Philippines: President notes "Mining - My way or the environmental highway"Published by MAC on 2016-09-03
Source: Inquirer, Reuters, Guardian, Philippine Star, GMA (2016-09-03)
The startling saga of the new Philippine President, and his environmental appointee, continues (see: Philippines: President tells miners country does not need them). And at the moment it continues on a similar trajectory. The President was recently quoted as saying"I am fighting a monster. Believe me, I will destroy their clutches on our nation."As a recent headline put it: "Philippine President warns mining sector: My way or the environmental highway".
In perhaps one of the most telling moves, the new Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has offered to immediately return specific lands to indigenous peoples from Mindanao(Lumads), which have been encroached upon by large-scale mining and logging companies. The new DENR Secretary, Gina Lopez, has also said she will inspect permits of mining companies cited by the Lumad leaders in an ongoing mining audit, and will shut them down if it is proven they are operating within ancestral domains (presumably without correct consent).
It is the mining audit which has become the focus of current mining struggles in the country, with all operating mines up for audit and the results expected imminently. Apparently the world's nickel markets are waiting with bated breath (as are many mining companies and communities). Ms Lopez has said that any company that does not pass the audit will be shut down immediately, and the President added that if any executive resists they face arrest.
As the audit continues mines are still being suspended for violating their environmental licences; these include one mining nickel, one mining chromite and an iron ore miner. Small-scale gold miners are also in the sights of the newly crusading DENR, as is OceanaGold which has allegedly been shown a 'cause order' explaining the many complaints against the company (see: Philippines mining - the case against Didipio).
Gina Lopez has also noted that the Tampakan project should not have been given environmental clearance, and has said the black sand mining industry is the next to come under scrutiny.
NGOs and community leaders have been praising these actions, but have also brought pressure to bear on what they see as key issues, particularly calling for a cleansing of the ranks of DENR officials. Ms Lopez appears to have rejected - at least some of - these calls. Some civil society groups have joined the audits, whereas others have been calling for independent, people's audits in case of 'greenwashing'.
In response, the mining industry seems to be countering with a number of different strategies. These include: stressing that all is well despite the recent news, agreeing with the core of current government demands, noting they are already 'responsible'; asking for meetings to clear up misunderstandings; slamming the 'demolition campaign' against the industry; shuttering mines and laying off workers; challenging the legality of the government's actions; and in the case of some investors terminating their agreements. Ms Lopez has countered that the DENR is committed to aid displaced workers from recent suspensions.
Against this background debates continue on the legal framework underpinning mining in the country. One commentator recently called the 1995 Mining Act 'treasonous' for what it gives away to foreign investors, and Ms Lopez seems to agree it is unfit for purpose. At least one DENR official has questioned whether the previous president's Executive Order (EO79) is still needed, and the proposed Alternative Mining Bill have been re-filed in Congress.
With all this excitement around Philippine mining it is almost possible to miss the news that the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) has sent 47 “carbon majors” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination” over their greenhouse gas emissions. This is an unprecedented first move in a likely investigation of the companies. Like so many recent developments around mining in the Philippines, it will be fascinating to see where everything ends up.
Ancestral land occupied by mining, logging to return to lumad: DENR
By Janina C. Lim, Reporter
8 August 2016
THE Environment Department vows to return immediately to the lumad (indigenous peoples) their right to lands allegedly encroached upon by large-scale mining and logging companies.
Environment Undersecretary Leo L. Jasareno, head of the agency’s mining audit team, assured the lumad or indigenous peoples (IP) in Mindanao seeking refuge at the Haran compound of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines in Davao City that their ancestral lands occupied for the implementation of mine projects will be returned to them within the month.
“The DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) would return their lands to the lumad within August, as long as it is proven that the areas were occupied without the consent of the entire tribal community since it is illegal for mining companies to operate in ancestral lands,” Mr. Jasareno was quoted as saying in the agency’s statement sent over the weekend to reporters via e-mail.
Under Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, no ancestral land shall be turned over to miners for their operations “without prior consent of the indigenous cultural community concerned.”
The Haran camp had become an evacuation site for at least 300 lumad who fled their homes and farmlands in Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong in Davao del Norte and the village of White Kulaman in Bukidnon more than a year ago following complaints of harassment by paramilitary groups and of indiscriminate killings of their leaders.
IP leaders reported that military personnel and some of their fellow IPs whom they claim have turned against them after being enjoined to accept money have driven the IPs away from their lands to give way to large-scale mining and logging operations.
DENR Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez has vowed to bring back their homes to the lumad earlier than September.
She also said she will inspect permits of mining companies cited by the lumad leaders in the ongoing mining audit and will shut them down if proven to operate over an ancestral domain.
Among the first mining operations to undergo the audit were SR Metals Inc., Taganito Mining Corporation, Greenstone Resources, and Corporation Claver Mineral Development Corporation, whose mineral ore transport permit has been suspended by Ms. Lopez.
The audit of mining operations is scheduled to be completed and released this month.
Philippine 'shock and awe' mine crackdown rattles nickel markets
By Manolo Serapio Jr and Enrico Dela Cruz
5 August 2016
MANILA - As the Philippines' tough-talking new president ratchets up a campaign against irresponsible mining, the suspension of a quarter of the country's nickel mines and the risk of more action to come is spooking global nickel markets.
The Southeast Asian nation is China's biggest supplier of nickel ore - used to make stainless steel - and with few alternative suppliers available, the crackdown pushed nickel prices up 13 percent last month.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who swept to power on June 30 with a vow to crush crime by targeting hundreds of suspected drug dealers, warned miners this week to follow tighter environmental rules or shut down, saying the country can survive without mining.
"Whether it is legal or not it will destroy the country," Duterte told a forum on Thursday. "It's about time to reconfigure the wealth of the nation among its citizens."
Six out of 27 nickel mines were suspended in the first weeks of an audit that began on July 8 - representing 8 percent of total output - and the suspension of a seventh was announced on Thursday.
Mining has powerful opponents in the Philippines, including the influential Catholic Church, following public anger over past environmental disasters and the displacement of local communities.
Despite a wealth of untapped resources, a once thriving industry in the 1970s is now dominated by a few local miners, mostly nickel producers, and even fewer foreign players, led by Australian miner OceanaGold Corp. Mining contributed less than 1 percent to the Philippine economy last year.
Open Pit "Madness"
"I would like that the mining companies, the ones that we suspend, must rehabilitate. That is social justice," said Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez, a staunch environmentalist appointed by Duterte who believes open-pit mining is "madness."
The government has not said how many of the country's 40 mines have been audited so far, but Leo Jasareno, who is supervising the audit as a senior undersecretary in Lopez's department, said he expected it to be completed this month.
"For as long as there is cause and the reason falls within (legal) grounds, the government has the authority to cancel mining contracts," Jasareno told Reuters.
Jasareno was replaced earlier this week as head of the government's Mines and Geosciences Bureau by Mario Luis Jacinto, a geologist who worked in southern Davao City where Duterte was mayor for 22 years.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said some miners were weighing up possible legal options in the event of more mine closures.
But they would "rather have the Philippine government appreciate the industry for its merits," said chamber spokesman Ronald Recidoro.
The Philippines supplied 95 percent of China's nickel ore imports in the first six months of 2016, according to Chinese customs data, and while global stocks are high a suspension or closure of more mines could drive refined nickel prices up further.
"If the Philippines does shut its mining industry, the fact that you've got high stocks simply won't matter, the market will simply skyrocket," said Wood Mackenzie analyst Andrew Mitchell.
Nickel touched an 11-month high of $10,900 a tonne on July 21, and has stayed well above $10,000 since.
The government is now also investigating public complaints of environmental infractions against a local iron ore miner and against OceanaGold's exploration of an area near its Didipio gold mine that complainants want for agriculture, said Jasareno.
OceanaGold declined to comment on the exploration issue, but chief executive Mick Wilkes said the company supports Duterte's stance on responsible mining and is happy to work with the new administration.
Manila-based business consultant Peter Wallace said Duterte appears to be employing his "shock and awe" strategy in his war against drugs in dealing with miners.
"If it puts fear into the irresponsible lot and gets them to close down or for local governments to force their closure, this is good. But if it scares away the responsible ones that's not so good," he said.
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr. and Enrico dela Cruz; Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE; Editing by Richard Pullin)
Philippines suspends two more mines in environmental clampdown
By Enrico Dela Cruz
11 August 2016
MANILA - The Philippine government has suspended operations at two more mines due to environmental violations in an ongoing audit of the country's mining sector, officials said on Thursday.
The move raises the number of suspended mines to 10 - eight of them nickel ore producers - since the Southeast Asian nation launched a review of all mines on July 8.
The closures and the threat of more mines getting hit in the world's top nickel ore supplier lifted prices of the metal to a one-year high of $11,030 a tonne on Wednesday.
The latest suspended mines are operated by Emir Mineral Resources Corp, which produced 150,000 tonnes of nickel ore last year, and Mt. Sinai Mineral Exploration Corp, which extracted 50,000 tonnes of chromite, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Leo Jasareno told a media briefing.
Both mines are privately owned and located in the central Samar province, primarily supplying China.
The audit found that operations at the Emir Mineral and Mt. Sinai mines have caused silt build-up in coastal waters and deforestation, said Jasareno.
"All suspension orders are indefinite," he said.
Excluding Emir Mineral, Jasareno said the seven suspended nickel mines accounted for about 8 percent of the Philippines' output of the metal last year.
The Philippines is the top nickel ore supplier to China, shipping 34 million tonnes in 2015.
Separately, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez said the $5.9 billion Tampakan gold-copper project in the southern island of Mindanao should not have been given a clearance that would allow it to proceed.
"That project should never have been given an ECC (environmental compliance certificate)," Lopez said.
Tampakan is the Philippines' biggest stalled mining venture and a cancellation of its environmental permit - granted in 2013 - could further delay it or end it completely.
Commodities giant Glencore Plc quit the project last year following the delays that have hampered its development since the province where it is located banned open-pit mining in 2010.
The planned mine would cover an area the size of 700 football fields in what otherwise would be agricultural land, said Lopez.
"You can't have mining in the food basket of Mindanao," she said.
The government will give Sagittarius Mines Inc, which runs Tampakan, a week to explain why its environmental permit should not be revoked, said Lopez.
Sagittarius Mines officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lopez said her agency has also asked top domestic coal miner Semirara Mining & Power Corp to explain environmental violations including siltation of nearby waters and air pollution.
But it would be hard to just shut Semirara's operations, she said, because that might lead to power outages given the Philippines' heavy reliance on coal-fired generators.
Semirara said in a stock exchange filing that it has yet to receive any order from the mining agency, but that it has been compliant with all relevant laws.
(Writing by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Tom Hogue)
Philippine villagers claim victory over nickel mining firm
18 August 2016
Manila, Philippines - Residents of a small island in the central Philippines hailed a government order that stopped one of the country's largest mining firms from removing nickel ore stockpiles from their village.
The removal of the ore was ruining local ecosystems, the residents said.
"We thought we'd see our island waste away first," Rebecca Destajo, a village leader on Manicani Island off the coastal town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar province, told ucanews.com Aug. 18 after the government announced its decision.
Opposition to mining operations on the island had been ongoing since the Hinatuan Mining Corp., an affiliate of Nickel Asia Corp., acquired rights to mine in the village in 1987.
The firm stopped operations in 1994 because of falling nickel prices, but resumed in 2001. Operations again were suspended in 2002 following local opposition supported by the Borongan diocese.
In 2005, the company was granted a permit to remove its stockpiles but residents protested, resulting in clashes with police.
Last month, a government audit found the mining company was taking too much soil and "disturbing the local ecology."
"They are taking soil out and it goes to China. We are suspending the retrieval of stockpiles, to address the ecological balance," Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez said Aug. 17.
Mining company officials said the government move was "unfair and baseless."
"[The audit] did not follow the right procedures. They have not given us any opportunity to talk. We want to express our side," said Francis Malones, company spokesman.
The company has filed an appeal with the Department of Environment to lift the suspension.
The social justice group Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. welcomed the government's decision, saying "it has been a long time coming."
"We acknowledge this unity among government agencies and peoples' organizations to protect the small islands," said partnership coordinator Yolanda Esguerra.
She said the organization next would seek to revoke the company's mining permit.
"It is now time that the government seek accountability from this mining company and ensure that it rehabilitates the islands," said Fr. Odick Calumpiano, social action director of the Borongan diocese.
The priest said the community is looking forward to the restoration of the ecosystem. Island residents, mostly fishermen and farmers, said they were looking forward to improvements in their lives without the mine.
"Many farmers were lured from their fields and went for the easy money in mining," said farmer Manuel Gagap.
"There might be nothing left for our children if they continue with it. We might end up leaving the island," he added.
The Hinatuan Mining Corp. had stockpiled 1.54 million tons of nickel ore on the island. It had exported 292,000 tons. The company claimed Manicani has a life of 13 years remaining and that 37 acres of a total of 2,879 acres had been mined.
Lone Philippine iron ore miner suspended in govt crackdown
By Manolo Serapio Jr and Enrico Dela Cruz
8 August 2016
MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines has suspended the operations of the country's only iron ore miner due to environmental infractions, officials said on Monday, bringing to eight the number of mineral producers halted in a government crackdown.
The Southeast Asian nation, the world's top nickel ore supplier, began an audit of all its metallic mines on July 8, shaking global nickel markets as seven nickel miners were suspended for causing environmental harm.
Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp, which runs an iron ore mine in Bulacan province, north of the capital Manila, was suspended after an investigation showed it polluted a river, Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Leo Jasareno told reporters.
"We're stopping the whole operation," said Jasareno, adding that ore transport permits have been withdrawn. The company produced 40,000 tonnes of iron ore last year, said Jasareno.
An official from privately owned Ore Asia Mining's legal department told Reuters by phone that the company has yet to receive the suspension order.
While the Southeast Asian nation is a small iron ore producer, it is the biggest supplier of nickel ore to No. 1 consumer China.
The environmental audit into the country's 40 mines is being spearheaded by firebrand President Rodrigo Duterte and Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez. It is expected to be completed this month and has helped prop up global nickel prices near 11-month highs.
In a series of tweets by the Environment and Natural Resources agency on Monday, Jasareno was quoted as saying he expects an audit on Australian miner OceanaGold Corp's Didipio gold-copper mine in the northern Luzon island to be finished next week.
Other miners being audited include Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co and Philex Mining Corp's gold mines, also in Luzon, and Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp's gold mine in central Visayas island, the agency said in a tweet attributed to Jasareno.
"I don't need gold. What do you need it for? You don't need it for survival. You need trees, clean air, clean water," Lopez, a staunch environmentalist, was quoted by the agency as saying in a separate tweet.
Lopez made the remarks after signing an agreement with four other government agencies - Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, Philippine National Police and the Department of Transporation - to form a task force that will enforce environmental laws.
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr. and Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Richard Pullin)
Manila targets gold miners in latest crackdown
6 August 2016
Rodrigo Duterte, sworn in as the Philippines president at the end of June, and close ally Gina Lopez, Environment Secretary, has ratcheted up the rhetoric against mining companies operating in the country. Reuters quoted Duterte last week as saying the country could forego the $850m in government revenues from the mining industry which represents just 1% of GDP.
The Philippines natural resources ministry is conducting an audit of all mining operations within the country and have already shut down six mines since Duterte came into office, three of them nickel mines. The ministry is also calling for an outright ban on all open pit mining and a 2012 moratorium on new mining licences also remains in place.
Over the weekend, Lopez set her sights on small-scale gold miners in the country, estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands. According to a report in the Philippine Star Lopez ruled all small-scale mining activities operating outside the country's mining co-operatives system (referred to as Minahang Bayan) "were illegal in nature and that they should be stopped immediately."
There are only three established operations in the country of this kind and as much as 60% of the country's production of gold could be affected by the new decree.
According to World Gold Council data the Philippines produced 41.1 tonnes or less than 1.5 million ounces in 2015 placing it in the top 20 producing countries globally and number three in Asia behind China and Indonesia.
According to PGI Intelligence, a London-based research company, investment in mining in the Philippines dropped to a three-year low of just $924m last year.
The proposed changes to the licences, which are supported by the new Duterte administration, would increase the government’s share of mining revenues.
Mining companies in the Philippines already face the most burdensome tax regime in Southeast Asia, with an average of 40% of revenues transferred to the government, via a 30% corporate income tax and several mining-specific taxes according to PGI.
OceanaGold asked to refute complaints
Anna Leah E. Gonzales
24 August 2016
Environment Secretary Regina Lopez said Wednesday the government would issue a show cause order to OceanaGold Philippines Inc. to give the mining company a chance to explain why the extension of its mining permit should not be canceled.
“There’s a show cause. I am not pleased that the community and the governor are super unhappy with their operations,” she said.
Environment Undersecretary Leo Jasareno earlier said the government would review the extension permit granted to OceanaGold for its Didipio mine in Nueva Vizcaya.
NGO group Alyansa Tigil Mina asked the Environment Department to withdraw the exploration permit granted to OceanaGold, saying the mining area used to be a rich agricultural land.
Earlier this year, MGB gave the mining company another five years to explore its 15,000 hectares mining tenement. The permit will last until 2021.
OceanaGold has already explored 975 hectares out of the 15,000 hectares covered by the tenement.
“Definitely, something is not right, otherwise there will not be all these complaints. There are complaints of dumpling toxicity on rice fields, taking the water supply of the farmers such as they don’t have enough for their rice lands,” Lopez said.
She said the mining company should also compensate the farmers for any damage done and loss of income.
“I talked to the farmers today and I promised them justice. But there has to be due process and I also promised it will not take time. The final decision should be in by next week,” Lopez said.
OceanaGold denied its mining exploration area was an agricultural land.
“There should be no reason why that should be withdrawn because that was just given to us. I have not been formally advised,” said OceanaGold Philippines chairman Jose Leviste Jr.
Leviste said the company would wait for the official advise and respond to the order.
“We don’t want to go to agricultural areas. We want to go to highly-mineralized,” Leviste said.
He said the company remained optimistic about the current administration’s thrust on responsible mining.
“We hope to explore more in the Philippines. We are working closely if we can explore tenements in Surigao,” Leviste said.
DENR asks all small-scale miners to stop operating
By James Konstantin Galvez
8 August 2016
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has ordered to stop all small-scale mining operations, the source of 60 percent of gold production in the country.
Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez said that all small-scale mining activities operating outside the so-called Minahang Bayan are illegal in nature, noting that they should stop immediately or face full force of the law.
“We don’t need gold to live. It is not an essential thing for survival,” Lopez told reporters after signing the memorandum of agreement for the creation of a National Anti-Environmental Crimes Task Force.
Lopez was reacting to complaints by big mining lobby that she was more focused on large-scale mining and seemingly neglected the existence of illegal small-scale mining operations.
Meanwhile, DENR Undersecretary Leo Jasareno, announced the suspension of Ore Asia, the country’s only operating iron mine after failing to get an ISO certification and causing environmental damage to the waterways surrounding the mine.
Ore Asia, which is located in Doña Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan, has an annual production of about 40,000 metric tons iron ore. Its output is mainly shipped overseas and to Eagle Cement in Bulacan.
“The company is the eighth mining operation to be suspended by the DENR this year. The first seven nickel mines suspended, represent 8 percent of the country’s total nickel production,” said Jasareno.
The former director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau said the DENR expected to complete audit of big mining companies in the next two weeks, with Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co., Philex Mining Corp., OceanaGold Philippines, Philmineral Group Ltd. the first major players under audit.
Jasareno, the lead person in the ongoing audit of mines in the Philippines, echoed Lopez’s sentiment on small-scale mining activities, saying that all small-scale mining is illegal under the DENR’s revised implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 7076, or the Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991.
The revised IRR aims to institutionalize and implement reforms in the Philippine mining sector, providing policies and guidelines to ensure environmental protection and responsible mining in the utilization of mineral resources—including the declaration of a Minahang Bayan.
A Minahang Bayan centralizes the processing of minerals within a zone where the government can better monitor gold production by small-scale miners.
At present, there are three Minahang Bayan nationwide with 10 new applications pending before the Mines and Geoscience Bureau.
There are 300,000 to 400,000 small-scale miners operating in 40 mineral-rich provinces nationwide, the majority of which operates outside the Minahang Bayan.
While the order maintains small-scale mining for all non-metallic minerals (such as quarry materials), small-scale mining operations are no longer be allowed to mine nickel and iron and metals other than gold, silver and chromite.
The order also states that small-scale mining contracts shall now be issued by the provincial/city mining regulatory board concerned, instead of the provincial governor or city mayor.
The other salient features of the DAO is the complete ban on the use of mercury, hydraulic and compressor mining; providing for centralized custom mills within a mineral processing zone inside a Minahang Bayan; and limiting the total term of a small-scale mining contract, including renewals, to a maximum of six years.
The order also allows the establishment of Minahang Bayan in areas covered by large-scale mining applications that have been denied but with pending appeals, provided that royalties are paid in escrow.
It also limits the qualified applicants of a small-scale mining contract to a cooperative or a group of small-scale miners; requires the contractors to pay the government share in the amount to be set by the board, on top of the payment of the usual taxes; and requires mineral processors to secure mineral processing licenses from the board.
The BSP has five buying stations in Quezon City, Baguio City, Davao City, Zamboanga City, and Naga City.
Duterte looking into limiting mining permits
By CNN Philippines Staff
4 August 2016
Davao City (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte, after saying he would strictly implement the mining law, said he’s also considering limiting permits the government is issuing to mining companies.
The President said this on Thursday in a speaking engagement in Ateneo de Davao, with Environment Secretary Gina Lopez listening on stage.
Duterte recently defended Lopez from mining executives castigating the secretary for being so strict.
Duterte said following the highest mining standards now would not guarantee a company the freedom to operate.
“When it would number to thousands, whether it's legal or not, it will destroy the country,” said Duterte.
Duterte said the country's lands can only take so much damage from mining operations.
“We can only hold so much. There has to be a limit,” the President added.
Businesses engaged in logging or cutting trees also seem to be on their 25th hour.
Duterte said many will get mad but he will still work on it in the next 6 years. "Dahan dahan kong sisirain yan," the President said. [I will slowly destroy that.]
Duterte also took a swipe at what he says are “oligarchs” who, according to the President, use their influence to get into mining.
“Yung mga mina, napupunta yan sa mga oligarchs. Walang iba yang ginawa kundi mag-influence peddling,” Duterte said.
[Translation: Mining goes to oligarchs. They don’t do anything but influence peddling.]
Duterte said he will destroy the clutches of the oligarchs.
“It's all over the Philippines. That is why, I am fighting a monster," Duterte said.
The President also referred to oligarchs as people who take people's money, get government franchises because of “greed and influence.”
“Itong oligarchy, they are resisting because it would destroy the power vortex.” [This oligarchy, they are resisting because it would destroy the power vortex.]
The President related the concept of oligarchs to what he refers to as the "imperial Manila."
According to Duterte, this is something he wants to change — the idea of having a small group of influential people controlling the government from Metro Manila.
CNN Philippines’ Fiona Nicolas and Ina Andolong contributed to this report.
Duterte on mining firms: I am fighting a monster
By Christina M. Mendez
4 August 2016
MANILA, Philippines— President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at the oligarchs who exploit the country's natural resources particularly, those in the mining and fisheries industry.
"I am fighting a monster. Believe me, I will destroy their clutches on our nation," he said at an environment summit at Ateneo de Davao University.
Duterte vowed anew to go after mining firms which continue to practice environmentally destructive open-pit methods and corporations which are granted mining permits through money, influence and sheer greed.
The president scored the reckless grant of permits solely on the basis that a mining firm can afford it.
Foregoing a prepared speech, Duterte pressed for a stop to destructive mining practices simply because the land has already taken a beating.
"What I am sure of, I am a worker of government. Mining is a sunset industry and also logging. It is already too late. If there were 24 hours in a day, logging is on its 25th hour. We cannot cut trees anymore," he said.
Proud of the fact that during the elections, the former Davao City mayor refused to accept campaign contributions from individuals who had vested interests, the president feels he owes no favor to anyone and he serves not one but everyone.
"The oligarchs are resisting because it will destroy the power vortex. I do not owe anyone. Many would like to maintain the status quo. I will destroy this little by little. I will open the country's resources to all Filipinos regardless of tribe, race or religion. We have only one nation," he said.
He also said there should be a limit to mining operations even when they are within bounds of the law.
Duterte, defending anew policies of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, said mining eventually destroys the environment and should observe tighter regulations.
"We are still starting, but we will go after mining na hindi sumusunod sa standard," Duterte said.
Duterte said Australia and Canada have the best mining practices in the world, and should be emulated by firms in the Philippines.
Lopez, meanwhile, has so far suspended six mining permits over violations of standards. Duterte backed Lopez on her decision to revoke the licenses, saying Mindanao is a fragile state.
"If you cannot follow that standard, sorry. Maski na legal, we can only hold so much, iilang butas kung lagyan mo lahat, it will be a wobbling island," Duterte said. — with Camille Diola
DENR secretary warns erring mining firms of immediate closure
by Antonio L. Colina IV
5 August 2016
DAVAO CITY – Mining companies found to have failed to comply with technical and social requirements will be closed at once, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said.
Lopez was referring to the the 23 metallic mining companies in Mindanao that were undergoing an audit by the Department of Environmeny and Natural Resources.
“This is my personal commitment, all those that don’t pass the audit I won’t even waste one hour. Finish. Finish. It’s over. It will not be allowed any more,” she told a press conference on Thursday at the Ateneo de Davao University.
She said she can’t let people suffer from extractive mining operations that disregard the environment and social justice.
“The audit is not just technical. The audit is also social kung may komunidad na nagdurusa, kung may nagkakasakit hindi pwede yan (to know if there are communities that suffer, if there are people getting sick, it can’t be allowed). We are testing the water, the agriculture, the fishing kung palpak sila dyan (if they fail in that), they are not following the law,” she said.
Leo Jasareno, head of DENR’s Mining Audit Team, said the results of the audit will be completed this month and will serve as basis of the agency’s decision.
“Depending on the violations, the DENR may suspend until the violations are rectified, or in a worse situation, the DENR might cancel the contracts,” he said.
The agency will also start an audit on the 65 non-metallic mining companies in the country next month, he said, but he could not determine how many of these firms are operating in Mindanao.
Lopez added she wanted to develop more eco-zones and agro-forestry sites in the Philippines to earn for the communities a sustainable income.
The official intends to use the P9-billion budget to make “an economic impact of P18 billion” through the agency’s re-greening initiatives and development of more eco-tourism sites.
She cited, for instance, the La Mesa Ecopark and La Mesa Watershed that generate P43 million.
“What if the NGP of which I have P9 billion is put into the areas in the country and in Mindanao in a way which like La Mesa, earns a lot of money. My partners will be the community. We’re gonna do the agro-forestry in between and what I want is reforestation program, the NGP of DENR, will be a major push for economic well-being of Mindanao,” she added.
During Friday’s launch of Stand Firm, Aldous Pitogo, the group’s head countered that mining is not necessarily destructive if firms observe good practices like having rehabilitation programs, respecting human rights, and following the standards as stated for in the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Stand Firm pushes for so-called responsible mining. Its members include mining advocates, professionals, and students who “push for policies that address irresponsible mining practices for policies that address irresponsible mining practices and at the same time prioritizes the Filipino interests towards the utilization of minerals and benefits gained through mining for national sustainable development.” (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)
Mining officials face arrest
8 August 2016
Top executives of mining firms face arrest if they defy the closure order issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, President Duterte said yesterday.
The President advised mining firms to follow the closure order by DENR Secretary Gina Lopez to avoid such adverse consequence.
“If she orders the closure, you close or else I’ll have you arrested,” the President said in a televised public address in Davao City.
“I will not hesitate to arrest you,” added Duterte, who has criticized the mining industry for the critical damage caused on the environment.
Upon the orders of the President, Lopez has launched a crackdown on irresponsible mining companies in the country, ordering an audit of their operations. At least six mining companies have been suspended since the audit began last month.
The President earlier said the country could survive without the mining sector which he claimed is already a “sunset industry.” Duterte said he was ready to forgo R40 billion in annual revenues from mining industry for the sake of the protection of the environment.
As the DENR cracks down on firms violating environmental laws, the government intends to limit the issuance of new mining permits to save the country’s lands from further destruction, Duterte said. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)
Duterte on mining: 'Whether it is legal or not, it will destroy the country'
By Trisha Macas
4 August 2016
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday lashed out at the mining industry, calling it a "sunset industry" that "will destroy the country."
At the State of Mindanao Environmental Summit in Ateneo de Davao University, Duterte reiterated his administration will go after mining companies that will not follow the strictest international standards, citing the case of in Canada and Australia where best industry practices can be found.
"We will go after mining na hindi sumusunod sa standards," he said.
But Duterte said even compliant mining companies are ultimately bad for the Philippines.
"We can only open so much ... Whether it is legal or not, it will destroy the country," he said.
Duterte once again cited a mining site in Tubay, Agusan del Norte which he earlier identified as being operated by SR Mining Inc. and an example of how the industry works in the country.
"They are not into planting. They are into open-pit mining and destroy the soil along the way," he said.
In his speech, Duterte said corruption is one of the reasons why mining companies continue to receive permits from government.
"Ang ating mga lupa dito napupunta lang sa may connections. Ang problema dito, itong mga local officials. Kapag mayor, governor mag-issue ng permit, pera iyan. It is a corrupt society," he said.
"Hindi ako nagyayabang. Kung hindi ako naging presidente, I would not know what will happen to the country. Nakakaawa eh," Duterte added.
In his war against irresponsible mining, the President appointed Gina Lopez, a staunch environmentalist and anti-mining advocate, as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last June.
When Lopez accepted the Cabinet position, the 17-stock Mining and Oil index plunged 837.14 points or 7.31 percent at 10,614.70.
"The appointed secretary is a known anti-mining advocate who caused fears among investors exposed in mining and oil," noted Astro C. del Castillo, managing director at First Grade Finance Inc.
On her first day as DENR chief, Lopez ordered all mining operations in the country to undergo an audit and secure an International Standards Organization (ISO) certification.
Since Lopez assumed the leadership of DENR, the department has suspended 7 mining firms:
• BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc.
• Eramen Minerals Inc.
• LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc.
• Zambales Diversified Metals Corp.
• Citinickel Mines & Development Corp.
• Berong Nickel Corp.
• Claver Mineral Development Corp.
Claver Mineral was the latest addition to the list of suspended mining firms which Lopez announced on Thursday.
OceanaGold supports gov't stance
In response to the President's latest tirade against the industry, Melbourne-based OceanaGold Corp. said it would continue to implement the “same high standards” of mining in the Philippines
OceanaGold operates a gold mine in Nueva Vizcaya province.
“The President has made it very clear that he wants responsible mining done to Canadian and Australian standards and we are fully supportive of his stance," OceanaGold Director and CEO Mick Wilkes said in a text message to GMA News Online.
"We operate in the Philippines, New Zealand, and the USA to these same high standards and will continue to do so, delivering significant benefits to the local communities and governments in these countries,” he said.
The company is willing to cooperate with the new administration to ensure a note of environmental and social management, according to the mining executive.
“We are very proud of our track record with environmental and social management and happy to work with the new administration to demonstrate,” he said.
GMA News Online contacted other miners listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange, as well as members of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), but none of them were prepared to make a statement as of this posting.
COMP is the largest mining lobby in the Philippines, made up mostly of mining companies registered with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). — with Ted Cordero/Jon Viktor Cabuenas/VVP/JST/VDS, GMA News
Black sand mining next on environment crackdown
30 August 2016
“We are reviewing it, which mining we will not go for that will destroy the beaches,” MGB concurrent Director Mario Luis A. Jacinto told reporters last week when asked whether the Duterte government will continue its predecessor’s review of black sand mining operations in the country.
In 2014, the MGB suspended a number of illegal black sand mining operations along the coastline of Cagayan province.
Later that same year, the Mining Industry Coordinating Council, a panel under the purview of the Office of the President, issued a resolution ordering an evaluation of all existing black sand mining operations in the country -- from the issuance of permits to sanctions that may be imposed on companies that violate conditions set by those permits.
“We must make sure that we are able to fully assess, identify where are the possible sources and whether these are viable and whether these are marketable,” Mr. Jacinto said.
Last year, the first report of the interagency Fact-Finding Committee on Illegal Mining entitled “Philippine Mining Unearthed” was launched, flagging quarrying of magnetite black ore or black sand as the most common form of illegal mining operations.
Top markets for black sand exports are China and Taiwan. -- JCL
Gina Lopez, a “Crusader,” Sets Philippines Water, Mining Safety on Unexpected New Course
New environment secretary vows to enforce rule of law.
By Keith Schneider
Circle of Blue
25 August 2016
Before Regina Lopez agreed in June to serve as the secretary of the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources, her standing as one of the Pacific island nation’s determined environmental activists was unchallenged.
As the top executive of the foundation established by her family’s big media company she organized courageous campaigns to safeguard water, forests, and coastal areas from mining and logging in a nation where 88 environmental activists were murdered from 2010 to 2015. One of the victims, Gerry Ortega, was a close friend who was killed in January 2011 while he and Lopez worked to defend the island of Palawan from several proposals for big new mines.
At the same time as the mining campaigns, Lopez led a national project to clean up portions of the desperately polluted Pasig River, which flows through Manila, the capital.
And four years ago, after the chairman of the country’s largest mining company publicly accused her of lying about environmental damage from hard rock mining, Lopez stood her ground at a well-attended industry conference and impassively offered unassailable facts to support her view. The confrontation between the slim, serene environmentalist and the red-faced industrialist was videotaped, and attracted national headlines.
It also impressed Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the longtime mayor of Davao City who won the Philippines presidential election in May on an internationally notorious “change is coming” message to battle crime, corruption, illegal drugs, and environmental degradation.
Duterte was not joking. The flamboyant president, who has gained international attention for waging a bloody campaign against drug trafficking, met with mining executives before election day to issue a warning. He told them that if he won, his administration was prepared to rein in the industry’s rapacious practices with much stricter regulatory enforcement. “Just take care of the environment,” he said.
Philippine mines are among the world’s biggest suppliers of gold, copper, and nickel. The mining industry is an important source of foreign revenue in the fast-growing nation of 100 million people, and it employs 200,000 workers. The industry has a dismal record, though, of polluting water, disturbing land, and managing wastes. Three times since 1995 the dams containing big ponds of toxic mine tailings collapsed, pouring millions of tons of debris into Philippine rivers and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people. Environmental enforcement has been weakened by endemic payoffs and corruption, according to government reports.
In recruiting Lopez to his administration, Duterte pledged to back her work with the support of national police and military units. A week after his inauguration on June 30, Duterte appeared at a meeting of mining executives to support his new environment secretary, and to issue clear guidelines for what he expected of the industry.
He said companies should plant trees and prevent chemical contamination that wrecks ecosystems. He gave notice that his administration would close mines that violated the law. “When you’re spoiling the land, I’ll cancel the permit without hesitation. That’s the bottom line,” Duterte warned.
Such direct environmental mandates are rare in developing nations. Indonesia’s coal mining sector, for example, operates with such flimsy government oversight that miners are regularly injured or killed, and children drown in the deep waters of abandoned pits. India’s coal mining region in Meghalaya, a northeastern state, was shut down by a national court in 2014 after state and national government regulators showed themselves utterly incapable of preventing mine accidents and deaths, or curbing rampant acid mine water pollution. South Africa does not rigorously enforce its mine reclamation regulations. The hills and free-flowing streams of the coal region in KwaZulu-Natal are marred by the black sores of eroding abandoned mines and the contaminated waters that drain from mine mouths.
New Direction for Philippine Mine Industry
Duterte and Lopez say they are determined to tilt the Philippine mine industry in a different direction. On July 1, a day after taking office, Lopez acted on her mandate. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) made public its campaign to audit the environmental performance of the country’s big hard rock mines. Lopez promised to enforce existing water quality and land conservation measures to halt the outlaw practices. “If they are killing our rivers, how can their business interest be more important than the lives of our people? I will not allow suffering,” said Lopez. “The main thing is that whatever we do, the welfare of the people must be paramount.”
Leaders of the country’s gold, copper, and nickel mining industry, accustomed to fawning government support, feel like they’ve been struck by a swarm of bees.
In late July, prompted by results of the audits, Lopez closed four mines for various violations of land, water quality, and air emissions standards. In early August she shut down four more mines. The shutdowns are indefinite pending restoration work and changes in practices that bring the mines back into compliance with environmental statutes. The prices for mining shares on the Philippines Stock Exchange plunged.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has pushed back against Lopez’s critique of their industry, especially her view that the poorest areas in the Philippines are mining areas.
“We do not cause suffering in areas where we operate, contrary to Lopez’s belief. In fact, we ease such suffering by complementing the government’s delivery of social services and by implementing our environmental protection and enhancement programs,” Nelia Halcon, the Chamber’s executive vice president, said in a statement to reporters.
The Chamber’s view is not shared by most observers. The Manila Times, an important newspaper, called Lopez’s appointment a “masterstroke.” Philippine environmental organizations are thrilled. “We wish Ms. Lopez to be the spark that will stop the reign of corporate mining, coal power, and other vested big business interests in the DENR,” Kalikasan, a major environmental group, said in a statement. “Her resolve, experience and stand for the environment will be an important contribution to the incoming Duterte government’s shaping of a regime that will diverge from the anti-people, anti-environment pathway of the past Aquino administration.”
Fast Start for Regulator Who Promises More Environmental Scrutiny
Born into the family that owns and manages ABS-CBN Corporation, the largest entertainment and media conglomerate in the Philippines, Lopez took a distinctive path to the top of the country’s environmental policy and enforcement infrastructure. As a young woman she dropped out of Newton College of the Sacred Heart, near Boston, to become a yoga nun dedicated to self-realization and service to humanity. A divorced mother of two sons, she describes herself as intensely spiritual. She meditates 90 minutes a day. Her devotion to nature and communities developed during years of living in villages in India, Kenya, Zambia, Ghana and Nigeria.
Her goal, she has told interviewers, is to end poverty in the Philippines by replacing some of the country’s industrial resource development with less damaging tourism, “especially in the places which are beautiful. In these places agriculture and eco-tourism is the way to go.”
As the chairperson of the ABS-CBN Foundation, Lopez supported a number of successful eco-tourism projects that employed hundreds of villagers. She also understood politics. She endorsed Duterte for president early in his campaign.
As chief of the Philippine environment agency, Lopez is making a very fast start. In early August she signed agreements with the police and the military to ensure the safety of her staff in carrying out enforcement measures. She alerted the timber industry that its practices are under review. And she set her sights on more thoroughly evaluating the mining permits that previous administrations approved for big open-pit operations that have not started on the Philippines’ biggest islands. All of those proposed mines threaten forest and coastal villages, and a treasure trove of world-class wildlife, forests, clean rivers, and seashore reserves, according to various studies by universities and environmental groups.
The largest pending project is the $US 5.9 billion Tampakan open-pit copper and gold mine proposed on Mindanao, a southeast island. The company says the project will span roughly 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres), operate for two decades, and produce 375,000 metric tons of copper concentrate and 360,000 ounces of gold concentrate annually. The mine plan has generated fierce public protests prompted by its size, and the consequences for damaging forests, farmland, and water. Some 5,000 villagers would need to be removed from their lands.
The previous administration, led by President Benigno Aquino III, approved the project’s environmental compliance certificate in February 2013. According to Philippine mining law, the certificate is issued to projects that “will not bring about an unacceptable environmental impact.” Neighboring villagers hold a much different view. In 2012, and again in 2013, security forces opened fire during big and fierce demonstrations to oppose the mine. A woman and two sons were killed in the first incident. A tribal leader and his son were killed in the second.
Lopez says she will stop the mine’s development. “Open-pit mining? It’s horrible,” Lopez told reporters in July. “Tampakan is on top of hundreds of hectares of agricultural land, the food basket of Mindanao, and you want to put an open-pit mine the size of 700 football fields? I don’t care how much money they give us. It’s not worth it. Who is making the money here and who is taking the risk?
“It’s immoral,” she added. “It is socially unjust to allow businesses to make money and put all lives of farmers and indigenous peoples there at risk.”
The Duterte administration is not yet two months old. The Philippine industrial sector’s response to Lopez’s aggressive start has not emerged. It will.
Her most important ally, though, is convinced he offered the job to the right person.
On July 25, in Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address, the Philippine president commended Lopez. “Many are complaining against the appointment of Gina Lopez,” he said. “But we share the same paradigm. The interest of the country must come first. There’s a law allowing mining. Gina Lopez and I are just telling you: Follow government standards. Do not destroy the environment. Follow it to a tee. Just pay the correct taxes, follow the standards. Gina is just doing her job. You know, she’s a really a crusader. That is how I describe her persona: Crusader.”
Anti-mining group urges Lopez to clean DENR ranks
23 August 2016
MANILA - Leaders from mining hotspots in Luzon led a 300-strong crowd in rallying in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) national office in Quezon City to call for secretary Gina Lopez to investigate corruption allegations among her officials.
Among the previous and current DENR officials the protesters identified as being liable for previously filed cases and complaints were former secretary Ramon Paje, former Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB) director and now senior undersecretary Leo Jasareno, Environmental Management Bureau director Atty. Juan Miguel Cuna, former Eastern Visayas MGB regional director and now assistant secretary Nonita Cagiuoa, and former Central Luzon MGB regional director and now MGB assistant director Atty. Danilo Uykieng.
“The mining audit has resulted in the cancellation and suspension of ten mining projects, including in Zambales, Palawan, Bulacan and Surigao del Norte. This is a commendable development under the leadership of Sec. Lopez, the only DENR chief who has been sincere so far in fulfilling the agency’s mandate,” ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera said in a statement.
“However, we also call for serious reforms within the DENR, and for its leadership to investigate and hold accountable liable officials found to have abused their authorities or violated their mandates or engaged in corruption. The sycophants and ‘doble-cara’ have no place in the campaign for reforms in the DENR,” Garganera added.
Majority of the protesters came from mining-affected communities in Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya, Zambales, Bulacan, Masbate, Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan. They threw pictures of alleged corrupt officials in a crafted trashcan as their symbolic call to reform and revamp the department.
Alyansa Tigil Mina filed a complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman against Paje, Jasareno and 20 other officials of the previous DENR administration last year for violating the Anti-Graft Law and the Local Government Code.
Judy Pasimio, coordinator of LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights) said: "Lives of indigenous women, men and children have been taken violently in the defense of their lands against mining operations. There have been actions and inactions by DENR officials which paved the way for the mining companies to encroach upon ancestral domains and caused devastation among communities. DENR officials have to be made accountable. Accountability is an imperative for any meaningful and substantive reforms."
Lopez has spoken of the need to rid the DENR of corrupt officials since she accepted her post.
Notes to the Editor
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their civil society support groups that oppose the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines.
For photos of the action go to https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B-SCEYNN-_aeV25iUzc4bmljZTQ (Credit: Alyansa Tigil Mina)
Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator, 09175498218 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Karl Isaac Santos, Media and Communications Officer, 09173011934 - email@example.com
People’s audit launched to forestall possible ‘greenwashing’ in DENR review of large-scale mining projects
Kalikasan PNE Press Release
25 August 2016
Environmental activist group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) announced today the launching of 'People's Audits' of mining tenements across the country, beginning with a mass assembly in Sta. Cruz, Zambales held by its local networks.
"Beginning today at Zambales, environmental and people's organizations will be conducting people's audits parallel to the initiative audits of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. We fear that entrenched oligarchs’ puppets and corrupt officials in the agency are sabotaging the Duterte administration's drive to close down irresponsible large-scale miners. Our effort is to prevent the ‘greenwashing’ attempts of these corrupt officials of DENR. It is our duty to expose the violations and criminal records of destructive and militarized mining projects in the country," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
Thousands are expected to gather in Sta. Cruz led by the MOVE Now! Zambales and the Diocese of Iba Advocacy Desk, aiming to gather past and present people’s testimonies as well as technical findings regarding the repeated incidences of environmental pollution and destruction incurred by the DMCI corporation and four other companies operating in the province.
"The people of Zambales are wary of the current status of the government's review of operating mines in their provinces as this has already happened before. The charade of temporarily suspending these mines and then subsequently reinstating their commercial operations has already happened twice in the past few years under the previous Mines and Geosciences Bureau director, Leo Jasareno, who is now questionably leading the mine audit process," explained Bautista.
Previously, local networks of Kalikasan PNE in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Masbate reported anomalies in the audit process. In Nueva Vizcaya, DENR’s audit team was reportedly blaming the massive riverine pollution on small-scale mining and swidden farming activities of displaced grassroots communities, instead of the open-pit mining of the OceanaGold corporation.
“Independent scientific investigations and fact-finding missions shows that OceanaGold mining operations has concretely caused massive environmental degradation and pollution to the ecosystems in their host community Didipio Village. Government agencies and independent fact-finding bodies have recorded a string of human rights violations linked to the mining project. We thus find it suspicious why the audit results on OceanaGold are still not publicized when the evidence is already apparent,” said Bautista.
The audit process on the Filminera Resources company in Masbate, meanwhile, already failed once for failing to let local people’s organizations and civil society participate. A second audit is reportedly starting this week.
“Filminera has previously been found guilty by the Commission on Human Rights – Bicol of illegally detaining small-scale miners who protested the company’s destruction of their homes and properties. Various observer missions have also noted the extent of its pollution of waters and agricultural lands. It would be problematic if this would not reflect in the outcome of Filminera’s second audit,” said bautista.
“The Zambales people’s audit is an initiative that should be replicated by people of other provinces where DENR mining audits are occurring. We know very well that the bigger mining companies and their partner bureaucrats are deftly hiding under the deceptive branding of ‘responsible mining’ to push through with business-as-usual mining plunder. We call on the people, DENR Sec. Gina Lopez and President Rodrigo Duterte to be vigilant over attempts of large-scale miners and its puppets in the government to sabotage attempts at environmental reforms in the mining industry,” ended Bautista.#
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 433 0184 | E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | Site: www.kalikasan.net
Gina defends DENR exec; ‘not happy’ with another
By Jaymee T. Gamil
29 August 2016
ENVIRONMENT Secretary Gina Lopez has taken up the cudgels for the former head of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) after antimining protesters called for his removal from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
In a protest turned dialogue on Tuesday, members of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Sanlakas, Lilak and Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, among others, called on Lopez to rid the DENR of officials accused of corruption or inaction, including former MGB chief Leo Jasareno who now leads Lopez’s mining audit and whom she earlier named a department undersecretary.
The groups’ members include farmers and residents of large-scale mining areas in Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya, Zambales, Bulacan, Masbate, Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.
While praising Lopez’s mining audit—which has led to the closure of 10 mining sites in Zambales, Palawan, Bulacan and Surigao del Norte—“we also call for serious reforms within the DENR and for its leadership to investigate and hold accountable officials found to have abused their authority or violated their mandate and engaged in corruption,” ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera said.
Sanlakas secretary general Aaron Pedrosa pointed out that Jasareno and other DENR officials had been named respondents in various cases filed by communities against destructive mining, including a petition for a writ of kalikasan and continuing mandamus against mining operations, and an Ombudsman complaint for malfeasance filed by Sta. Cruz, Zambales, residents. There was also a petition for continuing mandamus filed by residents of Manicani, Guiuan, Eastern Samar, over the continued hauling of mineral ore despite a DENR suspension order.
Aside from Jasareno, the protesters named the other officials as former Secretary Ramon Paje, Environmental Management Bureau Director Juan Miguel Cuna, former Eastern Visayas MGB regional director and now Assistant Secretary Nonita Cagiuoa, and former Central Luzon MGB regional director and now MGB Assistant Director Danilo Uykieng.
Lopez, who allowed the protesters to enter the DENR offices so she could meet with them personally, ended up defending Jasareno whom she called to join the meeting.
“You have to believe in my judgment. I have the right and I want you to trust me. I want to choose the people I want to work with. I have worked with Leo even before and I’m working with him now. He is a good man. He really is a good man. He’s good, honest and dynamic. With Leo’s able help, we have been able to close down 10 mines. We’re gonna close down eight more,” Lopez said.
She, however, admitted that she was “not very happy” with Cagiuoa, whom the groups accused of disobeying an order to suspend the hauling of mineral ore in Manicani.
“I told her, ‘If you let me down again, I’m very strict on corruption.’ But some of them are appointees from Davao, so what can I do?” Lopez said. “But the President has gone very strict on corruption, so if she goes wrong once, wala na.”
ATM, CSOs join Lopez’s mining-audit teams
by Jonathan L. Mayuga
10 August 2016
The Department of Environ-ment and Natural Resources (DENR) has formally invited civil-society organizations (CSOs) including, antimining groups, to take part in the ongoing audit of mining operations in the Philippines.
The BusinessMirror learned that during the first audit, CSOs were not among the audit teams, prompting the DENR to conduct a second wave of audit, this time, ensuring that CSOs would be part of the process.
A memorandum signed by DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations Joselin Marcus E. Fragada, dated by August 8 to the DENR Mine Audit Team, ordered the participation of the CSOs in the audit process as promised by Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez.
The BusinessMirror learned that the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), a vocal critic opposing the government’s mining-liberalization policy, which started during the Arroyo administration, had already accepted the invitation to take part in the process. Sought for reaction, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) Vice President for Legal and Policy Affairs Ronald Recidoro declined to comment.
COMP officials, he said, still need to get “a clear picture” of what will be the role of the ATM and other CSOs, as well as the extent of their participation in the audit process.
“COMP will ask members to comment on this first to come up with an official statement,” he said.
In the memorandum addressed to All DENR audit team leaders, Fragada said the decision to involve CSOs is to ensure full transparency in the ongoing audit.
DENR Senior Undersecretary and Mining Audit Team Head Leo L. Jasareno said there are 15 different audit teams that are now simultaneously visiting large-scale mines in various parts of the country.
Officials from the DENR Central Office are leading the audit teams. The members are officials from the regional offices of the DENR, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Environmental Management Bureau, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, together with representatives from the Social Action Centers and CSOs as members.
“CSOs have always been part of the audit team. But during the initial audit, some were missed out, that is why a second wave would be conducted for the CSOs,” Jasareno said. So far, 18 of the 40 large-scale operating mines have undergone audit.
“In line with public policy on full transparency, all the DENR mine-audit teams shall ensure that the various civic-society groups are able to participate in the conduct of the audit. In connection, every team shall coordinate and consult with the various civic-society groups concerned accordingly prior to and after the conduct of every audit undertaken,” Fragada said.
Lopez, an environmental advocate, had included in the audit criteria the social, environmental and, lately, biodiversity aspects of mining operations.
Lopez wants to make it a policy that CSOs and affected communities take part in the DENR’s mining-regulatory processes.
Since assuming the top DENR post, Lopez had already caused the suspension of at least seven mining operations—six nickel-mining companies: two in Zambales, two in Palawan, one on Manicani Island and one in Surigao del Norte; and one iron-mining firm in Bulacan.
The audit of large-scale mining companies in the Caraga region is ongoing and the teams would submit recommendations to the DENR chief within the week.
Antimining groups under the ATM have accepted the call for civil-society organizations (Csos) participation halfway through the audit of mining operations.
ATM, for its part, welcomed the invitation from the DENR chief for broader participation of CSOs in the conduct of the mining audit.
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of ATM, told the BusinessMirror in an interview that the group decided to engage in the mining audit “to ensure that the accurate and complete picture of mining operations are witnessed and documented by the audit teams.”
Garganera said ATM’s network of CSOs would be taking part in the audit. He said, so far, ATM member-organizations have been advised to engage in the ongoing audit in the Caraga region. “We started to engage in the audit upon the invitation of the DENR,” Garganera told the BusinessMirror.
“We assert that ATM can make a meaningful contribution to the mining audit by giving the audit team the other side of the story and not only the stories of the mining companies,” Garganera said.
ATM opposes large-scale mining operations because of the massive destruction of the environment.
The group said the cost far outweighs the benefits of large-scale mining. Garganera said massive destruction of forest, pollution of water bodies, militarization and human-rights violation are among the complaints against mining companies.
ATM believes that the benefits of mining, in terms of taxes to the national and local government, employment, and other benefits in host-communities through the mining firm’s individual social development and management programs and corporate social responsibility projects, are a far cry to mining’s promised economic benefits.
“We want to articulate the voices of the mining-affected communities and even the LGUs [local government units] who are opposing mining operations,” Garganera said.
According to Garganera, the participation of ATM and other CSOs and community-based groups would ensure that evidences gathered by the communities and LGUs [local government units] are formally submitted and received by the mining-audit team.
ATM has been calling for passage of a people-centered, propoor mining measure, and the scrapping of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and Executive Order 79.
Lopez: DENR committed to aid displaced workers from suspension of mining operations
Philippines News Agency
9 August 2016
MANILA — In response to growing concerns of local mine workers displaced by the suspension of mining companies that fail to meet environmental and safety standards, environment secretary Gina Lopez said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is committed to provide alternative livelihood to mine workers.
Lopez reiterated that the capital-intensive extractive industry is not labor-intensive, citing only 250,000 Filipino workers are employed in the industry or 0.6% of total employment in the country.
At present, the industry consists of 40 large-scale metallic mining companies, 65 non-metallic firms, and an estimated 300,000 small-scale and illegal operations throughout the country.
“This is how unsustainability manifests itself. Irresponsible mining has a perverse vicious cycle: mining businesses produce mining-related jobs for affected communities. Obviously, communities stay long after mining operations close down. The people are not given sustainable livelihoods that outlive mining,” the environmental chief said.
Lopez said the DENR could tap the displaced workers for the National Greening Program (NGP) as part of the agency’s move to shift focus from being a regulatory arm to a more development-driven agency that will utilize its resources to pave the way for sustainable development.
A flagship reforestation program of the agency, the NGP is geared to cover 1.6 million hectares with trees by the end of 2016. The forest rehabilitation initiative also doubles as an anti-poverty measure due to its cash-for-work component.
In November last year, then President Aquino issued an executive order creating the “Expanded NGP” in a bid to reforest “all remaining unproductive, denuded and degraded forestlands” from 2016 to 2028.
Lopez said the DENR is also eyeing other revenue streams as an alternative to mining such as developing ecotourism spots throughout the country citing the La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City and Palawan as models.
La Mesa Ecopark reportedly generates Php40 million in revenues annually while the government of Palawan generated P19 billion from tourism in 2015, steadily increasing every year.
“These are superb examples of ecotourism following the basic concept of preserving the country’s natural resources without extraction while generating revenues that can possibly beat the 1% of GDP the mining industry is giving the country,” she added.
“We will work with the tourism and agriculture department, as well as the trade industry to help jumpstart the economy using the country’s resources in an approach that is inclusive,” concluded Lopez.
Mining firms ask for chance to prove worth
By Louise Maureen Simeon
23 August 2016
MANILA, Philippines - Mining stakeholders are appealing to Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to give mining companies a chance to do their business and to continue to contribute to the growth of the economy amid the government’s intensified crackdown on irresponsible mining.
“Let’s give mining a chance. We have the laws and the provisions are very strict. The industry is asking to just let them do their business,” Philex Public and Regulatory Affairs senior vice president Mike Toledo said in a briefing yesterday.
UP National Institute of Geological Sciences director Carlo Arcilla said the industry should not be set aside despite its measly one percent contribution to the country’s gross domestic product.
“Even if it’s just one percent, it might mean 100 percent to the involved communities. Mining is a complicated business, it’s easy to condemn but it can do a lot of good provided that it is regulated, the environment is protected and the government is willing to listen to experts,” Arcilla said.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) said mining could become a better industry if the government would be able to properly separate responsible firms from the irresponsible ones.
“There are already projects that have been lined up in the coming years. These are already approved and just need some pushing, “ COMP executive vice president Nelia Halcon said.
Mining stakeholders also called on Lopez to distinguish her role as an environment advocate and as a current government official.
“I admire her advocacy and we need somebody like that. But now that she is a secretary, every time that a decision has to be made, she has to listen to scientific data, evidence and other information, then make a decision,” Toledo said.
Toledo also noted that there might be a little conflict between the mandate of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its attached agency, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
“MGB is supposed to promote the mining industry while DENR is supposed to regulate. It would be difficult if the one promoting investments is also the one regulating. There might be a need for some structural reforms,” he said. – With Mary Grace Padin
Miners upbeat on growth despite gov’t crackdown
By Janina C. Lim, Reporter
22 August 2016
“(President Rodrigo R. Duterte) is inviting investment so we’ll be part of that,” said Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CoMP) Executive Vice-President Nelia T. Halcon in a phone interview.
Asked on her view of the President’s observation that mining is en route to becoming a “sunset industry,” Ms. Halcon said: “I think he was referring to the irresponsible miners only. Duterte only instructed to follow the law and work responsibly. That’s all.”
The president also said that the country “will survive as a nation without (mining)“ downplaying the P40 billion in revenue earned by the government from mining annually.
In response COMP said in a statement: “The industry’s contribution to the economy may be small at this time due to the uncertainties it has suffered the last six years. If it is promoted and developed to its fullest in a favorable investment environment, it can become a game changer in economic development.”
For his part, newly installed Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Mario Luis A. Jacinto said that “mining is always a substantial investment” but its potential to be an economic booster boils down to how the country’s makes use of its resources.
“It will depend on the options that we have. We have resources but how do we utilize it because these are God-given resources like any resource,” Mr. Jacinto said in a phone interview.
Jose Bayani D. Baylon, vice-president for Corporate Communications of NickelAsia, concurred in seeing positive prospects.
“I believe there are prospects for growth because I do not believe the Philippines can turn its back on responsible mining,” said Mr. Baylon in a text message.
In a three-day conference starting Tuesday, miners are set to gather to discuss the future of mining and game plan for the new reality of tougher regulation. The conference this year is called “Realizing the Potential of the Mining Industry as a New Regime.”
The event will showcase best practices in environmental protection, economic efficiency and social development amid challenges in the international and domestic markets.
“The mining industry is an important sector of the economy as it is basic in any plan for industrialization,” added CoMP.
“The only way to move forward is through responsible mining and we remain confident that Chamber members still have a crucial role to play in nation-building since those gathered for Mining Philippines are pioneers and leaders in responsible mining in the country and the world,” CoMP President Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez was quoted as saying in the CoMP statement.
COMP urges dialogue with gov’t over ‘profitable’ Tampakan project
By Ronnel W. Domingo
23 August 2016
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) is not giving up on the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project amid a wide-ranging audit by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Earlier this month, the DENR announced that Tampakan proponent Sagittarius Mines Inc. was given a show-cause order on why its environmental clearance certificate (ECC) should not be suspended.
The ECC for Tampakan was issued in 2013, with the added requirement for the company to secure a permit from the local government before it could proceed to actual mining.
Supporters of the mining industry, including University of the Philippines economics professor Ramon Clarete, said if the Tampakan project had pushed through during the Aquino administration, the benefits of the investment would by now be very obvious in the host community and the surrounding areas in South Cotabato.
According to COMP, the Tampakan project is among several mines expected to start within the next five to 10 years. It is expected to bring in total investments of $23 billion or about P1 trillion.
“The government should address this through dialogue,” COMP executive vice president Nelia Halcon said in an interview.
“I’m sure that if this reaches the level of the President, everything will be sorted out fine,” Halcon told the Inquirer.
Also Monday, UP’s chief geologist Carlo Arcilla said the current regulatory regime—overseen by Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, a staunch anti-mining advocate—would help weed out irresponsible miners.
“There is no smoke without fire. We can’t say that there’s nothing wrong with the way mining is done [in some parts of the country] and these complaints must be addressed,” Arcilla said.
“Secretary Lopez has a good heart, but she has to be better informed [about mining],” he added.
Philippine miners slam 'demolition campaign', seek meeting with Duterte
By Manolo Serapio Jr and Enrico Dela Cruz
24 August 2016
MANILA - Philippine miners claim the government's environmental crackdown is a "demolition campaign" against mineral producers and are seeking to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte amid a spate of shutdowns stemming from the probe, an industry official said.
Duterte's seven-week old government has so far suspended 10 mines, eight of them nickel, for environmental infractions, sowing fear among large-scale miners in the world's top nickel producer that more shutdowns may follow.
The country's mining industry expects to push ahead with $23-billion worth of new investments from this year through 2020, but this "spirit of optimism is being shattered by ... a very unstable policy outlook," Benjamin Philip Romualdez, president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, said at an industry conference on Wednesday.
"Notwithstanding the ongoing demolition campaign that is maliciously maligning the true nature of legitimate mining, we will not allow anyone, to destroy our industry ... and we will all do this under the rule of law," said Romualdez.
It was the first time that domestic miners have spoken strongly against the government's tough clampdown.
Duterte, who was invited to speak at the conference but did not attend, has previously warned miners to strictly follow tighter environmental rules or shut down, saying the nation could survive without a mining industry.
The crackdown on the sector is being led by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez, an environmentalist who thinks open-pit mining is "madness".
Romualdez, also the president of gold-and-nickel producer Benguet Corp that is pursuing a $350-million expansion of one of its gold mines, has appealed for an industry meeting with Duterte so that future policies could be "based on science and hard facts and not on mere slogans of hardline ideology".
'Not Lumped in One Basket'
Miners say the government should zero in on illegal small-scale miners causing the most environmental harm.
"We can't be lumped all in one basket. There are those that do really well and there are those that don't do well and the government should be able to distinguish," Nickel Asia Corp Chief Executive Gerard Brimo said.
Leo Jasareno, who is leading the government's environmental audit, said there was no plan to shut the mining sector.
"The purpose of the audit is to ensure that only responsible mining is pursued," Jasareno told Reuters by phone.
Congressman Erlpe John Amante, who has called for a ban on exports of unprocessed minerals, says there is a need "to make mining more relevant".
Unless miners invest in processing plants, the Philippines may be better off shutting its mines given the sector's modest contribution to the economy, Amante has said.
(Editing by Himani Sarkar)
Philippines' DMCI nickel mines lay off workers, put expansion on hold
15 August 2016
MANILA – The Philippines' DMCI Holdings Inc said on Monday its nickel mining units are laying off hundreds of workers and putting plans to ramp up production on hold, as a government crackdown has begun to take its toll on the beleaguered sector.
DMCI's Berong Nickel Corp will lay off over 300 seasonal workers in the coming weeks while its Zambales Diversified Metals Corp has already let go of more than 100 personnel, the conglomerate told the Philippine Stock Exchange.
Berong and Zambales Diversified are among the ten mines, eight of them nickel ore producers, the government has suspended as a five-week-old crackdown on mines accused of violating environmental rules continues.
The closures and the threat of more mines being suspended in the world's top nickel ore supplier lifted prices of the metal to a one-year high of $11 030/t on Wednesday.
DMCI said its DMCI Mining Corp unit has suffered a 25% drop in nickel ore shipments in the first half of 2016 because of an earlier drop in nickel ore prices and is bracing for an even tougher second half because of the mine suspensions.
"Early this year, we were planning on expanding our operations. But with the suspension, we have no choice but to put everything on hold," DMCI Mining Corp President Cesar Simbulan Jr. said in a statement.
The DENR and the Department of Energy have also separately asked DMCI's coal mining unit, Semirara Mining Corp, to explain alleged environmental violations.
Citinickel questions suspension sans audit
By Louise Maureen Simeon
25 August 2016
MANILA, Philippines -- Citinickel Mines and Development Corp., a subsidiary of listed Oriental Peninsula Resources Group Inc., may file legal actions against the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for issuing a suspension order prior to an actual mining audit.
"We will pursue all actions necessary to prove to the DENR that the suspension order issued was unwarranted and even pursue legal action should this be necessary to protect the interest of the shareholders of ORE and Citinickel," Citinickel president Caroline Tanchay said.
"ORE and Citinickel are exerting all administrative and legal efforts to have the suspension order lifted. We are optimistic that MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau) shall reasonably appreciate the validity of the contentions of Citinickel and that the suspension order shall be lifted at the soonest possible time,"she added.
In a statement, Citinickel said the suspension order from the MGB last month "was prematurely and improperly issued as there was no prior audit conducted on the operations of Citinickel."
Citinickel is the sole claim owner of Pulot Mine and Toronto Mine in Sofronio Española and Narra in Palawan.
Last month, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered the audit of all mining firms in the country as part of the government’s thrust of implementing responsible mining in the country.
"Without prior audit therefore and any legal basis for a finding of any such violation of environmental and mining laws, the immediate imposition of the penalty of suspension was improper," Tanchay said.
The mining company emphasized that should nickel ore prices in the world market become competitively attractive again, Citinickel will not be able to make its shipments should the suspension order remain in effect.
"This will prevent Citinickel from generating any revenue, which ultimately have a negative effect on the financial condition of the company on consolidation," she said.
The company said that the government has no reason to issue the suspension as it has already slowed down operations and has held shipments due to low world prices of nickel ore.
World prices to affect firm more
Citinickel clarified that the order has no direct effect on the financial condition of the company and that possible current decline in sales would be attributed to low price of nickel ore not because of the suspension order.
Citinickel emphasized that their mines are compliant with the rules, regulations and mandate of the Philippine Mining Act 1995 and other environmental laws as well as the obligations and restrictions imposed under the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA).
The company also announced that DENR finished its audit on Citinickel last week and no issues, irregularities or violations on mining and environmental laws were highlighted against the company during the exit meeting.
"We are confident that the findings will enlighten the DENR that Citinickel is compliant with the rules, regulations and mandate of the Mining Act and other environmental laws as well as the obligations and restrictions imposed on us under the MPSA," it said.
Prior to the issuance of the mining audit order, Citinickel said it haD secured the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 certification for Environmental Management System (EMS) for nickel operations and post-mining activities.
"At that time of validation and standard audit, no issues or irregularities were found or highlighted by the certifying body. Hence, we are very shocked and surprised that a suspension order was all of a sudden issued against us," Tanchay said.
The ISO 14001 EMS standard is a systematic framework to manage the immediate and long term environmental impacts of an organization’s products, services and processes.
The DENR requires all mining contractors to secure ISO 14001 certification to show they have passed international standards have a good environmental management system.
ISO certification ensures that appropriate measures are put in place to achieve minimal negative impacts of mining on the environment and guarantees the compliance of mining contractors with applicable mining and environmental laws, regulations, and requirements in mining operations while gearing towards growth.
ECR Minerals terminates earn-in option at Philippine gold mine
26 August 2016
Gold explorer ECR Minerals has terminated its earn-in option at its joint venture gold project in the Philippines with Tiger International Resources and Cordillera Tiger Gold Resources.
The company said that since a new government took office in the Philippines on 30 June, the new administration has “not adopted a supportive stance towards the mining industry” and so the company decided to terminate its interest in the Danglay project.
The AIM-listed company earned a 25% interest in the Danglay project, which is located at a gold and copper mining district in the north of the Philippines, and is now expected to amount to a 25% shareholding in Cordillera Tiger.
ECR Mining was the operator of the project and under the agreement with its partners it implemented exploration programmes at Danglay in 2014 and 2015. Last year, the company found a promising target for further exploration and an inferred mineral resource at the location.
Cordillera Tiger is still waiting on a renewal of an exploration permit, which includes the Danglay project, and will be required to provide proof of its financial capability to support the mine which amounts to about £270,000 over the next two years.
Stephen Clayson, who has been a director of Cordillera Tiger since 2007 expected to remain so.
Hence, he abstained from the Board's decision to terminate the earn-in option, with management announcing that he was to step down from the board of ECR Minerals effective from 30 August.
Shares in ECR Minerals were down 7.69% to 0.00600p at 1323 BST.
Villar hoodwinked by top mining bigwigs sponsoring Chamber of Mines Conference
Kalikasan PNE Press Statement
25 August 2016
This is a reaction to the recent statement made by Senator Cynthia Villar during the opening ceremony of the ‘Mining Philippines 2016 International Conference organized by Chamber of Mines Philippines (COMP). We in Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) would like to remind the good senator who is our fellow environmental advocate that the largest COMP members are in fact among the most notorious environmental violators in the country that legally destroy our environment and violate the rights of mining communities.
While we appreciate Sen. Villar’s statement on the need for the consultation of all sectors and stakeholders on mining operations, on the other hand, she should know well that the recent worst mine disasters in the country were not caused by grassroots folk that are often blamed for irresponsible mining, but by legal and so-called ‘responsible’ large scale miners that are members of COMP such as OceanaGold, Philex Mine and Nickel Asia.
OceanaGold, an Australian-Canadian Mining Corporation operating in Nueva Vizcaya, has been pinpointed in 2014 as the most likely source to have polluted the rivers adjacent to its operations which adversely affected the health and livelihood of communities. Meanwhile, Philex Mining Corporation is the company behind the worst mining disaster in the Philippine History, when its tailings pond dam was breached in 2012, resulting into the inundation of tonnes of toxic tailings that rendered an adjacent river to be biologically dead.
Meanwhile, Nickel Asia and its Japanese partner Sumitomo are the infamous culprits behind the ecological degradation in its various mining tenements in Palawan, Surigao del Sur and in Eastern Samar. A scientific investigation by the Friends of Earth – Japan found that there was massive water contamination likely caused by the tailings run-off from their operation in Rio Tuba, Palawan.
Sen. Villar, who is the current chairperson of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, should investigate the track record of these erring large scale mining companies that are behind the suffering of the people of Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet and Palawan, Surigao del Sur and Eastern Samar provinces.
The recent crackdown on some violating mining companies under the Duterte administration is a laudable start to effect genuine change in the mining industry. We challenge Environment Secretary Gina Lopez and President Rodrigo Duterte to start taking on the COMP members who are the top violators of environmental laws and people’s rights. Sen. Villar should also mobilize her committee to compel the immediate public release of the various reports on the on-going comprehensive audit of mining projects for the sake of transparency and public scrutiny.
Sen. Villar also discussed the government’s supposed ‘balancing act’ between the environment and mining investment. It is impossible to seek balance between big business interests, environmental protection and genuine people’s development under the current national mining policy which biased towards the profit motive of foreign mining corporations in pursuing full liberalization of our mineral resources.
The current orientation of the mining industry under the 21 years of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has failed to deliver genuine development for the country especially in communities adversely impacted by mining. Mining’s meager contributions to the country’s economy amidst massive profiteering by companies, and the numerous mining disasters that ravaged the livelihood of various localities in the past decades, are enough evidences of this. It is primarily in the mandate of Sen. Villar and the rest of Congress to finally end the decades of injustice perpetuated by the Mining Act.
We are optimistic that the repeal of the Philippine Mining Act and the passage of a pro-people and pro-environment policy, such as the People’s Mining Bill recently re-filed by Bayan Muna Rep. and chair of the Lower House Committee on Natural Resources, are feasible under the reform agenda of the Duterte administration. We enjoin our fellow environmental advocates to step up efforts in exposing and opposing big mining interests as our contribution to government efforts to curb destructive mining in the country.#
Reference: Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator, Kalikasan PNE – 0905 432 5211
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 433 0184 | E-mail: secretariat[at]kalikasan.net | Site: www.kalikasan.net
People's Mining Bill Refiled
Duterte admin urged to ‘fast-track’ passage of new mining law
9 August 2016
QUEZON CITY — Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) trooped to the House of Representatives today to express its support to the re-filing of the People’s Mining Bill (PMB) by the new chairperson of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate, urging the Duterte administration to ‘fast-track’ the bill as a priority legislation.
“As the People’s Mining Bill is re-filed in Congress once again, it is truly high time not just to suspend erring mining companies but to decisively pass a new policy that will end the vicious cycle of resource plunder, environmental destruction, and people’s suffering. President Duterte and Environment Secretary Gina Lopez have been vocal and active in their campaign to suspend mining companies with clear negative track records. The PMB must be passed to ensure these efforts will not be undone,” said Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
Since July this year, Sec. Gina Lopez has suspended at least seven (7) mining companies in Zambales, Palawan, and Bulacan, and has also vowed to conduct a comprehensive audit of all existing mining projects.
“The current mining law, the Mining Act of 1995, requires companies to pay only a two-percent income tax while allowing the wholesale plunder of our country’s natural resources and inflicting massive human rights violations against mining-affected communities. The passage of the PMB will radically reorient our mining industry from being profit oriented and insufficiently regulated towards a framework based on people’s needs, environmental safety, and genuine national industrialization and development,” said Bautista.
The mining industry has continued to negligibly contribute to the Philippine economy, comprising only 0.7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and only 0.6 percent of its total employment rate. Government shares from mining in taxes, royalties and fees amounted to Php 22.83 billion in 2013 or a measly 1.33% of total tax revenues.
Under the proposed PMB, government shall have a share of more than the current gross revenues shares from development and utilization of mineral resources. Additionally, In case of mineral operations within ancestral domains, the contractor shall allot least ten percent (10%) of the gross revenues as royalty to the indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples aside from required community development programs.
“The passage of the PMB will in fact initiate the formulation of a National Mining Plan that will ensure that all mining activities in the country will strategically lead to the development of downstream heavy industries and the modernization of our agriculture. Monitoring mechanisms with greater participation from local communities, people’s organizations and non-government organizations will also be instituted to ensure environmental protection and welfare of mining host communities,” explained Bautista.
"We challenge the Duterte administration to mobilize its ‘super majority’ coalition in Congress to support Rep. Zarate’s push to pass this landmark mining reform law,” ended Bautista.#
Reference: Clemente Bautista 0905 432 5211
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 433 0184 | E-mail: secretariat[at]kalikasan.net | Site: www.kalikasan.net
EO 79 ‘not needed’, now under review: MGB head
26 August 2016
“I’ll be put in hot water for this but EO 79 is something I believe is not needed. [It seems] somebody did not want to act on anything,” MGB Concurrent Director Mario Luis A. Jacinto said yesterday.
Mr. Jacinto said his agency is set to review the order, which former President Benigno S. C. Aquino III signed in July 2012. EO 79 was aimed at ensuring a more responsible industry and getting a larger share of the sector’s revenues. It halted the issuance of mineral agreements until a new revenue sharing scheme is passed into law.
The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) -- the Malacañang-created body tasked to implement EO 79, filed its version of the revenue scheme with the last Congress. The bill provided that the government, as owner of the country’s minerals, will get each year 10% of a miner’s gross revenues or 55% of “adjusted net mining revenues,” whichever is higher; and 60% of any windfall profit. However, the proposal did not move past the committee level.
“We are looking into the key provisions… What has it (EO 79) accomplished in the years that it has been in place? The intention... we’re looking now into the minutes of the meetings of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council,” Mr. Jacinto said.
“Is it really needed? What would be the immediate recommendations so far as EO 79 is concerned? Will there be effective monitoring or moratorium on the issuance of new permits is really the best interest of the country?” the MGB chief added.
Mr. Jacinto’s view jibes with that of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), which has been calling for the repeal of the law.
“I think the view of the industry has been very well known, that we believe that the tax rate in the Philippines is already very challenging already,” said COMP President Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez during the second day of the annual mining summit.
Under the current revenue-sharing scheme, the government gets a 50% share in profits of foreign miners operating in the Philippines under financial or technical assistance agreements, and a 2% excise tax on actual market value of output under mineral production sharing agreements with local companies.
Mr. Romualdez added that miners do not only contribute to mining communities by way of tax partitions, but also through social development programs that are mandated under existing laws.
“If government looks at taxation, how can they make it more responsive as an incentive for companies to take the financial risk in the area?” -- J.C. Lim
Lopez: Law is flawed, skewed towards mining not on people
By Ace June Rell S. Perez
5 August 2016
DEPARTMENT of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)Secretary Regina “Gina” Lopez on Thursday, sought for a review of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which she described as “flawed” as it is skewed towards the mining sector, and not towards the people.
“Yes it (mining) is indeed one of the biggest foreign investments, but where do the money go with our present mining act?” she said in press conference on Thursday during the Oya Mindanaw: The Mindanao Environment Summit 2016 at the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) attended by more than 4,000 participants mostly environmentalists and students.
Lopez said the mining industry has net revenue of P35 billion, 82 percent or P29 billion of which goes to the mining company, leaving only 18 percent or P6 billion to the government.
“And out of that how much goes to the community? Ay naku! Kaunting kaunti (very minimal),” she said.
Lopez pointed out that if they will sum up all the benefits the mining industry contributed as against the value on the destruction caused to farmlands, fishery resource and health, among others, the latter will weigh more than the former.
Father Joel Tabora, ADDU president, for his part said, the Mining Act of 1995 is a “treason.”
“In my view, treason, because the minerals belong to state, people (of the Philippines) but what the act (mining) does is that it allows more foreign mining firms benefit largely on our resources, instead of the people,” he said.
“All of us, must join in demanding that this act be repealed, replaced (with a better version),” Tabora added.
Lopez was asked on her plans on filling in the revenues that might be lost with the banning of some mining operations, she was quick to add that “a country cannot build an economy based on suffering.”
She said an intensified and strengthened National Greening Program will be implemented by the DENR.
“I will make the National Greening Program to upgrade the economy, it should be implemented in the Philippines especially in Mindanao,” she said adding programs for agro forestry, reforestation, among others will be a major push for the country’s economic status in the island.
She cited the La Mesa Eco park developed by the ABS-CBN Foundation will be a good example of an economic-driving ecotourism site.
“The ecopark is now earning P40 million annually,” she said.
She also mentioned about the Ugong Rock Adventure in Puerto Princesa where they invested only P260,000 for ecotourism and it is now earning some P30 million annually giving residents enough income for a living.
“This is what I want to do, you can sell beauty, and Mindanao has so much for that,” Lopez said.
Audit mining permits
Leo Jasareno, head of the mining audit team of DENR and the former Mines and Geosciences Bureau head, in a separate interview at the sidelines of the presscon said auditing of all the 40 metallic mining companies will be completed within this month.
Of the 40 firms, 23 of which are operating in Mindanao. In September, 65 non-metallic firms are up for auditing.
“Well, depending on the violations, the DENR may suspend until violations are rectified, worst, after the due process DENR may cancel their mining contracts” he added.
Since Lopez assumed office on July 1, a total of seven mining firms have been suspended for not complying with environmental safety standards.
These were Benguet Corp., Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc., Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., Hinatuan Mining Corp., Berong Nickel Corp., and Citinickel Mines and Development Corp.
Lopez said the ongoing audit will not only based on technical but also social and environmental while those companies’ holding environmental certificate of compliance (ECC) will still be evaluated.
“Those who will not pass the audit will be automatically stopped,” she said.
On local mining bans
When asked if she will replicate nationwide the existing ordinance in Davao City disallowing any entity to engage in any business involving mining operations within the city, Lopez said, what they can do in the present is to honor and uphold the local bans.
“There will always be rule of law and the common good, I will not allow anything for suffering,” Lopez said.
“My nonnegotiable stand is anything that is not for the common good must stop,” she added.
Lopez defined social justice in the context of environment is the resources of Mindanao must be enjoyed by the Mindanaoan.
She reiterated that she is not anti-mining industry but is for responsible mining saying, it does not impede on the well-being of present and future generations.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who attended the summit on Thursday announced a new mining companies must shape up and aligned its standards to the Canadian and Australian mining.
The mining industry, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) has taken Duterte’s warning as a challenge in keeping up with the standards of responsible mining in the country. ASP
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 05, 2016.
Ateneo President: Philippine Mining Act is treason
Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano
5 August 2016
DAVAO CITY — Jesuit priest Fr. Joel Tabora called the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 treasonous and said that it is time for the government to replace the mining policy.
In a press conference on Thursday, August 4, the president of the Ateneo de Davao University explained that the mining policy allows foreign entities to take out the minerals from the country.
“The Philippine Mining Act is in my opinion, treason. Because the Constitution of the Philippine says the minerals belong to the State, meaning that the minerals belong to the people,” Tabora said.
“The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 allows foreigners to come in and take our minerals away fully,” he said.
“What happens through the Philippine Mining Act is somebody goes in and digs for the treasure and pays the government an excise tax for the digging activity – an excise tax of 2.5 percent on the digging activity and when the treasure comes out that person brings the treasure away,” Tabora said.
Tabora said the law does not serve the interest of the country and that the government should repeal and replaced it with a bill “that is in the interest of the Filipino”.
Mindanao Environment Summit
The Ateneo de Davao University hosted the two-day Mindanao Environment Summit on August 4. The Summit was attended by Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez.
During the summit, various civil society organizations from Mindanao put forward a technical paper to Lopez which outlines Mindanao people’s concerns on the environmental situation.
The groups highlighted the negative and irreversible effect of mining in the country, citing the Marcopper mining disaster and Semirara mining incident.
In 1996, millions of tons of mine waste spilled into the 26-kilometer Boac River in Marinduque during the Marcopper mining disaster. Last year, the Semirara Mining and Power Company collapsed due to landslide in Caluya, Antique, nine mine workers reportedly died in the accident.
“We do not want another Marcopper disaster or Semirara incident before we take action. We have lost so many lives and even more hectares of forest lands to accommodate mining companies. No new mining permits should be issued,” the groups said.
They also urged DENR to strictly monitor the operations of mining companies on their environmental compliance, “violations should be strictly penalized,” it said.
“Despite claims of mining industries that they contribute to the Philippine economy, data shows that mining industries roughly chip in 1.2 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP). Communities hosting these mines also have the highest incidence of poverty,” said the groups.
Among their recommendations for the mining industry are: 1) Immediately suspend the implementation of the Philippine Mining Act, particularly its provisions on accepting and processing any and all forms of mining applications; 2) Implement a third-party audit of all large-scale mining operations in the Philippines; 3) Support the enactment of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill; 4) Reassign all military units, personnel, and equipment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) performing protection duties for mining operations to other areas. Disband and disarm any and all paramilitary units and personnel providing protection duties for mining operations; 5) Professionalize the AFP, DENR and National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples to inculcate ‘operational objectivity’ with respect to mining operations; 6) Design and implement a training program to enhance the capacity of LGUs and CSOs to address environmental issues, including, but not limited to, the various aspects of mining operations; 7) Establish a study-group to inquire into small-scale mining operations in the country, which will develop policy recommendations for the government; and 8) Revise existing rules and regulations of the environmental impact assessment system to make it mandatory for all mining applications to adopt a watershed and airshed framework in the conduct of their environmental impact studies.
Slow death of national patrimony
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, who now chairs the Committee on Natural Resources said that the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 “is facilitating the slow death of our national patrimony.”
“I certainly agree with my uncle, Fr. Tabora. It is a betrayal not only of the present generation, but also of future generations,” he told Davao Today.
Zarate said among the priorities of the committee is to review the current mining policy and the crafting of a new law that will govern the mining industry. He said the new policy should protect the country’s remaining resources and aid in the Philippine’s industrialization. (davaotoday.com)
World's largest carbon producers face landmark human rights case
Filipino government body gives 47 ‘carbon majors’ 45 days to respond to allegations of human rights violations resulting from climate change
27 July 2016
The world’s largest oil, coal, cement and mining companies have been given 45 days to respond to a complaint that their greenhouse gas emissions have violated the human rights of millions of people living in the Phillippines.
In a potential landmark legal case, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), a constitutional body with the power to investigate human rights violations, has sent 47 “carbon majors” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination”.
The move is the first step in what is expected to be an official investigation of the companies by the CHR, and the first of its kind in the world to be launched by a government body.
The complaint argues that the 47 companies should be held accountable for the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines and demands that they explain how human rights violations resulting from climate change will be “eliminated, remedied and prevented”.
It calls for an official investigation into the human rights implications of climate change and ocean acidification and whether the investor-owned “carbon majors” are in breach of their responsibilities.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change.
Four of its most devastating super-cyclones have occurred in the last decade, and the country has recorded increasingly severe floods and heatwaves that have been linked to man-made global warming.
Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, killing more than 6,000 people and displacing 650,000 others in 2013.
The legal complaint has been brought by typhoon survivors and non-governmental organisations and is supported by more than 31,000 Filipinos.
“We demand justice. Climate change has taken our homes and our loved ones. These powerful corporations must be called to account for the impact of their business activities,” said Elma Reyes from Alabat Island in Quezon, who survived super typhoon Rammasun in 2008 and is part of the group submitting the complaint to the CHR.
The full legal investigation is now expected to start in October after the 47 companies have responded. Although all 47 will be ordered to attend public hearings, the CHR can only force those 10 with offices in the Philippines to appear.
These include Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Anglo American, Lafarge, Holcim, and Taiheiyo Cement Corporation. The CHR has the power to seek the assistance of the UN to encourage any which do not attend to co-operate.
“The commission’s actions are unprecedented. For the first time, a national human rights body is officially taking steps to address the impacts of climate change on human rights and the responsibility of private actors,” said Zelda Soriano, legal and political adviser for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, one of the groups which has brought the complaint to the CHR.
“This is an important building block in establishing the moral and legal ‘precedent’ that big polluters can be held responsible for current and threatened human rights infringements resulting from fossil fuel products. From the Netherlands to the US, people are using legal systems to hold their governments to account and demand climate action,” she said.
The list of the 47 “carbon majors” being asked to respond to the CHR is based on research by Richard Heede, director of the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado. In 2013 he calculated that just 90 global companies had produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the start of the industrial revolution.
Together these companies emitted around 315 gigatons of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere, or nearly 22% of estimated global industry greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 to 2013, said Heede.
“We pray that the CHR heed the demand to recommend to policymakers and legislators to develop and adopt effective accountability mechanisms that victims of climate change can easily access,” said Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines and a recipient of the Goldman environmental prize.
The CHR is not a court and would have no power to force companies to reduce emissions or fine them. However, it can make recommendations to government and would add to the worldwide pressure to persuade shareholders to divest from heavy carbon emitters.
The investigation is the latest in a growing tide of climate liability cases being brought against governments and corporations. In June, the Netherlands’ high court ruled on the world’s first climate liability suit, ordering the Dutch government to take stronger action against climate change to better protect its citizens.
However, several court cases launched in the US urging the US government to take more action against climate change have been dismissed.
Climate Justice Group Welcomes DENR Review on Coal Plants but Bats to Include a More Comprehensive Energy Review
By Regino Cabang
11 August 2016
The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) welcomes the recent pronouncement of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to conduct a review of all the permits and operations of the existing coal-fired power plants. This came as a reaction to the news quoting Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez that the review is necessary to check and assure that the plants pose no danger to the environment. The group believes that if done, it will definitely alleviate the long standing miseries the communities been subjected to like the various social, environmental and health impacts brought about by these dirty and harmful power plants. However, the group warns that the review is not a simple process and hopes that it will not redound to mere lip service.
According to Mr. Ian Rivera, PMCJ National Coordinator, “We are glad to hear that DENR is finally taking action to review the coal fired power plants however what is very urgent is for DENR to come up with the guidelines how this review will be accomplished. Will this include all the ECCs and environmental impact assessment (EIA) of all coal fired power plants including those identified as committed and indicative? What will DENR do to the DOE approved 12 coal fired power plants with a total committed capacity of 3,398 MW and are set to be operational by 2019. By DOE’s calculation, when these 12 plants will be online, it will jack up to 70% the coal percentage in the energy mix. What If these plants are found violating their corresponding environmental impact statements (EIS) which I don’t really doubt, will their ECCs be cancelled?” Rivera added.
Aside from coming up with the guidelines, PMCJ argues that what should immediately be attended into together with the review is for DENR to embark on the energy review initiated by the Climate Change Commission (CCC). “As the head of the Climate Change Cluster in the cabinet, we believe that it is incumbent upon Secretary Gina Lopez to push for this energy review for it will contribute a lot in rationalizing our country’s shift to renewable energy without sacrificing the goals of development. More so, this energy review will take into consideration the Philippines’ commitment to the global call of limiting the average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees”, Rivera said.
The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, as the largest climate justice group in the country argues that the Philippines must industrialize. On the other hand, PMCJ has always been firm that development is not synonymous to the use of coal and other fossil fuels. “The greatest challenge that PMCJ wants to lay down to this current administration is the hope that sooner, President Rodrigo Duterte will endorse the implementation of this energy review and make true its pronouncements that he will bring into justice those companies that bring suffering to the people”, Rivera added.