MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Murderous mining

Published by MAC on 2016-02-06
Source: Statements, Davao Today, Bulatlat, Nordis, PDI (2016-02-02)

The appalling human rights situation in the Philippines continues to shock any right-minded observer. The latest atrocity is the murder of a female anti-mining activist in the Compostela Valley, who was opposing St. Augustine Gold's Kingking project. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the Government has given approval for the project to proceed.

This was closely followed by the killing of a French environmentalist in Palawan. There was at least a positive development when the Supreme Court agreed to the prosecution of the former Palawan Governor for the 2011 murder of the activist journalist Dr. Gerry Ortega.

The Catholic Church has spoken out against the increased killings and abuses targeting environmental and indigenous activists.

Indigenous communities in the Cordillera continue to battle Lepanto Consolidated Mining (LCMC), struggling against mine expansion, calling for the closure of its Mankayan mine and to hold the company accountable for pollution in the Abra river, downstream of the mine.

In Zambales, concerned citizens have been blockading to stop nickel trucks from the DMCI mine after - what they say is mine-related - flooding.

President Aquino has been criticised for praising the controversial SR Metal Inc. (SRMI) during the presidential mineral industry environmental awards ceremony. During the ceremony he committed to continue working with the mining industry to ensure so-called "sustainable and responsible mining operations".

Yet he has little time left to even attempt this, as attention is focussed on the forthcoming Presidential election. Thoughts are turning towards his successor, and how much mining money and influence will affect the forthcoming election, and whether the human rights situation go from terrible to worse.

Woman anti-mining activist in Compostela Valley dies

Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano

Davao Today

29 January 2016

DAVAO CITY (Updated 1-30-16 4:00pm) – Three days after she was shot by a still unidentified assailant, a 60-year old activist in Compostela Valley died early morning Saturday bringing the number of victims of extrajudicial killings in the region to four in just a month.

Human rights group Karapatan in Southern Mindanao reported on Friday that Teresita Navacilla, a resident of Barangay Kingking, Pantukan town in Compostela Valley was shot by a gunman at around 8:30 pm on January 27.

On Saturday, Karapatan said in a text message that Navacilla has died.

Navacilla was reportedly tending her store when she was attacked. Karapatan said the two bullets “grazed Navacilla, but flew past the back of her head and her nape.”

Hanimay Suazo, secretary general of Karapatan said the attack was an attempt to silence Navacilla for her opposition against the entry of Nationwide Development Corporation (Nadecor) and St. Augustine Gold and Copper Limited.

“She is the 54th victim of extrajudicial killings in Southern Mindanao since 2010 and the fourth victim here in just one month,” said Suazo.

Navacilla was a small scale miner and the purok chairman of Gumayan in Barangay Kingking, Pantukan.

Suazo said Navacilla was one of the convenors of Save Pantukan Movement, a network opposed to large-scale mining.

Suazo claimed that the attackers “could have come from the 46th IB, who have been on a rampage in Pantukan lately, arresting innocent civilians and portraying them as members of the New People’s Army, and assaulting human rights of progressive leaders in the area as well.”

“They are targeting small scale miners, farmers and lumads of Mansaka tribe who are opposing the entry and full operation of Nadecor and St. Augustine Mining Companies,” she said.

The attack against Navacilla came after a series of incidents also involving leaders of anti-mining organizations in the province.

Last year, Isabello Tindasan, chairperson of Compostela Farmer’s Association, survived two shooting attempts against him in Compostela, Compostela Valley.

Tindasan and his organization are also opposing the entry of the Agusan Petroleum Mining Company in the area. The company is a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation, which is owned by President Benigno Aquino III’s uncle and businessman Eduardo Cojuangco.

On January 11, the CFA filed their complaints against harassment by alleged Army members before the  Commission on Human Rights Region XI.

Early this year, Renante Mantos, leader of Hugpong sa Mag-uuma sa Walog Compostela (Farmers solidarity in Walog, Compostela or HUMAWAC) was filed with “trumped-up charges” of serious illegal detention of his own neighbors.

The Human Rights Watch has recently released its report stating the Aquino administration’s slow response to the spate of killings of journalists, activists, indigenous leaders, among others.

“Since his election, President Aquino held out the promise of a rights-respecting Philippines for which he has sadly been unable to deliver. While the number of serious violations has declined during Aquino’s administration, ongoing killings of prominent activists and the lack of successful prosecutions mean there’s nothing to prevent an upsurge of abuses in the future,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director.

According to its website, Nadecor is the sole claim owner of the 1,656-hectare mineral rights of Kingking property covering four villages in Pantukan including Barangays Kingking, Magnaga, Tagdangua and Araibo.

Nadecor was incorporated on September 6, 1956 and is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Nadecor is “primarily engaged in the discovery, exploration and development of copper and gold mineral resources.” However, in March last year Nadecor has clarified that it is not a partner with the St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd for the King-king Gold and Copper Project.

The Nadecor’s Board of Directors rescinded its Memorandum of Understanding dated April 27, 2010 with SAGCL, St. Augustine Mining Ltd. And St. Augustine Services Corporation on March 26, 2012. (davaotoday.com)


Compostela Valley woman leader dies from gunshot wounds

Teresita Navacilla, leader of an anti-large-scale mining group, is the fifth activist killed this month.

By Janess Ann J. Ellao

Bulatlat

30 January 2016

MANILA – A leader of a small-scale miner group in Compostela Valley who was shot and wounded three days ago has died in a hospital in Tagum City at around 3:00 a.m. today, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region said.

Teresita Navacilla, 60, was rushed to the hospital when she was shot and critically wounded in Kingking village, Pantukan town at around 8:00 p.m. last Jan. 27. Perpetrators are believed to be soldiers belonging to the 46th Infantry Battalion, assigned to secure the Kingking Copper and Gold project.

Navacilla’s group Small-Scale Miners Organization is among those opposing the large-scale open pit mining. Environmental groups such as the Francis S. Morales Research Center (FSMRC), have already warned of the adverse effect of the mining project to the people’s livelihood and health and its threat to the biodiversity, and marine and coastal ecosystem.

Navacilla is the fifth activist killed this month.

In a separate incident, another progressive leader in Kingking village, Alex Josol, 46, was beaten up last Jan. 28 by suspected soldiers. He is still in critical condition in a hospital. (http://bulatlat.com)


Green activist killings worry Philippine church leaders

Bishops urge govt action after spate of killings in January

Mark Saludes in Manila and Jefry Tupas in Davao City, Philippines

http://www.ucanews.com/news/green-activist-killings-worry-philippine-church-leaders/75120

2 February 2016

Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines have condemned a spate of killings targeting environmental activists in recent weeks, saying the government is not doing anything to prevent them or bring the killers to justice.

"We must stop this impunity," said Father Edwin Gariquez, executive secretary of the social action, justice and peace secretariat of the bishops' conference.

"We strongly condemn these acts and we really want the government to resolve this as soon as possible," Father Gariquez told ucanews.com.

He was speaking on Feb. 2 following the death of an anti-mining activist, who was shot in the town of Pantukan in Mindanao's Compostela Valley province last week.

Teresita Navacilla, 60, convener of the Save Pantukan Movement, a group of artisanal miners opposing large-scale mining corporations in Mindanao, died Jan. 30, three days after the shooting.

"We do not know who really is to blame," said Navacilla's daughter who asked not to be named for security reasons.

"We are scared because the killers might target us next," she told ucanews.com.

Navacilla was the fourth person killed in southern Mindanao in January.

In Palawan province in the central Philippines, Jean Marc Messina, a French national known for environmental activism, was found shot dead with his wife and son on Jan. 28.

The environmental group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment said if Messina's death was related to his advocacy, he would be the fifth environmental activist murdered in Palawan since 2005.

Human rights group Karapatan said Navacilla's murder was linked to her opposition to large-scale mining companies in the province.

"The attack on Navacilla could happen to other organizations and individuals strongly against environmental plunder and destruction," Hanimay Suazo, Karapatan's secretary-general in the region said.

During the International Eucharistic Congress last week, Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu told ucanews.com that to fight the killings of activists, "people of goodwill," including nongovernmental organizations should unite to address the issue of injustice.

"I hope that somehow, we would have a listening ear. I think more sincere coordinated efforts should be made," the prelate said.

A 2015 report by London-based Global Witness said almost a third of 25 environmental activist killings related to mining projects in 2014 happened in the Philippines.

"This continues a pattern of Philippines defenders being targeted for their opposition to the country's mining industry — a sector that operates with very little transparency and regularly fails to consult local communities," the report said.


#Eleksyon2016: The Lumad and mining interests

by Katrina Stuart Santiago

Manila Times

27 January 2016

IF there is an issue that should be part of the decision to vote for anyone at all this coming elections, it is the Lumad killings, and the injustice that those who survive continue to live with. Thousands of Lumad are in evacuation centers, living on lugaw if there is food at all, away from the productivity of caring for their land, away from the schools that nurture their children, away from their homes.

The bigger picture we are looking at is that of mining, and how the next president must choose a side: the Lumad and their ancestral lands or the transnational mining firms and the business they bring in.

There is no in-betweens here. One cannot stand for one and not stand against the other.

Binay, mining and policy

In September, soon after news broke that Lumad leaders were killed in Lianga town, Surigao del Sur on September 1, Vice President Jejomar Binay condemned the killing of Lumad leaders, expressing “concern over the mass displacement of Lumad in the CARAGA region because of alleged atrocities being committed by militiamen.” (The Standard 10 Sept 2015) The VP also said: “The undisputed fact is that three persons have been killed, atrocities were committed and communities forced out of their homes. This alone cries out for immediate government action.” (The Standard, 10 Sept 2015)

It is not clear though how this strong conviction to protect and seek justice for the Lumad might happen vis a vis his strong conviction in favor of mining operations in the country: “The mining industry could be the biggest contributor to the Philippine economy and could be the key driver towards industrialization and jobs creation and the development of the countryside,” he has said. (The Standard, 16 Sept 2015)

Taking from the Chamber of Mines, the VP says “mining and biodiversity conservation can co-exist,” but also that it has been subjected to “catch and go policies” under the current administration. (The Standard, 16 Sept 2015) What VP Binay is talking about is the kind of taxes imposed on mining companies and the goal of milking profits out of this foreign investment.

But given the kind of environmental degradation they effect, given the biodiversity and natural resources that these inevitably endanger, should taxes really be our main concern? One also wonders how the VP would reconcile his stand in favor of mining given indigenous people’s lands, and the rights of the Lumad and our IPs.

Poe, mining and profit-sharing

Senator Grace Poe meanwhile seems to believe that what must go hand-in-hand with her stand in favor of mining, is the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI), as this would require government to “mandatorily disclose all mining contracts to the general public.” (The Standard, 16 Sept 2014) The Senator’s concern with mining is primarily about how profitable these mining interests in the country are, and the kind of sharing that happens across all pertinent sectors. “Our government needs the transparency report to help it compute the right formula for what constitutes as fair and equitable share for everyone involved.” (The Standard, 16 Sept 2014)

One wonders if the Senator realizes that as far as the Lumad and their ancestral lands are concerned, a discussion of shares is not even on the table. For the Lumad, the entry of mining companies is already unacceptable, the discussion about prices and profits absolutely irrelevant: they are not to mine these lands the way transnational mining wants to do it. To speak of profit sharing as the major problem with mining is to fail at taking the Lumad’s concerns into consideration.

And yet Senator Poe sought to have an inquiry about the “increasing gravity of alleged harassment, killings, forced evacuations and dispossession of ancestral lands in communities and tribal schools of Lumad areas, perpetuated by military.” (Interaksyon, 8 Sept 2015) She aimed to “immediately put an end to the incidents, mete out the appropriate sanctions to those liable, and formulate legislative measures to further protect and improve the welfare and well-being of various indigenous peoples and tribes in the Philippines” (Interaksyon, 8 Sept 2015).

But at the heart of the dispossession of ancestral lands are the mining interests in this region. To the Lumad I have spoken to, the only reason military units are even in their communities is the presence of these mining interests; the reason there are paramilitary forces is the lure of these mining interests; the reason fear is being sowed in their communities enough for them to choose evacuation centers despite horrid—living conditions, is the same these mining interests.

Roxas, Nickel Asia, Taganito Mining, SR Mining

Ex-DILG and DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas might be the only presidential candidate who has come face-to-face – at least to the public’s knowledge – with the Lumad. In early September, he was in Tandag City Surigao del Sur and walked into a tent where displaced Lumad were temporarily staying. Roxas dared ask them: “Ilang araw na kayo dito? Bakit hindi pa kayo bumabalik sa Lianga?”

A Lumad man responded in his language (translated here via Bulatlat.com and Kodao): “Because there are still soldiers there, Sir.” To which Roxas replied: “So … hindi ba sila nagbigay proteksyon sa inyo?”

A Lumad woman responded: “What protection? They are the ones killing our families there.” Roxas replies: “Sundalo?” To which the same woman says: “Who else? Bagani and the soldiers.” (Bulatlat.com / Kodao, 10 Sept 2015)

If this piece of information truly surprised Roxas, then he does not deserve the presidency. Because he is also probably the only presidential candidate who has had his hands dipped in mining as a member of this administration. In September 2013, Roxas spoke about the opening of Nickel Asia in Surigao del Norte: “This facility, the second of its kind in the country, is considered single largest foreign direct investment in the mining industry today, amounting to P65.8 billion. It will also strengthen the Philippines’ foothold as a vital source of transition metals in the international market.” (Rappler.com, 5 Sept 2013)

Along with its subsidiary firm Taganito Mining, there is documented evidence of the environmental problems that Nickel Asia has wrought in the areas where it has mines, and even as Roxas spoke about the opening of Nickel Asia in Surigao, the Church, our indigenous people’s groups, and concerned sectors had already stood up against mining and its adverse effects, not just on the environment, but also on the societies and communities that they intervene in. (Environmental Justice Atlas, accessed 27 Jan, (Mindanews, 4 Aug 2010, 8 Feb 2009)

There is a plunder case against SR Metals Inc., also in Surigao, owned by Miguel Alberto Gutierrez and Eric Gutierrez, “said to be close political supporters” of the President and Roxas. (Inquirer.net, 3 Mar 2015)

Roxas has defended the presence of the military in Lumad communities: “The government has to enter these areas by providing services, justice, fairness. <…> Indigenous peoples are in peril because they live in places that are rich in minerals and trees, timber. The reason why they are in peril is because the Left, as well as others who wish to exploit those minerals and natural resources are probably using or trying to use them. <…> As I said, what the Left fears are not the soldiers. Rather, what they fear are roads. As soon as you have government presence in those areas, indigenous peoples will no longer be taken advantage of, or used as pawns.” (Interaksyon, 10 Nov 2015)

The anti-Left rhetoric notwithstanding, what might be worse than the failure of Binay and Poe to make the connection between the Lumad killings and mining interests, is the decision of someone like Roxas to ignore what the Lumad themselves have told him: that it is the soldiers that have pushed them to leave their homes.

The worst decision just might be having another President who does not know how to listen.


French environmentalist found dead in Palawan

Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano 

Davao Today

30 January 2016

DAVAO CITY – The French national, Jean Marc Messina who was killed along with his wife and son in Narra, Palawan is a known environmental advocate who was doing voluntary work in the island.

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) said if Messina was killed because of his work, he would be the fifth environmentalist killed in Palawan since 2005.

Messina, his wife Jewelyn Venturillo, and their four year-old son Guiliano Steffal Venturillo were recently found dead with gunshot wounds inside an abandoned pickup in Narra, Palawan.

“Until now, the police have no lead why the victims have been murdered and no suspect have been identified,” said Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan PNE.

“Jean Marc is a known environmental advocate doing voluntary work in Palawan. He was very active in reef conservation in the municipality of Taytay,” he added.

The other victims of extrajudicial killings in the island were indigenous people’s leader Abelino Sungit (February 2005), anti-mining activists Rev. Raul Domingo (August 2005) and Rabenio Sungit (September 2011), and broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega (January 2011).

Messina was the third foreign environmental advocate living in the Philippines killed under the Aquino administration. Before him was Italian priest Fr. Faustino ‘Pops’ Tenorio (October 2011) and Dutch lay-worker Willem Geerthman (July 2012).

“The death of Jean Marc, and the continuing pattern of killings before it, validates the 2014 study by international NGO Global Witness, noting the Philippines as the second most dangerous place in the world for environmental advocates,” said Bautista.

He said people and organizations opposing ecologically destructive projects such as large-scale mining, palm-oil plantations, coal power plants, illegal logging, and other forms of ‘development aggression’ in Palawan are being harassed and threatened with harm.

Kalikasan’s data showed that there are now 94 environmental advocates killed since 2001, including Jean Marc and his family.

Bautista said aside from one case with a watered-down decision, all of these killings have not been resolved by the Aquino government.

With most of the identified suspects and perpetrators of these killings remain scot-free, Bautista reiterated the observation of many local and international human rights group in the country that justice is elusive in the Philippines.

“We hope the case of Jean Marc and his family will be the long sought-after break from the harrowing trend. We demand police authorities to step up efforts in identifying, and immediately arresting and prosecuting the perpetrators,” said Bautista. (davaotoday.com)


Appeal continues for Lepanto closure

By Abigail Anongos, CPA

Nordis

24 January 2016

MANKAYAN, Benguet –— The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Save Mankayan Movement (SMM) support the call of the people of Suyoc, Mankayan, Benguet calling for the closure of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMC).

In a petition, the indigenous peoples of Suyoc claim that underground activities of LCMC resulted to damage to residential and agricultural areas in Sitio Pacda and Mayangyang. The petition clearly pointed out also that LCMC continues to operate the Pacda tunnel despite the expiration of its license to mine the area under a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement which expired on March 15, 2011.

This is not the first time that a Mankayan community, including those downstream such as Cervantes and Quirino, Ilocos Sur called for the closure of LCMC and a stop to its Far Southeast Gold Resources Project. In August 2015, the SMM and Mankayan Indigenous Peoples filed their opposition at the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples and in the House of Representatives against the said project. From 2012 to the present, the people of Madaymen, Tabio, Mankayan continue to barricade the entry of Far Southeast Gold Resources. This similar action was also set up in Tabbac, Bulalacao, Mankayan to deny the entry of the same project.

The bases for the call to close and to stop its expansion by the people of Mankayan and its nearby municipalities of Cervantes and Quirino are compelling reasons. Upon its operations in 1936, the company dumped mine tailings and waste straight into the Abra River. It was only in the 1960’s that the first tailings dam was built. The dam was abandoned after less than 10 years and the land became unsuitable for agriculture. Tailings dam 2 was constructed in the 1970s. Its collapse caused the contamination of nearby ricefields. Tailings Dam 3 and a diversion tunnel gave way in 1986 during a strong typhoon. Another spillway collapsed after a typhoon in 1993. The spilled tailings encroached on riverbanks and destroyed ricefields downstream. They also caused the riverbed to rise and the polluted water to backflow into other tributaries of the Abra River.

In addition, an Environmental Investigative Mission (EIM) was conducted in September 2002 by the Save the Abra River Movement (STARM) and indicated that heavy metal content (lead, cadmium and copper) was elevated in the soil and waters downstream from the Lepanto mine. The downstream impact of tailings disposal is that along a 25-kilometer stretch of the Abra River, some 465 hectares of riceland have been washed out. And in July 1999, Pablo Gomez, a villager in Mankayan, Benguet was killed when he was suddenly swept away in a landslide along with the Colalo Primary School building. In 2009 and 2013, Poblacion, Mankayan experienced sinking and ground subsidence.

The people have spoken. Listen to the people of Mankayan. The decades of destruction to their lands and pollution of the Abra River by Lepanto is enough. # nordis.net


Listen to the people of Mankayan: close the Lepanto mines and stop its expansion

Sulong Katribu Kordillera

21 January 2016

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Save Mankayan Movement (SMM) support the call of the people of Suyoc, Mankayan, Benguet calling for the closure of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMC).
In a petition, the indigenous peoples of Suyoc claim that underground activities of LCMC resulted to damage to residential and agricultural areas in Sitio Pacda and Mayangyang. The petition clearly pointed out also that LCMC continues to operate the Pacda tunnel despite the expiration of its license to mine the area under a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement which expired on March 15, 2011.

This is not the first time that a Mankayan community, including those downstream such as Cervantes and Quirino, Ilocos Sur called for the closure of LCMC and a stop to its Far Southeast Gold Resources Project. In August 2015, the SMM and Mankayan Indigenous Peoples filed their opposition at the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples and in the House of Representatives against the said project. From 2012 to the present, the people of Madaymen, Tabio, Mankayan continue to barricade the entry of Far Southeast Gold Resources. This similar action was also set up in Tabbac, Bulalacao, Mankayan to deny the entry of the same project.

The bases for the call to close and to stop its expansion by the people of Mankayan and its nearby municipalities of Cervantes and Quirino are compelling reasons. Upon its operations in 1936, the company dumped mine tailings and waste straight into the Abra River. It was only in the 1960’s that the first tailings dam was built. The dam was abandoned after less than 10 years and the land became unsuitable for agriculture. Tailings dam 2 was constructed in the 1970s. Its collapse caused the contamination of nearby ricefields. Tailings Dam 3 and a diversion tunnel gave way in 1986 during a strong typhoon. Another spillway collapsed after a typhoon in 1993. The spilled tailings encroached on riverbanks and destroyed ricefields downstream. They also caused the riverbed to rise and the polluted water to backflow into other tributaries of the Abra River. [1]

In addition, an Environmental Investigative Mission (EIM) was conducted in September 2002 by the Save the Abra River Movement (STARM) and indicated that heavy metal content (lead, cadmium and copper) was elevated in the soil and waters downstream from the Lepanto mine. The downstream impact of tailings disposal is that along a 25-kilometer stretch of the Abra River, some 465 hectares of riceland have been washed out.[2] And in July 1999, Pablo Gomez, a villager in Mankayan, Benguet was killed when he was suddenly swept away in a landslide along with the Colalo Primary School building. In 2009 and 2013, Poblacion, Mankayan experienced sinking and ground subsidence.

The people have spoken. Listen to the people of Mankayan. The decades of destruction to their lands and pollution of the Abra River by Lepanto is enough. ***

For reference:
Abigail Anongos
Secretary General

[1] Save the Abra River Movement (STARM). What is Happening to the Abra River? A Primer on the Effects of Corporate Mining on the Abra River System. September 2003.

[2] APIT TAKO.


More villages call to stop Lepanto mines

By Adela Maybelle Wayas / TFIP

Nordis

31 January 2016

QUEZON CITY – “We are concerned about everybody’s safety in our community. We feel the tremors caused by the underground dynamite blasting of the company. We fear for a catastrophe to happen. We fear that our community will sink like what happened in Colalo a decade ago,” Manasseh Gillies said, a Kankana-ey and resident of Barangay Suyoc in Mankayan, Benguet.

Holding their petition, Gillies along with two other residents from Suyoc came down to Manila hoping that concerned national government offices would heed their call to stop the mining operations of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) in Mankayan. Along with them are support groups Katribu Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) and the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP).

The twin decline tunnel of LCMCo is located at Nayak area which is a part of Barangay Suyoc. The trajectory of this tunnel traverses the residential, agricultural, sacred burial grounds, school building, barangay roads, forest and water reservoir of Sitios Pacda and Mayangyang.

In the signed petition, it says that most of the residents in these sitios have felt tremors and surface vibrations which they believed have caused the cracks in their houses and an observed sinking of some parts of their surroundings. According to the petitioners, LCMCo’s dynamite blasting they hear in daytime and even at night are the reasons for such incidents. “The mine blasts are very strong and loud,” they said.

LCMCo, on the other hand, denied the allegations. In their letter, they said that the houses in the areas are of sub-standard building but they are ready “to give assistance in terms of materials for the repair of those residences with much damage.”

“They said we have to prove that their operations have really caused the damages. How do we prove? We cannot afford experts and we cannot trust their surveyors,” said Gillies. According to him, the company is just diverting the issue to the structure of the houses to cover up its desperate mining operations. He added they have not experienced such disturbances before the opening of the twin decline tunnel. The company keeps on insisting that the damage and tremors are caused by fault lines, contributory effect of the 1990 killer earth quake and house structural defects. Gillies said that if it is the faults lines, the more the company should stop operations as it could affect or trigger a disaster. Aside from these, the residents also observed the depletion of water from their ubbog or springs. Residents have been protecting their ubbog since it is where they get their drinking water and for other domestic and agricultural purposes.

The petitioners also question the continuous operation of LCMCo despite the expiration of its MPSA 001 last March 18, 2015 and the status quo of its renewal of mining claims. “They haven’t conducted an FPIC process for their renewal so it should not be renewed or converted to FTAA,” said Gillies. More communities like Tabio, Bulalacao and, now, Suyoc are opposing the renewal of LCMCo’s mining claim because of the company’s grave violations against the people and the destruction it brought to Mankayan. Gillies said, they are also not in favor of such renewal especially that lives are at risk.

Tyrone Beyer, Policy Advocacy Officer of TFIP, explained that before a company operates in an ancestral territory of indigenous peoples, it should also acquire consent from the affected communities through an FPIC process. “Most of the time, IPs are being deceived and disregarded in the FPIC process, some of them are harassed or killed. And even with strong opposition to destructive and mining projects entering IP territories, mining companies like Lepanto are still granted certificates from the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Mines and Geo Sciences Bureau (MGB) and even local government units to operate in ancestral territories,” said Beyer. These, he said, result to forced displacements and evacuations, erosion of culture and food insecurity which could also happen to the indigenous Kankana-ey in Mankayan if the operations of Lepanto continue.

Beyer stressed, if an FPIC is to be conducted, LCMCo should respect the decision of the IPs in Suyoc, Manyangyang and other communities where it should get an FPIC.

Meanwhile, Kakay Tolentino of Katribu said LCMCo should be responsible to the destruction of environment in Mankayan. She said the company has already created a history of disaster in different communities not only in Mankayan but also in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur.

“People have already protesting and calling for the company’s closure but the government is deaf and blind. President Benigno Aquino III even issued Executive Order 79 that plays to reaffirm the anti-people and pro imperialist policies under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 that favors mining companies,” said Tolentino. She explained that these policies fail to recognize the clamor of different sectors to nationalize the country’s mineral industry. “Lepanto is only one of the mining companies who are enjoying these policies. While we call for the operations of Lepanto to be stopped, we also call these policies to be scrapped,” she said. It is high time she said that lawmakers should enact a pro-people and pro-environment mining policy in the Philippines.

Gillies and his companions submitted their signed petitions to the central offices of the NCIP, Commission on Human Rights and DENR. They said that they will continue to pressure LCMCo and lobby to concerned agencies at the local and national level until their calls are acted upon by LCMCo and the government. # nordis.net


Ilocos provincial government urged to hold Lepanto accountable for river’s ruin

By Kyle Edward Francisco

Nordis

31 January 2016

VIGAN, Ilocos Sur – Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) asked the Provincial Government of Ilocos Sur (PGIS) to hold Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC) accountable for the continuing destruction of the Abra River.

In a letter dated January 11, the group called the attention of the provincial leadership regarding the forthcoming expansion of LCMC’s operation with the entry of South African mining giant, Goldfields.

Defend Ilocos underscored LCMC’s record of dam failures, noting that “Tailings Dam 5A is a potential source of disaster for the entire river system.” The group pointed the increased risk poised by the additional mine waste that will be generated once Goldfields commence its operation.

The letter urged PGIS to support the move to “exact accountability from Lepanto for its historical role in the destruction of the Abra River” and outlined demands for compensation of the communities and funds for rehabilitation and protective measures to “ease bank erosion and protect farmlands” during strong typhoons that causes the river to overflow.

Tailings dam failures

“Tailings dam failure have caused massive destruction of river systems in the country and across the globe, its damage are large-scale and irreversible,” explains Sherwin De Vera, Regional Coordinator for the network.

He said that the most recent dam failure that happened in Brazil ruined the Doce River system and left 12 people dead, and more than 500 homeless. He also cited local experiences on the devastation brought by tailings dam failures. De Vera mentioned the Philex Tailings Dam 3 spill in August 2012 in Benguet that left the Balog River biologically dead and the Marcopper mining tragedy in Marinduque that killed the Boac River.

PGIS respond

A letter of response signed by Governor Ryan Singson dated January 18 stated that the PGIS will demand that “entry of South African mining company Goldfields be held in abeyance until appropriate monitoring measures involving key stakeholders are in place.” The provincial leadership also expressed its intent to issue a letter of warning to LCMC-Goldfields on “the heightened threats and dangers imposed to the province” thru the Regional Development Center of Region 1 and the Cordillera Administrative Region.

The provincial government took note of the proposal to hold the company responsible and proposed that developmental projects to protect farmlands and prevent erosion will be discussed with Lepanto representatives.

“We appreciate the prompt response and glad that Governor Singson has taken this matter seriously. Besides demanding funds for rehabilitation and mitigating measures, we insist that PGIS should also reaffirm previous resolutions passed by the provincial board demanding the stop of the company’s operation,” says De Vera. # nordis.net


Zambales residents stop trucks loaded with nickel from going to port

GMA Network

20 January 2016

Residents of Sta. Cruz town in Zambales in Central Luzon on Tuesday barricaded a national highway to prevent mining company's haulers from bringing nickel ores to port.

No truck haulers were able to get through the human barricade on the highway, Benito Molino, MD, chairperson of the  Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS) told GMA News Online, and that officials of the Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation-D.M.Consunji Inc (ZDMC-DMCI) agreed to have a dialogue Wednesday afternoon.

The CCOS blamed mining operations in the province for  the thick reddish-brown mud-flood that covered streets in some barangays of Sta. Cruz in the wake of Typhoon Lando in October last year.

Affected residents claimed the mud-flood came from destroyed or failing ponds of the four leading mining companies in the town. Torrential rains from Lando caused flooding as it barreled through the Luzon landmass.

Moreover, they believe the mud-flood came from the settling ponds of the Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., the Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc., the Eramen Minerals Inc., and the LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc.

Molino told GMA News Online that a mining operations ban was temporarily lifted in late 2015. Last week, the ZDMC-DMCI resumed its operations, forcing the residents to barricade the highway.

"Ang pinag-uusapan dito ay karapatan sa buhay. Sinisira ng mining firms  ang kabuhayan ng mga tao. May naitala kaming mga fish kill, pagkasira ng mga pananim dahil sa mapulang putik mula sa mga minahan. Dalawa na ang naiulat na namatay dahil sa letospirosis mula sa tubig-baha na naiipon sa mga apektadong barangay," he said.

In an interview on Oct. 19, 2015,  Zambales Governor Hermogenes Ebdane denied claims that mining ponds were the source of the flood and instead blamed the releases of excess water from huge dams in northern Luzon.

On October 20, Molino called on the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Jasareno to order an investigation into the samples from the flood and the possible impacts of the mud to the health of the people in affected barangays.

On Oct 22, a team from the Environment Management Bureau-Region 3 went to Sta Cruz to investigate.

"But the MGB yielded the same conclusion that Governor Ebdane had: 'The reddish-brown mud-flood last year was not from the mining ponds'," Molino said.

Meanwhile, Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, said:  “This is not the first time that we see mining's worsening impacts ... causing further damage to communities and their sources off livelihood."

He cited the Marcopper disasters in 1993 and 1996 in Marinduque, and the Philex mine spill in 2012." — LBG, GMA News


Zambales’ nickel haul blockade enters 3rd day

Patrick Roxas

Manila Times

21 January 2016

SANTA CRUZ, Zambales: Residents continue to defy efforts by authorities to break their barricade long the national highway here stopping hauling trucks of a mining firm from transporting nickel.

According to Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz (CCOS) Chairman Dr. Benito Molino, residents of Barangay Bayto and people from other barangays are on their third day blockade preventing haulers of Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation/ DM Consunji Inc. (ZDMC/DMCI) from leaving the quarry site.

CCOS is a non-governmental organization group opposed to mining operations in the province.

Molino said policemen were deployed in the area since Tuesday to maintain order about 200 residents refused to disperse.

A dialogue between the residents and the mining firm with the local officials scheduled on Wednesday night did not push through after the manager of ZDMC/DMCI failed to attend.

He added that former town mayor, Luisito Marty, also attempted to broker a meeting but was ignored by the protesters led by Barangay Bayto councilmen Raul Ecleo and Louie Mirador.

A member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) told The Manila Times that “legally, the residents cannot do it (barricade) and it is a security concern,” and also blamed the slow action of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the situation.

Lawyer Renato Collado, SP chairman of the committee on legal matters, said the Sangguniang members have issued a resolution for a moratorium on mining activities in Santa Cruz, which the DENR allegedly failed to implement.

“We have made our opinion on mining in Santa Cruz and that is to issue a moratorium on the mining activities there but apparently there was no action yet so you cannot blame the residents of Bayto for their recent actions,” Collado said.

Barangay Bayto is one of the barangays heavily affected by reddish mud floods that surged through the province as aftermath of Typhoon Lando in October last year. The residents blamed the operations of mining firms to have caused the gush of mud in most villages in Santa Cruz as well as the towns of Candelaria and Infanta in Pangasinan.

Last November, Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr. called for a stop of mining operations in Santa Cruz, saying “there is a need to draw an action plan that would prevent environmental problems spawned by mining activities.”

Ebdane, during a joint public hearing conducted last year, said that long term solutions, not just palliative measures, would be necessary to resolve problems like muddy floodwaters that inundated several barangays in Sta. Cruz at the height of Lando.


‘Pastor’ arrested over open pit mine in Agusan Sur, ‘had no permit to extract gold’

Probers checking reports that Chinese group financed illegal gold mining

By Chris Panganiban

Inquirer Mindanao

26 January 2016

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur – The provincial government moved to stop an open pit mining operation in a remote area of Sibagat town after officials found out that the gold mining has destroyed some 20 hectares of farmlands and has been going on despite the lack of necessary permits.

Governor Adolph Edward Plaza said Tuesday that the man behind the illegal gold mining activity in Barangay Tabon-Tabon, identified as Romelito Palantang, and 20 of his workers were arrested on Friday and several pieces of heavy equipment and mining-related facilities had been seized.

Plaza said Palantang, a church pastor, was only holding a sand and gravel quarrying permit from the provincial government and had no authority to extract gold.

He said investigators have started digging deeper to determine if there were Chinese financiers behind Palantang’s activity.

Local authorities said some residents had told the raiding team that Chinese-looking men had frequented the area and were believed to have brought in the heavy equipment.

Ricardo Caldeo, provincial environment and natural resources officer, said the massive mining activity by Palantang and his men for three months has turned the once coconut farm into a crater with a radius of 50 meters and depth of 20 meters.

Caldeo said a smaller pit was also discovered but this appeared to have been used as an exploration pit only.

He said Plaza also wanted Barangay (village) Tabon-Tabon officials investigated for not checking the mining activity in the village even if they appeared to have knowledge of it.

He said the municipal environment and natural resources office in Sibagat would also be asked to explain why it failed to monitor and stop the illegal mining activity.

Sibagat Mayor Thelma Lamanilao said she had questioned Palantang a few months back after learning he was using so many heavy equipment when he was only allowed to use one for his sand and gravel quarrying.

Lamanilao also said she suspected that the mining facilities being used by Palantang had been slipped into the village through Barangay Taligaman in Butuan City, which is close to Sibagat.  SFM


Agusan del Sur gov’t closes illegal open-pit mine

by Mike Crismundo

Manila Bulletin

22 January 2016

Sibagat, Agusan Del Sur — Officials of the provincial government of Agusan del Sur swooped down on an open-pit mining operations, which covers an area of over 20 hectares, and ordered the immediate closure of the illegal mine to avert further destruction of the environment.

Governor Adolph Edward G. Plaza and Vice Governor Santiago Cane led the team that went to the illegal open-pit mining operations located at the Ago-o area of Barangay Tabon-Tabon, Sibagat town.

Plaza also ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to immediately file charges against the 21 miners for violation of the Mining Act of the Philippines.

The governor likewise instructed authorities to impound five backhoes and confiscate heavy-duty tilling pans, plastic pipes of different sizes, five mini-van separators, 20 water pumps, improvised crane trucks, dump trucks, generator, tailing ponds, improvised screening devises, six engines and other mining equipment.

Cane said Plaza set aside an area at the provincial capitol which will serve as “temporary depository area” of the confiscated mining equipment while cases are being prepared against the illegal miners.

The provincial governor also ordered the filing of appropriate charges against the owner of the properties where the open mine pit was located and a Chinese national, who reportedly financed the big mining operation.

The governor ordered a cease and desist order and immediately implemented by the Agusan del Norte Police.


SC OKs prosecution of ex-Palawan governor for murder

InterAksyon.com

29 January 2016

MANILA - The Supreme Court has directed Branch 52 of the Regional Trial Court of Palawan to proceed with the prosecution of former Palawan Governor Mario Joel T. Reyes for the 2011 murder of radio anchor and veterinarian Dr. Gerardo Ortega or "Doc Gerry."

In a 21-page decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, the SC Second Division also dismissed for being moot the government's petition for certiorari, and stressed that the Regional Trial Court handling the criminal case has already issued a warrant of arrest against Reyes. The decision on Sec. De Lima v. Reyes (GR No. 209330) was promulgated on January 11, 2016, a few days before Ortega's 5th death anniversary on January 24, 2016.

The SC underscored that "[o]nce the information is filed in court, the court acquires the jurisdiction of the case and any motion to dismiss to determine the accused's guilt or innocence rests within the sound discretion of the court." It added that "[i]t would be more prudent to refrain from entertaining the Petition considering that the trial court already issued a warrant of arrest against respondent." The arrest warrants against Reyes and co-accused were issued by the RTC on March 27, 2012.

The high court also underscored that "the issuance of the warrant signifies that the trial court has made an independent determination of the existence of probable cause."

Then Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima filed the petition for certiorari after the Court of Appeals (CA) rendered null and void the Department of Justice's creation of a second panel to reinvestigate the murder case.

The CA had upheld the defense's claim that Sec. De Lima gravely abused her discretion when she issued Department Order No. 710 to create a second panel to reinvestigate the case after the first panel refused to receive additional evidence that would have been crucial for the determination of existence of probable cause.

The High Court emphasized that the prudent course of action at this stage would be to proceed to trial.

"[T]he trial court has already determined, independently of any finding or recommendation by the First Panel or Second Panel, that probable cause exists for the issuance of the warrant of arrest against respondent. Probable cause has been judicially determined. Jurisdiction over the case, therefore, has transferred to the trial court. A petition for certiorari questioning the validity of the preliminary investigation in any other venue has been rendered moot by the issuance of the warrant of arrest and the conduct of arraignment," the High Court said.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, Associate Justices Arturo D. Brion, Mariano C. del Castillo, and Jose Catral Mendoza concurred in the decision.


Philippines gives go-ahead for St Augustine’s $2bn King-King project

Henry Lazenby

Creamer Media Deputy Editor

Miningweekly.com

6 January 2016

The Philippine Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has given the green light to TSX-listed St Augustine Gold and Copper’s (SAGC's) joint-venture partner, Nationwide Development Corporation (Nadecor), to proceed with the development of the King-King copper/gold project, located on Mindanao, the second-largest and southernmost significant island of the island nation.

The bureau's approval of the declaration of mining project feasibility (DMPF) was the last step before development could start.

"Receipt of the DMPF removes the last significant hurdle to move forward with the development of the King-King project and represents our most significant milestone to date. We look forward to working with Nadecor and all local stakeholders to take King-King to the next stage of development,” commented St Augustine president and CEO Paolo Villar.

Under the order dated December 29, 2015, Nadecor had been authorised to proceed with the development and operating stages of its mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA), which included the extraction and sale of copper, gold and associated minerals within the 1 548 ha area. St Augustine acted as the exclusive technical services provider of Nadecor.

After five years in the making, the DMPF represents comprehensive technical, environmental, social and community engagement efforts completed by the JV partners and related advisors.

With the approval of the DMPF, Nadecor and SAGC will work cooperatively to advance the project to construction, followed by operation of the mine. Development of the King-King project is expected to impact positively on all project stakeholders and the community at large, and has been designed to minimise any environmental impact.

Major Project

Believed to be one of the largest undeveloped projects in the world, a preliminary feasibility study (PFS) completed in 2013 had estimated the pretax net present value at $2-billion and a pretax internal rate of return of 24.8%, when using an 8% discount rate.

The price tag of $2.04-billion included construction of the mine, the mill, an on-off leach pad, power plant, port facility and $240-million in contingency costs.

The ore delivery and processing rate would be 100 000 t/d, split between 40 000 t/d to an on-off heap leach and 60 000 t/d to a flotation mill with agitated tails leach. The mining rate would total about 178 000 t/d for the 22-year mine plan.

Production from the heap leach process is expected to start one year ahead of starting the mill. The proposed openpit mine and processing plant would produce copper/gold/silver concentrate, copper cathode, and gold doré bullion.

The company said at the time King-king’s robust project economics were driven in large part by an initial five-year higher-grade operation, with a low strip ratio and tidewater proximity.

The average yearly output during the first five years of full production is expected to total 270-million pounds of copper, 360 143 oz of gold and 568 958 oz of silver, with an average gold-equivalent total cost of $454/oz.

Over the life of the operation, King-king would produce about 3.16-billion pounds of copper, 5.43-million ounces of gold and 11.65-million ounces of silver.

King-King was one of several significant Philippine mining projects that were unaffected by a moratorium on approvals for new production because they were already in advanced stage before the ban took effect. St Augustine’s TSX-listed stock on Wednesday closed up 21.05%, or C$0.02 per share, at C$0.12 apiece.


NPA torches heavy equipment in Bukidnon

By Pamela Jay F. Orias

Sun Star Cagayan 

30 January 2016

ANOTHER round of torching heavy equipment allegedly perpetrated by the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) rebels was reported Saturday.

The military tagged the Maoist guerillas as responsible for the torching of two bulldozers owned by Del Monte Philippines Inc. (DMPI) and a boom sprayer owned by Lapanday Pineapple Plantation Company; including a separate attack which targeted the spray truck of Dole Philippines Inc. in Malaybalay City on Saturday dawn, January 30.

The incident came days after NPA rebels from Agusan provinces also burned DMPI heavy equipment worth P15 million in Balingasag town in Misamis Oriental on January 26.

The military said NPA rebels from Guerilla Front–6, North Central Mindanao Regional Committee fired at a mega spray truck of Dole Philippines at Sitio Upper Gabunan, in Barangay Casisang, Malaybalay City.

On the same day, two units of bulldozers owned by DMPI were burned by a separate group of NPA rebels at Field 97, Zone 6, Barangay Impalambong in Malaybalay City. A boom sprayer owned by Lapanday was also burned at Sitio Hagwaon, Barangay Laguitas, Malaybalay City.

The military accused the NPA for extortion with the series of torching happening in a span of days within Northern Mindanao.

"These bandits had long been attempting to extort money in a form of their so-called ‘revolutionary tax’ from these multinational companies to generate funds for the armed group. However, the said companies have consistently refused to give in to the NPA’s demands," the military said in a statement.

Immediately after the incident, troops from 4ID’s 403rd Infantry Brigade based in Malaybalay City with its police were dispatched to the sites where the torching happened.

Troops from the 1st Special Forces Battalion based in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon are now conducting pursuit operations against the rebels.

"Coordination are now made with the companies to file criminal charges against the perpetrators," the Army said.

Colonel Jesse Alvarez, commander of 403rd Brigade, said the recent incidents are a clear proof that the NPA now “resorts to banditry and no longer fighting for ideology.”

"We are now tracking down these criminals and will ensure that they will face the crimes they have committed with the help of the peace-loving people of Bukidnon," Alvarez assured.

He said these criminal acts caused by the NPA are means to force the owners and the management of these companies to pay the “revolutionary tax.”

Alvarez added that it is possible the NPA is collecting this tax to generate campaign funds for the CPP/NPA/NDF allied partylists and personalities who are seeking posts in this 2016 elections.

Alvarez is appealing for the people’s support by “not allowing the NPA and other threat groups to compromise the future generation.”

With these latest attacks against agri-based companies, Alvarez cited there were attempts by the NPA against other targeted companies but the army pre-empted these attempts such as the attempted arson of Mindanao Agri-Trader Incorporated in Barangay Soriano, Cabadbaran City that resulted to the arrest of suspect Jephte Cangke Butal by the troops under the 29th Infantry Battalion in Caraga region.


Palawan mining interests holding environment bill hostage?

Environmentalists claim Palawan officials are trying to prevent a ban on mining and logging in some of their protected areas

Pia Ranada

Rappler

27 January 2016

MANILA, Philippines – The fate of around 100 ecologically-rich forests, mountains, and seascapes lies in the hands of Palawan lawmakers and officials, environmentalists said on Wednesday, January 27.

Opposition from Palawan personalities is a major reason why a House bill seeking to protect 101 biodiverse areas remains at the level of the House committee on rules, even if its Senate counterpart had been passed on third reading in August 2015.

The two bills, when consolidated, are intended to become the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) law.

The gridlock in the House of Representatives “is a result of intense backdoor lobbying by Palawan officials, led by the Palawan governor, to stop the passage of the House bill as long as Palawan’s 5 protected areas are included in the law,” Palawan-based Environmental Legal Assistance Center Inc said in a statement.

“Some congressmen connected with mining interests are trying to take out 5 protected areas in Palawan from the bill,” environmental lawyer Ipat Luna revealed in a January 27 press conference.

Both the passed Senate Bill and the latest version of the House Bill include 5 protected areas in Palawan: Malampaya Sound Protected Landscape and Seascape, Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, El Nido Managed Resources Protected Area, Rasa Island Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean National Park.

But the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, chaired by Palawan Governor Jose “Pepito” Alvarez, has insisted in House hearings and letters to the Senate that these areas be excluded from the bill, saying the PSCD would rather have a separate bill specific to these areas.

But Luna alleged that the real reason is to accommodate interests of mining groups who want to explore these areas for minerals. For instance, Mount Mantalingahan is believed to be rich in mineral deposits.

Specific Palawan law vs E-NIPAS

A specific law would allow a tacit exclusion of specific zones in these forests and seascapes to allow mining and logging there, said Luna. The proposed E-NIPAS bill, meanwhile, will impose a mining and logging ban in these areas.

It is not clear why the PCSD, a government entity created for the protection of Palawan’s natural resources, would oppose a bill that would increase funding and strengthen the management of its own ecologically-rich areas.

But in a letter, Alvarez told Senate bill author Loren Legarda that the existing Palawan Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) Law is enough to protect these 5 sites.

Instead of including the 5 sites in the E-NIPAS bill, a separate, specific bill would better ensure a "commensurate budget allocation from the national government which they can cascade to every Palaweño that are the rightful stewards of Palawan's natural endowments."

PCSD Executive Director Nelson Devanadera is yet to respond to Rappler’s requests for comment on the issue.

Aside from concerns from Palawan, other issues hound the bill in the House.

The bill's sponsor, Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Sato, cited issues that have to be addressed if the bill is to move forward: the "lack of a sense of urgency," the fear of LGUs that control of their protected areas will go to the national government, and conflicting definitions of what a protected area is.

But the government’s own Biodiversity Management Bureau chief Theresa Mundita Lim wants the E-NIPAS bill passed.

She said she expects the bill to “increase national government investment and support for protecting and expanding our protected areas system.”

Luna said the bill can “cure the ills” of the existing NIPAS law.

One way is by elevating the protection status of 97 to 101 ecologically-rich sites.

While areas like the Bohol Chocolate Hills and Mayon Volcano are considered “protected” under the NIPAS Act, this status is temporal because they are only protected by a presidential proclamation that can be repealed any time.

The E-NIPAS bill grants protection through national legislation, the highest form of protection for natural resources in the country.

To date, only 13 places, including Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and Mount Pulag National Park, are given this level of protection. – Rappler.com


Aquino awards ‘crony’ mining company

by Joel M. Sy Egco

Manila Times

20 January 2016

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday cited a controversial mining firm owned by one of the Liberal Party’s (LP) campaign contributors, businessman Eric Gutierrez, and party stalwart, Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, for practicing “responsible and sustainable” mining amid illegal mining accusations that hounded the firm.

Gutierrez and Erice are the top honchos of SR Metal Inc. (SRMI), which had been previously accused to have violated the conditions of their small-scale mining permits since 2005.

Erice, according to The Manila Times columnist Erwin Tulfo in his previous articles, “is one of the LP leaders who are seeing to it that their campaign booty is swamped with cold cash.”

“Erice, a member of LP’s national executive committee, is also known as a ‘godfather’ or protector of a group of erring mining companies including those owned by businessman Francis Enrico “Eric” Gutierrez,” alleged Tulfo in his column, Deadshot, published last year.

Speaking during the presidential mineral industry environmental awards ceremony in Malacañang, the President cited SR Metals among the mining firms that “have performed well in protecting the environment, keeping their operations safe, and helping the communities in which they operate.”

“Your companies are embodiments of our belief that inclusive growth is the most potent philosophy—both in business and governance. Fostering good will in the areas that support your success is not only the right thing to do, it also ensures the sustainability of your operations, and secures the future of your firms,” he said.

Besides SR Metals, this year’s awardees are Silangan Mindanao Mining, OceanaGold, RioTuba Nickel Mining, and Coral Bay Nickel.

“I made it a point to be here today to thank all of you personally, and to express my hope that, next time, most of you will have shifted from the runner-up awards, to the Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Award. Moving forward, our government will continue working with you, in the belief that it is through constant communication and cooperation that we will give rise to industries that are truly sustainable, inclusive, and profitable,” Aquino said.

SR Metals, according to Tulfo, was among Aquino’s biggest contributors in the 2010 elections.

Erice had admitted being a shareholder in Gutierrez’s firm and its subsidiaries San R Mining and Construction Corp. and Galeo Equipment and Mining Company, Inc. which have been the subject of complaints of residents in Agusan Del Norte town of Tubay.


Mining industry gets boost from PNoy

by Madel Sabater-Namit

Manila Bulletin

January 20, 2016

President Aquino on Wednesday led the awarding ceremonies for the Presidential Mineral Industry and Environmental Awards (PMIEA) in Malacañang, as he vowed that his administration will continue working with the mining industry to ensure sustainable and responsible mining operations in the country.

“We cannot simply ignore the value of mining that is done responsibly, under fair and effective government regulation. The Philippines, after all, is one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world, and I believe it to be government’s responsibility to pave pathways through which our countrymen can benefit from our natural resources in a responsible and sustainable manner,” Aquino said at the awarding ceremonies.

This year’s awardees include Silangan Mindanao Mining Co., Inc. for the Mineral Exploration category; Coral Bay Nickel Corp. for Mineral Processing category; and Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp., OceanaGold (Phils.), Inc., and SR Metals, Inc. for the Surface Mining Operation category.

“The criteria that our awardees have met are, in fact, simple. These companies have performed well in protecting the environment, keeping their operations safe, and helping the communities in which they operate,” Aquino said.

The President meanwhile assured that the government will continue to work with mining firms “in the belief that it is through constant communication and cooperation that we will give rise to industries that are truly sustainable, inclusive, and profitable.”


Australia wants next Philippine administration to prioritize mining

By Rodel Alzona & Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco

Business Mirror

24 January 2016

AUSTRALIA is pinning its hopes that the coming May general elections will install a Philippine government that recognizes the importance of the mining industry in the economic development of the country.

Australian Minister Counselor and Senior Trade Commissioner Anthony Weymouth said the mining industry could provide substantial employment and uplift lives of Filipino families.

“It is disappointing that it has not been given emphasis,” Weymouth said in describing how the administration of President Aquino has handled the industry.

He added: “It depends on the next administration. There must be an emphasis on mining. Mining has a trickle-down effect on the community that is 10 times bigger than the industry.”

Weymouth cited Australia’s experience with the mining industry in noting its huge contribution over the last 20 years to their economy and how it created regional jobs. He compared this to a shelved General Santos-located copper and gold mining project that could have created at least 1,000 jobs.

Mining contributes about 5.60 percent of Australia’s GDP. It is a main exporter of aluminum, coal, diamond, gold, iron, lead, ore and uranium.

On the other hand, mining has been projected to increase the country’s GDP by 2 percent. However, it has been estimated that only 2 percent of the country’s resources are being extracted.

The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) has constantly been calling the government to lift the moratorium on new mining contracts, which it described as stalling the industry.

It has said in the past that the government neglect of the industry has led to the Philippines being placed in the bottom 10 of least attractive destinations for mining.

The Australia-New Zealand business chamber is part of the JFC, which also counts those from the American, Canadian, European, Japanese and Korean as members, along with the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters Inc.

Weymouth said challenges in the mining sector will take senior-level effort to improve. He also acknowledged that there are moves being done to address the red tape in doing business in the country.

For his part, OceanaGold Country Director Bradley Norman echoed the sentiments of Weymouth that the next administration should give priority to the mining industry.

“The Philippines is a wonderful place to do business. We have got primarily Filipino work force. We want to develop them. They have showed willingness to work and learn. They have a wonderful work ethic,” Norman said.

Norman added that they are looking to do more explorations in the country this year, aside from its current Didipio gold-copper mine in Nueva Vizcaya.

Norman said they currently employs around 2,000 Filipinos involved in community relations and explorations.

He said the local community fully supports and believes in their commitment to make positive contributions to the community.

“I will be confident in saying that overwhelming majority in the Didipio are very happy with the mining there and they are benefiting from it. Their children are benefiting from it, as well. It has contributed a lot of good in the barangay, municipality and in the province,” Norman said.

He, however, acknowledged that there are people who do not understand mining or have closed their minds and do not want to learn the industry.

Besides hospitals and road infrastructure, which they contribute to the community where they are operating, they also give scholarship grants to their worker’s children, with some of them being given jobs in their company after getting their diploma.


Report: Extractive industry's compliance in paying dues improves

By Prinz Magtulis

Philippine Star

5 January 2016

MANILA, Philippines - Combined government earnings from mining, oil and gas sectors declined and barely accounted for a percent of economic output in 2013, but private sector compliance in paying the right dues improved dramatically.

In the latest report of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI), a total of P40.7 billion in revenues were reconciled from state agencies, local government units and reporting companies.

The figure was down 23 percent from P52.763 billion in the same period the previous year.

It however represented 99.99 percent of revenues reported paid by companies to the government and that which the latter received from the former. This was up from 99.89 percent reconciliation rate in 2012.

“(This) should inform us how to best manage extractive resource revenues and answer the question whether we are indeed getting our fair share from extraction of our natural resources,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said on his message in the report.

“The EITI report demonstrates how transparency contributes to the integrity of our revenue system,” he added.

Formed by virtue of Executive Order 147 in 2013, PH-EITI is a local affiliate of an international effort to promote transparency and accountability in state revenues from the extractive sectors of mining, oil and gas.

The report, uploaded on the PH-EITI website last December 29, is the sole compilation of earnings from these sectors. It tracks down money received by the state and those paid by firms and see if they match.

For 2013, a total of P2.66 million in revenues were unaccounted for by state agencies. This means participating companies reported that they have paid the amount, but was not reflected on official data.

The figure was down from P58.2 million in unreconciled revenues in 2012, figures showed.

“This is indeed a significant turnaround that demonstrates immediate action taken to address more common reasons of discrepancies during the first reconciliation exercise,” the report said.

“However, two recurring causes of discrepancies that were observed are as follows: delay in submissions (and weakening) consolidation of information,” it added.

As a proportion of economic output, extractive revenues accounted for 0.29 percent of gross domestic product. Finance Undersecretary and chief economist Gil Beltran said there is scope for improvement.

“Historically, that (figure) is low. Before that was higher. It is possible that some revenues were not reported. There are some that we still cannot capture like those from small-scale mining,” Beltran said in a phone interview.

Broken down, oil and gas sectors contributed bulk of revenues at P35.32 billion, while those from mining totaled P5.38 billion.

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