MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Mining executive hostage murdered

Published by MAC on 2016-05-04
Source: Statements, Globe & Mail, Reuters, Business World (2016-05-03)

Two major stories have been playing out with regard to mining in the Philippines over the past month.

International readers have been shocked at the murder of John Ridsdel, a 'semi-retired' mining executive who had been kidnapped for ransom (see: Mining-related violence ignites protests in the Philippines). Mr Ridsdel had been working with TVI, whose mines have been opposed by the Subanon people and their traditional leadership. However, it seems unlikely from known information that Mr Ridsdel's profession was a reason for his kidnapping, other than placing him in the Southern Philippines in the first place. The other hostages taken with Mr Ridsdel are still being held hostage at the time of writing.

Nationally, the electorate continue to focus on upcoming presidential elections (see: Philippines - Acting on mining at election time). That includes concerns over the environmental records of the candidates, especially with regard to mining, and - it is hoped - their human rights record.

On the theme of human rights, activists in the Philippines joined international solidarity actions at the local Honduran Consulate to demand justice for the murdered human rights defender Berta Caceres. At home  Fr. Edwin Gariguez has been awarded the ‘environmental hero’ award by the Jesuit-run Xavier University for his role in the campaign against the proposed Intex nickel mine on Mindoro.

In other news, the governor of Pangasinan is facing trial over alleged illegal black sand mining operations; Red Mountain Mining moved forward with the London listing of a funder for the contentious Batangas Gold Project in the Philippines; and Cebu City Council has spiked a proposed coal-fired power plant because of environmental concerns.

Canadian killed by terrorist group in Philippines, another held hostage

Carrie Tait and Nathan Vanderklippe

The Globe and Mail

25 April 2016

CALGARY/BEIJING — A terrorist group in the Philippines has killed John Ridsdel, the 68-year-old Canadian kidnapped last September – an execution Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “cold-blooded murder” and the man’s family said was “senseless.”

A second Canadian, 50-year-old Robert Hall, remains captive, a Canadian government official confirmed.

Mr. Ridsdel was a world traveller who had made the Philippines his home. He was a passionate sailor, experienced in living and travelling in conflict areas, and a father of two adult daughters.

He was held for a ransom by the terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf and beheaded after the deadline passed.

“Our family is devastated at the loss of our father and brother John Ridsdel whose life was cut tragically short by this senseless act of violence despite us doing everything within our power to bring him home,” the Ridsdel family said in a statement Monday.

“John was a kind and gregarious person who touched everyone he knew with his enthusiasm and generosity. He loved life and lived it to the fullest with his family and friends at the centre.”

“He was loved by all his friends and adored by his daughters, sister, and extended family. He will be sorely missed for all our days to come.”

Mr. Trudeau, speaking to reporters in Kananaskis, Alta., said his government will work with the Philippines to bring justice to the alleged killers.

“This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Mr. Ridsdel and Mr. Hall were kidnapped on the resort island of Samal in the southern province of Davao del Norte last fall. Other captives include a Norwegian man and a Filipina. A member of the Hall family declined to comment. Another did not return a call seeking comment.

Bob Rae, the former Ontario premier and member of Parliament, has known Mr. Ridsdel since 1966, when they started at the University of Toronto together.

“He wasn’t someone who was going to spend his days at a country club or watching golf on television,” Mr. Rae said in an interview. “That was not John. … He was definitely an adventurer.”

Mr. Rae said he had been trying to help the Ridsdel family “navigate” the situation. “People tried hard. His family tried very, very hard and did a lot to try to respond,” the former politician said.

Canada has a policy against paying ransoms, according a government official.

Abu Sayyaf, the jihadi group that allegedly killed Mr. Ridsdel, emerged as part of an ethnic conflict in the Philippines, according to Will Plowright, a doctoral candidate in the department of political studies at the University of British Columbia. Abu Sayyaf, however, has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, although Mr. Plowright said the two organizations “have no real connections.”

Before Mr. Ridsdel went missing, he was about to join a sailing rally between the Philippines and Indonesia’s Sulawesi and West Papua. He missed the start of the rally and his boat remained at the marina in the southern Philippines that served as the rally’s starting point. Gunmen attacked the facility in September, 2015.

Bill Bowen, a fellow sailor who met Mr. Ridsdel through work in the 1980s, last visited him in the Philippines about five years ago. “He’s the last person on Earth that you’d expect to find involved in what was happened,” Mr. Bowen said. “[He was] very mild-mannered, very polite, very inoffensive person and not in any way aggressive or threatening.”

Moreover, Mr. Ridsdel was a savvy traveller. He worked in Algeria during times of conflict and was aware of the tensions in the Philippines, Mr. Bowen said. “This is somebody who is fairly clued up and you wouldn’t really expect to fall … into a trap.”

Mr. Ridsdel was an award-winning journalist turned oil-and-mining executive. His overseas assignments with Petro-Canada included stints in Pakistan, Myanmar and Algeria. He landed in the Philippines after joining Calgary-based TVI Pacific Inc., a mining company. He was semi-retired and working as a consultant for the mining company before he was kidnapped.

Mr. Hall, meanwhile, had recently begun dating a Filipina, Maritess Flor, who had accompanied him for part of a cross-Pacific sailboat journey – and whose family grows sugarcane not far from the marina where gunmen seized the Canadians from their yachts, along with Ms. Flor and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad. Mr. Sekkingstad lived for a time in Canada and carries a Canadian passport, friends have told The Globe and Mail.

For the community around Ms. Flor, the lack of information in recent months has raised suspicions that the military has failed in its efforts to free those taken captive.

“I think they tried but weren’t successful, so that’s why there’s been a news blackout, because it won’t look good for the Philippine government,” said Val Araneta, a leader in the community where Ms. Flor’s family lives.

“I’m disappointed with the government,” he said.

Ms. Flor’s family, he said, has been “stressed and depressed” through the ordeal.

On Monday evening, during a power outage in the Philippine municipality of Jolo, two men on motorcycles threw a plastic bag into a square near the town’s municipal offices and police station.

Children playing nearby initially ran from the bag, believing it to be a bomb, said Dr. Raden Ikbala, a local physician. But when “they opened it, they saw the head of a man,” he said, and reported it to police.

Such tactics have been used before by local militants.

“Sometimes they throw the heads in public places so that it will be discovered,” said Dick Gordon, a Philippine senator who had been asked several months ago to negotiate the release of the hostages. He said it appears “he was executed because of the failure to pay the ransom” – although none of the circumstances are clear.

The men on the motorcycle, Mr. Gordon said, left a chilling message as they departed.

“They threw it, and they said, ‘We will be back.’ We don’t know why they said that.”

With a report from Steven Chase in Kananaskis, Alta.


Canada PM condemns 'cold-blooded murder' of Philippines hostage

By Andrea Hopkins and Manuel Mogato

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-militants-idUSKCN0XM1SK 

25 April 2016

KANANASKIS, Alberta/MANILA - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned on Monday the execution of a Canadian hostage by Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines, calling it "an act of cold-blooded murder."

John Ridsdel, 68, a former mining executive, was captured by Islamist militants along with three other people in September 2015 while on vacation on a Philippine island.

The Philippine army said a severed head was found on a remote island on Monday, five hours after the expiry of a ransom deadline set by militants who had threatened to execute one of four captives.

"Canada condemns without reservation the brutality of the hostage-takers and this unnecessary death. This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage," Trudeau told reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting.

"The government of Canada is committed to working with the government of the Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for this heinous act."

Trudeau declined to respond when asked whether the Canadian government had tried to negotiate with the captors or pay a ransom, or whether it was trying to secure the release of the other Canadian being held, Robert Hall.

"Obviously there was talk of money involved, but not by the government of Canada or by the government of Norway, but certainly by the families attempting to do what they could to free the four," said Bob Rae, a former federal politician and longtime Ridsdel friend.

"But it’s been an awful process, just horrendous," he told Canadian television.

In a statement, Ridsdel's family said they were devastated his life had been "cut tragically short by this senseless act of violence despite us doing everything within our power to bring him home."

Ridsdel, Hall and the other captives, a Norwegian man and a Filipino woman, had appealed in a March video for their families and governments to secure their release.

Residents found the head in the center of Jolo town. An army spokesman said two men on a motorcycle were seen dropping a plastic bag containing the severed head.

A Philippine army spokesman said al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants had threatened to behead one of four captives on Monday if the 300 million pesos ($6.4 million) ransom for each of them was not paid by 3 p.m. local time.

The initial demand was one billion pesos each for the detainees, who were taken hostage at an upscale resort on Samal Island on Sept. 21.

Ridsdel's former employer described him as gregarious, adventurous and warm.

"We are in profound shock, disbelief and sorrow to have lost our former colleague and close friend," Calgary-based mining company TVI Pacific (TVI.TO) said in an emailed statement.

Abu Sayyaf is a small but brutal militant group known for beheading, kidnapping, bombing and extortion in the south of the mainly Catholic country.

It decapitated a hostage from Malaysia in November last year on the same day that country's prime minister arrived in Manila for an international summit. Philippine President Benigno Aquino ordered troops to intensify action against the militants.

Security is precarious in the southern Philippines, despite a 2014 peace pact between the government and the largest Muslim rebel group that ended 45 years of conflict.

Abu Sayyaf is also holding other foreigners, including one from the Netherlands, one from Japan, four Malaysians and 14 Indonesian tugboat crew.

($1 = 46.8930 Philippine pesos)

(Additional reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by David Gregorio and Tom Brown)


Canadian hostages in Philippines plead for their lives

By Mitch Potter

Hamilton Spectator

16 April 2016

A dire video clip emerged Friday showing two Canadian hostages in a "final urgent appeal" for Ottawa to save them from imminent beheading by their Abu Sayyaf captors.

Calgarian expat John Ridsdel and his fellow Canadian abductee Robert Hall both speak directly to the camera with a knife to their throat, in a message clearly intended for the Canadian government — pay the ransom within the next 10 days or we will die.

"We're told this is the absolute final warning, the final urgent appeal to governments — Philippine, Canadian — and families," Ridsdel said. "If 300 million (Philippine pesos, or $8.3 million Canadian) is not paid for me by 3 p.m. on April 25th, they will behead me."

The camera then shifts to Hall, who repeats the warning, adding: "My specific appeal is to the Canadian government, who I know has the capacity to get us out of here. I'm wondering what they're waiting for."

Two other foreigners who shared the nearly seven-month kidnap ordeal alongside Ridsdel and Hall — a Norwegian man and a Filipino woman — can also be seen on camera but do not speak. The two-minute clip ends with a masked gunman reiterating the deadline, warning that if it passes unheeded "we will certainly behead one of these four."

Ridsdel, a former Calgary journalist turned mining executive, was in semi-retirement at age 68 last September when gunmen swept into a holiday resort on speedboats in the Philippines, seizing the four.

The Islamist separatist group Abu Sayyaf, which has abducted dozens of foreigners and Filipinos for ransom, claimed responsibility for the abduction.

There was no immediate reaction from Ottawa — but this is not the first video to emerge from this particular kidnap. In a pattern similar to previous raids by Abu Sayyaf, militants opened their online campaign for ransom last November, demanding one billion pesos ($28 million Canadian) for each of the four.

A second video released March 10 introduced a deadline, with a gaunt Ridsdel speaking in a direct plea to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "Do as needed to meet their demands within one month or they will kill me."

A Canadian government official declined to address the earlier threats, telling CBC News it "would not comment or release any information which may compromise ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of Canadian citizens."

An official said the government was aware of the latest video, but had no comment.

Ridsdel is the former chief operating officer of mining company TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc., a subsidiary of the Calgary-based TVI Pacific. That work followed an earlier career in journalism, including stints at the Calgary Herald and the CBC.

His journalist acquaintances, including CBC's Terry Milewski and Postmedia correspondent Matthew Fisher, expressed support for Ridsdel when the kidnapping new broke last year. Fisher, in an email to The Star, described Ridsdel as someone you would want on your side in a crisis, noting, "Oh, that fella knows plenty about risk. Good guy."


Mining and the 2016 Presidential Elections

Jaybee Garganera

Opinion, Business World - http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Opinion&title=mining-and-the-2016-presidential-elections&id=126838

1 May 2016

The Philippines shall elect its new set of leaders in a few days. Ever since, and even more than four decades since the dreaded martial law regime was installed, when Marcos and cronies controlled the industries. the country has been controlled by a few powerful economic and political elites.

The biggest conglomerates in the country including San Miguel Corporation, SM Investment Corp. and big banks continue to expand their portfolio to include extractive projects. They are joined by the oldest and biggest Filipino-owned mining corporations in the country including the Romualdez’s Benguet Corporation, Zamora’s Nickel Asia Corporation, and Pangilinan’s Philex Mining Corporation. Consunji’s DMCI Holdings, Inc. initially focused on construction and coal mining, but it now has a metallic mining project in Zambales.

These big businesses, among others, are not quiet players during election campaign periods. Money politics plays a part in securing business interests. For the exploitation of mineral resources, at least, these companies have benefited from the business-as-usual environment under the Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, and Aquino administrations.

Now, the challenge to environmentalists, human rights advocates, and system change campaigners is to engage in the elections and ensure that the new set of leaders will not play the role that corporate greed dictates on them. Future leaders must be committed to a genuine sustainable development framework. We require our national and local candidates to have a human rights and environmental agenda and to commit to implementing them, should they be elected.

In a broader sense, we need leaders who will diffuse the powers long held by the oligopolies and political dynasties and bring the power back to the people.

Mining policies through the decades disempowered the poor people. The mining policies during martial law, specifically Presidential Decrees No. 463 and 1899 for large-scale and small-scale mining, respectively, were controversial. They paved the way for massive exploitation of resources by foreign and Filipino mining firms, including the alleged Marcos-owned Marcopper Mining Corporation in Marinduque, Philex and Benguet Corp. in Benguet, and Nickel Asia in Southern Palawan.

It was during President Cory Aquino’s leadership when the Peoples Small Scale Mining Act was passed. And it was under Ramos’s leadership when then Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo authored the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, as a response to the demand of multilateral funding institutions and local businesses.

When Mrs. Arroyo became president, she issued Executive Orders (EOs) 270 and 270-A to aggressively encourage investments in large-scale mining in the country. This policy was adopted by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III (PNoy). He then issued EO 79 in July 2012, that aims to ensure environmental protection and responsible mining in the utilization of mineral resources and EO 147 that commits the Philippines to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Like the previous administrations, the PNoy administration has regarded the mining industry as one of the supposed “drivers of Philippine economic growth.”

The Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) contends that the position of the previous and present administrations is influenced by the the industry. For instance, the Chamber of Mines President Benjamin Romualdez is a political ally of former President Arroyo. The Zamoras of Nickel Asia have also been supporting presidential candidates. In the 2010 elections, their bet was PNoy and the Liberal Party.

ATM is likewise disturbed that the industry is financing the candidates in the 2016 elections. ATM presents below its findings on the position and mining links of the presidential candidates.

Vice-President Jejomar Binay said the mining industry will be his priority and will open the country to 100% foreign ownership of mines. He will implement RA7942 and will not support the passage of a law to increase mining taxes and revenues. In his speech in 2015 he added: “We must ensure that the mining taxes we implement are not higher than they already are, but fair and consistent with international best practices.”

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed several Senate resolutions to investigate illegal mining in Sierra Madre and Saranggani and the involvement of government officials in mining. She has no position in pushing for a new mining law.

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is implementing a city no-go mining zones ordinance. He believes that the country gets too little from mining while there is social cost to communities and risks to environment. However, Alsons Consolidated Resources, Inc., which purchased the shares of Australian Indophil Resources in the Tampakan Mines, supports him.

In a Wallace Business Forum earlier this year, Duterte said he will allow mining investments as long as miners follow the Australian standard of responsible mining.

Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares believes that “responsible mining” is possible as long as environmental laws are followed. She is also supportive of transparency in mining (and the passage of an EITI Bill) and increasing the taxes and revenues from mining.

However, San Miguel Corporation has supported her candidacy then as Senator and now for the highest post. San Miguel Corporation, where her husband is also employed, is the biggest conglomerate in the country involved in mining. Poe has admitted to borrowing SMC planes for her campaign activities.

Manuel Roxas II while serving as DILG secretary issued a Joint Memo Circular (together with DENR Sec. Ramon Paje), declaring that all black-sand mining permits and operations in the whole country are illegal, and enjoined all LGUs to suspend all black-sand mining permits and operations.

While he has no announced position on mining, his 2012 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth revealed his P120 million worth of shares in seven mining companies including Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, Manila Mining Corporation, Philex Mining Corporation, Marinduque Mining and Industrial Corporation, Mindanao Mother Lake Mines, Samar Mining Company, Western Minolco Corporation. He has also been linked to SR Metals, whose plane he uses for campaign sorties.

The ATM campaign urges the candidates at the minimum to commit to human rights and environment agenda.

The Green Thumb Campaign encourages candidates to embrace a green agenda and shall hold newly elected public officials accountable on their commitments. Issues raised in the Green Thumb Campaign include biodiversity preservation and ecosystem integrity; natural resource and land use management and governance; upholding human rights and integrity of creation; climate justice; mining, extractives, and mineral resource management; energy transformation and democracy; and people-centered sustainable development.

The Human Rights Agenda for Elections 2016 on the other hand reaffirms that the State’s mandate is to uphold the dignity of every person and guarantee full respect of human rights -- economic, social and cultural rights of people -- as embodied in the Philippine Constitution.

To conclude, ATM will support leaders who will give back people power and real democracy and drive our nation towards sustainable development.

Jaybee Garganera is the national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) or Alliance Against Mining-Philippines. This is an alliance of more than 130 organizations from mining-affected communities and their support groups of people’s organizations and other civil society organizations.


Groups to presidential wannabes: Bare stand on mining, environmental issues

by Jonathan L. Mayuga

http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/groups-to-presidential-wannabes-bare-stand-on-mining-environmental-issues/ 

14 April 2016

ANTIMINING groups on Thursday urged presidential candidates to take a “progressive stand” on mining, which they blamed for the massive environmental destruction and human-rights abuses allegedly committed against residents in host communities.

According to Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), presidential candidates in the May elections should declare their positions on proposed changes in the mining policy, starting with the repeal of Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the revocation of Executive Order 270-A on the aggressive promotion of the mining industry, and the declaration of a moratorium on all mining operations, while a new policy is being crafted for implementation.

ATM is a coalition of mining-affected communities, non-governmental organizations, faith-based groups and academic institutions challenging the promotion of destructive large-scale mining in the Philippines. It claims to have a network of 130 members.

A core member of the Green Thumb Coalition, a national initiative calling for an environmental agenda in the candidates’ platforms and future program of government, ATM demands that the candidates respond to the scorecards indicating their positions on certain environmental issues, including mining, biodiversity conservation and climate change.

ATM calls for a “green candidate” to lead the Philippines in the next six years. A “green president” , according to ATM, should support the passage of a new mining law, embodied in the Alternative Minerals Management Bill; expand and implement the “No-Go Zones” map of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Mining Industry Coordinating Council; and address human-rights violations and abuse in mining-affected areas. The green president should also resolve land-use conflicts between mining, ancestral domains, protected areas, geohazard areas and watersheds; support local autonomy on mining issues; and increase transparency in the mining industry.

“We want a new government that will have human rights and environment on its agenda and that will cater to the peoples’ needs versus corporate agenda. We want leaders who will echo our voice, as we demand justice for the ravage and plunder of our lands, the ecological destruction and disasters, the killings and human-rights violations,” the group said.

Meanwhile, the group Bantay Kita said national and local candidates are benefiting from mining through campaign contributions, either in cash or in kind.

Cielo Magno, national coordinator of Bantay Kita, said of Palace candidates even use a helicopter and another is holding office for his campaign owned by a mining company.

She said the Commission on Elections should look into the involvement of campaign contributors in these highly extractive industries, noting that once elected into office, these candidates will be beholden to their supporters.

Bantay Kita sits as a member of the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which promotes financial transparency and tax gains of government, national and local, and their host communities in the mining, coal, oil and gas industries, said receiving campaign contributions whether in cash or in kind is prohibited by law.

These candidates, she said, should be warned that penalty for violation of the election code pertaining to campaign contribution is perpetual disqualification from the possibility of holding public office.

Mining companies supporting candidates during election is more pronounced at the local level, Magno said.

Magno said Bantay Kita intends to dig into the campaign contributions received by candidates and file appropriate charges against those who solicit or receive support from corporations.


ATM Statement to Presidential Candidates—Take progressive stand on mining

Alyansa Tigil Mina

13 April 2016

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), a national coalition of more than 130 members including mining-affected communities, non-governmental organizations, faith-based groups, academic institutions, and other groups collectively challenging the promotion of destructive large-scale mining in the Philippines, call on the Presidential Candidates to take a progressive stand on mining. We have 21 local multi-sectoral alliances in the provincial Sites of Struggles we are present.

ATM works to protect Filipino communities and natural resources that are threatened by large-scale mining operations. The alliance aims to shift the policy framework on extracting minerals in the Philippines, from simply "extracting and profiting from mining minerals" to "mineral management towards national industrialization". ATM also believes this shift will drive local sustainable development, promote resilient communities and facilitate national industrialization.

ATM is strongly supporting human rights groups pushing for a 10-Point Human Rights Electoral Agenda for the next Administration to institutionalize rights-based governance and act to realize its Constitutional mandate to protect, respect and fulfill human rights.

In its General Assembly last April 7-8, 2016,after looking at the different influences and links of players in the mining industry to the candidates, ATM members resolved that candidates be sought to publicly state their positions on proposed changes in the mining policy. Specifically ATM calls for (a) the enactment of a new mining law or a minerals management law that will repeal Republic Act No. 7942; (b) revocation of PGMA’s Executive Order 270-A on the aggressive promotion of the mining industry; and the (c) moratorium on all mining operations while a new policy is put in place.

Further, as a core member of the Green Thumb Coalition, a national initiative calling for an environmental agenda in the candidates’ platforms and future program of government, ATM demands that the candidates respond to the scorecards indicating their positions on certain environmental issues including mining, biodiversity conservation and climate change.

ATM calls for a Green Candidate to lead the Philippines in the next six years.  For ATM, the “Green President” should: i) support the passage of a new mining law, embodied in the Alternative Minerals Management Bill or (AMMB); ii) expansion and implementation of the “No-Go Zones” map of DENR and MICC; iii) address human rights violations and abuse in mining-affected areas; iv) resolve land use conflicts between mining, ancestral domains, protected areas, geo-hazard areas and watersheds; v) strongly support local autonomy on mining issues; and vi) increase transparency in the mining industry.

We want a new government that will have human rights and environment in its agenda and that will cater to the peoples’ needs versus corporate agenda. We want leaders who will echo our voice, as we demand justice for the ravage and plunder of our lands, the ecological destruction and disasters, the killings and human rights violations.


Vice Presidentiable Candidates' Environmental Track Records and Platforms

Envi-Vote Alliance statement

April 2016

The Envi-Vote Alliance is a coalition of environmental advocates united to pursue an environmental agenda for the voters and for the political candidates vying for elective positions. The People’s Environmental Agenda, today dubbed as the ‘Green Vote’, contained positions and demands on the most pressing issues affecting the Philippine environment.

As part of Green Vote's scrutiny on vice presidential candidates’ track records and platforms, we look into their record and stands on key and urgent environmental issues that need to be addressed. These are large-scale mining, genetically modified organism (GMO), US military presence, renewable energy, and climate change and disasters.

1. Large-scale mining

Most candidates favors the continuation of the existing policy of Mining Act of 1995. No candidates are calling for the junking of the law which the environmentalists and mining-affected people point out as the framework which legalizes the plunder of our mineral resources. At best, presidential candidates who are all legislators, are calling for environmental reforms under the mining act yet have not filed a single Senate resolution proposing for it.

Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano is considered to be a potential ‘Champion’ of the mining industry.[i] As he explained in the Mining Philippines 2014 conference, the mining industry can no longer afford to look inward.[ii] In his presentation, he emphasized that Mining is a vehicle to development outside NCR.[iii]  He has demonstrated preference for large-scale mining.[iv] During his run for senatorial position in 2013 election, Jose Bayani Baylon, senior vice president for corporate communications of mining company Nickel Asia Corp donated P7 million for his campaign. Cayetano has an office in Zamora’s Nickel Asia building.

Sen. Bongbong Marcos agrees with economists that with such mineral wealth, mining can become a key driver to economic growth of the country. But he stresses that mining practices should be tempered with proper regulation and close monitoring. Marcos has sought for a cohesive, long-term mining policy in order to maximize the benefits of the vibrant industry.[v] According to hime, the next administration should do away with its anti-mining policy and come up with a balance mining plan that would maximize the potential of the country’s mining industry.[vi]

Leni Robredo lauded President Benigno Aquino III for issuing Executive Order No. 79 which strengthen further the Mining Act and give more privilages to corporate mining then she pointed out that there must be an extensive revision of the law.

Sen. Gringo Honasan said opportunities from mining should be balanced with its impact on the environment. He called on President Noynoy Aquino to provide a clearer direction on mining and he stressed that this is the job of the national government and Congress by way of amendment to the law, and if necessary, a new law.

Sen. Chiz Escudero during his visit to Nueva Vizcaya on November 2015 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. According to him, 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. [15] Escudero is not against mining but according to him, operations should comply with environmental and labor laws. [6] Escudero seeks harsh penalties for violators of mining laws. He said the government should impose stronger penalties and stiffer fines on unscrupulous mining companies who violate the country's mining laws, ultimately making it unprofitable for violators to operate here in the country. [7]

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said he will ask the Senate Committee on Environment to review the Philippine Mining Act amidst complaints by local government units (LGUs) over unfair sharing of the benefits from the exploration and utilization of their natural resources by mining companies operating in their area.

2. GMO crops

Genetically modified organism (GMO) crops are proven to have high risk in contaminating the agricultural biodiversity and poses high risk to human health. The Supreme Court has recently banned the commercialization of GMO crops until there is crafted a strong regulation which ensures both environmental safeguard and health safety

Only Senator Honasan has proposed legislation to regulate or prohibit GMO imports, and make labelling mandatory.

3. US-PH Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)

EDCA has allowed again US military to station their forces in military bases in the Philippines in several parts of the country. Along with Visiting Forces Agreement, their military equipment, hardware and weapons are also allowed to enter and station here. With EDCA, environmentalists expects more environmental incidents like USS Guardian grounding on Tubbataha Reef and Subic Bay toxic waste dumping.

Among the VP candidates only Leni Robredo has no stance or record on the issue of EDCA. Sen. Escudero, Honasan, Marcos all acquiesced with the Supreme Court that EDCA is constitutional. Senator Trillanes and Cayetano staunch supporters of EDCA and do not believe that Senate ratification is needed before it is implemented.

Sen Cayetano explained that the US ought to help improve the Philippines’ defense capabilities so that funds allocated by the Philippine government for that purpose could be used for social services and economic development. While Sen. Trillanes a former Navy officer, said the agreement would lessen the Philippine government’s expenses on modernizing the military.

4. Coal Power Plants and Renewable Energy

In a statement, Escudero urged the government to come up with incentives to encourage renewable energy developers to invest in areas that remain without power and at the same time, help the country fulfill its pledge to address climate change. According to him, if we are serious about reducing carbon emissions and making good on our international commitments, then we should push for the development of renewable energy sources. [37] Escudero said that the next administration should come up with measures to attract investors to tap into wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. “We have to come up with incentives for investors to consider renewable energy development, which is not only sustainable but a cheaper power source as well”, he said.

According to Marcos, most of the new power plants being established by the government are expected to go online at the end of 2016 which will likely transfer the burden to the next administration. He said that even if there are around 23 coal-fired power plants that are projected to operate by 2020, those may still not be enough. “There is no other option but to build more power plants,” Marcos said. Economic growth is also being affected by the fluctuating power supply, he said. "With more power-generating plants, we would have dependable and adequate supply of electricity - possibly even enjoy lower power bills---then, we can address the principal reason why foreign businessmen think twice about investing in the Philippines," Marcos said. [39] At a press conference last September 2015, he dispatched the seductive argument that “nature” decides where renewable energy is deployed, that it is “not a political decision.” This after revealing his very political decision to tour the world listening to fossil-fuel giants about “clean coal” technologies. “There have been great advances in technology,” Marcos said, adding that he has been “to coal plants in several countries and was quite impressed.”

Robredo opposes coal-fired power plants. She has aligned herself against the provincial administration’s policy, choosing to take an activist stance against a government-backed plan to put up a coal-fired power generation facility in Palawan province. Visiting the provincial capital on October 2015, Robredo said she wanted the next administration to make a strong push away from the country’s heavy reliance on coal energy. Robredo said she was particularly opposed to the proposed coal-fired power plant in Palawan involving a 15-megawatt facility set to be put up by a private contractor, a project that is openly being supported by the provincial government and other local government units here. “It is high time that we reconsider our heavy dependence on coal. We understand it is cheaper and easier to do but its impact on the environment and health is really bad. We need the political will to shift to renewable energy,” Robredo said. [41]

Trillanes said there are a number of investors who are willing to put up an electric power plant and coal-fired plant in the country, but they have misgivings due to red tape. [42] ”They [a lot of energy companies] have already identified sites where they can put up coal-fired power plants. They are ready to go but the problem is our system,” Trillanes said. [43] “Putting up power plants does not mean destroying the environment because even the most environmentally conscious countries in the world have nuclear and coal-fired power plants”, he said. He added that there should be a compromise and maintenance of a healthy balance between the need for energy and environmental protection, but he stressed that the potential to maximize the sources of renewable energy from solar, wind and hydro power should also not be set aside. [44]

5. Climate Change and Disaster

Two weeks after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) made landfall, Cayetano filed a bill to create an Emergency Response Department (ERD), a new department to be headed by a disaster response secretary. The ERD was his alternative to the current system in which the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council coordinates efforts of multiple departments. Compared to the “complex network of agencies and personalities” in the status quo, the ERD would be “simplified, streamlined, responsive,” says his website.

Escudero, as former chairman of the Senate committee on finance, questioned the government’s handling of the P137 billion set aside by Congress for the rehabilitation of areas affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. He said he still did not see where the money went. He was also the chairman of the committee on environment and natural resources for several years, and was the co-author of the Climate Change Act of 2009. The law institutionalized the creation of the Climate Change Commission and the need for government policies to include climate change. [46]

Honasan has been pushing for a land use plan since 1996. He is the author of a bill instituting a national land use policy. He argues that a centralized zoning plan will identify areas for commercial, residential or recreational use, and those prone to calamities. The plan will help government move people in high-risk zones. He laments that local politicians, and real estate developers oppose the much-delayed policy. Honasan is the author of several environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, and the Climate Change Act. The senator is also the co-author of the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, which created the NDRRMC to institutionalize measures for reducing disaster risks, and to build the resilience of communities. [48]

Marcos authored a Senate version of the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act (pending in the House of Representatives), which seeks to give immediate special assistance to children during calamities. He also authored one Senate version of the PAGASA Modernization Act, seeking to upgrade the equipment of the state weather bureau and increase the salaries of its personnel. Marcos has been vocal about tracking rehabilitation efforts after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit), calling for a Senate probe into how foreign funds and donations have been used by the government.

Robredo believes in strengthening the rescue capabilities of barangay officials, noting their role as the first responders on the ground during an emergency. She also emphasized the importance of having a disaster-proof development plan for local government units, and a stronger local disaster risk reduction council. In the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)'s devastation in November 2013, Robredo called for a review of Republic Act 10121, the enabling law of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. [50]

Conclusion

On the issue of mining and GMOs, VP candidate Sen. Gringo Honasan has the positive stance. His position to have a new laws on mining and GMO is almost the same on the stance of many environmental organizations. Environmentalists believe that junking the Mining Act and banning commercialization of GMO crops and labelling of GMO products bodes well to the environment.

While VP candidate Rep. Leni Robredo has a clear anti-coal power position which is basically essential if we want to reduce the country’s PH carbon emission and contribute to global effort to mitigate global warming.

Though all VP candidates have the same weak position in regards to US military presence. All favors the implementation of EDCA and all did not register opposition to US military presence in the country.

On the issue of climate change and disasters, all has positive proposal yet their position on mining (except Honasan) and coal power plant (except Robredo) contradicts this. It means how can you prevent climate disasters when you legalize environmental destruction and contribution which contributes to worsening climate impacts.

[i] ] Sep 23, 2014: According to No To Mining in Palawan, https://www.facebook.com/no2mininginpalawan/posts/844112852288963

[ii] Sep 25, 2014: Philippine Resources (Mining, Petroleum & Energy Journal) article, http://philippine-resources.com/sen-cayetano-bids-miners-take-the-lead-on-national-development

[iii] Sep 25, 2014: Dovetail Ventures Asia article

[iv] 2013 elections from AteneoFactCheck 2013 (First Brief), http://www.ateneo.edu/sites/default/files/FactCheck%20Briefs.pdf

[v] Sep 18, 2015: Sunstar article, http://www.sunstar.com.ph/manila/local-news/2015/09/18/marcos-wants-cohesive-long-term-mining-policy-430988

[vi] Sep 19, 2015: Manila Times article, http://www.manilatimes.net/govt-should-ease-ph-mining-policy%C2%AD-marcos/219467


Philippine governor charged with illegal mining

Northern Luzon’s Espino Jr accused of violating country’s anti-graft law

By Gilbert P. Felongco

Gulf News

11 April 2016

A Philippine governor is facing trial over alleged illegal black sand mining operations on the shores of Lingayen Gulf, the anti-graft watchdog’s office said.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said the governor of Pangasinan, Amado Espino Jr, could be held accountable for violating the country’s anti-graft law after he allowed mining companies and contractors to excavate magnetite and other minerals in a government-declared “protected” area.

Black sand, which comes from volcanic soil, is being mined for magnetite, a naturally-occurring oxide of iron that has wide applications.

Espino, 59, allegedly issued permits to two private contractors, Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures, Inc. (AMOVI) and Xypher Builders, Inc. (XBI) to conduct operations in the village of Sabangan in Pangasinan’s Lingayen town despite the fact that the area had been declared under government protection.

Espino is a former official of the Philippine National Police and is a graduate of the state-run Philippine Military Academy. He was a member of the Aksyon Demokratiko political party.

Aside from Espino, also charged were provincial administrator Rafael Baraan and provincial housing and urban development coordinating officer Alvin Bigay. Likewise, members of the board of directors of Amovi and XBI were also named on the charge sheet.

“AMOVI and XBI were given unwarranted benefits by the respondent public officials resulting to the loss of minerals in the amount of P10,750,000, (Dh855,918),” the Ombudsman said.

The office of the Environmental Ombudsman had earlier recommended the filing of two counts of violation of anti-graft and corrupt practices law against Espino and others for issuing government permits to AMOVI and XBI despite the lack of Environment Compliance Certificate and non-registration of AMOVI and XBI with the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board.

Under Presidential Proclamation No. 1258, the Lingayen Gulf, along with 184 hectares that cover the villages of Sabangan, Estanza, Malimpuec and Capandanan, were declared by former President Fidel Ramos as environmentally critical areas in 1998.

Mining resources in the Philippines have been the subject of exploitation by foreign entities who often conduct mining operations without providing benefits to local populace. Many of the people living in surrounding areas are subject to environmental hazards caused by mining activities.

The possible indictment of Espino came almost a year after the governor of Zambales, former Philippine National Police Director General Hermogenes Ebdane.

Ebdane, who was among the trusted police generals of former President Gloria Arroyo, was indicted in June last year for allegedly colluding with a foreign firm to steal the country’s mineral resources.

Carpio Morales had said that Governor Ebdane of Zambales usurped the functions of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board when he issued a Small-Scale Mining Permit without necessary authority to a Chinese firm engaged in mining chromium in the province.


Filipino environmentalists join global protests to demand justice for Honduran activist Berta Caceres

Kalikasan PNE press release

7 April 2016

A month after the murder of Berta Caceres, a Honduran activist well known across the global environmental movement, Filipino environmental activists joined various groups in a protest action in front of the Honduran Consulate in the Philippines to demand justice from the Honduran authorities.

“The Honduran government has blood on its hands with the murder of Berta Caceres. The recent series of murders of Honduran anti-dam activists demonstrate the impunity of the Honduran government against the rights and safety of its people. We believe the killings and other human rights violations perpetrated against Honduran activists are sanctioned by the government to deter public opposition to its corruption-laden and environmentally destructive mega-projects,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).

The action was organized by the International League of People’s Struggle-Philippines and Kalikasan PNE to express their solidarity with Caceres’ comrades and the Honduran people at large, and to add to the voices demanding justice for Caceres and other victims of extra-judicial killings in Honduras.

Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores was a Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader of the Lenca people, and co-founder and coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). She was assassinated on March 3, 2016 by suspected state military forces in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras. Almost two weeks later, her colleague Nelson Garcia was also killed. Her relatives and colleagues believe that she was murdered because of her activism against destructive projects of mining and hydroelectric companies.

Honduras was recently classified as the most dangerous place in the world for environmental activists. According to the 2014 report of UK NGO Global Witness documented over 100 killings of Honduran environmental activists since 2009. Before her death, Berta and COPINH was successful in opposing the Agua Zarca Dam owned by Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos S. A (DESA) and was funded by Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) and foreign financial institutions  like Finnfund and Voith-Siemens. At least four (4) members of COPINH were killed during their campaign against Agua Zarca.

“We honor the life and legacy of our fellow environmental defender, Berta. She exemplified what a genuine human rights and environmental defender should be. Like other environmental martyrs before her, she led by example on how one should assert the rights of the people and the welfare of our mother earth. She pursued her advocacy in spite of the terror and harassment from state and corporate security forces. Not once did she waver in fighting injustice and oppression in her country. We offer our highest salute to Berta Carceres and all Honduran environmental martyrs. We demand that justice must be immediately served,” Bautista declared.

The groups submitted a Letter of Appeal to the Honduran Consulate in Pasig City, Philippines, demanding the urgent resolution of the case, the creation of an independent investigative body, and the immediate arrest and prosecution of the suspected gunmen.

“The Agua Zarca Dam Project should also be junked completely for its worsening atrocious human rights track record, lest another Berta or Nelson’s life is taken once again by big business and the corrupt government,” Bautista ended.


Bayan slams Honduras government for killing IP leader

Press Statement - http://www.bayan.ph/2016/04/07/bayan-slams-honduras-government-for-killing-ip-leader/

7 April 2016

The umbrella organization Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan (New Patriotic Alliance)  today picketed  the consulate of Honduras in Ortigas Park over the killing of well-known Berta Caceres, an indigenous leader of the Lenca people. She was an environmental activist and a human rights defender.

Berta Caceres vigorously protested  against foreign control of the natural resources of Honduras.

“We condemn in the strongest words possible the killing of Berta who fought for the interest of the Lenca people who barricaded the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally financed Honduran company Desa. Berta knew she was marked for assassination,  but she was ready to give her life for the cause of her people,” Rita Baua, International Solidarity Officer of Bayan, said during the protestaction.

“We likewise condemn the killing of another Indigenous Lenca leader, Nelson Garcia,  who was shot dead inside his house after he had come from a meeting in a community which had seen eviction of a dozen families,” Baua said.

Honduras is considered by human rights advocates and other political observers as  a country  dangerous  to live in, considering its size and the big number of people murdered by the state for opposing the take over by the US-Honduran government of their rivers and mountains. From 2010 – 2014 alone, 101 environmental activists and campaigners against neo-liberal policies were killed.

“Honduras is virtually a US colony, like the Philippines, “ Baua said.

In 2009, President Manuel Zelaya, was ousted in a US-instigated coup; he was flown to Costa Rica amidst massive protest actions mounted for his return.

Elected President Zelaya, a wealthy rancher,  attempted to institute reforms that catered to the interest of the Lenca people, the peasants,  the workers,  the slum dwellers, etc. The different social movements influenced him to carry out progressive changes such as :increase of  the minimum wage, implementation of  a moratorium on mining concessions, negotiations with peasant  movements to settle land conflicts, entered into  an alliance with Venezuela’s ALBA energy alternative, and supporting a referendum to potentially lead to Honduran constitutional reform, although said reform would not benefit him.

“These reforms did not sit well with US transnationals. That is why, the US had to spirit him out of the country so that their own puppet among  the elite of Honduras would be installed, “ Baua said.

In the 1960s, Honduras was called a “banana republic” because the US banana corporation United Fruit Company Multinationa Chiquita managed  thousands of hectares of bananas. These multinational corporations benefited the foreign companies; later on, they would  diversify into other ventures in  Honduras.

“In the Philippines, the US focused on the sugar industry including coconut and rubber and would later on diversify into other economic ventures beneficial to US companies, “ Baua said

To complete its dominance over Honduras, the US implemented counterinsurgency strategy starting from the 1980s. Officials of the Armed Forces of Honduras and other countries in Latin America underwent training in the US Army School of Americas/Western Institute for Security  Operation.

To ensure its control over this country, the US set up the Palmerola Air Base where hundreds of US soldiers are stationed. Those who opposed the US-backed regimes were kidnapped, tortured, detained, killed. From Honduras, the Palmerola Air Base would serve as military base and training ground for military officials in neighboring countries such as El Salvador and Nicaragua.

During these recent years, Honduras leaders accepted neo liberalization : austerity, privatization, currency devaluation, structural adjustment, and focus on growing export markets.

Throughout the decade, “neoliberal policies and structural adjustment promoted nontraditional agricultural exports, expanded the maquiladora sector, and forged new free trade agreements, among other policies that increased economic hardship for Honduran workers while benefiting foreign investors”.

Under the current regime of the US- backed President Juan Orlando Hernandez, communities were militarized, and people evicted to give way to projects of TNCs. But the people of Honduras, especially the Lenca people, campesinos, workers would oppose and protest against all these.

Hernandez continued neoliberal privatization processes including “further opening new mining concessions, privatizing and decentralizing the education and health systems, negotiating new free trade agreements, furthering corporate monopolization of farming resources, developing mega-tourism projects, and pursuing the development of controversial ‘model cities’ “.

Bayan stands in solidarity with the people of Honduras in a shared struggle against a common enemy – US imperialism.

Bayan gives its highest salute to the martyrs of Honduras who did not waver in their commitment to fight for the people, even if it meant their death.


Philippine priest honored as environmental hero

Vatican Radio

19 March 2016

Fr. Edwin Gariguez of Philippines on March 17 was awarded the ‘environmental hero’ award by the Jesuit-run Xavier University for his battle against a nickel mine to protect Mindoro Island’s biodiversity and its indigenous people.

Xavier University bestowed a doctorate in humanities, on Father Edwin Gariguez for his sustained and significant efforts to protect the environment and indigenous peoples.

Father Roberto Yap, university president, said Father Gariguez's ministry is an inspiring response to Pope Francis challenge "to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."

"The vocation you have patiently and perseveringly pursued in the peripheries has truly been serving the faith that does justice and ecological stewardship," Father Yap said in his letter to Father Gariguez.

Father Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, received the award during the university's graduation ceremony in Cagayan de Oro City on March 17, where he also delivered the keynote address.

A winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists, Fr Gariguez is a prominent figure against indiscriminate large scale mining in the Philippines. He is the Executive Secretary of CBCP-NASSA, the social development, humanitarian and advocacy arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.

He is also one of the convenors of Alyansa Tigil Mina, a countrywide coalition of organizations and individuals acting as a watchdog over violations in laws and policies related to the mining industry. (UCAN)


Red Mountain Mining Ltd has green light for Batangas with Bluebird listing

Press release

14 April 2016

Red Mountain Mining Ltd's strategic funding partner for the Batangas Gold Project in the Philippines, Bluebird Merchant Ventures Ltd, has achieved Admission to trading on the London Stock Exchange main market.

Bluebird hit the boards at 8am on the 13th April 2016 (UK time).

The benefit for Red Mountain on the Bluebird listing is that it will receive cash, to add to the recently raised A$1.19 million (before costs) from a placement and rights issue.

With the Bluebird admission to the LSE, US$1.2 million (A$1.6 million) in loans will be re-paid to Red Mountain within 5 days.

Red Mountain has also subscribed for of GBP 500,000 (US$700,000) in shares in Bluebird, and will hold circa 4.7% of Bluebird’s issued capital.

Therefore net of the subscription in Bluebird, Red Mountain will receive US$0.6 million (A$0.8 million) in cash, including repayment of the Bluebird Loans with interest and costs and 25% joint venture contributions.

Jon Dugdale, managing director for Red Mountain, commented:

“Now that Bluebird’s Admission to the LSE and their IPO has been achieved, we have the green light to deliver the key milestones we have been working towards at the high-grade Batangas Gold Project in the Philippines.

“We’ve been chafing at the bit to complete the Feasibility Study, drill test our high grade gold targets and complete the development permitting inputs, so it’s an exciting few months coming up.”

Analysis

The Stage 1 funding payments by Bluebird for 25% of Red Mountain Mining Singapore Pte (RMMS) total US$1.7 million.

RMMS is the holder of the Batangas Gold Project assets.

This represents a US$6.8 million (A$9 million) valuation for 100% of Batangas.

With Red Mountain holding 75%, and having an enterprise value circa $3 million, the company provides an intriguing investment opportunity in the gold sector.


Council rejects Sawang Calero coal plant project

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cebu/local-news/2016/04/28/council-rejects-sawang-calero-coal-plant-project-470312 

27 April 2016

THE Cebu City Council denied Wednesday, April 27, the proposed 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant project in Barangay Sawang Calero for lack of social acceptability.

City Councilor Nida Cabrera, in her report, said the proposed coal plant is hazardous to the environment, quoting a World Health Organization study.

She added that the village where the plant was supposed to be built is also classified as an industrial district 1, thus power plants should not be built there.

Proponents of the project, Councilors Noel Wenceslao and Richard Osmeña also withdrew their resolution favorably endorsing the project.

Nelson Yuvallos of Ludo Power Corporation refused to comment on the denial Wednesday, but residents of Barangay Sawang Calero thanked him for the withdrawal.

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