of the government.”
Over the past few years, the PWRDF’s funding to the CPA has sat at slightly more than $30,000 per year, according to a PWRDF document; it has also provided emergency response funding on a case-by-case basis.
MGB suspends mine project after storm
Philippine Daily Inqurier
30 October 2015
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has suspended the construction of a foreign-owned mining project in Quezon town after the facility was damaged by the onslaught of Typhoon “Lando” two weeks ago.
Mario Ancheta, MGB acting regional director in Cagayan Valley, directed Metals Exploration PLC, through its local subsidiary, FCF Minerals Corp., to stop construction and development work at its gold-molybdenum mining project in Runruno village.
“You are directed to implement immediately rehabilitation and cleanup of the area [as well as] submit and present your rehabilitation and cleanup plan,” Ancheta said in his letter to Craig Watkins, FCF Minerals country manager.
The suspension order came after a series of setbacks suffered by the Runruno project, which aims to exploit an estimated 1.39 million ounces of gold and 25.6 million pounds of molybdenum. Its projected start of commercial production this year had been delayed.
“The RSI (residual storage impoundment) failed to contain the volume of runoff water brought about by heavy rains and overflowed, causing some erosion,” Ancheta said on the telephone on Thursday. Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon
Brazil Dam Collapse Reminder of the Looming Threat of Lepanto
Defend Ilocos statement
12 November 2015
As Brazil reels from the deaths and devastation caused by the collapsed of an iron mine tailings dam owned by Vale and BHP Billiton, environmental groups in Ilocos Region reiterated their call for the closure of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company’s (Lepanto) mining operation. The Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) and Save the Abra River Movement (STARM) said that the recent disaster highlights the danger posed by tailings dam to the communities and ecosystem. The group said that this is a reminder of the looming threat created by the presence of Lepanto’s Tailings Dam 5A (TD5A) upstream of the Abra River. The structure is located in Colalo and Cabiten, Mankayan in the Province of Benguet. It sits above the river that directly flows into the Abra River.
“The latest mine-related disaster in Brazil highlights the myth of responsible mining and the clear and present danger that tailings dam pose to people and the environment. This event underscores our call against the expansion and for the closure of mining operation of Lepanto,” said Sherwin De Vera, Regional Coordinator of Defend Ilocos and STARM Convener.
According to the De Vera, Lepanto has a long history of polluting the Abra River and mine collapse. He pointed that the company only built tailings dam in the 1960’s more than two decades after its operation in 1936. Before this, the company dumped mine waste directly to the river. De Vera said that based on records, from the 60’s to 1993, Lepanto experienced three dam failures causing massive siltation in the Abra River and polluting rice fields along its banks. He added that the looming operation of the South African mining giant Goldfields, a partner of Lepanto for the Far Southeast Gold Project will increase the danger and possibility of dam failure.
“Whether they build another dam for the operation of Goldfields or just add the load to TD5A, the result is the same, they are increasing the burden and risk of the communities from possible mine disaster as well as pollution of the river system,” explains De Vera.
He also stressed that the issue on mining pollution and mine-related disasters should be included in the platforms and programs of political aspirants this 2016.
“Local government officials should have a clear stand and plan of action to address this matter as we again witnessed the dangers posed by such structure. At the very least, Ilocos Sur officials must reaffirm the past resolutions approved by the Provincial Board and the League of Municipal Mayors calling for the closure of Lepanto and compensation of the affected communities,” said De Vera.###
Ilocos Network for the Environment
BANTAY, KARAYAN KEN BAYBAY, SALAKNIBAN!
Philex extends Padcal mine in Benguet
29 October 2015
Philex Mining Corp. said Thursday it discovered more ore reserves that will extend the life of Padcal’s mine in Benguet province by two more years from 2020 to 2022.
Philex said in a disclosure to the stock exchange an engineering study conducted on the mineral resource estimates from the 800 to 600-meter level identified an additional 20 million tons of ore reserves.
“The validation of additional reserves in the 800 to 600-meter level is indeed a very welcome development for the company,” said Philex Mining president and chief executive Eulalio Austin Jr.
“Aside from extending Padcal’s life of mine, the incremental reserves also enhance the company’s value and provide us with more flexibility before the Silangan project [in Mindanao] comes on stream,” Austin said.
Philex Mining reported a 20-percent drop in net income in the first nine months of the year due to lower metal prices.
The company said net income in the January-September period amounted to P756 million, down from P951 million registered in the same period last year.
Core net income dropped 9 percent to P811 million from P901 million a year ago. Net income attributable to equity holders of the parent company also went down by 29 percent to P851 million from P1.205 billion.
Revenues in the nine-month period also declined to P7.3 billion from P8.4 billion in 2014.
The company’s Padcal mine which operated for 269 days, produced 25.7 million pounds of copper and 81,599 ounces of gold.
The mining company said the price of gold during the period dropped 10 percent to $1,171 per ounce from $1, 299 per ounce in 2014.
Price of copper also went down by 19 percent from $3.03 per pound last year to $2.45 per pound this year.
Philex Mining operates the Padcal mine in Benguet. It is also developing the Silangan project in Surigao del Norte province.
“We are currently evaluating several techniques on waste materials handling and refining our mine design that will enable us to develop the Silangan project into an efficient and environment-friendly mine operation,” said Silangan Mindanao and Mining Co. Inc. president Yulo Perez.
“ These initiatives will extend the completion of the project’s definitive feasibility study to the first quarter of 2016 from our original projection this year,” Perez said.
Gov’t experts find rupture in old mine diversion tunnel in Benguet
By Kimberlie Quitasol, Vincent Cabreza
Inquirer Northern Luzon
3 November 2015
BAGUIO CITY—Government geologists and mine engineers have found a rupture in one of the diversion tunnels of an old mine in Itogon, Benguet province, which runs 80 meters beneath houses that are slowly being swallowed by a huge hole.
Six houses fell into this pit from Oct. 22 to 26 when Typhoon “Lando” swept through the province. Experts have not been able to measure the depth of the hole at Sitio Kamangaan in Virac village. Two more houses are in danger of falling, according to Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan.
Fay Apil, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Cordillera, said experts were still studying a break in the wall of a second diversion tunnel to determine if it caused the funnel-like void to open at the surface of Kamangaan.
The diversion tunnels were built in the 1960s to steer the Ambalanga River away from an old mine tailings facility. “It is not yet clear if [the tunnel breach] was the effect or the cause of the [Kamangaan] subsidence,” Apil said.
She said a team had been formed to conduct more examination of the tunnel.
The breach was detected when residents found debris like stonewalling materials and wood in the area. “But we have not found any trace of house parts from the six structures that fell into the hole,” Apil said.
She said the government’s priority is to determine the extent of the danger posed by the hole to know how many families should be relocated immediately.
Palangdan said the houses at the surface of the second diversion tunnel must be considered “compromised.”
The MGB initially examined two tunnels running beneath the community: the 450-m-long Vegas tunnel, which runs 57 m beneath Virac, and the 550-m-long drain tunnel, which discharges river water through two diversion tunnels. The old drain tunnel is 95 m below the Virac area where the hole was spawned.
The breach was discovered when the team explored the tunnel on Thursday.
Palangdan said the mining company had offered to take in the families who had lost their homes. They have been housed by a school which would need to reopen next week when classes resume.
Maricel Almandrez, 25, was renting one of the houses that were swallowed by the pit. Her husband works for the mine’s contractor.
“We lost everything, including what is left of our money until the next payday,” she said.
She said the void scares them. “It was as if a giant dinosaur sucked [our homes]. [When the first house fell], we heard what sounded like boiling water, then a faint thud before the ground shook and we ran for our lives,” she said.
She said many families were able to flee when a neighbor saw a tree vanish and she started alerting everyone.
“Our kitchen suddenly vanished. We ran in panic. We even forgot to wear our slippers. Outside my knees were trembling,” said Juanita Fontanos, 75, who lost her house.
Gov stops mining in Zambales town
by Henry Empeño
9 November 2015
IBA, Zambales—Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. on Friday called for a halt in mining operations in Santa Cruz, Zambales, saying there is a need to draw an action plan that would prevent environmental problems spawned by mining activities.
Speaking during a public hearing jointly conducted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s Committee on Environment and Committee on Legal Matters, Ebdane said long-term solutions, not just palliative measures, would be necessary to resolve environmental problems, like the muddy floodwaters that inundated several villages in Santa Cruz at the height of Typhoon Lando (international code name koppu) last month.
“I believe it would be best to stop temporarily all mining activities in Santa Cruz and ask all stakeholders to go back to the drawing board to formulate a program that would ensure better-regulated operations,” Ebdane said at one point during the hearing that lasted for more than seven hours.
“There are plans that should be in place first before we would allow [mining companies] to operate again, if the provincial government will be granted the authority to regulate and police the mining operations,” Ebdane said.
Board member Samuel Ablola, chairman of the Committee on Environment, said they called for the public hearing not only to listen to the grievances of residents affected by the flooding, but also to find short-term and long-term solutions to problems about mining.
The marathon hearing conducted at the Sanggunian session hall was attended by barangay officials from Santa Cruz; representatives of the Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz (CCOs), a non-governmental organization opposing mining operations in the town; and officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Environmental Management Bureau, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Irrigation Administration, and the Philippine National Police.
CCOS representative Josephine Adasta presented a pictorial documentation of the devastation that befell nine barangays and asked authorities where the muddy floodwaters could have come from. CCOS had earlier blamed the flooding squarely on mining operations, telling the MGB in a complaint that some tailings dams at the mines were breached during the heavy rains, thereby releasing nickel-tainted water that soon flooded nearby barangays.
During the hearing, geologists and experts from the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Geological Sciences also shared the results of their investigation on the flooding, pointing out that heavy rainfall brought about by Lando dumped a huge volume of water that flooded the area.
In view of this, Ebdane said the provincial government would demand to see disaster-mitigation measures from the mining operators. The governor also recommended that a technical working committee be formed to look into mining operations, investigate issues, as well as recommend both short- and long-term solutions to address concerns of residents, along with those of the municipal and provincial governments.
Ebdane said the committee should “ideally come up with a collective conclusion and determine the liabilities and responsibilities of all the stakeholders—not only of the mining companies, but also of the local government units and the national government agencies, like the MGB of Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR].”
At the end of the hearing, Board member Renato H. Collado, chairman of the Committee on Legal Matters, said the provincial board will be passing a resolution to recommend an immediate action plan to address the damages caused by mining operations.
He also said the board would also urge concerned authorities to grant the provincial government authority over the regulation of mining operations here.
Collado added that the public hearing had conclusively revealed that mining operations in Santa Cruz “aggravated the effects of Lando.”
“We’re sorry if you would not like the resolutions we’re going to pass,” Collado warned representatives of the three mining firms present during the hearing.
As the hearing was going on, however, more than 100 promining residents led by the Coalition of Mine Workers, families and communities massed at the People’s Park opposite the Capitol and expressed their support of mining operations in Santa Cruz.
Their banners called for support to “responsible mining” and for the defense of the livelihood and rights of mining workers.
Group says mining project threatens biodiversity in Southern Mindanao, neighboring regions
3 November 2015
MALAYBALAY CITY - An impending mining project in Southern Mindanao threatens the area’s biodiversity as well as the ecology of neighboring regions, an environment group said citing a technical report by an American consultancy firm.
The King-king Copper-Gold Project will affect 12 “vulnerable or critically endangered” species of the 253 native or endemic plant species present in the area, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and the Philippine National Red List, the Francis S. Morales Resource Center said in a press statement Monday.
The project will also affect six bird species endemic to Mindanao of the 74 bird species in the area, and a total of 17 mammal species and 10 reptile species.
FSMRC said these findings are contained in the 2013 NI 43-101-compliant Technical Report and Preliminary Feasibility Study of M3 Engineering & Technology, a US-based consultancy firm contracted by St. Augustine Gold & Copper to conduct the study in compliance with Canada’s National Instrument 43-101, which is supposedly required under Canadian laws.
The copper-gold project was reportedly to be approved within this month, the group said.
FSMRC further quoted he report as saying that several of the wildlife species found in the region “are listed as near-threatened or vulnerable by the IUCN, while others are protected by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), including 11 bird species, two (2) mammal species and five (5) reptile and amphibian species.”
“Marine studies showed that several species of sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and seabirds live in the area. Sea cows and whale sharks also live in the region. The sea cow species and all species of sea turtle found in the region are listed as endangered,” the report said.
“Phyto-, nano-, zoo-, and ichthyoplankton, as well as coral and benthic species were found in abundance during oceanographic surveys which included diving surveys. The sea grass density ranged from 772.0 to 3,174.2 shoots per square meter,” it noted.
M3 said that given the threats “it will likely be necessary to implement ongoing monitoring for these species and modify Project activities accordingly to avoid habitat disturbance.”
It also recommends that a “comprehensive Biodiversity Action Plan, including a well-designed biodiversity offset program, will be developed and implemented with full consideration of all threatened, endangered, and vulnerable species.”
For its part, FSMRC said that aside from addressing the threats to biodiversity, the Aquino government must “look at the adverse social impact this foreign-owned mining project will impose not only on the five barangays directly within the project area but also on neighboring communities whose water supply will also be affected”.
“Health problems and loss of livelihood are also expected to result from the King-king copper-gold project,” it said.
“The DENR must see to it that these recommendations are being addressed. However, given the government’s track-record in allowing environmental plunderers and destroyers to go on with their business like in the 2012 Philex mine spill, we expect another disaster to happen if this project will push through. Thus, we register our strong opposition to the King-king copper-gold project,” it said.
“These concerns must not be dismissed by the Aquino government as simply anti-mining propaganda. If the Aquino government cannot protect our treasured biodiversity, who will?” it added.
The NI 43-101 is a “codified set of rules and guidelines for reporting and displaying information related to mineral properties owned by, or explored by, companies which report these results on stock exchanges within Canada. This includes foreign-owned mining entities who trade on stock exchanges overseen by the Canadian Securities Administrators, even if they only trade on Over The Counter (OTC) derivatives or other instrumented securities.” (MindaNews)
Mining-free zones under Senate review
by Leander C. Domingo
14 November 2015
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero has called on local government units to “strictly enforce” the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 or NIPAS Act to stop destructive mining activities.
“If they [LGU officials] want to protect their areas from what they deem as naturally destructive activities like mining, they must strictly enforce the NIPAS Act,” Escudero said.
The senator aired the call during his visit to Nueva Vizcaya, which is one of the provinces included in the proposed mining-free zone bill of Deputy House Speaker Carlos Padilla, representative of the lone district of Nueva Vizcaya.
The province is host to two mining ventures, the Didipio Gold-Copper Project in the mountain village of Didipio in Kasibu town and the Runruno Gold-Molybdenum Project in Runruno village in Quezon town.
Escudero said the bill is a subject of discussion in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, which he chairs.
He said similar bills declaring Catanduanes, Cagayan De Oro, Eastern Samar, Nueva Ecija, Biliran, Davao City and the second district of Sorsogon as mining-free zones are also scheduled for review.
“The bills claim that mining operations have damaged forest, agricultural lands, river systems and marine resources,” Escudero said,
“I am waiting for a clear and comprehensive national policy before the Senate can discuss the bills declaring mining-free zones,” Escudero said, adding that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has yet to give its recommendations.
He also expressed apprehensions that there might come a time when every municipality, district and province would want to be declared as mining-free zone.
“If this will be the case, then we might as well need to pass a law – like the total log ban—no mining in the Philippines,” Escudero said.
However, the senator said the NIPAS Act can be used as ground to disallow mining in protected areas.
Escudero said there are mining companies which are strictly complying with the law.
“But it is very sad to say that most of the violators in the industry are those involved in small-scale mining,” Escudero said.
He said there is no need to have many mining activities but if it would be on a large scale, it would mean they have the capital, properly done and will comply with the law.
Meanwhile, the Gross Value Added contribution of the mining sector to the Philippine economy in 2014 was pegged at P84.2 billion. In terms of exports, mining has contributed a total of P21 billion due to national and local taxes, fees and royalties from the mineral industry last year.
At mining forum, shortcomings of gov’t listed
By: Vincent Cabreza Inquirer Northern Luzon
22 November 2015
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—How did the Aquino administration fail the mining industry?
President Benigno Aquino III’s effort to reform mining regulations, his economic priorities and even Malacañang’s supposed inability to detect fraud in the export of raw minerals were outlined by mine leaders and experts in this year’s National Mine Safety and Environment Symposium at Camp John Hay here.
Low world metal prices and the administration’s economic fiscal regime are “the two primary threats” against mining these days, said Jose Leviste, chair of OceanaGold Phils Inc., in a keynote speech at the symposium on Thursday.
Leviste cited a Malacañang-initiated measure to raise government share in mining that is pending in Congress.
The Aquino administration’s “disappointing track record” has compelled mine executives to seek new leaders “who love us” in the 2016 national elections, Leviste said.
“I suggest we flex our political muscles… I follow this principle where I offer my love to those who love me… If a candidate loves us, why shouldn’t we carry his or her candidacy? If the candidate is antimining, then he or she need not seek our votes anymore,” he said.
“Mining exploration and development are not a priority of the current administration. It did not merit [a mention] in the [President’s] State of the Nation Address on July 27, and it was not even included in the investment priorities plan of the Department of Trade and Industry,” said a paper delivered by De La Salle University Economics professor Patrick Caoile.
Caoile urged the government to view mining as a “logical” growth driver of the economy.
“Agriculture is down with the failure of land reform. Rice in the Philippines is three times as expensive to produce [compared to] Vietnam and Thailand. The build-operate-and-transfer law (now known as the public-private partnership program) which is currently the hallmark of this administration’s [economic programs] is mired in arbitration proceedings in Singapore [because the government questioned deals made by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo].”
Former Energy Undersecretary Rufino Bomas-ang, who joined one of the forums, said the administration’s changing of rules in the middle of contracts had turned away investors. Bomas-ang was former president of the Philippine National Oil Company’s Exploration Corp.
Caoile said the major drivers of growth under the Aquino administration have been overseas migrant workers and the business process outsourcing companies.
But he said this was growth reached “without government help.”
“The government, in fact, was the major cause of the lower than expected growth of 5 percent in the first quarter due to the lower than expected government expenditure. If government did its role and spent what it budgeted for then the growth level is easily 6 to 7 percent,” Caoile said.
Hazards amidst Hopes: Child Labor in the Mines of Compostela Valley
1 November 2015
John Mark started working in a small-scale gold mine when he was as young as four years old by giving his father a hand in processing gold with mercury. After ten years, 14 year-old John Mark is now a full-time worker in a small-scale mining site at Compostela Valley Province in Mindanao.
Mining is considered as one of the world’s most hazardous occupations. Miners continuously experience poor ventilation and are helplessly exposed to dust, fumes, and other hazardous chemicals.
According to the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), around 14 percent of the total population of children residing in mining communities work in mines. Children as young as five years old are tasked to carry heavy sacks of rocks, fetch buckets of water, load wood unto trucks— tasks that regular adult miners do.
Especially to children like John Mark, the risks and dangers caused by workers in mines is doubled. Working with mercury for gold panning makes children prone to health risks. Mercury is a dangerous chemical which can cause damages in the central nervous system and in the brain and can even cause death. Being exposed to mercury at such a young age, its long-term effects can and may have already caused damage within their bodies.
Hazards and health risks
Children within the mining community often complain about skin infections, fever, and headaches. Many parents even say that some of their children who go to school have a hard time understanding the lessons in class.
Workers in mining areas also encounter intense noise and vibrations for long periods of time during compressor mining or underwater mining for gold.
Human Rights Watch reported that in compressor mining, 13 year olds dive onto a 10-meter shaft, being able to breathe only through a tube run by diesel. Many children have expressed their fears of drowning and suffocation if the tubes attached to the air compressor suddenly fails to work. They also become susceptible to skin disease and even lung cancer as they are forced to stay underwater, without being able to see anything, for two to three hours.
Because of the lack of first aiders and proper safety equipment, mine workers are more susceptible to harm and injuries. The equipment they use for mining is poorly maintained and they lack safety gear such as helmets and gloves making them more prone to cuts and skin infections.
Forced to use drugs
EILER’s baseline study on child labor in mining communities revealed that due to the demanding long hours of working, many 76% of children working in mines have stopped schooling. To be able to sustain the energy needed for mining, some children resort to illegal use of drugs under the tunnels. As young as 12 years old become drug users making them more vulnerable to long-term sickness and forcing them into a life of a drug addict.
Workers in mines dig gold but their wages are kept at a minimum and children even receive lower salaries than adult workers. On average, children only make around Php 130 – Php 150 a day. In the case of John Mark, he works in the mines as a placer, he merely earns Php 200 for his 16 hours of work. Like other miners, he doesn’t receive any bonuses for his service nor do they have any insurance or health benefits.
The people mining communities, like those in Compostela Valley, remain impoverished even if they live along mountains and mountains of gold. Caraga region in Mindanao remains the poorest region in the Philippines despite growth in the region’s gross domestic product with the presence of mining companies. Accrording to DSWD’s survey, half of the region’s population, 1.2 million of 2.4 million are living below the poverty threshold.
As long as miners and their families remain impoverished due to low wages and absence of more sustainable livelihoods, families are continuously pushed to let their children work to lessen the burden of everyday expenses.
Hopes and futures
Despite the sense of pride and purpose working children feel for being able to earn money, EILER notes that many feel despondent into finding a better future for themselves. This is because if children are unable to finish school, it is most likely they will follow after the lives of their parents, which depends highly and solely in the mines.
Thus, John Mark, who finished 3rd grade before he became a full-time miner, perseveres and works hard in order to help his youngest sister with her schooling. He hopes that she will find a better path different from his and his parents’.
Bata Balik Eskwela (BBE), an alternative schooling program, launched by EILER in partnership with CTUHR, Institute for Occupational Health Safety and Development (IOHSAD) and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Northern Mindanao (RMP-NMR). The program aims to bring child laborers back to school. Through the BBE program, children may see a life outside the mines where learning can take them. BBE is supported by the European Union.
In mining areas in Compostela Valley and plantation site in Davao del Norte, Bukidnon and Agusan del Sur, communities remain hopeful to end child labor. Recently, they participated in a series of seminars about child labor monitoring held by CTUHR through the Bata Balik Eskwela program. Indeed, amid hardship and poverty communities engages in collective efforts to fully understand and fight against the root causes of child labor and prevent more cases in the future.
How Minamata Can Save Filipino Children
2 November 2015
Michelle is a pretty 15-year-old with a serious demeanor. When I met her in the mining village of Malaya in the Philippines, she told me that she had been working in small-scale gold mining since she was 8. She stands in the river to pan ore for gold. On the shore, she mixes mercury into the ore and creates a mercury-gold amalgam. Finally, she burns the amalgam with a torch, causing the mercury to turn into vapor and leave behind raw gold.
But she is putting herself in grave danger. Mercury is a highly toxic metal that attacks the central nervous system and can cause brain damage -- even death. It is particularly harmful to children, whose systems are still developing. One of the worst mercury poisoning disasters occurred in Japan in the 1950s, when a Minamata chemicals factory polluted the bay with mercury. Over 1,700 people died. Many more suffered from disease, and are still suffering now.
Tackling mercury use is not easy, and countries like the Philippines need assistance from wealthier countries such as Japan, which knows only too well the long-lasting damage mercury can cause.
When I asked Michelle if she knew that mercury was poisonous, she shook her head. She was silent for a while. Then she told me that she sometimes had spasms in her hands, her legs, or her whole body. Some of her friends do too. The shaking could be from working in the cold water. But it also could be mercury poisoning, whose symptoms include spasms and tremors. No one had ever checked why Michelle and her friends were having these spasms. The local health centers lack training and equipment to diagnose mercury exposure.
In Malaya, Camarines Norte province, and in many other small-scale gold mining areas of the Philippines, children are directly exposed to mercury. They work with it, breathe its fumes, and eat fish polluted by it. Miners put large amounts of mercury straight into the mills that grind the ore, a process called “whole ore amalgamation.”
Looking at this process, I could see the reality of how this affects communities and their children with my own eyes: A light-grey liquid was flowing from the large metal drums that are called ball mills. Mercury gave it its color. From the drums, the mercury-laced water flowed into basins and onto the ground and followed a path straight to the nearby river where children played, swam, and worked. I have observed mercury use in small-scale mines in many parts of the world, but I have never seen such visible water pollution.
Governments around the world came together in Minamata two years ago, in October 2013, and adopted a new international treaty to tackle the threat of mercury to human health and the environment, the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The convention requires governments to end whole-ore amalgamation and other particularly harmful uses of mercury; to introduce mercury-free gold processing techniques; and to provide special protections for children.
It also calls for testing and for treatment of mercury-related health conditions. While the Philippines has taken some steps in the right direction—notably under the leadership of an organization called Ban Toxics—much more needs to be done. And much more can be done: The Philippines is one of the few places where mercury-free gold processing techniques are already practiced in one province, Benguet. Their experience of processing gold by direct smelting should be expanded to other parts of the country.
Marked by the lessons from the Minamata disaster, Japan has played a leading role in the adoption of the mercury treaty. Having already provided some technical support for mercury testing to the Philippines through the National Institute for Minamata Disease, Japan is well placed to provide support to programs to test, treat, and end mercury exposure—with particular attention to children. And to make clear its commitment to the fight against mercury pollution, Japan should ratify the Convention by the end of 2015, as it has promised.
Child labor in mining robs children of their health, their education, and their future. Michelle and her friends deserve to be protected from work with mercury—truly one of the worst forms of child labor. Japan can help make this happen.