MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: New policies but will they be implemented?

Published by MAC on 2016-12-31
Source: Statements, Rappler, PIA, Manila Bulletin

As 2016 draws to a close it has become ever more difficult to read the direction of events in the environmental crackdown that is - supposedly - happening in the Philippines. (For last instalment see: More Philippine miners threatened with suspension under crackdown). The will for positive change under the new Environmental Secretary, Gina Lopez, is almost certainly there, but the forces of status quo are strong.

The latest battleground appears to be around the company's community development programs. The Department for the Environment and Natural Resources is discussing new guidelines for companies, and suggesting measures to deal with weak implementation and waste of development funds.

Lopez has also proposed an inter-agency task force to help ensure economic, environmental and social justice among indigenous peoples. Interestingly the special order provides a new mechanism to protect the rights of indigenous peoples as they exercise their Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), given past failures. The intention is surely good, and if it works it will be a huge boon to a system that has suffered greatly from widespread intimidation and manipulation.

Meanwhile, the status of suspensions of companies after the environmental audit seems to be in question. After sending 'show-cause' letters to many companies it seems not much has moved forward (meaning many miners are in fact still not suspended, but under the threat of suspension). The Chamber of Mines continues to denounce the lack of due process, and the head of the audit was sacked (although taken back on as a consultant by Lopez). For those suspended the legal appeals - or threat of them - continue, while there are accusations that the suspensions are just being ignored, as at Citinickel.

Separately, there has been a review of company environmental compliance certificates (ECCs), which is due to be announced in January 2017, and could see the ECCs of companies cancelled if there is non-compliance.

The status of Lopez in office has been called into question, as she was initially rejected by the Commission on Appointments, and apparently left off of a list of re-appointees. However, President Duterte has given her his continued backing, praising her lack of corruptibility. This is despite a thorough investigative article noting the link of mining companies to those who funded his presidential campaign.

On the theme of corruption, yet more cases have been brought against officials, most notably by indigenous peoples in Surigao del Sur province over the issuance of an allegedly illegal mining license on their ancestral land.

As if people needed reminding why the crackdown is happening there was yet another tailings leak. This time it was from Benguet Corporation's old open-pit mine in Itogon. The CEO of Philex has offered the company as a 'poster boy' of 'responsible mining'; this is the company that is responsible for one of the worst recent tailings dam leaks in the Philippines.

Finally, the 63rd Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference (ANMSEC) took place in November. The industry, and government, continued to shower awards on themselves, noting that paradoxically several suspended miners were honoured, and so should avoid suspension. To her credit Gina Lopez declared herself sceptical of this, stating that “if people are adversely affected, there really should be no award.”

Lopez tells big mining firms to improve community dev’t programs

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez says she wants the DENR, mining firms, and the host community to jointly manage the Social Development and Management Program fund


30 December 2016

MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has called on big mining firms to strengthen their community development programs as the agency looks to revise its social development requirements.

Lopez made the call at a recent dialogue with the community relations officers (CROs) of some of the country's biggest mining companies.

“What I want to do with the Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) fund is for the DENR to jointly manage it with the mining companies and the community.  I want to use their funds in the area development approach for more impact,” Lopez said.

“I want it to be used to achieve area development, not as dole out, but for improving the productivity of the area,” she added.

The meeting included CROs from OceanaGold Philippines, Philex Mining Corporation, FCF Minerals, Holcim Philippines, and Lafarge-Holcim Aggregates Incorporated. CROs are the mining firms' frontliners, conducting consultations with communities affected by their operations.

Strengthening development rules

The event was the first of a series of nationwide consultations held by the DENR, which is reviewing the guidelines on mining firms; formulation and implementation of SDMPs.

A precondition to starting a mining operation, SDMP is a 5-year plan carried out during the life of the mine to ensure the sustained improvement in the living standards of the host and neighboring communities.

Lopez said a revision of the SDMP guidelines was necessary, to address some concerns about the implementation of certain programs. These include the lack of community counterpart and weak coordination with local development plans, which lead to the wastage of funds.

Currently, at least 1.5% of the total mining and milling costs of the company is monetized and placed in a trust fund for affected communities.

Of the amount, 75% must be spent on community-development programs; 15% on mining technology and geosciences advancement programs; and 10% on information, education and communication program.

"The SDMP funds should not be limited just to the host communities.  Of course, they’re the ones you should take care of. But if used well, you don’t need to take care of them anymore because they will use their own money.  Then you will widen the scope of the areas you can help," Lopez said.

Upon assuming her Cabinet post, Lopez initiated an audit of mining operations to check their compliance with environmental standards.

The audit recommended the suspension of 20 mining companies. It has already  suspended 10 firms. –

DENR seeks to widen impact of miners’ social dev’t funds

28 December 2016

THE Environment department is drawing up new guidelines for the utilization of mining firms’ social development and management program funds (SDMP) to benefit more people beyond miners’ host communities.

Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez said that the department will release the guidelines as early as year’s end after mining companies have agreed to her proposal “in principle.”

“Today, it was agreed that we use the SDMP funds in an area development format... We want to help the mining companies that passed the audit to use the SDMP funds in a more impactful way,” she said in an interview with BusinessWorld earlier this month.

The SDMP is funded with the equivalent of 1.5% of miners operating costs. The mineral contractor commits to the sustained improvement in the living standards of the host and neighboring communities.

Social development impact was one of the criteria used in assessing miners’ operations during the nationwide metal mines audit the government started in July.

The review, now in its final phase with results targeted for release next month after numerous delays, intended to weed out from the industry mining companies that employ substandard environmental practices. It has left 20 mining firms facing possible suspension.

This brings to more than three-quarters of the country’s 41 metal mines either facing suspension or under threat of such an order. The government also suspended 10 mines prior to the audit.

Some metal miners were left unsanctioned despite alleged infractions, which were deemed not severe enough to merit suspension.

Companies that were not recommended for suspension were Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp., Philex Mining Corp., Philsaga Mining Corp., Techiron Resources, Inc., Cagdianao Mining Corp., Taganito Mining Corp., Platinum Group Metals Corp., Greenstone Resources Corp., Pacific Nickel Philippines, Inc., Apex Mining Co. Inc., Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. -- Janina C. Lim

Lopez formally creates task force to protect IPs

26 December 2016

QUEZON CITY - Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has issued a special order formally creating an inter-agency task force led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to help ensure economic, environmental and social justice among indigenous peoples (IPs) in the country.

DENR Special Order No. 2016-761 establishes the Indigenous Peoples Inter-Agency Task Force composed of the DENR, its corporate arm, the Natural Resources Development Corp. (NRDC), and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

The task force was created pursuant to the government's mandate to protect the rights of IPs to their ancestral domains and the agreement forged by the DENR, NRDC and NCIP last September.

The three agencies committed to providing the IPs "cohesive and quality of life, and environmental and social justice" and upholding their self-determination and development.

Under the special order, the DENR, NRDC and NCIP are expected to "build skills for all parties and for the IPs' communities, as well as assist [IPs] in taking full advantage of their opportunities."

The task force is also in charge of making sure the IPs are "not subjected to undue pressure and influence from unscrupulous businessmen or other industries intending to extract natural resources" from their ancestral lands.

The special order provides a new mechanism to protect the rights of IPs as they exercise their Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC).

FPIC is the principle that an IP community has the right to give or withhold its consent to proposed projects that may affect the lands they customarily own, occupy or otherwise use.

"...the [FPIC] process shall include a determination or the alternatives and options to the business to be introduced that will produce comparable benefits but reduced adverse consequences on their resources and culture and ensure the continuous benefits to future generations of the non-renewable resources therein," the special order stated.

The directive also enumerated the roles and responsibilities of the DENR in the task force, foremost of which was to "ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity within ancestral domains."

The DENR shall employ strict policy of verifying the genuineness of the FPIC by validating with NCIP the authenticity of the Certification Precondition, and closely coordinate with the commission on matters pertaining to titles with ancestral domains.

It shall also support the process of recognizing Indigenous Community Conserved Areas within ancestral domains, and develop incentives for the protection and sustainable management of these areas.

The DENR is also tasked to reactivate an IP Desk that will focus and coordinate with concerned agencies to make sure that resources in ancestral domains will benefit IP communities and will facilitate the issuance or Certificate of Non-Overlap in connection with the registration of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title with the Register of Deeds and other interventions for the protection of IP rights.

The department shall also provide opportunities for NCIP to access the Enhanced National Greening Program, the government's massive reforestation initiative that doubles as an anti-poverty measure, for the empowerment of the IPs.

For its part, the NRDC shall provide human resources and facilitate capital resources to enable IP communities make optimum use of their land and resources.

The NRDC will likewise assist in consultations, planning, product development and marketing for any social enterprise an IP community may wish to undertake through the recruitment and matching of volunteers, as well as in-house facilitators.

“The bottom line is that the IPs need money to sustain their livelihood. If we can show them a way to make money without cutting the trees that protect us from climate change, that’s better,” Lopez said.

Whenever available, the NRDC shall provide the capital funding or mobilize resources to support biodiversity-friendly social enterprises.

The NCIP, on the other hand, was given a free-hand to formulate its counterpart roles and responsibilities pursuant to the agreement it earlier signed with the DENR and NRDC. (DENR)

DENR fails to come up with list of suspended mining firms

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

3 December 2016

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is now more than three months behind its target schedule as to when it intends to announce the list of mining firms that should be suspended.

Ever since DENR Secretary Gina Lopez officially took over the agency in July, she’s been eager to shut down mining companies that she believes are not compliant with environmental standards.

In the same month, she called for a nationwide crackdown on mining firms, which has ended in August.

By September, instead of closing down mining firms as initially planned, the DENR just issued show-cause orders to 20 companies that were recommended for suspension by the agency’s Mining Audit Team.

Mining operators were only given seven days to respond to DENR’s concerns and now that all of them have already complied with this, the DENR has still yet to come up with the final audit result, which, according to Lopez last week, should already be out this week.

Industry sources now doubt the agency’s capability to ever come up with a final and credible results this year amid all these delays.

Lopez told Business Bulletin last week that DENR is now on the process of finalizing the end results of the mining audit.

“We’re finalizing it (the results) and the companies that have replied to our show cause orders. Maybe next (this) week, we can already give the names,” Lopez said in a phone interview.

Lopez said that while going through with the mining audit report, she found out that many companies didn’t allocate enough budget for rehabilitation.

“Many companies don’t have enough funds for rehabilitation. That is a mortal sin,” Lopez said.

Under the Philippine Mining Act, a Mine Rehabilitation Fund (MRF) shall be deposited as a trust fund in a government depository bank and shall be used for physical and social rehabilitation of areas and communities affeced by mining activities and for research on the social, technical and preventive aspects of rehabilitation.

To recall, as much as 21 out of the country’s 41 metallic mines have been recommended for suspension as the initial result of the government’s nationwide audit on the mining industry.

Companies that have been recommended for suspension includes Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, Filminera Resources Corp., OceanaGold Philippines, Inc., Benguet Corp., Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation; Sinosteel Philippines H.Y. Mining Corp.; Agata Mining Ventures, Inc.; Hinatuan Mining Corporation; Libjo Mining Corporation; AAMPHIL Natural Resources Exploration and Development Corp.; Krominco, Inc.; Carrascal Nickel Corp.; Strongbuilt Mining Development Corp.; Oriental Synergy Mining Corp.; Wellex Mining Corp.; Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp.; CTP Construction and Mining Corp.; and Adnama Mining Resources, Inc.; Century Peak Corp.; and SR Metals, Inc.

Prior to the final results, there are also other suspended mines namely Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. (CMDC), EMIR Mineral Resources Corp., Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration Corp., Claver Mineral Development Corp., Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp., and Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., LNL Archipelago Minerals, Inc., and Berong Nickel.

A Reuters report showed on Friday that Manila’s mining crackdown drove nickel to a then one-year high of $11,030 a tonne in August. Last month the prices briefly pierced $12,000 a tonne for the first time since July 2015 in a broad-based rally in industrial metals.

Nickel was trading at $11,150 on Friday, but analysts say it could top $12,000 again if the Philippines suspends more mines.

January target set for mining audit results

13 December 2016

A DECISION on 30 metal miners at risk of non-compliance in their environmental management practices after a nationwide audit may be released by the end of January.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau’s decision on 30 metal miners at risk of non-compliance in their environmental management practices after a nationwide audit may be released by the end of January. -- AFP

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau’s (MGB) Officer-in-charge, Assistant Director Danilo U. Uykieng, who is leading the final phase of the audit, said that the review of the responses of these mining firms will start today. He added that none of the miners’ responses to show-cause orders that have been sent to them by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been validated.

“Tomorrow, (Dec. 13) the technical working group will start the review... they were turned over to me, all the documents, last Friday, without any review,” said Mr. Uykieng, who was designated last month to head the review, in a Monday phone interview.

The technical working group of five sections, each with members holding positions from the various agencies of the DENR, will start assessing which mines to prioritize, with those cases deemed “less complicated” to be identified, according to Mr. Uykieng.

He added that they proposed to Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez a “doable” plan wherein the MGB will conclude the validation of eight miner’s responses before the holidays, though he gave no guarantees.

The reports will be submitted directly to the Office of the Secretary which rule on the reports.

Ms. Lopez said in October that the DENR has sent out show-cause letters along with audit findings reports to the miners, who were expected to respond in seven days after receipt.

The audit, which began July 8, was originally to be a one-month review but has seen repeated delays after revised target dates for a final determination on their compliance.

The mining industry has criticized the delays as harming the reputations of the companies involved.

Validating the reports of those who were not recommended for suspension will be the last priority, Mr. Uykieng said.

“They are not recommended for suspension. They were not given show-cause orders... We will evaluate them last,” Mr. Uykieng said, referring to the 11 miners that will not be included in the scope of their review.

Asked of the possibility that these 11 miners will have nothing to answer for in the audit, Mr. Uykieng said: “As far as the audits are concerned, I think so. But if there are violations after the audit, then they are not exempt...”

These 11 metal miners were found to have committed infractions although not serious enough to merit suspensions

Mining companies not recommended for suspension are Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp., Philex Mining Corp., Philsaga Mining Corp., Techiron Resources, Inc., Cagdianao Mining Corp., Taganito Mining Corp., Platinum Group Metals Corp., Greenstone Resources Corp., Pacific Nickel Philippines, Inc., Apex Mining Co. Inc., and Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. -- Janina C. Lim

More Philippine mine suspensions on the way in boost for nickel

By Manolo Serapio Jr

2 December 2016

MANILA -  The Philippine government will suspend more mines in a fight against environmental degradation, the minister in charge of mining said, a move that could put future supply from the world's top exporter at risk and lift nickel prices.

Nickel on the London Metal Exchange recovered nearly 1 percent from Friday's lows on the potential for supply disruption after the minister's comments.

The Southeast Asian nation has already halted 10 of its 41 mines in a campaign backed by President Rodrigo Duterte against what the government says is irresponsible mining. Twenty more are facing possible suspension and the agency in charge of the review may issue a ruling next week.

"There will definitely be suspensions, but we have to go over the list," Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez told Reuters by phone on Friday.

Lopez said the list will be finalised "very soon, next week at the latest."

Fourteen of the 20 mines facing suspension are nickel producers, and along with the eight of 10 already halted, they accounted for more than half of the Philippines' nickel ore output last year.

Nearly all of the output is shipped to China, where shipments of nickel ore and concentrate from the Philippines have dropped 12.5 percent over January-October.

The clampdown began shortly after Duterte assumed office on June 30. He had warned miners to strictly follow tighter rules or shut down, saying the country could survive without a mining industry.

Philippines the Only Impetus

Manila's crackdown drove nickel to a then one-year high of $11,030 a tonne in August. Last month the metal briefly pierced $12,000 a tonne for the first time since July 2015 in a broad-based rally in industrial metals.

Nickel was down 0.3 percent at $11,175 a tonne by 0757 GMT, but was off the session's low of $11,080. Analysts say it could top $12,000 again if the Philippines suspends more mines.

"The Philippine ruling on those mines is really the only impetus to get it there," said Daniel Hynes, commodity strategist at ANZ.

"Further suspensions would see an acceleration in the drawdown in inventories" of nickel from London Metal Exchange warehouses, he said.

The environment agency has pored over responses from the 20 mines facing suspension after they were given show cause letters in October, said Lopez, a passionate environmentalist.

"Our commitment is to the common good," she said, declining to give more details of the review.

On top of the audit of mines in operation, Lopez said in October that all environmental permits previously granted to mines will be reviewed.

(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Tom Hogue)

Philippines' No. 2 nickel miner to appeal cancelled permit for undeveloped mine

By Enrico Dela Cruz

16 December 2016

MANILA - Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc , the Philippines' second-largest nickel miner, vowed on Friday to appeal an "unlawful" government decision to cancel the environmental permit for its newly acquired Ipilan mining project.

The company said its Ipilan Nickel Corp (INC) unit has not violated any law or condition under the permit, and chided the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for making a decision "without procedural due process".

Concerned at the environmental impact of mining, the world's top nickel ore supplier has already halted the operation of 10 mines and another 20 face suspension, stoking supply concerns and spurring a rally in global nickel prices.

The DENR on Thursday announced it had cancelled the environmental compliance certificates (ECC) of three nickel mines, including INC's, and that of gold miner United Paragon Mining Corp, for failure to comply with the conditions of the permits.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez has also warned that three more nickel producers were at risk of losing their ECCs.

Global Ferronickel described as "surprising and unfortunate" the DENR's announcement of the ECC cancellation, (which the DENR said was due to INC's failure to launch its Ipilan project within the 5-year period from the issuance of the permit.

Two DENR agencies - the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Environmental Management Bureau - "could very well attest to the feasibility studies and work plans that INC have so far embarked on" to carry out the Ipilan project, the company told the Philippine Stock Exchange.

"If DENR had only observed the barest minimum of administrative notice and hearing, it would have readily appreciated all the time, efforts and resources invested by INC in launching an important project," it said.

The Ipilan nickel project in southwestern Palawan province has resources of over 50 million wet metric tonnes at 1.23 percent nickel content, which Global Ferronickel intends to export to China and Australia.

"INC thus intends to vigorously seek a reconsideration of this baseless and unlawful cancellation of ECC in due course," said Global Ferronickel, which also has mining operation in southern Surigao del Norte province.

Lopez did not immediately respond to a Reuters' request for comment.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Richard Pullin)

Lopez on legal challenge by miners: ‘Do it.’

By Janina C. Lim, Reporter

1 November 2016

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it is unfazed by a legal battle with miners in the wake of facing its first court case that challenges the government’s nationwide crackdown on illegal mining.

“We’re following the law. You’re gonna file a case against us for following the law? Do it. We’re not gonna lose,” Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez said in an interview with reporters last week.

Ms. Lopez was responding to a question, based on an industry official’s statement, about another miner who may follow after BenguetCorp Nickel Mines, Inc. (BNMI), which went to court on the heels of the DENR order stopping its nickel project in Sta. Cruz, Zambales.

Ronald V. Recidoro, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines’ vice-president for its Legal and Policy division, had earlier said the miner, whose identity he declined to disclose, “has confirmed” plans to file charges against the DENR in connection with its September audit findings which has been mounting up dissatisfaction among miners.

BNMI, a subsidiary of listed Benguet Corp., became the first to elevate a dispute against the agency’s mining crackdown when it filed before the Pampanga Regional Trial Court a petition for certiorari with injunction on Oct. 22 “to assail” the suspension order jointly issued by the DENR’s Central Luzon offices, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the Environmental Management Bureau.

The firm said the government’s order to suspend its nickel project, which has been non-operational for four months now, was issued “with grave abuse of discretion, in an arbitrary manner, without due process.”

“We were suspended before the conduct of an audit,” Ma. Anna G. Vicedo-Montes, assistant vice-president for Corporate Communications and Special Projects of parent firm Benguet Corp., said in an e-mail interview last week.

Ms. Lopez countered that the DENR, as part of its mandate, may deem it fit, on valid grounds, to stop a miner’s operation.

“They totally killed the environment. They cut 20,000 hectares of trees without a permit. The river is red. The community is so upset with them. You should say sorry instead of filing a case,” Ms. Lopez added.

She also cited a Writ of Kalikasan with a prayer for temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) against the firm as well as Zambales Governor Amor P. Deloso’s earlier issued order mandating the immediate stoppage and moratorium on all mining operations in the province.

Ms. Vicedo-Montes, for her part, said the Writ Ms. Lopez referred to “has not been heard/tried and no TEPO has been granted before BNMI was suspended.” Mr. Deloso’s order, on the other hand, “has no jurisdiction [on] the operation of any mine” and as such is “technically” under the purview of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Ms. Vicedo-Montes said.

To recall, BNMI and another nickel miner in Zambales were suspended in July following complaints on the alleged environmental impacts of the miner’s operation.

The suspension remains in place until the firms resolve issues regarding tree-cutting and earth-balling, the completion of an exclusive mine haul road, and the full rehabilitation of all mined-out and open areas.

DENR Officer-in-Charge and Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz G. Luna told BusinessWorld on Thursday their office has not received the said petition but expressed confidence that the agency’s acts during the audit have been “above-board.”

“I will check what their allegations are and I will verify. I think if we made a mistake we’re very willing to correct our mistakes,” Ms. Luna said.

This was not the first time government halted BNMI’s mine operations. To recall, MGB ordered the suspension of BNMI and other miners in Zambales in 2014. The order stemmed from the said mines’ failure to meet standards of regulatory evaluation of their operations. Residents at the time were complaining of nickel siltation in their rivers, farmlands, fishponds and seashores.

Next year, however, regional government agencies lifted the moratorium on the Zambales nickel miners which was to be reinstated when Ms. Lopez assumed office.

Ms. Lopez was among the Cabinet officials bypassed late October by the Commission on Appointments.

Through its legal action, BNMI told the stock exchange last week that it aims “to prove that despite its full compliance with remediation conditions under the previous Lifting Order dated Aug. 24, 2015, the said regional government agencies unjustifiably refused to reverse the Suspension Order.”

Despite the differences with BNMI, Ms. Lopez also cited the company’s efforts in being “very cooperative” in the rehabilitation of their mine.

BNMI sold 373,300 tons of nickel ore from its April to June operations this year with an average price of $20.27/ton versus 588,910 tons of the ore at an average price of $27.73 for the same quarter last year.

During the first half of the year, BNMI shipped 778,485 tons of nickel ore, well below the 1.28 million tons of nickel output in the first semester last year. The lower volume coupled with depressed prices of nickel during the period resulted in a net loss of P76.7 million for BNMI in the January to June period.

The DENR has sent out show-cause letters along with its audit findings report to all miners, including the 10 suspended ahead of the audit, who are expected to respond in seven days after receipt. Ms. Lopez said a final decision should be made first week of November.

The audit named 20 more mines whose operations may be halted. The 30 metal mines, either suspended or recommended for suspension, make up nearly three-fourths of the country’s 41 metal mines and accounted for 55.5% of the country’s total nickel ore production last year.

DENR’s Lopez acknowledges room for improvement in mine audit

By Janina C. Lim, Reporter

2 November 2016

THE DEPARTMENT of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said they will make improvements in its nationwide review on non-metal mines, slated to begin within the month, after learning “many lessons” from the audit of the country’s metal mines now in its final phase.

“We’re gonna start na (already) because people suffer. We should do better, We should learn. We learned many lessons,” Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez said in an interview with reporters last week.

Ms. Lopez cited one of the adjustments she would take should an audit of the metal mines be repeated, one that relates to the selection of members of the audit team.

“For me, if I was to do it over again, I’d involve the scientists more. We had DA (Department of Agriculture), DoH (Department of Health). We hired institutions but not people. You don’t know who they send eh. I wouldn’t hire institutions. You have no guarantee that they’re going to do a good job. Next time I will involve people,” Ms. Lopez said.

Sought for comment, Francis G. Ballesteros, Jr., head of the Public and Regulatory Affairs at Philex Mining Corp., suggested that the regulator should present “clear-cut guidelines” that cover their audit and that mining players “be given due process.”

“Any mistakes possibly done in the first audit should be rectified in the next,” Mr. Ballesteros said in a text message on Monday.

“As to whether or not succeeding audits are necessary, there are enough monitoring mechanisms under the law and rules and regulations that companies comply with, so perhaps no further need,” he added.

Earlier, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CoMP) criticized the involvement of the anti-mining civil society organization Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) and their allied grassroots organizations in the audit team in assessing miners’ impact on their host communities.

CoMP requested that the audit, should another round be deemed necessary, involve only DENR personnel and acknowledged experts in the fields.

“I wonder if the Secretary would like to have people with anti-mining sentiments on the audit teams?” Jose Bayani D. Baylon, vice-president for corporate communications of Nickel Asia Corp., said in a mobile message.

Ms. Lopez maintained the inclusion of the ATM does not translate to a biased audit as the group does not echo an anti-mining sentiment but only disapproves “irresponsible mining” in particular.

DENR has sent out show-cause letters along with audit findings to all the respective miners. Mining firms are expected to respond in seven days upon receipt.

Ms. Lopez said a final decision should be made within the week.

The audit named 20 more mines threatened to have their operations halted. This is on top of the 10 mines ordered suspended prior to the audit which started July 8.

The 30 metal mines, either suspended or recommended for suspension, make up nearly three-fourths of the country’s 41 metal mines and account for 55.5% of the country’s total nickel ore production last year.

Palawan mining firm operating despite suspension order, says NGO

However, the firm, Citinickel Mining and Development, says they are doing rehabilitation activities, not mining operations

Keith Anthony Fabro

1 December 2016

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines – A mining company in Sofronio Española town is still operating even under suspension order, a non-government organization here alleged, but the company says they are actually rehabilitating the area.

Palawan NGO Network Inc. (PNNI) said their para-enforcers discovered on November 23 that a backhoe of Citinickel Mining and Development (CMDC) was digging and extracting nickel ore "directly from the mountainside and not from their stockpile."

"Why is it operating?" PNNI Executive Director, Atty. Robert Chan asked in a letter he sent in to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) on Monday, November 28.

He said they were able to capture it in photographs and video, which they will submit to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB), and to Environment Secretary Regina Lopez. He, however, has refused to give digital copies of those to the media.

PNNI noted that the CMDC is "currently under suspension by virtue, among other infractions, a Cease and Desist Order" from the DENR.

The suspension was issued in July 22, 2016, after the mining firm operated in a restricted zone, an area under the Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) of Palawan where mining is prohibited.

Chan said that while the mining firm is suspended, it is not banned from hauling and transporting its stockpile since it has secured a transport permit. However, he added, that digging and extraction is another story.

"While this may be seemingly acceptable, this activity does not extend to digging and extraction in an apparent bid to pass it off as part of their preset stockpile," his letter continued.

However, CMDC Community Relations Manager Pamela Miguel explained that the activity is part of their rehabilitation process of mined out areas, local news outlet Palawan News reported.

"Hindi kami nagmimina, nagma-mine rehab kami (We are not mining the area but doing mine rehabilitation instead)," Miguel said.

Miguel added that they are preparing the said area for reforestation by fixing the slope to prevent erosion and ensure that the tree seedlings will grow.

"Lahat ng bagay na ‘yun, involves hauling also ng lupa (All of those things also involve hauling of soil),” she said.

Chan, meanwhile, questioned PCSD for not retracting the SEP clearance it issued to CMDC although it disregarded the ECAN zone.

PCSD, a multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary body, was created by virtue of Republic Act 7611 or the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan Act.

Primarily, this environmental body is mandated to implement SEP's main strategy, the ECAN, which is "a system of graded protection and development control over the whole of Palawan."

To attain its objectives, the PCSD promulgated Administrative Order No. 6 on the SEP Clearance System through which all projects are based on ECAN Zoning of Palawan. It may give a SEP clearance to projects which pass its three guiding principles – ecological viability, social acceptability and integrated approach.

PCSD Staff spokesperson John Vincent Fabello said the appeal for the rescinding of SEP Clearance it issued to CMDC – should it push through – has to undergo thorough investigation by the Council's Adjudication Board.

He told Rappler that the PCSD will be sending its concerned staff to validate the report on the ground.

PNNI, meanwhile, joined the MGB personnel during the validation it conducted in Sofronio Española town on Wednesday, Nov. 30. Whatever result it may yield, the staunch anti-mining group said they would still be lobbying for the cancellation of CMDC's Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA), Palawan News reported.

As of press time, the CMDC Mine Rehabilitation Fund Committee (MRFC) is holding its meeting on Thursday, December 1, wherein the issue was also raised, Rappler has learned.

In a text message, Miguel told Rappler that they will be sending out an official statement to explain their side, soon after the MRFC meeting ends. –

Philippines cancels environmental permits of three mines - minister

15 December 2016

The Philippine government has canceled the environmental compliance certificates (ECC) of three mines, including two nickel producers, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez said on Thursday.

The agency is reviewing hundreds of ECCs granted by previous governments including those granted to mines in a crackdown on environmental degradation. The Philippines is the world's top nickel ore supplier.

That is a separate review from an environmental audit of the country's 41 mines completed in August and the full results of which, Lopez said, would be released in January. Ten mines have been halted so far and another 20 face suspension.

"We will announce the decision in January, probably around the second week," Lopez told a media briefing.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Writing by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

Duterte reaffirms trust in Gina Lopez

ABS-CBN News -

28 November 2016

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday reaffirmed his trust in Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez.

“I reappointed her. Na bypass siya eh. But I like her. She is okay, very strict, I like that. She is not corrupt, I like that. And she cannot be corrupted,” Duterte said of Lopez during a speech in Malacañang.

Speculations that Lopez had been sacked surfaced after she was not included in the list of Cabinet members who got reappointed.

This was doused when Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed last Friday after Duterte's arrival from the APEC Summit that Lopez had been reappointed.

Several Cabinet members had to be reappointed after they were bypassed by the powerful Commission on Appointments.

Lopez earlier told ANC that she was not intentionally excluded from the initial list of reappointed Cabinet members, saying the President’s staff admitted to a “problem of logistics.”

“I do want to clean up the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources]. Our budget was just approved, P28 billion. If we don’t have the right people and the right systems, that money is not going to make a difference,” she said.

Lopez led an unprecedented crackdown on unsafe mines, and cited 20 companies for possible suspension.

“The key here is having the right people, especially in the field and that’s what I’m doing now. I have zero tolerance for corruption,” she said.

“We have to rock the boat that’s what happens when you bring on change, you rock the boat,” she said.

Palace leaves Lopez out of Cabinet list

22 November 2016

ENVIRONMENT Secretary Regina Paz Lopez remains the only Cabinet member not nominated by Malacañang for confirmation to the Commission on Appointments as of Tuesday, records showed.

After failing to get the commission’s nod in the last session of Congress after its Halloween recess, Malacañang again nominated 15 of the unconfirmed Cabinet secretaries including Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., ICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial, and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.

Likewise named by Malacañang to the commission  were Science Secretary Fortunato Dela Peña, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

Malacañang nominated Lopez before she was bypassed following the Congress’ break.

Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said Lopez’s non-appointment “might have been overlooked” by the Palace.

Lopez has been under scrutiny for her anti-mining stance. She has been leading a crackdown on mining companies claiming there is no such thing as responsible mining.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has reiterated its concern over Lopez’s integrity following the role of confirmed anti-mining civil society organizations.

The CA has already approved the appointments of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Several members of the Judicial and Bar Council and military men also got the CA’s nod.

But the Ambassador to the United Nations Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana have been bypassed.

DENR chief rehires exec after Duterte replacement

Rio N. Araja

10 November 2016

RIGHT after he was replaced by President Rodrigo Duterte, Environment Secretary Regina Lopez reengaged the services of former mining official Leo Jasereno as a consultant despite the objections of the mining industry.

“Environment Secretary [Regina] Lopez tapped Jasareno as consultant. Right after his replacement, Jasareno assumed work as a consultant,” DENR Assistant Secretary Rommel Abesamis told the Manila Standard.

Abesamis said Lopez reengaged Jazareno although Duterte had already appointed mining engineer Wilfredo Moncano as acting head of the MGB to replace Jasareno.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines had earlier scored Jasareno for the high-handed audit of the regulatory compliance of mining firms, saying he ignored appeals for miners to correct perceived violations of MGB rules.

Jasareno’s audit resulted in the suspension of eight of its members—the Filminera Resources Corp., Marcventures Mining and Development Corp., Agata, CTP Construction and Mining Corp., Hinatuan Mining Corp., Benguet Corp., Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp. and OceanaGold Philippines Inc.

At least 10 other mining companies, including Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc., Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. and Eramen Minerals Inc., were previously suspended.

Other suspended firms were the country’s only iron-producing mine Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp., Samar-based operations Mt. Sinai Exploration Mining and Development Corp., EMIR Mineral Resources Corp., Berong Nickel Corp., Claver Mineral Development Corp., and Citinickel Mines and Development Corp.

CoMP vice president for policy Ronald Recidoro challenged the failure of the government to give supposed erring mining firms the chance to rectify their mistakes and save the jobs of employees who became jobless because of the suspension.

“When one suddenly changes the rules of the game, a dialogue between companies and the DENR is needed considering the audit report was completed in August,” he said.

If only there was a dialogue and consultation, the mining operators could have the opportunity to undertake rehabilitation measures, instead of DENR imposing a suspension order on these firms, CoMP said.

Malacañang calls for more local processing of ores

28 November 2016

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte said he is pushing for more local processing in the mining industry in order for the country to capture more value from mineral resources and ensure the industry’s sustainability.

“The industrialization in a resource-rich country like the Philippines invariably involves value-adding activities for downstream processing of metallic mineral resources,” according to a speech by Mr. Duterte delivered by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) OIC Assistant Director Danilo U. Uykieng at the 63rd Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference on Nov. 18

Mr. Duterte said that a value-added strategy will involve moves to “ensure continued availability and security of supply of materials and commodities, and thereby, minimize risks to the economic growth trajectory, by planning and establishing a robust mine-to-metal value chain.”

The president also ordered the bureau to revisit regulatory and compliance policies for mining and processing of metallic minerals.

Earlier, MGB said that inter-agency recommendations on downstream processing will be released by year end.

The government’s intensive crackdown against miners’ environmental practices led to the suspension of 10 metal mines, with a further 20 recommended for suspension.

These mines made up 55.5% of the country’s total nickel output last year.

In addition, Mr. Duterte also urged the MGB, an agency of the Environment department, to conduct an inventory and further exploration studies, if necessary, of the various natural resources in the country especially magnetite sand deposits, coal, limestone, nickel, and chromite, among others.

The MGB’s aim to industrialize the country’s resources will be part of the agency’s five-point agenda aimed toward “a long-term and stable policy environment that is essential to realize the true potential of our mineral deposits.”

Another point is streamlining renewal of application procedures by reducing the list of requirements and documents that have to be submitted to shorten processing time.

Other points of the agenda include MGB-led inter-agency coordination of regulatory agencies in mining projects, stronger community relations programs, final land use options of mineral lands to be thoroughly discussed and consulted with the local government units, the communities and other stakeholders.

Mr. Duterte’s statement also cited a Philippine Statistics Authority report, which shows that although mining’s contribution to the GDP of the Philippines is 0.6%, mining and quarrying in regions such as Mimaropa account for as much as 20% of gross regional domestic product (GRDP); while in Caraga, the total is 22%.

“This information on the mining contribution to GRDP in Mimaropa and Caraga is enlightening as we know for a fact that mining is concentrated only in certain areas of the country,” said Mr. Duterte.

“The industry must grow for it to contribute more to development in areas with potential mineral deposits,” added the president. -- Janina C. Lim

Miners vow to uphold responsible operations

Anna Leah E. Gonzales

17 November 2016

Baguio City―The Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association reiterated the industry’s commitment to practice responsible mining.

“Our member companies are committed to responsible mining. I think all the companies are doing it right,” PMSEA president Louie Sarmiento said Thursday.

“We’re not a perfect industry and in spite of the heavy regulations, people and companies are responding to make sure that they’re doing it right,” Sarmiento said at the sidelines of the 63rd Annual Mine Safety and Environmental Conference in Camp John Hay.

The conference was attended by more than 4,000 mineral industry workers, professionals and students from all over the country.

One of the main events of the conference is the Mining Exhibit and Mineral Industry Symposium which gives importance to the need to adapt through challenging times with technological breakthroughs and new research to ensure safe and environmentally friendly practices are undertaken.

The event was attended by counterparts from South Africa, led by the deputy minister for mineral resources Godfrey Oliphant and Ambassador to the Philippines Martin Slaberg.

Oliphant, a former diamond mine worker, expressed hope for knowledge sharing of technology and best practices and partnership with then Philippines in the future.

“Before, [mine] accidents in Africa reaches more than 200 and that is unacceptable in an industry like mining. Of course, there’s always high risks but because of what they did in terms of risk management, they were able to lower that dramatically through the years,” Sarmiento said.

“Together with the help of the regulatory, they managed to improve their safety statistics. We cannot do it alone, the government―and this was demonstrated by the South African government―should  help the industry improve their safety records,” he said.

Sarmiento said the government and the mining industry should work hand in hand in order to improve the industry.

“We need both. The regulator and the one being regulated should help each other. It’s a journey. We cannot do it in an instant. Africa has best practices that we’re still not implementing. We can do it here and I think the industry is willing to adapt,” Sarmiento said.

“Now more than ever, we should all gather and show our strength and solidarity in advocating for responsible mining. I am encouraging the industry to keep doing what is right,” said Sarmiento.

Environmental Groups slam abusive & irresponsible mining firms as the 63rd National Mine & Safety Week commences

Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) press release

14 November 2016

Environmental groups criticize the recently concluded mining conference hosted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on responsible mining for its 63rd National Mine and Safety Week. Affected communities and survivors of mining-instigated disasters have witnessed and suffered enough on how mining companies disregard the safety and welfare of the local population and how the mining agency allow the erring companies to violate the rights of communities.

The Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) – Philippines together with different peoples` organizations reminds the DENR to stand firm on its position against abusive mining companies. “DENR under Sec. Gina Lopez`s flagship must stay unyielding. More than ever, they need to make sure that through the Mining Audit directive, culpable mining firms be held accountable of its crimes against the environment and communities.” said Frances Quimpo, Executive Director of CEC.

The group cites the experience of one its communities in Sta, Cruz Zambales. A year after Typhoon Lando hit the Philippines, the town of Sta. Cruz, Zambales still reel with its adverse effects – nickel laterite contamination in rivers, streams and other coastal areas as well as “red” mud flooding. Move Now! An alliance of Sta. Cruz residents share that what they have experienced has been further caused by nickel mining in the area. Until today, no mining firm has been held responsible despite the suspension of Sta.Cruz-based mining firms like Benguet Nickel Mining Corporation (BNMI), LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc., Eramen Minerals and Zambales Diversified Minerals under DMCI.

The incident and other similar occurrence ultimately raises the question if large-scale mining can really be safe since no community has experienced anything good about it.

Because of the clamor of affected communities, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) conducted a Mining Audit and review of the existing mining operations. The most recent update of the partially concluded audit according to Sec. Gina Lopez, there here have been several flaws with the directive due to lack of experts. The Environment Undersecretary and head of the Mining Audit team, Leo Jasareno, shared that out of 41 operating metallic mines, only 11 passed and 20 more were given 7 days to heed DENR`s inquiries.

”People`s participation is what we need in order to efficiently audit these mining firms in the country.” Quimpo revealed. ”Mining communities and grassroots` organizations are the primary stakeholders since they are directly affected and are the ones who know the actual situation; especially the national minorities, who for the longest time are stewards of our mountains and forests.” she added.

The annual event of the MGB where its partners, members, mining contractors, suppliers and government officials come together to celebrate and award those companies performing the best mining practices in mineral exploration, quarry operation, surface & underground mining operation and mineral processing lacks people’s participation according to the green group.

”To fully realize the essence of the annual Mine and Safety Week and the preserving our natural resources in general, DENR`S Mining Audit should first and foremost have teeth to run after destructive mining companies.” Quimpo said. “And for the Filipino communities to incessantly campaign for the scrapping of the  flawed Mining Act of 1995 and replace it with a pro-environment, pro-people Peoples Mining Bill.` said Quimpo.###

REFERENCE:        April Porteria
                             Research & Advocacy – Coordinator

Center for Environmental Concerns - Philippines
26 Matulungin Street, Barangay Central, Diliman, Quezon City 1100
+632 920 9099 | info[at]  |

Environment, IP issues hound mining industry


Manila Times  -

16 November 2016

BAGUIO CITY: Environment and indigenous peoples’ (IPs) issues continued to hound the mining industry as the annual national mine and safety meeting opened here on Wednesday.

Affected communities and survivors of mining-related disasters have suffered enough from how mining companies disregard the local population’s safety and welfare and how the mining agency allows erring companies to violate rights of communities, the environmental alliance Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines said.

Stakeholders in the country’s mining industry were expected at the Summer Capital for the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA)-sponsored 63rd Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference with the theme “63 Years of Responsible Mining… Moving Forward by Doing it Right.”

Louie Sarmiento, PMSEA president, and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) officials as well as other mining firm heads and executives led the conference opening.

South African Ambassador to the Philippines Martin Slabber, South Africa Deputy Minister for Mineral Godfrey Oliphant and Philex Mining Corporation president and Chief Executive Officer Eulalio Austin will be the conference’s special guests.

On Friday, mining companies, the MGB and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other mining stakeholders will march down Session Road here for the Minerals Industry Parade, then proceed to the Melvin Jones grounds for the Mine Safety Field Demonstration and Field Competition.

A testimonial dinner and awards night will cap the week-long conference on Friday at the CAP John Hay Convention Center where winners of the Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Award for best mining practices in the country, Best Mining Forest Contest, Safest Mines Awards and Best Mines Personalities will be awarded.

Lingering issues

On the heels of the annual mining industry conference, the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC)-Philippines with various organizations reminded the DENR to stand firm on its position against abusive mining companies.

“DENR under Secretary Gina Lopez’s flagship must stay unyielding. More than ever, they need to make sure that through the Mining Audit directive, culpable mining firms be held accountable for [their]crimes against the environment and communities,” Frances Quimpo, CEC executive director, said.

The CEC said that a year after Typhoon Lando hit the country, the town of Santa Cruz, Zambales is still reeling from its adverse effects–nickel laterite contamination in rivers, streams and other coastal areas as well as “red” mud flooding.

An alliance of Santa Cruz residents, blame their experience with nickel mi­ning in the area.

“Until today, no mining firm has been held responsible despite the suspension of Santa Cruz-based mining firms like Benguet Nickel Mining Corporation (BNMI), LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc., Eramen Minerals and Zambales Diversified Minerals under DMCI.”

The CEC observed that there have been several flaws in a recent mine industry audit specifically because of lack of experts.

It cited acknowledgment by Leo Jasareno, DENR undersecretary and head of the mining audit team, that out of 41 operating metallic mines, only 11 passed the audit and 20 more were given 7 days to heed the DENR’s inquiries.

“People`s participation is what we need in order to efficiently audit these mining firms,” Quimpo said.

“Mining communities and grassroots’ organizations are the primary stakeholders since they are directly affected and are the ones who know the actual situation, especially the national minorities, who for the longest time are stewards of our mountains and forests,” she added.

“The DENR’s mining audit should first and foremost have teeth to run after destructive mining companies, and for Filipino communities to incessantly campaign for scrapping of the flawed Mining Act of 1995 and replace it with a pro-environment, pro-people People’s Mining Bill,” Quimpo said.

Gina Lopez remains skeptical even after government gives awards to miners

By Madelaine B. Miraflor 

20 November 2016

Baguio City – Even after the government recently gave awards to some of the country’s biggest miners for adhering to safety and environmental standards, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has remained skeptical on the mining sector.

At her message at the souvenir program of the 63rd Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference (ANMSEC), which she didn’t attend, Lopez said that while there are ongoing efforts to make the mining sector a safe industry, the welfare of the communities surrounding a mine site is yet to be addressed.

“The PMSEA [Philippine Mines Safety and Environment Association] has come a long way in improving safety in mine sites, particularly to mine workers. We wish the same can be said for the welfare of the people in host communities and surrounding areas, and for the environment, including biodiversity,” Lopez said.

“We look forward to seeing the mining industry deliver results according to standards set by law and the expectations of the people; verily, it is because of failures to do so that we have stopped the operations of several mining companies. Doing it right, fully and consistently, is the only way for the mining industry to move forward,” she added.

OceanaGold Philippines, Inc., SR Metals, Inc. (SRMI), and Coral Bay Nickel Corp. are this year’s recipients of the prestigious Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Award (PMIEA), the highest award conferred by PMSEA.

PMIEA, which was acknowledged and signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, is the highlight of ANMSEC, which was organized by Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB), an attached agency to the Department of Natural and Environment Resources, Philippine Society of Mining Engineers, and PMSEA.

But Lopez is not necessarily keen on the results of the awards, saying that “if people are adversely affected, there are really should be no award.”

To recall, OceanaGold is one of the most highly criticized mining companies by Lopez for its Didipio Mine in Nueva Vizcaya. It is also one of the mining companies recommended for suspension by the DENR’s Mining Audit Team.

SRMI is also one of the 21 companies that are at risk of losing its permit to operate, based on the mining audit results.

The DENR is particularly asking SR Metals to explain why it should not be held liable for its “violations”, one of which is use of a provincial road as a private mine road.

The PMIEA gives the award every year to outstanding mining companies in line with the call for the Philippine mining industry to promote and practice responsible mining.

It recognizes outstanding levels of dedication, initiative and innovation in the pursuit of companies involved in various aspects of mineral utilization.

Award-winning miners hope to avoid suspension

By Janina C. Lim, Reporter

21 November 2016

SEVERAL metal miners, who were honored at the Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Awards (PMIEA) last week, expressed confidence they will be cleared despite the results of a government-led audit that recommended them for suspension.

“We’re always confident that we will be vindicated. This just provides further proof,” Michael Wilkes, president and CEO of Melbourne-based OceanaGold Corp. said in a late Friday interview on the sidelines of the awards night in Baguio City.

OceanaGold (Philippines), Inc. won the PMIEA for a second straight year in recognition of its Didipio gold-copper project which straddles the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino. The company also bagged the highest rank for the Safest Mining Operations Awards for the metal mines category and was third runner up for the Best Mining Forest Program for 2016.

To recall, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-led audit showed OceanaGold’s operations were beset with social issues. The province of Nueva Vizcaya is also requesting the government to cancel its financial or technical assistance agreement (FTAA).

Mr. Wilkes clarified that OceanaGold’s FTAA for its Didipio mine covers citrus plantations that are far from the mine site, adding that these plantations are not tended thoroughly because of the farms lack irrigation and proper roads to bring their harvest to markets.

“Agriculture and mining should coexist together. It’s not one or the other,” Mr. Wilkes added.

Miguel Alberto V. Gutierrez, president of SR Metals, Inc., said receiving the award comes as a relief after the company was identified as one of 20 miners that face suspension after the two-month long audit.

“It’s more of a relief. I think it’s the same with the miners during these past few months,” he told BusinessWorld in an interview after Friday’s awards night in Baguio City. SR Metals was runner-up for the safest mines awards for the metal mines category this year.

He added that the audit, now on its final phase, however, helped push miners to shape up.

“[In] a way it’s good that there was a shock factor as far as how she (Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez) handled this. There’s really some that are not really practicing responsible mining or maybe also the responsible miners have to do better. Coming in that way, it helps. Parang wake up call. Hopefully its only that way. Not mining closure but responsible mining,” Mr. Gutierrez said.

SR Metals, which currently has operations in Agusan del Norte, was recommended for suspension due to its use of a provincial road as a private/mine road, according to the audit summary report. The report also showed that the local government in the area has filed a petition for the cancellation of its mineral production sharing agreement.

The PMIEA is established through Executive Order 399 to recognize miners’ exemplary performance in the aspects of environmental management; safety and health; and social development. Recipients are evaluated by an eight-member selection committee composed of the government and the private sectors and chaired by the DENR secretary.

The selection of candidates and the winners of the awards themselves is approved by the president himself.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte, in a message published in the catalog of the 63rd Annual National Mine Safety and Environment Conference (ANMSEC), commended the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association for “helping the government in upholding the law.”

Mr. Duterte noted the mining industry contributes “greatly to the growth of our economy,” a reversal from his earlier description of mining as a “sunset industry,” criticizing it for destroying the environment and contributing little to the national economy.

“But we have to make sure that all mining activities comply with the government’s economic, health, and environmental standards,” Mr. Duterte added.

The nationwide crackdown against miners has left 20 mining firms facing possible suspension. This brings to more than three-quarters of the country’s total metal mines those that are either facing suspension or threat of such order.

These mines, both suspended and identified for suspension, make up 55.5% of last year’s nickel output of the Philippines.

The country has since been the top supplier of nickel ore to China, the world’s biggest consumer of the metal, after Indonesia banned raw ore exports in 2014.

Mining industry crackdown continues in Philippines

29 November 2016

A plan to pursue the multimillion-dollar suit against a global mining firm Barrick Gold Corp is headed for the Canadian courts, after a US court ruled that it was the wrong jurisdiction to hear the claim.

The plan has gained the support of the Catholic Church and civil society groups in Marinduque province to recover the cost of damage left by the 1996 mine tailings spill, tagged as the worst mining tragedy in the Philippines, reported the Inquirer.

The provincial board of Marinduque, in June, issued a resolution to refile the case in a Canadian court against the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp., the company that absorbed Placer Dome, the parent company of the defunct Marcopper Mining Corp.

In 1996, one of Marcopper’s drainage tunnels gave way, unleashing about 200 million tons of tailings into Boac River. Traces of mine wastes are still visible in the water today.

The Marinduque provincial government, in 2005, filed a $100-million class suit against the mining company at the Nevada district court in the United States.

But after 10 years of court proceedings, the Nevada State Supreme Court threw out the case for forum non conveniens, meaning the US was a wrong jurisdiction to hear it.

In 2014, Barrick Gold offered a $20-million settlement but the Marinduque provincial board turned it down after it felt that the amount was not enough to compensate for the environmental damage wrought by the mining disaster on the island.

While the decision to reopen the case in Canada drew support, various groups in the province were divided as to whether they would continue engaging the services of law firm, Diamond McCarthy.

The US-based firm originally represented the Marinduque government under a contingency arrangement, meaning it would be paid a fraction of whatever the court awards the province once a resolution or a settlement is reached.

In a letter on Oct. 13, Marinduque Gov. Carmencita Reyes asked the provincial board to grant her the authority to enter into another contract with the firm for the “immediate filing of suit” in British Columbia or Ontario.

Reyes also sought authority to sign an agreement with the New York-based Parabellum Capital LLC as a third party funder. The purpose of a funder is to shoulder the costs during litigation, she said.

But the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (Macec) opposed Reyes’ move to continue engaging lawyers from Diamond McCarthy saying it is “unnecessary and costly.”

“We remain positive and we support the intention of the provincial government to refile the case in Canada, but we strongly oppose the continuous engagement of Diamond McCarthy … for the case,” it said.

Macec instead urged the provincial government to “directly engage the services of Canadian firms [or] lawyers for the case.”

The Marcopper Mining Disaster occurred on March 24, 1996 on the Philippine island of Marinduque, a province of the Philippines located in the Mimaropa region in Luzon. It remains one of the largest mining disasters in Philippine history.

A fracture in the drainage tunnel of a large pit containing leftover mine tailings led to a discharge of toxic mine waste into the Makulapnit-Boac river system and caused flash floods in areas along the river.

One village, Barangay Hinapulan, was buried in six feet of muddy floodwater, causing the displacement of 400 families. Twenty other villages had to be evacuated. Drinking water was contaminated killing fish and freshwater shrimp. Large animals such as cows, pigs and sheep were overcome and killed. The flooding caused the destruction of crops and irrigation channels. Following the disaster, the Boac River was declared unusable.

The plan to pursue the Marcopper case in Canada comes as Philippines continues an unprecedented crackdown on mining operations that was ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.

A dozen more Philippine mines, mostly nickel projects, are now in danger of being suspended in in the ongoing environmental crackdown on the sector.

The Southeast Asian nation is the world’s top nickel ore supplier, and is the top supplier of nickel ore supplier to China.

The new government launched a review of the country’s 40 metallic mines on July 8.

Eight of the 10 suspended by end-August produced nickel ore, and the closures and the risk of more mines being shuttered lifted nickel prices to a one-year last month.

Duterte earlier warned he could cancel mining projects causing environmental harm, though he told business leaders he was not against mining per se.

"But in making money out of the precious metals of the earth that belongs to the Filipino people, you have to do it right," he told businessmen.

The country's mining sector, one of the world's largest in the 1970s, has since struggled partly due to tougher environmental rules and rebel attacks missing much of the mining boom in recent decades and now facing much lower commodity prices.

The crackdown is led by Gina Lopez, the anti-mining activist who is now Philippines’ environment secretary.

Lopez was earlier quoted as saying mining can cause suffering among the poor and has described it as "madness" even to consider open pit mining because of the environmental impact.

"We must stop killing our future for the interests of a few", said Lopez, a staunch environmentalist. The country has suffered mining disasters, including a 1996 tailings leak at Canadian-owned Marcopper Mining Corp's copper mine in Marinduque that contaminated rivers.

Ramon Adviento, senior vice president at Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc, the Philippines' second-biggest nickel ore miner, said the industry was "shell shocked" by Lopez' appointment.

"I don't think it means the death of the industry, but what we expect to see is the survival of the fittest," he said, adding that there could be a nationwide crackdown on irresponsible miners, likely targetting small-scale producers.

Miners say hardline policies could backfire particularly as the Philippines has become the biggest nickel ore supplier to China after previous top exporter Indonesia banned shipments of unprocessed minerals, shipping 34.3 million tonnes last year.

Mining contributes less than 1 percent to the Philippine economy. Of 9 million hectares identified by the government as having high mineral reserves, only 3 percent is being mined.

Regulate small gold mines, too

Juliane Kippenberg, Associate Director, Children's Rights Division, Human Rights Watch

The Inquirer -

25 November 2016

November is Children’s Month in the Philippines and the state of child rights in the country is under scrutiny. On November 7, the Department of Labor and Employment warned that child labor remains alarmingly high, with 1.8 million children toiling in hazardous conditions.

I have seen with my own eyes how Filipino child laborers are risking their lives in one of the most hazardous work sectors—gold mining. I interviewed children who were diving underwater to mine gold ore, digging gold in unstable pits, and processing gold with toxic mercury.

One of them was “Michelle,” a 15-year-old girl from Camarines Norte who has been processing gold with mercury since she was 8, unaware that mercury can have permanent damaging effects on health, especially for children. She described to me how she mixes the mercury into the gold ore to create an amalgam, and then holds the amalgam over a torch to burn off the mercury and retrieve the raw gold. She now often suffers spasms, which can be a symptom of mercury poisoning. In her village, I saw a white stream of mercury-contaminated water flowing into the local river.

Mining work is not only dangerous for children, but for the environment and communities displaced by it. The new Philippine environment secretary, Gina Lopez, has recognized this and ordered an audit of major mining firms active in the Philippines. The audit has suspended 10 nickel mines and recommended suspending another 20 —a move that has sent shock waves through the business community. Oddly, though, Lopez’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources is paying little attention to artisanal and small-scale gold mining and its harmful effects on children.

Gold is a major source of income for the Philippines. In 2014, the country produced about 18 tons of gold at a market value of over US$700 million. Most of this gold comes from artisanal and small-scale mines, almost all of which operate without a government license. Yet, the government is doing little to ensure that environmental regulations, and mining and child labor laws are enforced, and to transition these mines toward formal recognition. The government also has done far too little to ensure that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas—the country’s central bank and official buyer of artisanal gold—has safeguards in place to ensure it is not contributing to child labor.

If children like Michelle are to have a chance for a better job, and a better life, they need to go to school or get vocational training. Those who are 15 years or older could also work part-time, but in safe jobs, not hazardous ones like mining. The government should help children in mining areas make this transition, and should ensure that the government’s livelihood assistance programs reach the poorest families in mining areas, so they don’t have to send their children to work.

Companies sourcing gold from artisanal mines in the Philippines should also act.  They need to put in place strong safeguards along their whole supply chain, in line with their own human rights responsibilities, to ensure that they are not contributing to child labor in mines that provide them with gold. The Philippines needs a safe and child-labor-free artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector that contributes to the economic and social development of communities—and to the well-being of the country’s children. To achieve this, the government—and specifically the Department of Environment and Natural Resources—should regulate and formalize artisanal and small-scale mining. An important place for Secretary Lopez to start is to include artisanal and small-scale mines in the mining audit.

Benguet Corp faces P24-M fine for tailings leak in old mine

The Environmental Management Bureau in Cordillera region will recommend the fine on Benguet Corporation to the Pollution Adjudication Board, following the tailings leak at its old open-pit mine in Itogon, Benguet

Raymon Dullana

22 November 2016

CAGAYAN, Philippines – The Philippines' oldest mining company, Benguet Corporation (BC), is facing a fine of at least P24 million ($481,911.81) for leaked tailings from its old open-pit mine in Itogon, Benguet.

Reynaldo Digamo, regional director of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-Cordillera, said the fine is based on a computation of P200,000 ($4,016.48) per day, from October 27 to November 15 of this year.

Digamo said the tailings leak from BC's old Antamok mine in Itogon has polluted the Agno, Liang, and Ambalanga rivers.

“The fine is computed according to the provisions of the Clean Water Act, which provides that the erring company be charged P200,000 per day,” Digamo said, adding that the daily fine will be imposed on BC until it completes the cleanup.

Digamo said the EMB will recommend the fine to the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB). BC could still appeal the recommendation.

The EMB earlier reported that at least 50,000 metric tons of mine tailings from BC's Antamok mine in Itogon, which is no longer operational, leaked into Liang River on October 27 and October 28.

EMB said the leak was reportedly from the mining company's Antamok tailings impound area. This was caused by a breach in the drain tunnel of its underground mine due to heavy rains from Super Typhoon Lawin.

The leaked tailings flowed into Liang River, then Ambalanga river before reaching Agno river.

Digamo said the company had admitted responsibility for the leak in a meeting with its officials.

As of Monday, November 21, the company had yet to locate the breach to be plugged, although the mine leaks to the rivers had been contained.

Meanwhile, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-Cordillera is already assessing the extent of violations of BC, as also a basis in computing for their fines.

BC is among the mining firms that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recommended for suspension on September 27, following the completion of its audit of mining operations in the country. –

US$1 = P49.80

Councilor backs complaint against Benguet Corporation

By Elamae Membrere

5 December 2016

AFFECTED residents of the Benguet Corporation tailings outflow in Antamok Mines in Itogon are seeking the help of province officials hoping to get immediate solution from the mining firm.

This was revealed by Philippine Councilors League – Benguet chapter president and board member Nestor Fongwan Jr. after constituents in Itogon approached him to personally complain against the mining company after their pleas have fallen to ‘deaf ears’.

Fongwan has invited representatives from Benguet Corporation and the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau to provide specific information to make legislation on how to extend support to the affected individuals.

“Several individuals would come to us complaining, so we need to make necessary legislation, especially on the part of Committee on Environment. This is only the start and we need to dig in deeper on how to help our affected constituents specifically from Tuba and Itogon so that they can claim damages,” Fongwan stressed.

“We would also like to know that if fines are to be paid by the company, we have to find ways and make sure that we can tap that amount to be able to help the affected community and what are the mitigating measures done. We must know where it’s going,” Fongwan cited.

Meanwhile, Provincial Administrator Atty. Noel Ngolob confirmed there were cases of fish kills within barangays Dalupirip and Tinongdan due to the leak of mine tailings while some residents have been mulling to file a Writ of Kalikasan against Benguet Corp.

Ngolob advised residents to file a formal complaint against the mining firm that’s has allegedly caused irreparable damages to the environment.

But BC administration manager and lawyer Froilan Lawilaw said their office has yet to receive complaints from nearby residents.

Based on the company’s investigation, there were no other damages caused by the tailings pond leakage besides the tailings leak in the river downstream.

Lawilao said their office is open to receiving complaints from residents who are seeking claims from the damages but this will be subjected for verification.

The mine official added the company is now bent on cleaning the tailings leak as an initial measure before answering possible claims from the residents.

Recently, Environmental Management Bureau have already posted a P24 million fine to the company for violating Clean Water Act but the mining firm is poised to contest the fine saying the leak was caused by force majeure due to Typhoon Lawin.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 05, 2016.

4 private miners killed in Benguet in past week

One dies from being buried alive inside the mine, while 3 die from gas poisoning in a separate incident

25 November 2016

MANILA, Philippines – Four private miners were killed in separate incidents in Itogon, Benguet last week.

Narciso Pigas Segundo, 50, married, miner, and a resident of Bet-ang, Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet was killed after being buried alive inside a private tunnel last Thursday afternoon, November 24.

Segundo entered the private mine tunnel in Manganese, Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet at about 2 PM of November 24. The adit dips to about 5 meters deep and while Segundo was mining inside, a landslide buried him. He was still able to order his nephew who was a meter away to call for help.

Rescue workers and residents tried to bring Segundo out of the rubble, but they were only able to do so after two hours. He was declared dead by the Itogon Municipal health office due to asphyxiation and multiple bodily injuries.

Meanwhile, Rosalino Api-it Narciza, 54; Barry Rimando Api-it, 36; and Santiago Falikao Banganan, 32, died due to gas poisoning last November 22.

At nearby Fatima in Ucab, Itogon, witnesses said Narciza went inside his abandoned private mine tunnel in the morning to take out his mining equipment.

However, he failed to emerge from the tunnel and his nephew Barry Api-it followed suit. When Api-it also failed to come out, Banganan brought out their large blower to remove the carbon monoxide that lingered inside. However, he, too, failed to come out.

Rescuers arrived and were able to bring out the body of Banganan first at about 3:30 pm. The others were brought out minutes later.

The bodies did not bear any injuries and died mainly of gas poisoning. –

CEO offers Philex Mines as ‘poster boy” of responsible mining

28 November 2016

BAGUIO CITY -- The President and Chief Executive Officer of Philex Mining Corporation offered their mine operations to become the “Poster Boy” of responsible mining in the country.

“I read in a recent news article the DENR Secretary wants to go around the country to visit the mines, to look for a poster boy for responsible mining. Well, Madam Secretary, if you are tuned in right now, Philex would always be open to show how we do things,” Philex President and CEO Eulalio Austin said during the Mineral Industry Symposium as part of the 63rd Annual National Mine Safety Conference at the CAP John Hay Convention Center last week..

He said that Philex is not a perfect company but the unwaivering commitment to responsible mining is something that they are very proud of.  “Our track record will speak for itself,” he said.

“I am glad to say that Philex Mining Corporation was one of those companies not recommended for suspension and this is attributed to the hard work and dedication of its women and men in ensuring strict adherence to given mining standards and processes through the years,” said the Cordilleran mining engineer.

He said that among the standards set for the recent mine audit is the compliance with the laws and regulations of the government and adherence to international standards where Australia and Canada are specifically mentioned.

“We owe it also to the founders of the company which was continued and enhanced by the current owners who made it a point to take into account the protection of the environment, considers the welfare of its workers and looks into the upliftment of the lives of its host communities.

Philex Mining Corporation is the largest gold and copper producer in the Philippines, having continuously operated the Sto. Tomas II deposit at Padcal, Tuba, Benguet since 1958. The Padcal gold-copper mine is the first underground block cave operation in the Far East and has since produced a total of 928.9 million kilograms of copper, 170.1 million grams of gold and 185.6 million grams of silver.

In 1996, Philex Mining commenced commercial operation of the Bulawan gold mine in Negros Occidental, Philippines under its subsidiary, Philex Gold Philippines, Inc.  The mine was eventually decommissioned in 2002 and since then placed under care and maintenance. PGPI focused on its Surigao property where the Boyongan and Bayugo copper-gold porphyry deposits were discovered and explored under Silangan Mindanao Mining Co. Inc. The Silangan Project is currently in its pre-feasibility study stage. (JDP/RMC- PIA CAR)

How Rodrigo Duterte helped OceanaGold bounce back from a black swan

by Peter Ker

25 November 2016

Few politicians attract more controversy than Donald Trump, but Rodrigo Duterte is one of them.

The Filipino President has created several storms since assuming power in May, most notably over his plan to execute drug dealers and his sudden diplomatic pivot away from the US, which came after he labelled President Barack Obama the "son of a whore".

Few Australians have a better insight into the new regime than OceanaGold chief executive Mick Wilkes, whose flagship Didipio copper and gold mine has been operating about 270 kilometres north of Manila for the past four years.

When asked to compare the Duterte regime to its predecessor this week, Wilkes says the new government cuts a stark contrast.

"The biggest change is that they actually do things, they are an action-oriented administration, rightly or wrongly, that is what they do, whereas the last administration ... their default position was no action," he says.

OceanaGold was one of several Australian listed miners that got a taste in September for just how action-oriented the new government could be; Didipio was among the 23 mines in the Philippines that were suddenly recommended for suspension over supposed social and environmental shortcomings.

"There was a press conference held by the Secretary of the Department for Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and her offsider who was the undersecretary, they put up a list of 23 companies that were reportedly in violation and said they were recommended for suspension as a result of an audit process, which was a complete surprise to us and I think everyone else on the list," says Wilkes.

The sudden announcement affected 75 per cent of mines in the nation, and shares in OceanaGold (a $2.5 billion company) slumped by 18 per cent in just two trading days.

"I was in New York, I had a meeting with investors that morning after getting the news the night before, and they were quite shocked and I guess the main takeaway was that it had done a lot of damage to the reputation of the Philippines as a place to invest, which I was able to relay to the government when I went over there on the next plane," recalls Wilkes.

Having created global headlines and sent metal markets into a spin, the department started softening its stance within days.

"There was a meeting with the DENR secretary and she had a different approach saying she wanted to work with us; that was two days after the press conference," says Wilkes.

Within a week President Duterte had sacked some of those responsible for the audit, and within three weeks the department had seemingly conceded that Didipio was complying with environment laws in the Philippines and international standards of environmental management.

It is now 60 days since that suspension announcement and Didipio has not missed a single day of production. The chances of the mine actually being suspended appear to be slim.
At odds

While there has been no formal confirmation that Didipio is off the hook, there was a pretty clear statement this week when the government named Didipio as the winner of the "Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Award" for the second consecutive year.

Reflecting on the saga this week, Wilkes says the suspension recommendations were at odds with the Filipino President's supportive policies towards responsible mining, and he believes it was engineered by bureaucrats with an agenda.

"People who were not necessarily working in the interests of government policy, but rather their own interests, were unduly influencing the audit process. That is pretty much what happened," Wilkes says.

"That is how these groups operate, they are faceless, they operate through the media and social media and they were operating behind the veil of a government department because the secretary used to be an environmental activist.

"I know from senior members of cabinet I have spoken to that they want to see mining in the country, they want to see the mining industry expanded but they want it done responsibly, they want it done the right way."

The index push

OceanaGold shares were still 16 per cent lower this week than they were the day before the suspension was announced, and the sell-down has slowed the dual-listed company's attempts to push into the ASX200.

About 80 per cent of OceanaGold's register is based in Canada, and Wilkes hopes to grow the Australian investor base sufficiently to break into the ASX200 in 2017.

OceanaGold will need to leapfrog about 30 companies to achieve that goal, which could trigger further buying as investors' mandates are triggered.

"There is a very strategic imperative to increase the size of the company that is traded in Australia and that will get us in the indexes and the ASX200 index which will increase the number of investors that can invest in us," he says."That breeds more liquidity and the superannuation funds all start to invest in it."

Moving into the index is not the only catalyst facing OceanaGold shares; the company will open its new Haile mine in the US state of South Carolina in January, which will complement Didipio, and the Waihi and Macraes mines in New Zealand.

As if one unpredictable regime weren't enough, the Haile acquisition has thrust OceanaGold deep into Donald Trump's America, with South Carolina being one of the states that voted for the successful Republican candidate.

But higher-risk jurisdictions have always been part of OceanaGold's skill set, and Wilkes says he hasn't seen anything from President-elect Trump so far to suggest concerns for Haile.

"You have to assume that it is going to be easier given his (supportive) comments about coal mining in Virginia, but either way it doesn't really affect us I don't think."

P334M from only 13 donors funded Duterte’s presidency

by Karol Ilagan and Malou Mangahas

5 December 2016

Rodrigo R. Duterte projected of his 2016 presidential campaign was that it was one run on a shoestring budget. It supposedly had no donors with vested interests, and that included big businessmen and mining firms.

But the Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) he filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) after he won the presidency paints a different picture. According to his SOCE, the P375 million Duterte raised for his campaign came mainly from big businessmen.

In fact, money from his 13 biggest donors who gave him P5 million or more already makes up 89.28 percent or P334.8 million of his total campaign kitty. One of these contributors even belongs in this year’s Forbes list of 50 richest Filipinos. Small donations or those P10,000 and below amount to just P175,313 — less than half of one percent or merely 0.046 percent of Duterte’s total campaign fund.

A second tier of 18 other donors who donated from P1 million to P3.5 million delivered an additional P31.66 million, or eight percent more, to Duterte’s campaign.

No doubt, this is far from how Duterte and his followers had described his campaign team: That the masses who could afford to donate only “Emilio Aguinaldo” money or five-peso coins would be the ones sending him to Malacañang.

By the data he enrolled in his SOCE, only 13 extremely wealthy individuals and 18 other million-peso donors whose companies do business with the government or engage in utilities, mining, and the exploitation of natural resources bankrolled Duterte’s rise to power.

Just six months after the elections, Duterte has appointed at least half a dozen of his donors and their relatives to Cabinet and other positions, even as one campaign contributor has already snared government contracts and flaunted on social media his claimed closeness to the President.

This donor, a Chinese-Filipino business partner of Duterte who runs a cockpit in Davao City, has even posted on his Facebook page his photos with the President and the Japanese premier that were taken from Duterte’s recent state visit, as well as with Duterte, and his children and sibling.

And yet by the rules of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), this campaign contributor and several others should not have donated at all to Duterte’s campaign. Section 95 of the Omnibus Election Code prohibits “natural and juridical persons” who have business interests in utilities, mining, and the like from making election contributions.

CFO headless, in drift

PCIJ curated, digitized, and reviewed Duterte’s SOCE, as well as those that the other candidates for president, vice president, and senator in the May 2016 elections have filed with Comelec. Altogether, these documents, including advertising contracts, broadcast logs, and various SOCE forms, came up to about 12 gigabytes of data. PCIJ also secured records from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for some of the companies of some of the campaign contributors, and sent letter requests to the candidates and their donors for comment and clarification.

The PCIJ audit reveals that Duterte and some other candidates may have some explaining to do with Comelec for their failure to disclose the true identities of their donors, for overspending, for failure to file complete and correct SOCEs, or even for not filing their SOCEs within deadline of one month after the May 9, 2016 elections.

When or how the poll body will act on these matters is the big question, though. Last June 20, Commissioner Christian Robert S. Lim, filed his irrevocable resignation as head of the Comelec Campaign Finance Office (CFO). This was after four of the poll body’s seven commissioners voted to accept the late submission of SOCEs by the Liberal Party and its presidential candidate Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II until June 30, or three weeks beyond the “final, non-extendible deadline” deadline it had imposed.

In his resignation letter, Lim wrote the Comelec en banc: “Given the Commission’s policy shift resulting from granting the request for extension without any sanctions on the erring candidates and parties—which I had expressly dissented from and is now incongruent with my own views on the matter—I believe that I am unsuitable to continue with my duties both as the concurrent head and Commissioner-in-Charge of the Campaign Finance Office.” According to Lim, the extension of the deadline for the Liberal Party was “illegal… tantamount to an amendment of the law.”

Court case drags

In July, Duterte’s political party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan or PDP-Laban asked the Supreme Court to declare the Comelec’s decision “illegal, prohibited, and void,” saying the deadline extension was made to “accommodate” the then ruling Liberal Party.

The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the matter. A court official told PCIJ that the justices are not likely to deliberate and rule on the case soon, on account of other pending contentious cases and the usual holiday downtime.

Should the court rule against Comelec, at least 69 winning candidates and 5,836 losing candidates for national and local positions in the May 2016 elections could face penalties or sanctions under Comelec’s campaign-finance rules. If it should rule for Comelec, however, the court is likely to court the disfavor of the PDP-Laban party of President Duterte.

But by all indications, whichever way the high court decides — for or against Comelec — the issue has already left the CFO in limbo and adrift, and set back the reforms in campaign-finance regulation that Comelec has been putting in place since the 2010 elections.

More than five months after Lim’s resignation, the CFO remains a headless entity. Indeed, the CFO lawyers have had to seek endorsement from the office of the Comelec’s Executive Director before they could act on PCIJ’s requests for data and interview. Amid this drift, the staff personnel have been left to mind the CFO household even as they have neither mandate nor power to decide on issues, such as what the Comelec en banc alone possesses.

Among PCIJ’s queries pertained to Duterte’s campaign-finance report, which indicated a bevy of donors who shouldn’t have been making campaign contributions in the first place, and ties binding politics and business.

Still, Mazna Lutchavez, Attorney IV at the Comelec CFO, is firm in saying that a careful reading of the poll body’s rules suggests that Duterte’s donors are covered by the prohibition on giving donations, if they are engaged in mining, public utilities, and government contracts.

This is because, she says, the law specifically cites not only juridical persons or companies, but natural persons, too. She adds that the provision citing direct and indirect involvement also pertains to the company owner.

Then again, Lutchavez allows that the legal doctrine that separates a person from a company offers a loophole that may subject the election rule to different interpretations. For instance, says another election lawyer, a campaign donor engaged in mining, could say as a defense that he owns a mining firm but it is his company that engaged in a mining activity – not him.

The ties that bind

To verify the business interests of Duterte’s donors, PCIJ cross-checked details of his SOCE against corporate records obtained from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), bid notice and award data from the Procurement Service-Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PS-PhilGEPS), public-works contracts from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), mining-tenements data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), and PCIJ’s list of campaign donors culled from Comelec records from the 1998 to 2013 elections.

A person’s tax identification number and a company’s registration number were used to match records from different sources.

PCIJ also sent a letter to Duterte through his Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Oct. 22, 2016. The President has yet to respond to PCIJ’s questions as of this writing, although lawyer Ryan Acosta of the Office of the Executive Secretary says that PCIJ’s letter has been forwarded to the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go. A reply email came mid-afternoon of Dec. 3 with comments from unnamed “Duterte campaign team lawyers” but these have reportedly not yet been cleared with or approved by the President.

Donors from Davao

Among Duterte’s biggest donors are those whose companies do business with the government. These include Duterte’s top donor, Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio ‘Tony Boy’ R. Floirendo Jr., who contributed P75 million in cash to Duterte and another P25 million to the President’s party, PDP-Laban.

Floirendo’s late father was the founder of Anflo Management and Investment Corporation (Anflocor), which oversees at least 11 businesses engaged in agriculture, trading, realty, hotel and restaurant services, financing, and others. Today Tony Boy Floirendo is one of Anflocor’s major stockholders.

Anflocor’s flagship company is Tagum Agricultural Development Company Inc. (TADECO), one of the highest-yielding banana plantations in the world. TADECO has a long-term joint venture agreement with the Bureau of Corrections, in which inmates of the Davao Penal Colony work at its banana plantations. The joint venture agreement between TADECO and BuCor was renewed for another 25 years in 2004.

Tony Boy Floirendo is chairman and stockholder of TADECO, according to the company’s latest available document at the SEC, its 2013 general information sheet (GIS). He is married to 1973 Miss Universe Margarita Moran, granddaughter of Manuel A. Roxas, the country’s fifth president.

From the looks of it, however, Uy has not remained in Davao only after the elections. Uy’s Facebook account photos show him posing with Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Philippine President’s recent state visit to Tokyo, as well as with the President’s children, and with Special Assistant to the President Bong Go. One photo even shows Uy standing in front of the seal of the President of the Philippines, his hands resting comfortably on the presidential podium.

Uy is a stockholder in several companies, including DIMDI Centre Inc. and DIMDI Builders Center Inc., two government suppliers.

From January 2013 to October 2016, DIMDI Centre and DIMDI Builders Center had been awarded with government contracts worth a total of P2.7 million, PhilGEPS data show. Both companies are also on PhilGEPS’ list of registered suppliers as of Oct. 7, 2016.

DIMDI Centre and DIMDI Builders are both engaged in merchandising. They have supplied photocopying machines, air-conditioning units, television sets, and other appliances to various government offices in Davao. Among these are the regional offices of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Science and Technology, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, and the City of Davao.

In 2015 and 2016, the City of Davao awarded DIMDI Centre with at least five contracts worth a total of P333,730, PhilGEPS data show. Duterte was Davao City mayor at the time.

Uy’s other business interests include the New Davao Matina Gallera, the “biggest cockpit arena in Davao City” located on MacArthur Highway in Matina district. It features, among others, arena-style seating, wide-screen scoreboards, air-conditioned cockhouse and cockpit, and livestream and satellite feed of the derbies. The cockpit’s derbies have drawn avid following among governors, mayors, and military and police officers.

In business with DU30

Uy and President Duterte, along with Lorenzo A. Te Jr., Azucena Angbue, Jan S. Ced, Eugenio O. Ced, Divino M. Tan II, Danilo D. Tan, and Jesus Y. Tan, are also stockholders of Honda Cars General Santos Inc.

Uy, Duterte, and Te are incorporators as well of Poeng Yue Foundation, along with James S. Gaisano, Josue G. Tesado Sr., Johnny Lee Ng, and Samuel G. Afdal.

Like Uy, Davao City businessman Te had given P30 million to Duterte’s campaign.

“Friend” in Mandarin, Poeng Yue was formed by Duterte and his business partners in 2012 to “extend assistance, financial or otherwise, to cancer patients with special focus on children suffering from said disease.”

Honda Cars General Santos City and Poeng Yue Foundation are two business interests Duterte has declared in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN). His SALN upon assuming the presidency or as of June 30, 2016 shows that he did not divest from these two entities.

Civil Service Commission Assistant Commissioner Ariel G. Ronquillo says the need to divest may not necessarily be automatic. First, he says, one has to determine whether or not there is a clear conflict as President of the Philippines and as incorporator of a company. According to Ronquillo, a conflict of interest may occur if a business is getting a permit or license from one’s office. “Naturally,” he says, “there is a conflict because you’re the one giving the license so you should not have any interest there.”

Government contractors

But what about campaign donors who have companies that have business with government? Aside from contributions from Davao-based businessmen, the Duterte campaign had also accepted donations from those like Felix R. Ang, whose company later landed a deal with a state agency.

Ang donated P10 million to the Duterte campaign. He is an incorporator, stockholder, and chairman of Cats Asian Cars, which bagged a P1.24-million contract with the Social Security System for the supply and delivery of one brand new sedan in October 2016.

Yet another Duterte campaign contributor, Marcelino C. Mendoza, is president and stockholder of MGS Construction, which appears in PhilGEPS list of registered suppliers.

Mendoza, who donated P14.5 million to help finance Duterte’s presidential bid, is from Las Piñas. He is listed as well as incorporator, board member, and stockholder of Vista Land & Lifescapes, Inc. Vista Land’s chairman is former senator Manuel B. Villar Jr. Its president and chief executive officer is Villar’s eldest child, Manuel Paolo. A week after he won the presidency, Duterte appointed Paolo’s brother Mark as Public Works and Highways Secretary.

Januario B. Ramos, meanwhile, donated P3 million to the Duterte campaign. Ramos is president, incorporator and stockholder of Pragmatic Development and Construction Corp., a registered contractor with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Pragmatic’s website says the firm, formed in 1979, specializes in “roads, highways, pavement and bridges irrigation, and similar industrial projects,” but has recently branched out into real-estate development and property management.

According to DPWH’s online registry of awarded contracts, Pragmatic has won at least three contracts altogether worth P64.75 million from the DPWH Cebu City Engineering District Office from 2014 to the present. One was worth P38.06 million, for the widening of the Canduman-Cebu North Road from May 4, 2015 to March 11, 2016; another was valued at P18.33 million, for the widening of the Canduman North Road-Mandaue City from Feb. 5, 2014 to Oct. 18, 2016; and a third, P8.36 million, for the concreting of J. Luna Avenue-Cardinal Rosales Intersection from March 3, 2015 to March 3, 2017.

From 2001 to 2014, Pragmatic was also awarded P48.1 million worth of government contracts, almost all located in Cebu, according to PhilGEPS and DPWH databases.

The firm had also donated P280,000 in cash to the Bagumbayan-VNP party in the 2013 elections, according to PCIJ’s SOCE database.

Mining concerns

Persons affiliated with firms that operate public utilities or those that possess or exploit the country’s natural resources are also among Duterte’s 10 biggest donors. These include Michael G. Regino, who contributed P14 million to Duterte’s campaign. SEC records filed in 2016 show that he is director and minor stockholder of TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc.

Interestingly, TVI Resource’s vice chairman is Manuel Paolo A. Villar. TVI Resource is the Philippine affiliate of TVI Pacific Inc., a publicly-listed Canadian mining firm that is exploring, developing, and producing precious and base metals in the Philippines.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau data as of July 2016 show that TVI Resource holds a mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) with the government and is applying for another MPSA and exploration permits in the Zamboanga Peninsula region.

According to TVI Resource’s website, Regino sits on the board and maintains top positions in other companies led by Prime Asset Ventures Inc. He is president of St. Augustine Services Inc., senior vice president of St. Augustine Mining Ltd., and board member of Nationwide Development Corp. and Kingking Mining Corp. In addition, Regino is president and minor stockholder of Agata Mining Ventures Inc. and Equipment Drilling Corp., which are both subsidiaries of TVI Resource.

Public utility

Then there are brothers Tomas and Nicasio I. Alcantara, who contributed a total of P30 million. Tomas and Nicasio are stockholders of Alsons Development and Investment Corporation and several other businesses.

Tomas is chairman and president of the Alsons Power Group, which is composed of power generation facilities across Mindanao. According to its website, Alsons Power Group operates three diesel-power facilities, one each in Alabel in Sarangani, Zamboanga City, and Iligan City. In April 2016, the group’s first coal-fired power plant located in Maasim, Sarangani started commercial operations.

Tomas is No. 41 on the 2016 Forbes list of the 50 richest Filipinos. The Alcantara family had also been included in previous Forbes lists of richest Filipinos.

Tomas and Nicasio Alcantara are stockholders as well in Alsons Consolidated Resources Inc., as is another Duterte campaign donor, Carlos G. Dominguez.

Dominguez, who donated P3 million, is also linked to yet another top Duterte donor, Bienvenido Tan, through PTFC Redevelopment Corporation, a real estate company. Tan, who gave P20 million to Duterte, is president and stockholder of PTFC. Dominguez and his management firm CG Dominguez Associates Inc. are also stockholders of PTFC Redevelopment Corporation.

Donors & appointees

Dominguez is now Finance Secretary in the Duterte administration. Aside from him, other Duterte campaign donors have wound up in government themselves.

For instance, Dennis A. Uy of Davao City was named presidential adviser for sports last July. The president and chief executive officer of Phoenix Petroleum, Uy and his wife Cherylyn gave a total of P31 million in cash to the Duterte campaign. Cherylyn also gave P5 million to PDP-Laban.

Similarly, Salvador Medialdea and wife Ma. Bertola donated a total of P1.5 million to Duterte. Medialdea is now Executive Secretary.

Ismael Sueno donated P21,600 in kind for “sound system rental and flat cord.” He was appointed secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Bacolod-based lawyer Jesus V. Hinlo Jr. was also appointed by Duterte as DILG undersecretary. Hinlo donated a tarpaulin worth P576 to Duterte. This is one of two P576 donations the president received and also the lowest.

Hinlo was reported to be focusing on the DILG’s Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Fire Protection, national emergency hotlines 117 and 911, and the Public Safety College.

Legal but not right?

“It’s not legally prohibited,” lawyer Rona Ann V. Caritos, executive director of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), says of the appointment of campaign donors to government posts. “But all these things that are not prohibited in law do not necessarily mean that they are right.”

Section 4 titled “Norms of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees” of Republic Act No. 6713 does say that every public official and employee shall observe professionalism, among others. This means they “shall endeavor to discourage wrong perceptions of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage.”

But CSC’s Ronquillo — who also heads the Commission’s Office for Legal Affairs — says the President, being the appointing authority of his people, enjoys the widest latitude of discretion to appoint whoever he wants to positions. The appointments are actually subject to the President’s trust and confidence, he says. These people are confidential appointees — co-terminus with the chief executive — so it’s only natural for the president to choose people whom he trusts, Ronquillo says.

“Hindi ka naman mag-aappoint sa position na hindi mo kakilala (You will not appoint people you do not know),” he says. “You will appoint those you’re comfortable with because these are the people who will help you deliver the promises that you made during the campaign — to deliver the services that you want to deliver to the people.”

‘Utang na loob’

Ronquillo says that Duterte was not in violation of the law when he appointed his donors. The law, he says, will now apply to those the President appointed. In the course of discharging their functions, says Ronquillo, appointees cannot favor only members of their party or a certain group of people who happens to be close to them or to the president.

“When you’re in public office, your boss is the Filipino people so you shouldn’t be favoring anyone,” he says. “Doon papasok ngayon na ‘they shall endeavor to discourage wrong perceptions of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage.’”

Caritos, however, frets that when it comes to appointments, those who contributed to the victor’s campaign tend to be given priority over others. This is why, she says, LENTE always highlights in their voter education activities that people should know who the donors are. It’s human nature, Caritos says; especially among Filipinos where the concept of utang na loob endures, it’s not unusual to expect someone to give something in return to a person who gave him something.

And yet there are the likes of Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano and former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis N. Tolentino, both of whom donated substantial amounts to Duterte but hold no appointed position at present. Cayetano’s and Tolentino’s donations were in the form of tandem advertisements worth P71.3 million and P3.15 million, respectively. Cayetano was Duterte’s running mate; he has since become a perennial presence in events attended by the President, including those abroad. He was said to be eyeing the top post at the Department of Justice, but this went to Duterte’s former law school classmate Vitaliano Aguirre II.

Caritos has a different bone to pick with Cayetano and Tolentino, however. She says that while no law is violated by elected and former officials donating to campaigns, there is a need to highlight the fact that they hold or held positions in which salaries would not go over half a million pesos per month.

Asks Caritos: “How can these individuals give those inordinate amounts to their fellow party members? Kahit hindi bawal, saan galing ang pera mo para makapag-donate ng ganyan (Even if it’s not breaking any law, where did you get the money to be able to donate that much)?”

— With research by Floreen Simon, Fern Felix, Vino Lucero, Davinci Maru, Ana Isabel Manalang, Steffi Sanchez, Jil Caro, and John Gabriel Agcaoili, PCIJ, December 2016

Sy eyes majority stake in Tampakan project

By Doris Dumlao-Abadilla - Reporter

12 December 2016

The group of tycoon Henry Sy is keen on scaling up its stake in mining—notwithstanding a challenging local regulatory and global commodity environment—by acquiring a majority stake in Mindanao’s vast Tampakan mine, touted as Southeast Asia’s biggest untapped gold-copper reserve.

In an interview with the Inquirer on Friday night, SM Investments Corp. chief finance officer Jose Sio confirmed ongoing talks for the SM group to invest in the Tampakan mine, now controlled by the Alcantara family following the pullout of Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining firm Glencore Plc last year.

“There are discussions,” Sio replied when asked about rumors that SM had bought into the project, adding that no deal had been finalized yet.

Sio said the group was interested in investing in natural resources. “If the global economy moves up, there will be demand for natural resources,” he said.

Asked whether it was a majority stake that the group was looking into, Sio said: “It has to be, because foreigners, when they come in here and they want to go into natural resources, they also want majority.”

Sio also said it was possible that the SM group would not use any of its listed companies to take over the project. To recall, the SM group also invested in Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. a few years ago, coming in as a partner of the Ramos family.

As the Tampakan project last year reverted to Filipino hands, this also opened up the possibility for the Alcantara group to bring in as its partner a group with strong financial muscle and a very long-term view on this investment.

Sagittarius Mines Inc., the owner of the Tampakan project, used to be 62.5-percent owned by Glencore while the remaining 37.5 percent was owned by Indophil Resources NL, which is, in turn, controlled by the Alcantara group through Alsons Prime Investments Corp. (Apic). Glencore’s exit allowed the Alcantara group to consolidate its control of the Tampakan project by exercising its right of first refusal.

The Tampakan mining project is located about 50 kilometers north of General Santos City, a major growth center in Mindanao. The city is accessed by highways, a major deep water port and an international airport with the capacity to take commercial aircraft. The Tampakan site is estimated to contain 15 million tons for copper and 18 million ounces of gold.

While mining for now is but a small portion of the SM group’s investment portfolio—and even deemed as a noncore interest—the prospective investment in Tampakan could catapult the Sy family into a major mining player.

“The scale of the mine itself will enable SM to become a regional or even a global player in the mining sector. It’s a single asset to start but big,” said Jose Mari Lacson, head of research at fund management firm ATR Asset Management. “It will be a source of long-term cyclical growth and more importantly, allow the group to become an exporter. SM will earn dollars for the economy as opposed to using dollars.”

At present, however, the regulatory environment in the Philippines does not favor mining. The incumbent Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, is a staunch antimining advocate. Lopez has particularly cited the open pit mining in Tampakan as a project she would not allow under her watch.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines counts the Tampakan project among the local 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.

IPs file raps vs Pichay, others over mining on ancestral land

Philippine Star -

16 December 2016

MANILA, Philippines — Representatives of the Manobo and Mamanwa indigenous peoples filed graft complaints against Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. and officials of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau on Friday over allegedly illegal mining on ancestral land.

Datu James Biol, a Mamanwa, said that Environment Secretary Gina Lopez would also be included in the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman. The MGB is attached to the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources.

The complaint, which accuses Pichay and the others of graft and grave misconduct, was prompted by the allegedly illegal eviction of the Mamanwas and Manobos for nickel ore mining.

Under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, "no ancestral land shall be opened for mining-operations without prior consent of the indigenous cultural community concerned." IP communities are also entitled to royalties from mining on their ancestral land.

The DENR ordered nickel ore miner Claver Mineral Development Corporation suspended in 2012 due to excessive siltation in the area.

According to an InterAksyon report in CMDC, Pichay took over the company in 2015.

Lopez announced the suspension of CMDC in August this year although the same report cites a surprise National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine Coast Guard inspection of a barge in Claver town for nickel ore illegally being loaded for shipment.

Last month, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers accused Pichay of taking over the mining company illegally and called for a House probe into what he called Pichay's "nefarious activities."

The accusation, made during a privilege speech, came on the heels of a confrontation between the two at a House hearing on constitutional amendments.

Pichay, in a radio interview after the incident, said that he believes the rift is because of local politics.

"Siya lang ang may galit sa akin, kasi I think in 2007 elections, I put up candidates against them," he said. — Reports by Elizabeth Marcelo/The Philippine STAR

Barbers wants Pichay probed for corporate identity theft, graft, illegal mining

Pichay denies Barbers' allegations, calling them 'utter lies without basis which are motivated by partisan politics'

Mara Cepeda

14 November 2016

MANILA, Philippines – Surigao del Norte 2nd District Representative Robert Ace Barbers delivered a scathing privilege speech against Surigao del Sur 1st District Representative Prospero Pichay Jr, whom he accused of corporate identity and mineral theft as well as graft due to illegal mining activities.

In his speech during the House session on Monday, November 14, Barbers questioned the circumstances of how Pichay became president of Claver Mineral Development Corporation and why the firm continues to ship nickel ore despite a suspension by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

"Mr President, President Rodrigo Duterte, I appeal to you on behalf of my constituents. You have promised to stamp out corruption. The violations are not being hidden, they are committed openly for everyone to see, as if challenging us yet insulting and mocking all of us. Your action, Mr President, would be an eloquent fulfillment of your promise," said Barbers.

He cited a recent statement of Maria Malaya, the spokesperson of the National Democratic Front in northeastern Mindanao, who alleged that Pichay used his position as congressman to acquire Claver through "fraudulent means."

Pichay also supposedly used his position to influence the Securities and Exchange Commission to allow him to control the company through his connections with the DENR and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Surigao del Norte businessman Ireneo Cezar and members of the Manobo and Mamanwa tribes have already asked the National Bureau of Investigation to probe Pichay for alleged corporate identity theft and appropriation of mineral ore.

"Mr Speaker, honorable members of this House, if this is not a mockery of our laws, then what is? Shall we allow, condone, tolerate, and turn a blind eye [to] the continued travesty of justice that is being displayed so unashamedly? Shall we be a willing party to his patently illegal activities, through our inaction?" asked Barbers.

"I call on the leadership of this House to do something to help my constituents who are suffering over this indescribable abuse of power, and to redeem the honor of the House of Representatives from this unspeakable madness," he added.

Barbers' privilege speech is just the latest development in his longtime conflict with Pichay.

The two lawmakers nearly got into a brawl and hurled expletives at each other after a heated debate on charter change during a hearing of the committee on constitutional amendments last October 12.

This then led Pichay to file an ethics complaint against Barbers, who said he would be filing a counter-complaint.

In 2005, Pichay wanted to kick Barbers out of their party, the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats of then president and Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, for backing the impeachment complaint against Arroyo.

A hit vs Gina Lopez, too

In his speech, Barbers asked why Claver is still allowed to ship ore even if the company is among the 10 mining firms whose operations have already been suspended following the DENR's audit.

Barbers slammed DENR Secretary Gina Lopez's supposed "deafening" silence on the issue.

"Contrary to her media pronouncements and actions of suspending mining companies left and right, here comes a long suspended mining firm illegally acquired and operated by Congressman Pichay, being given a new lease on life. I never thought that the DENR possesses the power to resurrect Lazarus from the dead," said Barbers.

The matter was previously raised during the DENR's budget hearing at the House on September 5. But Pichay insisted shipping ore is not covered by the suspension.

"The suspension only states that the mining operation is suspended. It does not mean the entire operation of the corporation is suspended," he said.

'Utter lies'

Pichay flatly denied Barbers' allegations, calling them "utter lies without basis which are motivated by partisan politics."

"The issues that Barbers has raised on the floor have already been peddled by his camp in the media, and all these we have already fully answered in the same forum. We welcome any probe so we can be cleared of his false accusations," Pichay said in a statement sent to reporters after the session.

He then urged Barbers to be "man enough" to air his accusations outside the halls of the Batasang Pambansa "so he can be made answerable for his lies."

"He should be man enough not to hide under the cloak of parliamentary immunity," said Pichay.

"We also urge him to come clean on the reason for his attacks on me, namely, that he blames us for his political debacles since 2007, because we supported his political opponents who won over the Barbers clan," added the lawmaker. –

ERC execs face graft raps; Rody warns of abolition

By Michael Punongbayan

The Philippine Star -

25 November 2016

MANILA, Philippines - Top officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) headed by Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar are now facing graft, ethics and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged role in questionable contracts with the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

The filing of the complaints by the group Alyansa Para sa Bagong Pilipinas (ABP) came as President Duterte threatened to abolish the ERC following its officials’ defiance of his order for them to resign.

The ABP said Salazar along with Commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Alfredo Non, Josefina Patricia Magpale-Asirit, and Geronio Sta. Ana should be held responsible criminally and administratively for their actions.

In its complaint, ABP said the ERC officials  arbitrarily postponed the implementation of the agency’s own rules for Competitive Selection Process (CSP), allowing Meralco to secure “seven midnight coal contracts totaling 3,551 megawatts worth $10 billion without benefit of public bidding” in April this year.

ABP said such was a violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Republic Act 6713 or the code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees.

“The contracts are onerous and anti-people. ERC is supposed to be protecting consumers as a rate-regulating body. It seems the other way around,” ABP secretary general Aya Jallorina said in a statement after the filing of the complaint.

“It isn’t providing least cost power as mandated by EPIRA. It is in fact obviously favoring DUs (distribution utilities). It is easy to see why.”

EPIRA stands for Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

Abolish ERC

Shortly after arriving in Davao City from Peru Wednesday night, Duterte threatened to abolish the ERC amid allegations of corruption in the agency, which came to light after the suicide of director Francisco Villa Jr.

“In the light of the recent developments in the Energy Regulatory Commission, I have directed a comprehensive review of all legal remedies to overhaul and effect fundamental changes in the agency, including the officials,” Duterte said.

“I demanded that they all resign. Ayaw ninyo, dali lang ‘yan (If you refuse, that’s easy). We will abolish the office. I will not grant any single centavo,” he said. “You can stay there forever. I’ll set up another – Eh, kayo ‘yung, you hear the petitions for increases sa itong energy, electric.”

Duterte said he is serious about the campaign against corruption, and admitted feeling exasperated at hearing persistent reports about illegal activities in the agency.

“How can I serve the people with a corrupt government, kagaya ng nangyari sa opisina ninyo (like what happened in your office)? I am not attributing it to anybody,” he said.

Duterte also called on the public to support his anti-corruption effort even more and warned errant officials of severe punishment if found guilty.

“Let’s work hard together to sustain, if not surpass, what the Philippines so far has achieved to improve the ease of doing business, suppress criminality and eliminate corruption,” he said.

“I have previously enjoined all government agencies to be aboveboard in their transactions. I am now reiterating my position that all allegations of corruption shall be dealt with seriously… severely,” the President said.

Duterte said corrupt officials are worse than rebels with whom he is talking peace.

“My desire is to just be at peace with my countrymen, even with Moros,” he said.

“Corruption is something I can never accept. It’s been here for a long time now. I am not trying to point out an era here but it’s been here since I was student, I tell you,” he said.

“Kasasawa ko na sa inyo (I’m getting tired of you)… Be content with your allowances ... And do not make the government as a milking cow,” he said. – With Iris Gonzales, Christina Mendez, Danessa Rivera

ECR Minerals Disputes Tiger Statement On Philippine Gold Project

11 November 2016

LONDON (Alliance News) - ECR Minerals PLC on Friday disputed statements made by partner Tiger International Resources Inc regarding the Danglay gold project in the Philippines, saying it remains in compliance with the earn-in and joint venture agreement signed in April 2013.

In August, ECR terminated its earn-in option for the Danglay project, saying the new government in the Philippines has "not adopted a supportive stance towards the mining industry". ECR said that, to date, it has earned a 25% interest in the project.

On Thursday, Canada-listed Tiger said ECR had not complied with some provisions under the agreement between the two and so it will not acknowledge ECR's claim of equity in the project. It called on ECR to provide all necessary data supporting its claim over the equity.

Tiger itself has now stopped committing funds to the project, after Gina Lopez, the recently-appointed Secretary of Mining in the Philippines, said no new mines will be issued with exploration permits. Though the EP006 licence is a renewal, Tiger said it has no visibility when, or if, its permit will be renewed.

ECR said a number of the statements made by Tiger were "inaccurate" and said it was in full compliance with the agreement signed between the pair in 2013. It said it has provided over USD500,000 to cover the costs of the mine and, in doing so, earned a 25% equity interest in the project.

"ECR is seeking to cooperate with Tiger International in the interests of preserving the value of Cordillera Tiger and the Danglay gold project as far as reasonably possible," ECR said.

Shares in ECR were down 6.7% to 0.0042 pence on Friday.

Bezant Resources upbeat as attention turns to Colombia

16 November 2016

Bezant Resources plc (LON:BZT) has thrown its weight fully behind its platinum and gold assets in Colombia and written off its interest in the Mankayan project in the Philippines.

Bezant appointed local firm Exumax as its contractor in Colombia in September.

In November, Ed Nealon, chairman, said all machinery, earth-moving equipment, processing plant and work crews was on site and work on the first exploration test pits had commenced at licence FKJ-083 in the Choco region.

Nealon, a South African platinum mining veteran, is  optimistic over the potential.

 “We identified that there are promising near surface alluvial platinum projects in the famous Choco district, a region that had previously been the world's major source of platinum prior to the discovery of the Bushveld Complex in South Africa."

Bezant calls time on Mankayan ...

After attempts to sell the copper/gold project at Mankayan, Bezant bit the bullet and took an impairment charge of £8.3mln as the uncertain mining environment in the Philippines meant a deal was unlikely.

It also meant an after–tax loss of £9.1mln for the year to June 2016.
... to focus on Choco

Bezant acquired the new platinum and gold licences in the Choco from a company called Leeward Island Resources.

The region is a historic heavyweight in platinum production and the deal involved the payment of a US$1mln option fee and a further US$1mln in shares.

Bezant is moving quickly to establish the potential of the FKJ-083 licence area through correlating historic mining data with current exploration.

After that will come a first alluvial plant for platinum and gold with cashflow to be used to fund further exploration and evaluation to establish new production zones.

Valuation suggests option money ....

The market’s current valuation of Bezant is just under £4mln at 1.95p.

It’s not much and suggests the company will have to prove the potential first before it gets any credit.

One positive of that, though, is that it should mean any good news that does come out should impact markedly on the share price.

.... but team has experience and knowledge

Nealon is aware that any miner that can secure a meaningful source of platinum outside of South Africa (which dominates supply) should find itself highly sought after.

He should know the market given he was a driving force behind the rise of  Aquarius Platinum (LON:AQP) in the last decade and also a co-founder of Sylvania Platinum.

Both Aquarius Platinum and Sylvania Platinum operated in the famous Bushveld Complex in South Africa.

The Bushveld Complex is the world's most significant platinum producer, but it is high cost, deep mining in a very uncertain political environment.

In Choco, Bezant will have the benefit of near surface alluvial gravels that contain both platinum and gold deposits, and both metals are recoverable in their native state.

“The mining conditions in Colombia are very simple compared to the Bushveld Complex,” he said.

“The Bushveld Complex essentially involves deep, hard rock mining operations with considerable metallurgical complexity involved in liberating the economic metals.”

In the past, Colombia has been considered to be a high risk country, but the political and investment situation has also improved dramatically in recent years, he added.

“Modern day Colombia has experienced nearly half a decade of new investment.”

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