Philippines - Gina Lopez: the miners strike backPublished by MAC on 2017-05-10
Source: Statements, Reuters, ABS-CBN, Inquirer, Rappler
So the drama that is Gina Lopez's time as Secretary to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has come to an end, after ten whirlwind months (see: Philippines: Environment Secretary orders closure of 23 mines). She has failed to secure the endorsement of the Commission of Appointments at the last chance, which has been hailed as a victory for the 'lobby money'. (It is notable that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, a former mining executive whose family has big investments in the industry, even breached intra-Cabinet etiquette in testifying against her at the Commission hearings).
President Duterte has said he will respect the decision. Indeed he was so quick to do so (despite legal opinions that he was not bound by the decision and previous protestations of sincere support for Ms Lopez) that he has already appointed a replacement, who is Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff and retired general Roy Cimatu.
It does seem to be going from one extreme to another. The move has been welcomed by miners, but severely criticised by environmental campaigners. As the environmental group Kalikasan PNE has stated "Cimatu has virtually no track record on addressing environmental issues and instead has a record of defending environmental plunderers and engaging in corruption." Protestors have already barricaded the offices of the DENR, so we can expect the drama to continue. Ominously Communist guerillas (with whom Ms Lopez tried to forge relations for environmental projects) have warned that they will continue attacks against mining firms, and other “enemies of the environment.”
The question now is what the legacy will be of this self-styled 'eco-warrior'? The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) has already said it will seek to undo Lopez's work. Unless her decisions are revoked by the Government, this should require - potentially lengthy - legal action. Duterte himself had previously stated that due process was followed, if they wanted to challenge they should go to the courts. There are affidavits swearing alleged irregularities, but they will surely need to be tested through due process.
The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) is still expected to do its own review of mines (as a follow up to the DENR's audit that led to various proposed closures and suspensions). In theory, it could also call for similar outcomes, but given the MICC is co-chaired by the afore-mentioned industry supporter Carlos Dominguez this seems unlikely.
One of Ms Lopez's last acts before her defenestration was to institute a ban on future open-pit mines (following her ban on mining in 'critical' watersheds). Again it is not entirely clear how legally binding this announcement is; certainly the industry were saying they would challenge it. She clearly believes it would outlast her as one story coped below quotes Lopez saying "she was imposing the ban now because she was unsure of the outcome of the [Commission] hearings."
It does seem worryingly like a last-ditch effort to secure her legacy, but sadly it may have simply helped seal her fate. It's only speculation, but it seems she could have lasted longer in post if she had played a more strategic, political game. Ms Lopez appears from the start to have worked on the premise she didn't have long, and so wanted to be as radical as possible in that time. Yet the ban on future open-pit mining seems to have fed her enemies ammunition right before the final Commission decision.
It will be interesting to see if one initiative, the filing of a case against Marcopper mining over damages from the 1996 mining waste spill, survives her leaving. 21 years after the disaster, rehabilitation and compensation have been inadequate despite promises from the Canadian parent company Placer Dome. It is a test of Cimatu's willingness to stand up for those adversely affected by the industry.
It is true that Lopez has definitely caused a stir, but it seems that the mining industry as a whole has mostly carried on regardless. Although some companies did stop digging, and others such as Red 5 suspended activities, Philex Mining have just announced rising profits in the first quarter 2017. One of the firms supposedly suspended, OceanaGold, have reported record profits despite all the tough talk.
An article listed below notes "amid the hullabaloo, not a single mine has actually been closed, Danilo Uykieng, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) assistant director, told the House committee on good government “... it’s business as usual for them. Nothing has changed. All of the 41 companies that have been audited are operating normally.”"
Another recent article on the price of nickel notes ... "In 2016, prices of [nickel] surged the most in two years after the Philippine government said it would shut down mines ... But 10 months later, output is unchanged and prices are lower than before the first closures were ordered." ... In fact as the article later points out ... "If prices fall further some of the Philippines mines might have to close anyway." So the economic realities of boom and bust cycles in mining are likely to close more mines than Ms Lopez could manage. That's no surprise considering what she was up against, but a sad indictment of the control and vested power and money miners have within the Philippine political system.
Yet Lopez's legacy may be more subtle in terms of opinions expressed, education undertaken and the impression that an all-powerful and connected mining industry is perhaps not entirely invincible. If the last 10 months have been a drama, then it most resembles a soap opera (albeit one whose actions have real consequences for peoples lives). And like a soap opera, most of the characters are still standing in the wings, even if they are not centre-stage at present. If the past 10 months have taught us anything it is that the plot is likely to have many surprising turns yet.
Philippines environment minister ousted over anti-mining campaign
By Manolo Serapio Jr and Enrico Dela Cruz
4 May 2017
MANILA - Philippine lawmakers ended a 10-month crusade by Environment Secretary Regina Lopez on Wednesday, forcing out the eco-warrior whose mining crackdown was backed by the president but led to demands for her removal by miners.
The rejection of Lopez by the Commission on Appointments is final and a mining lobby group immediately said it would seek a reversal of her measures, while President Rodrigo Duterte's office said he would respect the decision.
Lopez characterized her campaign as a fight against greedy miners who were threatening public health and damaging nature in a country better known for mountains and beaches than resources.
The 63-year-old daughter of a media mogul who left her privileged Philippine life behind when she was a teenager, had ordered the closure of more than half of the mines in the world's top nickel ore supplier and last week banned open-pit mining.
"It is the constitutional right of every Filipino to a clean and healthy environment. It was a dream and a promise we had for the country and it is unfortunate that business interests have in fact run the day," Lopez, who at 18 took a vow of celibacy and became a yoga teacher and missionary in Africa, told reporters.
Duterte picked Lopez because of her record as an activist dedicated to the poor, whose previous initiatives had included reforestation, safeguarding areas of biodiversity and cleaning up the Pasig river that flows through Manila.
News of her removal led to a slump of more than 2 percent in nickel futures on the London Metal Exchange, with traders saying that suspended nickel mines could be reopened.
Yeb Saño of Greenpeace Southeast Asia said the removal of Lopez, which lawmakers on the appointments committee voted 16-8 in favor of, "shows how destructive industries continue to hold Philippine lawmakers by their necks."
'Out to Kill'
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said it would seek to undo Lopez's moves when a new minister was appointed.
"Those have no legal foundation," Chamber spokesman Ronald Recidoro said. "There were no proper consultations held. And more importantly it's really out to kill the mining industry."
Lopez has become the bane of big mining companies, accusing them of earning "blood money", while contributing little in tax.
She ordered the closure of 22 of 41 operating mines in February and canceled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines in the fifth-most-mineralized country in the world.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel said Lopez's removal was a lost opportunity and told Reuters he hoped her replacement will "have some of her characteristics and passion."
Lopez, the second member of Duterte's Cabinet to be dismissed by Congress, said her replacement would "get clobbered" if they ran afoul of business interests and said those who voted her out had "lost the moral ascendancy".
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said no replacement had been lined up yet, but did not rule out the possibility of another role for Lopez in the administration.
Confirmation hearings in the Philippines often take place long after ministers start work on their portfolios.
Manny Pacquiao, a champion boxer and head of the committee that held the widely-watching hearings, announced the outcome "with sadness in my heart", leading a succession of lawmakers who took to the floor to praise her campaign.
"No matter how several big people may be against Gina, she will always stand on what is morally and environmentally right and righteous," said Pacquiao.
(Additional reporting by Karen Lema in Manila and Melanie Burton in Melbourne; editing by Alexander Smith)
Ex-AFP chief Cimatu replaces Lopez as Environment secretary
8 May 2017
MANILA - Former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff and retired general Roy Cimatu has been appointed acting environment secretary, replacing Gina Lopez.
Cimatu who was the former special envoy for OFW and refugees, served as chief of staff of the military in 2002.
"We are confident that Secretary Cimatu shall faithfully serve the interest of the country and the Filipino people in his capacity as the new DENR Secretary," Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
Abella, however, clarified that Cimatu's appointment is still subject to Congress' aproval.
"He is still 'acting' because Congress is still in session; and to facilitate his being able to act immediately. He is still subject to confirmation," Abella said.
Lawmakers last Wednesday rejected the appointment of Lopez, who cracked down on alleged unsafe mining practices during her 10 months in office.
In a Facebook post, Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol said President Rodrigo Duterte introduced Cimatu as new Environment chief.
"'Let us put an end to all speculations," Pres. Rody Duterte said as he announced the appointment of former Army General and Ambassdor Roy Cimatu as the new Environment Secretary," Pinol said in his post.
Lopez previously said only Duterte can replace her as DENR chief because the post needed bravery.
“My choice for DENR secretary is President Duterte… I can’t think of any other person. It needs guts. It needs tapang (bravery) because you have to step on business interest,” Lopez told reporters.
During his visit to the Middle East, Duterte told the Filipino community in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia that he was talking to Cimatu about a Cabinet post.
Philippines' new environment minister says can allow responsible mining
By Manolo Serapio Jr
9 May 2017
MANILA - The Philippines' new Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said on Tuesday he can allow mining in the country as long as it is done responsibly, taking a more moderate stance than his dismissed predecessor who ordered over half the country's mines shut.
"For me, I think we can allow mining (as long as) it's responsible, it does not destroy the environment, as long as it's properly handled," Cimatu, a former army general, told radio station DZBB.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday named Cimatu as replacement for Regina Lopez, a move welcomed by miners but opposed by environmentalist groups who said Cimatu does not have a track record in protecting natural resources.
Cimatu, who described himself as "moderate and calm", said while he did not have enough experience in environmental conservation, he was willing to learn.
He said he would look at mines that Lopez allowed to operate as well as those that were ordered shut in the world's top nickel ore supplier.
Lopez in February ordered 22 of 41 operating mines to close permanently and later canceled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines to protect water resources. She also banned open-pit mining.
Cimatu, who briefly headed the Armed Forces of the Philippines in 2002, said he wants to meet Lopez to get her insight on policies.
"I admire her passion and love for the environment. I will be honored to meet her and try to get her insight in protecting the environment," he said.
"I will do my job well for the interest of the Filipino people."
Lopez had previously said the Philippines was "unfit for mining" because of its unique ecosystem. She was dismissed last week by a panel of lawmakers who scrutinize Duterte's appointments.
Kalikasan rejects appointment of former AFP Chief Roy Cimatu as new DENR Secretary
Kalikasan PNE press statement
8 May 2017
We express our dismay and denunciation over President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointment of former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Roy Cimatu as the new Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary. Duterte has clearly erred in appointing Cimatu as DENR Chief. A military man in the DENR’s helm would betray the people’s longstanding clamour for social justice and environmental protection.
We urge Duterte to reconsider this decision, as Cimatu has virtually no track record on addressing environmental issues and instead has a record of defending environmental plunderers and engaging in corruption.
In 1994, Cimatu, then a colonel commanding the 603rd Brigade of the Philippine Army, created the ‘Task Force Lumad’ composed of personnel from the 641st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, the Davao del Norte Provincial Police Command, and other government units to guard the Alsons logging tenement and train CAFGU paramilitaries also to protect the logging area.
This was in response to the pangayaw or tribal declaration of armed defense by Ata-Manobo leaders of the indigenous organization Salugpungan against the massive logging operations of the Alsons company owned by the powerful Alcantara clan in Mindanao. Not surprisingly, Alsons is also where Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has worked for the longest time.
The former AFP Chief of Staff was also involved in the 2011 AFP ‘pabaon’ corruption scandal where retiring chiefs of staff were given hefty ‘send-off money’ running in the millions, with Cimatu allegedly received P80 million. It is unacceptable that a conduit of corruption will be reintroduced into an agency where billions of pesos worth of natural wealth are regularly transacted.
Duterte does not need a military man in the DENR to enforce his promise of a crackdown on destructive big mines and logging operations. Case in point, irresponsible miners and loggers flourished and corruption in the DENR transpired during the tenure of former DENR Sec. Angelo Reyes, also an AFP chief of staff, from 2006 to 2007.
If Duterte is true to his promise that ‘change is coming,’ he could have defied mining oligarchs by still reappointing Gina Lopez as environment secretary. Duterte could have appointed other deserving pro-people, pro-environment figures who will surely go above and beyond the standards of environmental leadership that Lopez demonstrated, such as progressive stalwarts Luz Ilagan and Neri Colmenares.
Both Ilagan and Colmenares were the fiercest proponents of the People’s Mining Bill in Congress, which aims to reorient the mining industry towards public interest and national industrialization. They also have years of experience as human rights activists and development workers working with mining-affected communities under their belt. The activist tradition of the likes of Lopez, Ilagan, and Colmenares fit the bill of Duterte’s marching orders for social justice.
As the DENR swings farther and farther right into the pockets of big business and militarists, the Duterte administration can expect the people’s heightened and relentless resistance to big mining projects, agribusiness plantations, and other environmentally destructive projects. The Filipino people will not allow the betrayal of their clamour for social justice and environmental protection to remain unchallenged.#
The passion of Gina Lopez
Kalikasan PNE Press Statement / Letter to the Editor
5 May 2017
The Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) extends its highest commendation to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Gina Lopez for her past 10 months of pursuing fearless and progressive environmental reforms under the rallying cry of social justice.
Lopez was clearly a victim of the pervading bureaucrat capitalism in government. The big mining oligarchs in the Commission on Appointments likely used millions of pesos in mining money to undermine Lopez' environmental crusade and ultimately move for the rejection of her confirmation as DENR secretary. Undoubtedly, the massive resources at the disposal of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines and other big mining lobbyists played an insidious role in this coup for corporate greed. President Rodrigo Duterte said it himself: "lobby money talks."
We challenge Pres. Duterte to walk his talk of urging legislators to "hear the cries of Gina" by defying the patently partisan vote of the CA and immediately reappointing Lopez as DENR Secretary. Duterte must go the extra mile in continuing to work with Lopez against the dirty business-as-usual politics of big mining corporations and the mining oligarchs in government.
Duterte must ensure the bottomline of continuity for the regulations and reforms that Lopez initiated. Through any means necessary, the Duterte administration must uphold the historic mining closure and suspension orders against the 28 destructive large-scale mining projects, the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements located in critical watersheds, and the ban on open-pit metallic mining. They must also continue the crackdown on big fishpens in Laguna Lake and ensure its ecological restoration.
In ensuring the continuity of environmental reforms and progressive leadership, it would be wise for Duterte to heed the counsel and support of the progressive people's movement such as the Makabayan People's Coalition. The people's movement is from where Duterte's most hard-working, resolutely principled, and pro-people, pro-environment secretaries, Welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Agrarian Reform secretary Ka Paeng Mariano, hail from. It is also one of the biggest and most reliable allies of Lopez' campaign for the environment.
Among the major achievements pursued by Lopez as environment secretary is her bridging the question of the environment to the question of peace. By creating new venues for peace-making with the revolutionary National Democratic Front of the Philippines through cooperation in the rehab and development of mining-affected areas within their territories, Lopez demonstrated how to address the roots of armed conflict through genuine social and economic reforms.
Duterte, who has shown commitment in constructively pursuing the peace talks with the NDFP, should realize that he will need not only a partner for change but also a partner for peace in the DENR. Forging the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) currently being negotiated in the peace talks will not only serve to mandate the pursuit of peace based on social justice, but will also strike the economic and political influence of corporations and oligarchs right in the heart.
At the end of the day, it is up to the Filipino people especially in the frontline communities to bring the passion of Gina Lopez to life. We are the first and last line of defense against the attacks of corporations and oligarchs using the full force of the unjust, pro-foreign and pro-corporate laws and policies against our communities and environment. We must intensify our resistance to destructive projects, programs, and policies as our act of defiance to the machinations of corporations and trapos.
Whatever fate is in store for Lopez, her indomitable fighting spirit will always be welcome in the pickets, barricades, and protests of the people against environmental destruction and natural resource plunder. At the end of the day, it is the people’s collective action that topples oligarchs and other plunderers.#
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 920 90 99 | E-mail: email@example.com | Site: www.kalikasan.net
Philippine bishops: Gina Lopez’s rejection a ‘great loss’
5 May 2017
Catholic bishops of Philippines said that Gina Lopez’s rejection as environment chief is a ‘great loss’ to the nation.
The lawmakers’ on Wednesday rejected the appointment of Gina Lopez as Environment Secretary, who earlier had ordered the closure of at least 23 mining operations, mostly located in functional watersheds and did not comply with environmental safety standards.
Caritas Philippines’ executive secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez, who had earlier expressed support for a government plan to work with communist New People's Army (NPA) in implementing projects that will protect the environment said, it was expected since some members of the Commission on Appointments have ties to mining firms. He had hoped that the initiative of Gina Lopez would help open a window for peace.
Retired Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa said the Commission on Appointments’ decision to reject Lopez as environment secretary “unmasks the kind of leaders we have, they betray God and our people because of self interest. And because of the interest of the abusive few, God’s creation and the environment meant for the common good is further exposed to degradation,” he said.
Several diocesan social action directors also rallied behind Lopez and scored how the supposed interests of a few won over the common good.
For Fr. Guillermo Alorro of the Calbayog diocesan Social Action Center, the CA’s decision only proves that “doing good for the people and protecting their basic rights to live a descent life is a misnomer nowadays”.
Lopez had announced on April 20 a plan to enlist the help of rebel fighters in implementing projects in mining communities, especially in the southern province of Agusan del Norte. (CBCP)
‘Lobby money’ behind fall of Philippines’ environment chief
5 May 2017
MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday blamed "lobby money" for the downfall of his outspoken environment secretary Regina Lopez, who earned the ire of the country’s mining industry after accusing it of corruption.
Despite his widespread popularity and hardline posture, Duterte said he was helpless to save Lopez from failing to be approved as a cabinet member by lawmakers in congress.
"It’s a pity about Gina. I really liked her passion," he said, referring to Lopez by her nickname.
"I made a pitch for her but you know how it is. This is a democracy and lobby money talks. I do not control everything," he told a gathering of doctors.
He did not specify who lobbied against Lopez or who he would appoint to replace her.
The Commission on Appointments rejected Lopez’s appointment on Wednesday, in a big victory for the mining industry.
Lopez sent shockwaves through the industry during her 10 months as environment chief, seeking to shut down roughly two-thirds of the nation’s existing mines and banning any new open-pit operations.
Although Duterte’s allies control both chambers of the Philippine legislature, the commission chose to reject Lopez.
Lopez has vocally blamed "big business", for her rejection, saying many who voted against her were representing mining interests.
She had previously sought to shut down 28 of the nation’s 40 mines and cancel the contracts of dozens of others.
Last week she also announced the ban on new open-pit mining, which would have sounded the death knell for one of the world’s biggest planned copper projects in the south of the country.
With the Philippines being the world’s biggest supplier of nickel ore and a major source of copper, Lopez’s campaign had impacted global prices.
Mining Inc had run a high-profile campaign to have the commission reject her, arguing she was jeopardising the lives of 1.2 million people who were dependent on the industry.
Even Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, a former mining executive whose family has big investments in the industry, opposed her, taking the unprecedented action of testifying against a fellow cabinet member at the commission hearings.
However environmental groups expressed outrage at Lopez’s rejection, saying it showed Duterte had misled with his pledges to lead a government for ordinary Filipinos rather than the elite. Congress rejecting a president’s cabinet appointment is extremely rare in Philippine politics.
Duterte, CA told: Beware of politicians,’ gov’t execs’ ties to mining
By Jaymee T. Gamil
Philippine Daily Inquirer - http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/885201/duterte-ca-told-beware-of-politicians-govt-execs-ties-to-mining
30 March 2017
MANILA — In the raging debate on the mining industry, an anti-mining group has urged President Duterte and the Commission on Appointments (CA) to keep an eye on politicians with possible “conflicts of interest.”
In a press conference, the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) presented the political links of several mining firms with mining deals suspended by known anti-mining advocate Environment Secretary Gina Lopez last February 14, allegedly due to their mining operations in watersheds.
Ten of the mining firms served with show-cause orders are linked to influential businessmen and politicians, according to the ATM. “We surmise that these are the same powers that are blocking our reform initiatives” in the mining industry, including Lopez’ confirmation as Cabinet secretary, said ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera.
Chief of the ATM’s findings were Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez’ links to Alsons, for which he served as director from 1995 to 2016. Alsons owns stocks in holding company and mining contractor Indophil Resources, now involved in the suspended Tampakan Mining Project, according to the ATM. Alsons is still chaired by Dominguez’s brother Paul Dominguez.
The ATM also took note of the mining links of Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, and committee on agriculture. Prime Asset Ventures Inc., parent company of Kingking Mining Corp. and TVI Resources Develpment Phils. Inc., is owned by Villar’s son, Manuel Paolo Villar, according to ATM. Social Security Commissioner Michael Regino also sits in the TVI board, the ATM has said.
1-Pacman partylist Rep. Michael Romero, meanwhile, is chair and president of 168 Ferrum Pacific Mining, according to the ATM.
Garganera urged Duterte, the final arbiter on Lopez’ earlier order to close 23 mining firms, and the Commission on Appointments, which would decide on Lopez’ confirmation, to consider the “beneficial ownership” of these mining firms, and beyond government officials’ disavowals of direct ownership, such as Dominguez’ divesting from Alsons.
“This is just a corporate veil,” Garganera pointed out. “These real owners are hiding their interests in the company. But if your family members have interests in that firm, so do you …We don’t believe that you don’t benefit from a company your family owns,” Garganera said, in Filipino.
“That could be indirect benefits, like when your campaign contribution was coursed through those individuals, or they lent you use of their helicopters,” Garganera noted.
“It is this ‘beneficial ownership,’ which is not shown in government documents, which should be pinned down,” Garganera said. “They should be held accountable for that. In the meantime, that is also conflict of interest,” he added.
“We hope that Secretary [Gina] Lopez and President Duterte will continue to champion the interests of the poor against the interests of the elite,” Garganera said. SFM
25 April 2017
How big mining is moving earth (and heaven) to prevent the confirmation of Duterte’s environment crusader
To many, Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez is one of the bright lights in the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte. Now, if the powerful mining industry has its way, this light could be extinguished on May 2 or 3, when the Commission on Appointments (CA) will convene once more to decide whether or not to confirm her as secretary of environment and natural resources.
To block Lopez, the industry has mobilized its friends within the administration, foremost among whom is Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez. At a meeting of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) on February 9, 2017, Dominguez sponsored a resolution authorizing the MICC to conduct an evaluation of all mining operations in the country. The proposed investigation was obviously meant to supersede and reverse an exhaustive study already conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that had resulted in the closure of 22 mines, suspension of 4, and the issuance of show-cause orders to 77 others.
Apparently not fully aware she was being snookered into endorsing a compromising document at the time, Lopez attached her signature to the Dominguez-inspired resolution. Then, as one DENR executive describes it, Dominguez went on to “wave the document as proof that Lopez admitted ‘violating due process’” in conducting the DENR study and ordering mine closures and suspensions based on it at a CA confirmation hearing on Lopez on March 14. The finance secretary’s openly discrediting a fellow Cabinet member in a CA session was an unprecedented breach of intra-Cabinet etiquette, all the more so since Lopez was not there to defend herself.
Dominguez’ attack on Lopez followed her retracting her prior approval of the MICC resolution. Feeling she had been duped, Lopez disowned her initial endorsement of the memo, writing to President Duterte on March 6, 2017 that though she had at first concurred with the MICC resolution, she had had strong misgivings about it and had come to the conclusion that the proposed MICC review “is not only [not] authorized by EO [Executive Order} 79 and its IRR [Implementing Rules and Regulations] but constitutes an undue usurpation of the authorities and functions of the DENR.” There was no need for the MICC study, she argued, because “the DENR has…completed the required review of existing mine operations.” Moreover, “the P50 million budget for the review is better spent for the welfare of the people affected by any closures and for alternative employment projects on their behalf.”
The finance secretary is more than a friend to the mining industry. He was a director of the mining and energy conglomerate Alsons Consolidated Resources from 1995 to 2016. While he claims to have divested himself of his shares in the company in 2016, his brother Paul continues to be a central figure in the company and is heavily involved in the leadership of the consortium behind the controversial Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato.
Nor is Dominguez a simple Cabinet appointee; his friendship with Duterte goes back to their high school days at the Ateneo de Davao and he was the chief fundraiser and campaign finance manager of the Duterte for President Campaign.
But then neither is Lopez just another Duterte appointee that can be dusted off, as was done to Perfecto Yasay Jr, the tainted secretary of foreign affairs nominee who was denied confirmation by the Commission on Appointments for lying about his citizenship.
Lopez represents a cause, and one that Duterte apparently supports. The President has repeatedly publicly endorsed Lopez, saying he admires her singlemindedness and “passion” when it comes to curbing mining, which, in his own words, has brought “environmental devastation,” especially to Mindanao. He has time and again said it’s “over” for Big Mining and told the miners that “we can live without the P70 billion in taxes that we get from you.” Even among those who strongly condemn Duterte’s policy of extrajudicial execution of drug users, there are those, like the author, who concede that he seems to have a progressive agenda when it comes to mining.
Duterte might not have anticipated, however, how rapidly Lopez would move to close down mines that were not following the law, in particular Executive Order 79, the comprehensive interim code issued by the Aquino III administration that governs mining until new legislation is passed. Her sweeping blitzkrieg on mining has not been matched in any other agency, and it left the miners stunned.
Lopez is not anti-mining; she simply wants radical reform in an industry that has severely damaged the environment, especially watersheds, and walked away from their contractual obligations to rehabilitate and compensate the areas and communities negatively affected by their operations. Her case for stricter regulation is based on the argument that the widespread environmental and social costs of mining far outweigh the less than 1 percent the industry contributes to GDP and the less than 0.4 percent to employment. Indeed, one month’s worth of OFW remittances is greater than the annual contribution of mining to the Philippine economy.
Reform will have to include investment and tax laws because, as one of her close associates says, “It greatly pains her to see a mine closing operations after a mine life of 7 years without paying income taxes because it was able to secure a tax holiday of 7 years!” The tax holiday loophole and other incentives have been abused not only by Filipino-owned firms but also by foreign investors.
One of the firms receiving a suspension order from Lopez is OceanaGold, a foreign-owned enterprise accused by Nueva Vizcaya Governor Carlos Padilla of leaving his province “with crumbs and almost zero share” in revenues, enjoying as it did a tax holiday for 6-8 years out of the 17 years of mine life.
Another key foreign-controlled firm, Silangan Mining Corporation, got a show-cause order from the DENR for a project in Surigao del Norte that is in a watershed. Silangan is controlled by Philex, which, in turn, is controlled by the Indonesian Anthoni Lim group that is fronted by business personality Manny Pangilinan, a bitter enemy of Lopez.
OceanaGold and Philex are members of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, which has formally opposed Lopez’ confirmation and engaged in full-throated scaremongering, warning the president that the Philippines could lose as much as $16 billion in compensation and damage payouts should interests whose mines are closed or suspended bring their case to international courts and win.
Professors and students on the frontlines
The Lopez blitz has left the industry scrambling for counter-arguments.
Sensing that academics could make a better impression in televised hearings than corporate executives, the industry has deployed geology students and professors, especially from the National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS) and the University of the Philippines’ Department of Mining, Metallurgical, and Materials Engineering (DMMME).
Some observers feel this was unfair manipulation of students and academics since the mining industry provides the bread and butter for these professionals and thus they cannot be expected to support reforms that could result in diminished employment opportunities. As one student admitted, “Geologists are the ones who are facilitating the 1st stage of Mining which is Exploration. Sila ang unang aakyat sa bundok para tingnan kung viable ba yung area for Mining, e.g., magdedetermine ng grade ng ore deposit. If such mining permits and agreements will be cancelled, walang pagtratrabahuhan ang mga ga-graduate.”
That people from the UP mining/geology academic complex would play a prominent role in the assault on Lopez does not surprise Leo Jasareno, one of Lopez’ main advisers. “By the nature of their profession,” he says, “geologists find professional opportunities in the mining industry. Thus, they render services to that industry. The very classic example is Dr. Carlo Arcilla. His CV will easily show that he has worked a lot for the mining companies, with very good pay.”
Discrediting mining audit
In their counterattack, the mining experts have deployed a number of arguments.
On the environmental front, for instance, they have tried to downplay the enormous damage done by mining to watersheds by promoting a very narrow definition of a watershed and arguing that government could not act to prevent or limit mining operations in those sites that had not yet been proclaimed watersheds by the state when a permit was granted to mine them. In other words, if a mining corporation obtained a permit before an area was declared a watershed, then the corporation had “prior rights.”
This legalistic approach to watersheds, says responsible-mining advocate Jaybee Garganera, “is short-sighted and detrimental to national environmental security.” The watershed issue has become a matter of bitter contention since 75 of 77 MPSA’s (Mineral Product Sharing Agreements) issued show-cause orders were for being in watersheds and could likely impair the ecological and social functions of watersheds.
DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz “Ipat” Luna says that, in fact, had the miners been assessed on the full range of negative environmental impacts, there may have been more closures and suspensions in the recent mining audit. There wasn’t much time for in depth investigation especially into ecosystem services and biodiversity impacts, but just on legal compliance they were already found wanting. If the teams had more time, it is not impossible to expect that there will be more found out.”
Not surprisingly, the industry has lost no time in discrediting the DENR mining audit, alleging among other things, non-transparency, bias, an unfair focus on mining when biodiversity loss may be related to other activities like deforestation, and “ambiguity” about what Lopez means by responsible mining, which one geology student caricatured as the “Gina Standard.”
There is very little basis for these accusations, say those involved in doing the audit. There was great care to cover all dimensions relevant to mining by having a diverse group of scientists and other professionals carry it out. As one of those who organized the audit asserted, it “was not done solely by the Mining and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). It was done by a multi-disciplinary group composed of the following: MGB, Environmental Management Bureau, Forest Management Bureau, Biodiversity Management Bureau, Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau, DENR Regional Offices, Dept of Agriculture, Dept of Health, Social Action Center and Civil Society Organizations. No single person could have influenced the results of the audit given this multi-disciplinary nature of the audit teams.”
As for process, DENR lawyer Luna said that Finance Secretary Dominguez’ claim of lack of due process has little merit and can only come from someone who has not read the detailed audit reports. “The process took eight months,” she said, “with multi-stakeholder teams (16 of them) going down to the field and gathering information. Each team then filed a report which was sent to the mining company with a show cause order for them to reply. They replied (some with voluminous documents) and all the reports and replies were reviewed by a Technical Review Committee in the DENR. These, along with community reports and complaints, her [Lopez’s] personal inspection and meetings with communities and with mining companies, became the bases of her decisions.”
Luna concedes that there were some disagreements between Lopez and the Technical Review Committee on the penalties imposed on those who failed the review, with Lopez generally favoring the heavier penalties. But the old mining law specifies penalties that are so light they have little deterrent effect.
Moreover, a Secretary has wide discretionary power and, in general, “[v]iolations of any conditions of the MPSA [Mineral Production Sharing Agreement] can result in its suspension or cancellation by the Secretary.” There is a process of appeal to the Office of the President, and some of those companies closed or suspended have already taken this route. That they have done so shows that the charge of violation of process does not hold water, she says.
Amateur among experts?
With little support – either on substantive or procedural grounds – for their complaints against a tough crusader, the industry has taken to spreading personal, ad hominem attacks, the main aim of which is to paint Lopez as an inept amateur in a game of professionals. While most acknowledge that the unorthodox scion of one of the country’s richest families, who spent 11 years living in voluntary poverty in Africa as a religious Ananda Marga missionary, is motivated by good intentions, they say mining is a complex field that only experienced professionals can really understand.
In this regard, the comments of one student from UP’s DMMME are Illuminating: “She is a former yoga enthusiast, Pasig River rehabilitation head (na wala namang nangyari), and no college degree, tapos bigla kang magiging Sec ng DENR? One of my professors in NIGS said he gets too emotional when they talk about Gina kasi my PhD siya tapos ganun na lang ni Gina sirain yung Mining Industry. At least naman lang kahit sinong taong may idea man lang sa Mining yung pwedeng maging DENR secretary or at least man progressive mag-iisip ung inappoint in Duterte.”
Yet this image of Lopez directly contradicts the impression she has given at the CA hearings. “Her powerpoint presentation was very professional. I was impressed,” admitted one congressman close to the mining industry. One DENR insider said that “Sec Lopez has seen more mines than most, if not all, of the past DENR Secretaries. The only DENR Secretary that may have seen more mines was Sec Horacio Ramos but this is because he is a mining engineer.” While she might not have a PhD in geology, it is difficult not to acknowledge that Lopez has done her homework.
When miners are not attacking Lopez, they are lashing out at one of her key advisers, Leo Jasareno, whom they paint as Lopez’ Rasputin, the half crazed mystic who held the ear of Russia’s last czarina.
“Practically all the anti-Gina witnesses at the CA hearings attacked Leo,” said one DENR official. The reason for this hostility, said another, “is the perception all the knowledge of Sec Lopez on mining comes from him, so that if he is removed or destroyed, Sec Lopez will run out of ammunition against the mining companies. As one miner said, remove Leo Jasareno and Gina Lopez will fall.”
Jasereno is controversial. The miners hate him but neither does he have an easy relationship with the NGOs critical of mining, who find dealing with him bumpy. They acknowledge, however, that there are few who know the industry better than he does, meaning not just its technical side but also its seamy side.
Some miners have accused him of corruption, even of being the “bagman of [former] Secretary [Ramon] Paje.” Lopez has told them that if they have any proof, they should give this to her, so she can fire him as her consultant. So far, none have taken up her challenge.
Jasareno was head of the strategic Mining and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR before Duterte replaced him last August with Louie Jacinto. The move was seen by many as a case of Duterte placating mining interests, among whom Jacinto, who used to be regional director of the MGB Davao region, is popular. Since Jacinto was also the former City Planning and Development Officer of Duterte in Davao City, the move was interpreted by others as Duterte’s move to keep an eye on Lopez, who, the miners had warned the President was a wild-eyed radical who would kill the industry.
Jasareno was, however, retained by Lopez in another capacity, his current designation being “Special Assistant for Mining.”
Asked why he was resented so much by the industry, he surmised that probably the key reason was that during his term as MGB Director under the previous Aquino administration, “many policies and actions were pursued which were not popular with the miners.” This included, he claimed, the issuance of EO 79, which “imposed a moratorium in the grant of mineral agreements until Congress has passed a law increasing the share of Government from mining, and declared No-Go Zones that expanded areas closed to mining, stopped the black sand mining in Cagayan, Ilocos Sur, and other parts of the country, cancelled more than 20 mineral agreements, suspended 14 large-scale mining operations… and required all operating mines to secure ISO 14001 certifications.” All of these actions, Jasareno asserts proudly, “were unprecedented and hurt the miners.”
The man, it is clear, shares Lopez’s passion to discipline a wayward industry, and is the kind of independent-minded guy that acts as a natural magnet for charges of bias, arbitrariness, egotism, bad judgment, and corruption. With such determination for reform wedded to his intimate knowledge of the industry, one can understand why Jasareno is seen by the miners as a dangerous man. Indeed, with the hundreds of billions of pesos at stake, one wonders how he has managed to stay alive up to now.
The confirmation process, everyone will tell you, is one where politics, not merit, is in command. In this arena, where many speak with forked tongues, it is difficult to know until the vote itself who is your friend and who is your enemy. Here the very strengths of Lopez in dealing with the miners may become points of vulnerability in relating to politicians.
For instance, a more ambitious or cautious bureaucrat would most likely have waited for his confirmation before making such a decisive move as issuing some 103 closure, suspension, and show-cause orders. Or he would have devoted time to lobbying the members of the CA.
“Yasay visited me several, maybe four times,” said one congressman on the Commission, referring to the Duterte nominee who was ultimately turned down for the post of Secretary of Foreign Affairs. “Gina did not request even one meeting with me, and I doubt if she did with the others,” he commented, saying this not because he was peeved but out of admiration. Likewise, during the second round of hearings on her confirmation in March, Lopez turned down a strong request by the Commission that she postpone her departure for the US so they could act on her confirmation. She refused, telling the CA she had to attend a retreat, communicating in no uncertain terms that her spiritual regeneration took precedence over ambition.
With less than two weeks remaining before the May 2 or 3 meeting, when the CA is likely to decide on Lopez’ fate, the only certainty as to the outcome, say observers, is that the vote will be close. Senator Loren Legarda says “Hati ang Senado. Hati rin ang House,” referring to the numbers game among the 13 senators and 12 congresspersons that compose the Commission.
There are, however, two developments that could affect Lopez negatively.
Counting the votes
One is the decision of the House contingent, which is perceived by some to be one where pro-mining votes have the numbers, to adopt a rule that its members would vote in the full Commission as a bloc for the majority position that emerges from their caucus. The Senate members have not adopted this rule.
Another ruling that could have more of a negative than a positive impact on Lopez’ chances is the Commission’s adoption of the three strike rule, that is, deferment of an appointment – what the CA calls a bypass – can be done only three times, after which a presidential nominee will no longer be considered.
Senator Panfilo Lacson thinks the rule is not retroactive, in which case, Lopez, if bypassed again, will still have two chances. If a majority, however, interpret the ruling to apply retroactively, a failure of the CA to rule on Lopez’ confirmation on May 2 or 3 would, in effect, kill it.
Civil society advocates and many DENR people are especially concerned about the House side of the equation. They claim that there are two clear cases of conflict of interest.
One involves Congressman Ronnie Zamora, the vice chairman of the CA, whose brother, Manuel Zamora, is a major owner of Nickel Asia Corp, the country’s biggest nickel miner, with five nickel mines. One of these mines failed in the DENR’s mine audit and was served with a closure order. The other relates to Congressman Wesley Gatchalian, whose family owns Wellex Mining Corporation, which also failed to make the grade and also got a closure order.
Both within the DENR and civil society, there is strong sentiment that the two should inhibit or “recuse” themselves from the deliberations of the CA. (Attempts by the author to reach both congressmen, with whom he had good working relationships when he was Congress, to ask them whether they thought this position was justified were unsuccessful.)
Will he or won’t he?
What everyone agrees on is that President Duterte will be the decisive actor.
A DENR insider says the feeling within the agency is that “the President fully supports Sec Gina but he is surrounded by many officials who are supportive of the miners, and in many times these officials act without the knowledge of the president.”
This assessment seems to be borne out by Duterte’s remarks when asked about whether he continues to support Lopez. In one of his latest statements, he said, ““You cannot ignore the cries of Gina Lopez.” He asked the Commission on Appointments, “Tingnan nilang mabuti [“They should look closely [at what she’s saying”]. She would show you how devastated the environment is.” He said he ignored the requests of classmates for him to call Lopez and tell her what to do.
More than publicly stated support is needed, however, if Lopez is to be confirmed. In a close fight, personal lobbying members of the CA by the president will spell the difference. As one pro-mining member of the CA told me, “If the President of the Philippines were to personally call me and ask me to vote for Gina, do you think I would be able to refuse? Would you?”
Break-up or compromise?
The reality is that between Lopez and the massive firepower of the mining industry, it is only Duterte who can tilt the balance in Lopez’s – and the environment’s – favor. But that would mean his breaking with Dominguez and other members of what one might call the “Mindanao Mining Mafia” that played such a vital role in his reaching the highest post in the land.
But, as the Neil Sedaka song goes, breaking up is hard to do…either with Dominguez or with Lopez.
And as the countdown to confirmation day begins, Malacañang might be trying to work out some sort of compromise between Dominguez and the miners and their nemesis. A high-level source says that the latest development is that Lopez has agreed to the controversial MICC review proposal, “but on condition that this does not encroach on the authority of the DENR.”
If true, would the quid pro quo be Lopez being confirmed as Secretary? And how would such a deal affect Lopez’ ability to curb the miners in the future? We might have our answers on May 2 or 3. – Rappler.com
Erring mining firms not yet off the hook
By Ana Marie Pamintuan
The Philippine Star - http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/07/697498/erring-mining-firms-not-yet-hook
7 May 2017
YOKOHAMA – Despite the departure of Gina Lopez as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), a review of the mining industry could still lead to the shutdown of certain mines.
“There could be closures,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told The STAR Friday night at a reception hosted in this city by Asian Development Bank (ADB) president Takehiko Nakao.
Dominguez as finance chief co-chairs the Mining Industry Coordinating Council together with the DENR secretary. The MICC is expected to start its review this month. The country has about 300 mines.
“The MICC will carry out its mandate because that’s in the law and I think it’s good,” Dominguez said.
He clarified that he was not the one who created the council. Lopez had accused him of “usurping” her authority as DENR secretary by reviewing her orders through the MICC. She was rejected as DENR chief by the Commission on Appointments last Wednesday.
The MICC was created as an interagency forum through Executive Order 79 dated July 6, 2012 by then president Benigno Aquino III. The council was originally composed of members of two Cabinet clusters: one on climate change adaptation and mitigation and the other on economic development.
The heads of the two Cabinet clusters were designated as co-chairs. Its additional members were the secretary of justice, the chairman of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the president of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines.
EO 79, according to its title, aims to institutionalize and implement reforms in the mining sector as well as provide policies and guidelines “to ensure environmental protection and responsible mining in the utilization of mineral resources.”
Dominguez stressed that he was not fighting with Lopez, adding he also wanted miners to follow the law and abide by best practices.
“I don’t care if they close down the mines,” he told The STAR. “What I care about is that they stay closed. If not done properly, they will sue and they will reopen.”
The litigation fees would then be his headache as finance chief, he said, reiterating his previous statements on the controversy.
Last month the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines had warned the government that it could face a $16-billion arbitration case from mining firms that were shut down or suspended. Such suits are typically filed overseas. The amount would cover compensation and damages, the chamber said.
Dominguez reiterated what President Duterte had said, that the government could forgo the P30 billion in annual revenue from mining.
“What’s P30 billion?” Dominguez asked, pointing out that while the amount might look big, it’s just a little over one percent of the P1 trillion that the Department of Finance is projecting to raise this year. “We can take the drop. But what about the local communities that depend on mining? They can’t.”
Lopez has countered that mining ruins the livelihoods of farmers, fisherfolk and agroforestry workers.
Dominguez pointed out that Lopez herself had signed a resolution on Feb. 9 to set aside P50 million for the three-month review to be conducted by the MICC.
Lopez later moved to block the funding, even if her personal lawyer Christian Monsod had helped draft MICC Resolution No. 6.
Dominguez said President Duterte has been listening to all sides in the mining debate. In public, Duterte has expressed sympathy for Lopez and her views on the environment.
Lopez had ordered 23 mining firms shut down in February and five others suspended. She banned open-pit mining and canceled 75 agreements for mineral production sharing.
Dominguez once worked as a mining executive and also oversaw rehabilitation of the Rapu-Rapu mine in Albay, but maintains he has had no business interests in mining for a long time.
His brother Paul G. Dominguez, an ADB director for the Philippines and several other countries since November 2016, is reportedly an investor in Sagittarius Mines, which operates the $5.9-billion copper-gold Tampakan project in South Cotabato.
In a statement from Geneva, meanwhile, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano cried foul at being singled out by Lopez as having been influenced by mining interests when he voted to reject her at the Commission on Appointments (CA).
Cayetano is part of the team that would present the Philippine case before the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights.
Cayetano emphasized that he has always been on the side of what is right and not on what is popular.
“I’m not surprised that Sec. Gina and her group will go so low as to cast aspersions on why I voted the way I did and even accuse me of being in the pockets of the mining industry,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano explained that he has always been for responsible mining and holds the strictest and highest standards for industries that have impact on the environment.
“I want to clarify that I gave Ms. Lopez enough chances to dispel fears that she would not observe the legal process in regulating the mining industry,” he said.
“I supported her in closing down mining sites that were not compliant with the highest standards. Moreover, illegal mining and logging continue to proliferate, while other sectors that need both strict regulation continue to destroy the environment,” he added.
The senator said Lopez insisted on defending her illegal actions during her confirmation hearings, which made it impossible for him to support her confirmation.
If Lopez were allowed to continue as environment secretary, she might eventually cause the President embarrassment, Cayetano said.
“If she had carried on with her mindset, it would have embarrassed the Duterte administration sooner or later. She would have placed the administration in a predicament that would be hard to defend,” Cayetano said.
He clarified that he respects the passion of Lopez as an advocate for the environment, “but she fails to understand that she cannot arrogate unto herself Constitutional powers reserved exclusively for Congress.”
“Many officials have invoked good intentions when they violated our anti-graft and corruption laws, and President Duterte was left with no choice but to terminate them. Ms. Lopez’s recent acts already bordered along these lines,” Cayetano said.
“Going by her unwillingness to comply with institutional processes, she is not fit to head the DENR. She would have embarrassed the President in no time,” he added.
In appointing the next environment secretary, Cayetano said that the President should get someone with the same passion as Lopez, but mindful of his or her mandate to follow the legal process.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, who voted to confirm Lopez, said that the negative public perception on the CA could have been avoided had the members with interests in mining inhibited from the proceedings as he had suggested.
Ejercito pointed out that San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, who heads the House contingent to the CA, has interests in the biggest nickel mining firm in the country, so it was only natural for the public to suspect that vested interests were at play. – With Marvin Sy
Second review of Philippine mines to go ahead - finance official
By Manolo Serapio Jr
4 May 2017
MANILA - The Philippine government will move forward with a second review of the country's mines despite the removal of Regina Lopez as environment minister, a finance official said on Thursday.
The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), an inter-agency panel that includes the finance and environment ministries, ordered a review in February of the operations and the environmental and social impacts of the country's mines.
"Definitely it will continue because it's the mandate of the MICC to do just that regardless of who's in the (Department of Environment and Natural Resources)," Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said in a statement.
The review will cover all 41 mines operating in the Philippines, including the 26 that Lopez had earlier ordered closed or suspended in February after a months-long audit last year led by the environment ministry. She also cancelled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines in the world's top nickel ore supplier.
The MICC ordered the review following criticism from miners that Lopez's decision was baseless and lacked due process.
Lawmakers comprising the Commission of Appointments rejected Lopez as environment minister at a vote on Wednesday, ending her 10-month mining crackdown, which was backed by President Rodrigo Duterte but led to demands for her removal.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has said it would seek to undo Lopez's moves when a new minister was appointed.
Agabin said the review will also include contracts for undeveloped mines.
Lopez earlier asked Duterte to halt the second mine review, challenging its legality despite initially supporting it.
The MICC is still in the process of selecting who will comprise the team that will inspect the mines, which is expected to take three months.
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)
Reds warn to continue attacks vs mining firms, 'enemies of environment'
By Artemio Dumlao
4 May 2017
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Communist guerillas warn that they will continue the attacks against mining firms, companies and other “enemies of the environment.”
“The NPA (New People's Army) will continue to implement policies of the people's democratic government,” the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said at the heels of the Commission on Appointment’s (CA) rejection of the confirmation of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.
On Wednesday, the CA decided not to extend the appointment of Lopez.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao, chair of the appointment body's environmental panel, recommended to the plenary the termination of deliberations after the body met the minimum 13 votes cast in secret balloting to decide on her case.
The CPP vowed that the NPA guerillas will continue to carry out its orders “to punish all plunderers and prevent the further destruction of the environment by mining companies and big plantations.”
"The Filipino people can always rely on the (NPA) to defend their welfare and interests,” the group said.
Lopez’s non-confirmation by the CA, the CPP believed, was prompted by “big bourgeois comprador interests in the mining industry (which) surely mobilized hundreds of millions of pesos and employed their vast political influence to ensure that the (CA) would reject (her) appointment.”
With the rejection of Lopez, the CPP said that the Filipinos and revolutionary forces lost an ally, who is willing to protect the environment and the livelihood of people.
"It only underscores the necessity for the people to rely primarily on their unity and strength in opposing and resisting the entry of mining companies which plunder the country's patrimony and employ the military and armed groups to oppress the people and their communities,” they added.
Nickel shriek turns to shrug as Philippines dithers on audit
3 May 2017
NICKEL BULLS are in retreat as a mining crackdown that threatened to choke supply from the world’s top shipper is mired in legal and political limbo.
In 2016, prices of the metal used mostly to harden stainless steel surged the most in two years after the Philippine government said it would shut down mines blamed for water pollution and denuded forests as part of an environmental audit of about 300 open pits. But 10 months later, output is unchanged and prices are lower than before the first closures were ordered.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte now holds the fate of the miners in his hands. Citigroup, Inc. says most pits will keep operating, while consultant CRU Group says the market is now more focused on slowing demand from China because of a steel glut. And rival exporter Indonesia is making moves to resume shipments of the metal that’s also an ingredient in batteries, coins, magnets and guitar strings.
“It’s taken such a long time for the Philippines to make the final decision, and in the meantime the market has changed,” Peter Peng, a nickel analyst in CRU Group’s Beijing office said by phone. “If prices fall further some of the Philippines mines might have to close anyway.”
The market got a surprise back in July, when newly-appointed Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez announced a sweeping investigation of the industry. An avowed anti-mining crusader, Ms. Lopez ordered the closure of eight mines that month, and by the end of the year, nickel prices had surged almost 25%, touching a 16-month high of $12,145 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange.
Then ... almost nothing happened. Ms. Lopez recommended 23 mines shut in February, but the owners all lodged appeals with the secretary and some asked Mr. Duterte directly to overrule her.
Mr. Duterte hasn’t indicated how or when he will decide. In March, he threatened to impose a total ban unless miners could explain environmental damage they have allegedly caused. And while he has vowed to make quick decisions on matters brought to his attention, Ms. Lopez has claimed that appeals already filed with the President’s office haven’t reached him yet.
And now the audit is being audited. An interagency council is due to start its own review of mining operations, including the nearly two dozen ordered shut by Ms. Lopez. The Mining Industry Coordinating Council will check whether the orders were carried out with due process, one of the mining companies’ chief complaints. It will take at least three months to complete, according to Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin.
As the Philippines dithers, supply dynamics are shifting elsewhere, reducing the impact that any eventual closures would have on the market. Indonesia in January announced a relaxation of its 2014 ban on nickel ore exports, which is what originally propelled the Philippines into the position of the world’s biggest shipper. China, the biggest consumer its top customer, more than doubled imports of Indonesian ferronickel in the first three months of the year.
Nickel traded on the London Metal Exchange has given up all its gains, dropping to $9,230 a metric ton last week, the lowest since before Ms. Lopez announced her audit, as the prospect of more Indonesia supply collides with signs of peaking demand from the Chinese steel sector.
“Mine supply dramas are being resolved,” Morgan Stanley analysts led by Tom Price wrote in a note dated April 24. “So for some price upside we’re still looking to the stainless steel world,” they said.
The price of benchmark stainless steel products has sunk more than 20% since peaking last December, according to data from Shanghai Steelhome E-Commerce. Morgan Stanley said there’s “trouble with demand” after the pullback in nickel prices triggered a new round of de-stocking while anti-dumping duties have weighed on China’s exports.
This isn’t the first time that hopes of nickel rallying on tighter supply have been dashed. Prices collapsed by 42% in 2015 in spite of Indonesia’s ban. It’s down 4.8% in 2017, at $9,540 a ton on Tuesday.
The metal would get a boost in the unlikely event that the nation still goes ahead with all the closures demanded by Ms. Lopez, Daniel Hynes, senior commodities strategist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group said by phone. “The market would certainly still need to re-price based on a particularly tight market even with weaker demand growth.”
Ms. Lopez’ own future as environment secretary hangs in the balance. Her appointment is still waiting for confirmation by Congress after three previous hearings failed to reach a decision, and lawmakers are due to meet this week to continue deliberations.
She still remains determined to censure the miners and has now signed an order banning open-pit mining for new projects.
“Their money is not more important than people’s lives,” she told Bloomberg News on Thursday. “Let’s see what happens, but I’m doing my job.” -- Bloomberg
Philex Mining profit rises in 1st quarter
28 April 2017
EARNINGS of Philex Mining Corp. rose slightly in the first quarter as improved metal prices and favorable exchange rates partially offset a dip in metal output.
In a regulatory filing on Thursday, the gold and copper miner said net income grew 2.8% to P432.27 million in the first three months of the year, from the P420.45 million registered in the same period in 2016.
Core profit increased 18% to P458 million in the January to March period, from P389 million a year ago.
“The improvement in the Company’s financial results was attributed to higher metal prices, partly offset by lower metal output,” Philex Mining said.
Consolidated revenues went up 6% to P2.54 billion in the first quarter, amid improved metal prices and favorable foreign exchange rates.
Average realized copper prices hit $2.77 per pound during the January to March period versus $2.25 per pound during the same period in 2016. On the other hand, average realized gold prices jumped to $1,264 per ounce in the first quarter, from $1,239 per ounce a year ago.
The foreign exchange rate of P50.32:$1 also had a positive effect on first quarter revenues. In the first quarter of 2016, the foreign exchange rate was at P46.90:$1.
Revenues from gold were flat at P1.42 billion, while copper revenues jumped 15% to P1.09 billion. Sales from silver increased 30% to P21.89 million from P16.773 million a year ago.
Philex Mining said its Padcal mine in Benguet milled 1.998 million metric tons of ore during the first quarter, 14% lower than the 2.325 million tons milled in the same quarter last year. The mine operated for 88 days in January to March, from 90 days a year ago.
“The lower tonnage was affected by less operating days and equipment availability issues. The Company initiated measures to improve metal recovery, by enhancing the flotation process, to offset the lower milling tonnage,” Philex Mining said.
Consolidated costs and expenses increased 2% to P1.668 billion, due to higher depreciation and depletion charges, as well as a rise in excise taxes and royalty payments.
“Over and above the healthy financial performance in the first quarter, our commitment to advocate responsible mining, following stringent local and international standards, remains paramount,” Eulalio B. Austin, Jr., Philex Mining Corporation President and CEO in the statement.
“It is for this reason that we continue to roll out the activities we committed under the many agreements we have signed with the government and pursue the initiatives we vowed to provide our host and neighboring communities, in accordance with law, oftentimes exceeding what is required from us.”
Philex Mining expects to complete the definitive feasibility study for its Silangan project within the year.
The Silangan project passed its first ISO 14001 annual audit conducted in April this year by Certification International Philippines, Inc.
“The accomplishment means that Silangan maintains its ISO 14001 Certification, received on June 1, 2016. This also highlights the Project’s compliance with strict environmental management standards, during the provision of pre-mining development activities, and bodes well for its bid to commence mine development and commercial operations in the future,” Silangan Mindanao Mining Co., Inc. President and COO Yulo E. Perez said.
Trading of Philex Mining shares inched up 0.92 on Wednesday to close at P8.82 apiece on Thursday.
Philex Mining is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being PLDT, Inc. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. Hastings Holdings, Inc. -- a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc. -- maintains interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. -- J.C. Lim
Philippines bans open-pit mining as minister toughens crackdown
Enrico Dela Cruz and Manolo Serapio Jr
27 April 2017
Philippine Environment Secretary Regina Lopez said on Thursday she will ban open-pit mining in the country, toughening a months-long crackdown on the sector she blames for extensive environmental damage.
The ban comes just days before the outspoken environmentalist-turned-regulator faces a confirmation hearing in Congress that could lead to her removal as minister after a storm of complaints from pro-mining groups.
Lopez, who has already ordered the closure of more than half the country's operating mines and has previously described open pit mines as "madness", said it was within her prerogative to ban the practice, which is allowed under Philippines mining law.
"Each open pit is a financial liability for government for life," she told a media briefing. "It kills the economic potential of the place."
The ban will take effect immediately but will not cover existing mines, she said.
Mining is a contentious issue in the largely underexplored Southeast Asian country after past examples of environmental mismanagement.
Lopez in February ordered the permanent closure of 22 of 41 operating mines in the world's top nickel ore supplier and later canceled dozens of contracts for undeveloped mines to protect water resources.
Miners have argued her actions are illegal and no mine has yet been closed as companies pursue an appeals process that can only be settled by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines described her latest move as "absurd."
"With this open-pit ban, she is essentially banning the mining of shallow ore deposits that can only be extracted using open-pit mining," said Chamber spokesman Ronald Recidoro.
Wants Duterte as Successor
The ban would halt the $5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato province in Mindanao island, the nation's biggest stalled mining venture.
Tampakan failed to take off after the province where it is located banned open-pit mining in 2010, prompting commodities giant Glencore Plc to quit the project in 2015.
Lopez has said the project would cover an area the size of 700 football fields in what otherwise would be agricultural land.
There are currently 14 open pits in the country, 10 of them abandoned, said Lopez, who flew to several mining sites in recent weeks to inspect them.
Lawmakers will resume hearings on Lopez's appointment on May 2 after sessions in March when pro-mining groups assailed her capacity as minister.
Lopez said she was imposing the ban now because she was unsure of the outcome of the hearings.
If lawmakers reject her appointment, Lopez said she wants Duterte to succeed her.
"That's the kind of person you really need at DENR," she said, referring to her agency. "Brave, cannot be bought, everyone will be scared."
(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz and Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Richard Pullin)
Lopez bans prospective open-pit mines
Louise Maureen Simeon
27 April 2017
MANILA, Philippines — Just a few days before her confirmation hearing at the Commission on Appointments, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez fired another shot at the mining industry after she issued an order banning all prospective open-pit mines in the country.
In a briefing Thursday, Lopez announced that she is banning the open-pit method of mining for copper, gold, silver and complex ores all over the country.
“As a matter of policy, which is my prerogative as DENR secretary, we’re banning open-pit mining, prospective, for the following reason: that pit is gonna be there forever and a day, eternally,” Lopez said.
The Environment chief cited several reasons for the ban including its financial and environmental liability; deprivation of economic use of the area; continuing adverse impact on the environment; and its high risk to host communities.
Open-pit is defined as an excavation or cut made on the surface of the ground for the purpose of extracting ore and which is open to the surface for the duration of the mine's life.
Lopez claimed that it was within her prerogative to issue an order to ban the practice, which is allowed under the Philippine Mining Act.
“Open-pit mining is too much of a risk. I have the mandate to evaluate and I have the duty to put a stop to it,” Lopez said.
"Each open pit is a financial liability for government for life. It kills the economic potential of the place,” she added.
Lopez emphasized that open pits have ended up as perpetual liabilities, causing adverse impacts to the environment, particularly due to the generation of acidic and heavy metal-laden water, erosion of mine waste dumps and vulnerability of tailings dams to geological hazards.
She added that records show that most of the mining disasters in the country were due to tailings spills associated with open-pit mining.
Order issued in anticipation of CA hearing
Lopez admitted that she is now imposing the ban because she is uncertain as to what may happen during her confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appointments on May 2.
“I am doing this because I have no idea what’s going to happen on Tuesday. I’m doing this because I find politics very unpredictable,” Lopez said.
Since her appointment as Environment chief, Lopez has made public her stand against the practice, which is being used by most mines in the Philippines.
Among the biggest prospective open-pit mines are the over $2-billion Pangilinan-led Silangan mine in Surigao del Norte and the $5.9-billion Tampakan project in South Cotabato, dubbed as potentially the country’s biggest foreign investment and believed to be one of the largest gold prospects in the world.
The DENR is set to issue show cause orders to projects that are under the exploration stage while those under application will no longer be approved, Lopez said.
'Order is absurd'
Meanwhile, the industry group Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) countered Lopez’s decision, saying it is absurd and that the law actually allows open-pit mining.
“While the DENR does have the power to regulate mining, they have to do it within the ambit of the Constitution and the law. Lopez cannot add or deduct from the law by herself. It needs amending legislation from Congress,” COMP Legal and Policy vice president Ronald Recidoro said.
“The law does not ban open-pit mining. Quite the contrary, the Constitution even gives the state the duty to explore, develop, and utilize our mineral resources. With this open-pit ban, she is essentially banning the mining of shallow ore deposits that can only be extracted using that method,” he added.
The industry group said that open-pit mining is an internationally accepted method, which can be done safely and properly. It said mines can be rehabilitated in a manner that allows for other land uses such as agriculture, fisheries, and tourism
“How does she propose to mine shallow mineral deposits found just two to 20 meters underground? Nickel, coal, marble and aggregates are normally found near the surface of the earth and can only be mined using open-pit and open-cast mining,” Recidoro said.
“She is ill-advised or this is her own thinking because she already has a preconceived thinking that she will not allow it as early as July last year. She does not think about the repercussions to the country as a whole,” COMP executive vice president Nelia Halcon added in a separate text message.
While Environment Undersecretary Maria Paz Luna admitted that no consultation with the industry stakeholders has been made, she said it still within the discretion of the secretary to issue such decisions.
But, Recidoro maintained otherwise, citing a portion of the Revised Administrative Code, which requires public participation.
Should Lopez fail to get confirmed next week, the mining industry may be hopeful that the next secretary may counter the recent order.
“A department administrative order can be reviewed, revised, or even revoked by subsequent Environment secretaries,” Recidoro said.
'Ban may lead to energy crisis'
Mining experts have already warned that banning open-pit mining in the country may affect energy supply nationwide.
“Open-pit mining is done in most countries around the world. It could be done safely and is one of the most economical methods in mining,” mines expert Gabriel Pamintuan Jr. of the University of the Philippines said.
Pamintuan cited Semirara Mining and Power Corp.’s (SMPC) open-pit mine as an example.
“Shutting down Semirara would mean a power crisis given that coal contributes an estimated 47 percent of Luzon’s power requirements. Calaca, which feeds on 100-percent Semirara open-pit coal, even if it only contributes seven percent to the peak power demand, is a base load plant. Any outage by base load power plants can trigger cascading brownouts that could extend to a Luzon-wide outage,” Pamintuan said.
SMPC produces 8 million metric tons of coal annually from its operations in the 55-square kilometer contract area in Semirara island with projected reserves expected to last until 2036. The coal being mined in the region is graded as sub-bituminuous with a heating value of 9,300 British thermal unit per pound, the highest quality of coal locally available.
Philex’s Silangan mine
Meanwhile, Pangilinan-led Philex Mining Corp.’s subsidiary Silangan Mindanao Mining Co. Inc. said it has yet to receive the official order from the DENR.
“We will await whatever order or issuance the secretary-designate would have regarding her pronounced ban on open-pit mining before we take the necessary decisive action,” Philex Public and Regulatory Affairs head Francis Ballesteros told The STAR.
“So far, all we know is that these are mere announcements made in a press conference or forum, as is the case with her previous pronouncements,” he added.
The mineral production sharing agreement of Silangan was cancelled last February because of its proximity to a watershed, but the company maintained otherwise and iterated that it is not violating any environmental law.
Philex earlier admitted that it is facing serious concern over the cancellation of Silangan’s copper and gold project in Surigao del Norte, which it expected to be its next big prospective mine with an investment opportunity of P40 billion.
The Silangan project is Philex’s next big prospective mine that will replace the Padcal copper-gold mine in Benguet whose mine life is expected to end by December 2022.
The company has invested over P13 billion for the initial exploration and related works on the site as of end-2014, on top of the estimated commercial-operations project cost of approximately $1.2 billion.
By 2020, the Silangan project is seen to generate P170 billion in revenues, P31 billion in national and local taxes and at least 8,000 employment opportunities for the first 10 years of operation.
Silangan Mining is also expected to spend P6 billion over the same period for social development and infrastructure programs that will benefit Mindanao.
DENR to file case vs Marcopper
Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News
24 April 2017
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is planning to file a case against Marcopper Mining Corp. for the lingering effects of the disastrous 1996 spillage at its site in Marinduque, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said Monday.
This as she returned to abandoned mining sites in the province to ensure that her rehabilitation plans would push through whether her appointment is confirmed or not.
The Commission on Appointments (CA) is set to decide on her confirmation on May 2.
During her visit, Lopez introduced government officials that affected residents should approach if they would need help in rehabilitating mined out areas. She also talked to a representative of Consolidated Minings Inc. to secure a pledge to rehabilitate the site.
The environment chief said the department would file a case against Marcopper, not only for the remaining ecological damage, but also for the remaining effects of the 1996 spillage on residents.
Those affected include 78 children afflicted with brain damage.
"What I'm gonna do as DENR secretary is to make sure that money is downloaded. I'm gonna issue show cause order. Seventy-eight children with brain disease, Diyos ko naman di ba?" said Lopez.
The 1996 Marcopper incident, where mine tailings from a drainage tunnel spilled into the Boac river, remains to be the worst mining disaster in the country.
Lopez could not say what will happen at her scheduled confirmation hearing, as some members of the CA have family interest in mining. Lopez, who has initiated a fierce campaign against destructive mining practices, is up against opposition from the mining industry.
She said she would lay down various policies and do whatever she can with the remaining time she has before the hearing.
"So since we do not know what's gonna happen, and while I'm still cabinet secretary, I want the world to see what's happening so we can put a stop to it," said Lopez.
"It cannot stop because one person is out. No matter what happens, it should go on."
Meanwhile, Lopez stood by her disagreement with the way tourism in Boracay, one of the country's most popular beach destinations, is being handled. This after some residents of the island reacted negatively to her statement last week.
Lopez plans to send a team to Boracay to coordinate with hotel operators for an area development project to ensure that the poorer sector in the region will also benefit from the tourism industry.
20 Years On: Justice still eludes Marcopper disaster victims in Philippines
LRC KsK - Friends of the Earth Philippines statement
24 March 2017
Large-scale mining operations put communities at risk of environmental disaster, and no other case showed this more clearly than the Marcopper mining spill in Marinduque in 1996.
“Twenty-one years ago, Marcopper Mining Corporation destroyed a river on which the farmers and fisherfolk in Marinduque had been dependent for their subsistence and livelihood. Marcopper continues to dodge its responsibility to compensate the victims of the disaster and to rehabilitate the areas it destroyed in the name of profit,” said Beth Manggol, executive director of the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MaCEC).
In March 24, 1996 a drainage tunnel of Marcopper mining in Marinduque cracked, spilling millions of tons of mine tailings into the Boac River. The river had been an important source of food for the residents of Marinduque. Many residents suffered illnesses because of the toxic wastes, which had been accumulating in the province’s tributaries ever since Marcopper started operations in 1969.
The 1996 mine spill exposed the long-standing harm Marcopper had subjected the people of Marinduque to. “Calancan Bay became a dumping area of mine waste from 1975 to 1996, and Mogpog River was ravaged when the Maguila-guila Siltation Dam burst in 1993,” said Manggol.
“This is typical of large-scale mining companies to shirk from their responsibilities after they have plundered the natural resources of a place. What happened in Marinduque should remind us how difficult it is to exact accountability from large-scale mining companies,” said Norly Mercado, executive director of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), a non-profit that represents 61 plaintiffs in a case against Marcopper. LRC is the Philippines chapter of Friends of the Earth.
“It is high time we scrap the 1995 Mining Act, which just gives large-scale companies that destroy the environment a slap on the wrist. We need to pass the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB), which will wrest the control of our natural resources from large-scale mining and return it to the government. The better regulation of the mining industry will safeguard our environment and our people,” said Mercado.
The AMMB, now filed in Philippine Congress, will allow mining only for domestic use, helping to build the country by modernizing its agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The AMMB will disallow mining in critical watersheds, old growth forests, prime agricultural lands, and other no-go zones. The AMMB will also provide a fairer revenue share to local governments and local communities.
The present mining act has allowed large-scale, often foreign, companies to extract raw minerals ostensibly for export. This export-orientation has contributed very little to the economy. Government data found that in 2016 the mining industry employed 218,000 Filipinos and contributed 0.06% to the Gross Domestic Product.
LRC also held a one-week social media blast called #MarcopperAnyare on the week of the anniversary. We posted social media memes to Facebook, including photo shares featuring the singer-songwriter Armi Millare and lawyer-musician Pochoy Labog.
Look Back: The 1996 Marcopper mining disaster
On March 24, 1996, the Philippines saw one of the biggest mining disasters in Philippine history, which led to a drastic change in the country's mining policy
Gwen de la Cruz
24 March 2017
MANILA – It was 21 years ago today when the Philippines saw one of the biggest mining disasters in the country.
On March 24, 1996, the drainage tunnels of Marcopper Mining Corporation’s open pit ruptured and spilled millions of tons of mine waste that smothered the Boac River in Marinduque, inundating villages and killing marine life.
Let’s review the disaster that drastically changed the country’s mining policy.
Act of nature?
Marcopper Mining Corporation, which was then co-owned by Canadian firm Placer Dome, started its copper mining operations in Marinduque island in the late 60s.
Antonio La Viña, Environment undersecretary at the time of the disaster, said the company had already been dumping mine tailings into bodies of water.
This became an issue with residents, as they were seeing the damage it brought to their area.
Despite this, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) renewed the company's mining permit, on condition that Marcopper stops throwing mine tailings into the river.
To comply with the government’s requirement, Marcopper used one of their old open pit mines as their dam, where they could keep all their mine tailings.
Since the open pit was used in previous mining operations, they sealed all tunnels connecting to the river using cement. La Viña clarified that the tunnels were created to “bring water to the [mining pit],” and not to throw waste.
He said that it was a "fundamental design mistake" which can be attributed to lower spending. “Kasi problema palagi yung ayaw nilang gumastos (It’s always a problem that they don’t want to spend),” La Viña said.
As time passed by, the dam was being filled with mine tailings. This brought pressure to the tunnel, causing seepage of the mine waste. La Viña said Marcopper was aware of the leaks, and they had been trying to figure out what to do with them.
Then, a minor earthquake happened. A week after, the tunnel was ruptured.
Marcopper blamed the earthquake for the damage, saying that the rupture was caused by an “act of nature.”
The incident saw 2 to 3 million tons of mine waste spilling into the Boac River.
It caused flash floods that buried villages. About a third or 20 out of 60 villages had to be evacuated with approximately 20,000 people affected.
As the agricultural and marine life got severely affected, the government declared Boac River dead. Nearby villages lost one of their major sources of livelihood.
Despite glaring damages and reports of sickness, Marcopper claimed that the spills were non-toxic.
Eventually, the company closed and the mining operations stopped.
La Viña, who is an environmentalist, told Rappler that he was tasked by then environment secretary Victor Ramos to lead the investigation and recommend immediate measures to address the effects of the disaster.
“We found out that they were negligent,” La Viña said. His team found the president and the managers guilty of “criminal negligence.”
Prior to the disaster, mining companies had a good relationship with government, La Viña said.
“The government and the mining companies were always seen in solidarity with each other. They didn’t blame each other. The government [usually] takes the fall,” La Viña explained.
This time, however, it was different as it was “the first time ever that the Philippine government had a different version from the mining company,” he added.
While Marcopper remained firm on their stand that it was an act of nature, the government believed that it was indeed their fault.
“Kasi bakit ninyo ginawang ganyan yung tunnel? At kahit na nagsimula nang mag-leak bakit hindi kayo [nagkaroon] ng sense of urgency (Why did you construct the tunnel that way? And when it started leaking, why didn’t you have a sense of urgency)?” La Viña asked.
Mining sites are supposed to be earthquake- and flood-proof, La Viña said. They found out that Marcopper did not spend enough money to make sure their mining site complied.
The indictment of two officials from Marcopper, as well as the intense scrutiny of the international community pressured Placer Dome, according to a 2002 case study published on Mining Watch Canada.
Weeks after the disaster, then Placer Dome CEO John Willson wrote to President Ramos committing the company to help those who were affected by the disaster.
"The residents of Marinduque who have suffered personal inconvenience or damage to their property as a result of the Marcopper event will be quickly and fairly compensated," Willson was quoted as saying.
While the mining company eventually recognized its responsibility to help those affected, La Viña did not mince words when asked if the government had its own shortcomings as well.
“Yes. Why did you approve a mining (operation) like that? It was so risky. Why did you approve the tunnel? We did approve the tunnel also, but the defense of our staff was, they thought they would plug completely,” he explained.
Monitoring of the mine at the time, could have also been increased. The budget of the government, however, was not enough, according to La Viña.
With the friendly relationship that the mining companies and the government had, the latter became complacent, he added.
“That’s why separation is important. That signaled to the industry that from now on, if something happens, we’re not allies,” La Viña said.
Impact on policies
The Marcopper mining disaster made a huge impact on the mining policies of the government.
For one, the Philippine Mining Act, which was enacted a year before the disaster, had to be stricter, contrary to its initial goal of liberalizing the mining industry in the country.
“So can you imagine, we were ready. Hundreds of companies came here. And then Marcopper happens, and I come in with the instructions of President Fidel Ramos – be strict with mining,” La Viña said.
Since the disaster, there was an increase in concerns regarding mining, prompting the government to revise rules of the Mining Act to focus more on the protection of the environment and address social issues surrounding it.
“During our time, we were not able to approve any single one because the mining companies were still adjusting, We were very strict,” La Viña said.
The stricter mining policies focused on setting standards that were at par with other countries like Australia.
They also made sure that after the disaster, there would be higher standards for rehabilitation, and stronger provisions on no-go areas. Mining companies now have to prove that they have enough money to deal with possible hazards. Consultations with the local government and indigenous people who may be affected were also deemed important.
Two decades after
The Philippines is the 5th most mineral-rich country in the world for gold, nickel, copper, and chromite, but its vulnerability to natural disasters that can adversely affect mining operations should now also be considered.
More than two decades after the disaster, there had been at least 5 more mining disasters, one of which was the Padcal incident in Benguet involving Philex Mining Corporation, considered the "biggest mining disaster in the Philippines" in terms of volume.
In 2012, one of its tailings ponds had a series of leakages due to heavy rains from the onslaught of Tropical Typhoons Ferdie (Vicente) and Gener (Saola).
Meanwhile, the affected villages still suffer from the effects of the Marcopper mining disaster. In 2016, the provincial government of Marinduque planned to pursue a multi-billion-dollar suit against the companies involved that was initially rejected by the Nevada State Supreme Court in the US, an Inquirer report said.
For La Viña, the safety of Filipinos should not be compromised for the sake of getting benefits – jobs, government revenue, development or investments – from the mining industry.
In a 2015 statement released by Ibon Foundation, it is said that large-scale mining, like Marcopper, have little, if not none, contribution to the economy.
"Some 98% of Philippine mineral production is exported for use by other countries’ steel industries while the country has none despite its being one of the world’s top producers of gold, copper and nickel," the statement said.
“If the risks are great, you should not allow mining. If the risks are less than the benefits, then you can allow mining – but make sure that mining companies set aside money to pay for the risks,” he explained. – Rappler.com
Duterte reappoints Philippine mining minister
17 April 2017
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has reappointed the environment minister who wants more than half of the country's mines shut, but the official said on Monday she was unsure if lawmakers would allow her to keep the job.
Lawmakers making up the powerful Commission on Appointments deferred a decision to confirm or reject the appointment of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez before Congress headed into a recess from March 18.
Lopez' decision in February to shut or suspend 26 of 41 operating mines to protect watersheds in the world's top nickel ore supplier has raised concerns of supply disruptions and boosted global nickel prices.
Lopez, who faces the panel again when Congress' session resumes in May, said last month she was worried because some panel members had relatives with links to the mining sector.
In the Philippines, confirmation hearings can take place long after ministers start work. Lopez has been in Duterte's cabinet for 10 months despite being bypassed by the appointments panel.
The panel again failed to reach a decision in March on her case, saying it needed more information.
If rejected by the panel, Lopez cannot be reappointed.
Asked about her chances of being confirmed, Lopez told local journalists on Monday: "I don't know. I'm not confident at all. Politics is very dirty."
Several mine operators have appealed against Lopez's closure and suspension orders and a second review of operations of the affected mines has been planned.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has defended a plan to scrutinise Lopez's closure orders, warning of potentially costly lawsuits by affected mining firms.
(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz, editing by David Evans)
Duterte: I agree with Lopez on 'mine-free' Philippines
19 April 2017
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday again expressed support for Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.
Lopez has been criticized by the mining sector for ordering the closure of several mines and suspending mineral sharing agreements.
Duterte, however, has not changed his mind about Lopez. He said, he was initially hesitant about this proposal, considering that the Philippines earns billions from the mining operations annually.
“Gina told me frankly that the Philippines has to be mine-free,” Duterte said in a speech at an event in Pasay City.
“But I agree with Gina.”
Duterte issued this statement just as Lopez butted heads with another official close to the president.
Lopez today criticized Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for suspending her order that mining firms pay 2 million pesos per hectare of disturbed land before they can be allowed to ship their nickel ore stockpiles.
Medialdea meanwhile said the Office of the President has not yet taken any legal position on the validity of Lopez's order. – with Reuters
Gina Lopez, Philippine Environment Secretary, Pursues Watershed Protection
by Keith Schneider
10 April 2017
There is really no puzzle why Gina Lopez is struggling to hold onto her job as the Philippine secretary of the environment. On her first day in the post last July she dispatched inspectors to see how faithfully the country’s 41 large hardrock mines, 27 of them nickel ore producers, adhered to national environmental law and regulation.
The Philippines is the world’s largest nickel ore producer and exporter. Global nickel ore prices soared on the news of Lopez’s order, in expectation that the country’s go-go industry would be shackled. Mining stocks plunged.
In August, with early findings in hand of rampant air and water quality violations, Lopez suspended operating permits for 10 mines, most of them nickel producers.
Lopez said her concern for Philippine watersheds, the “madness” of rapacious open pit mining, and the consequences to rural communities justified the audit campaign. “I want to make it clear I have no beef with the mining industry,” Lopez said at a news conference. “But I am vehemently against the adverse effects that may happen, that are happening in some of the situations.”
Lopez then took on coal miners and the coal-fired utility sector, which accounts for over 40 percent of the country’s electrical generating capacity. She called on her government colleagues to put coal-fired power aside and more aggressively pursue the 7,700 megawatts of renewable generating capacity that were proposed in a 2015 government plan.
“I’m going renewable because it’s for the Filipino people,” she said to reporters. “If they benefit, well, other people can also benefit. My thing to the businessmen, go renewable so you can also benefit.”
The Philippine Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi wasn’t so enthusiastic. “We cannot just discount coal,” Cusi fired back.
It is not at all clear, though, how much longer Lopez’s green crusade will survive. Nine months after she joined the Duterte government Lopez’s mine audit program certainly produced globally important results. With evidence of wanton disregard for safeguards to air and water, Lopez closed 28 mines. She also suspended 75 of the country’s 311 mining licenses.
One of the affected projects is the proposed $US 5.9 billion Tampakan copper and gold mine on the southern Island of Mindanao. Lopez’s orders mirrored similar recent directives to control mining pollution. In 2014, India’s National Green Tribunal, an environmental court, shut down the coal mining industry in Meghalaya, a northeastern state. And just last month, lawmakers in El Salvador banned gold mining.
Called Before Review Panel
In March, following months of protest from mining executives and other critics, her job security began to be weighed by a high-profile legislative group that reviews presidential cabinet appointments. After two days of questioning, the 25-member Commission on Appointments, which includes legislators backed by the mining industry, declined to approve Lopez as environment secretary.
Neither did the commission reject her position. Instead, it “bypassed” the Lopez decision until early May, when the panel meets again.
If the commission rejects her appointment President Duterte can formally reappoint Lopez. But the president, who until March had consistently backed Lopez, has not said what he will do. Media reports in Manila said the president is upset by news coverage of his administration by ABS-CBN, the television network owned by Lopez’s family. Ernesto Abella, a presidential spokesman told reporters that Duterte’s denunciations of ABS-CBN and his support of Lopez “are two separate matters.”
Not surprisingly critics and supporters weighed in. The Philippines Chamber of Mines, which filed a formal statement of opposition with the commission, wants Lopez removed from office. “Secretary Lopez is not qualified for the job,” said Ronald Recidoro, the group’s vice president for legal and policy, in a television interview.
The Catholic Church, Philippine environmental groups, and many rural village leaders across the country are campaigning in support of the environment secretary. “If the Commission on Appointments rejects Ms. Lopez, it is a clear indicator that current political leaders are not serious in carrying out needed and measurable reforms in environmental conservation,” said Vince Cinches, a political campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines, in an email message to Circle of Blue. “The rejection will symbolize how the dirty industries, especially the extractive industry that has been influencing Philippine political economy for a long time, is still as strong as ever.”
Age of Disruption
Near the end of its second decade one word has come to define the 21st century — disruption. Gina Lopez’s tenure as Philippine environment secretary demonstrates the point.
A Pacific island nation of 102 million residents, the Philippines is experiencing one of the fastest rates of economic growth in the world, due in large part to development of its forests, fisheries, and minerals. Large expanses of biologically diverse land and water are affected, as are hundreds of rural communities. Until the Duterte administration, the country’s development decisions focused on job growth and typically tilted to felling forests or opening mines.
Philippine authorities, seeing the country’s changing ecology, are now reconsidering their economic priorities. The island nation sits in the path of extreme weather events that are growing more numerous and deadly. Five of the 10 deadliest typhoons that struck the Philippines since 1947 have occurred since 2006, according to the Climate Reality Project. Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest, killed 6,300 people in 2013, forced 4 million residents from their homes, and caused $US 2 billion in damage.
Similarly dangerous climate conditions occur all across the world now. Storms, droughts, flooding, abnormal heat, and sea level rise are influencing harvests, energy markets, urban development, and human migration patterns. Truculent weather is a big factor in the market disarray and political instability that is overtaking nations on every continent.
National leaders are reacting with exceptionally aggressive steps. In the United States, President Donald Trump’s plan to achieve economic stability is to push hard to expand fossil fuel production and repeal protections for air and water. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, whose bloody pursuit of drug traffickers has attracted global attention, did the opposite.
Duterte turned out to be an ardent land and water conservationist. After decades of lackadaisical enforcement Duterte alerted the Philippine industrial sector that he would enforce existing environmental law. Duterte appointed Lopez, a respected 63-year-old foundation executive and environmentalist, as his environment secretary because he marveled at her knowledge and fearlessness. Duterte also embraced her view that watersheds and his nation’s prodigious ecological bounty are base resources that support the country’s 21st century economy.
“I can forego the 40 billion pesos ($US 800 million) I collect from you,” Duterte told mining executives last August in a news conference. “Filipinos will survive without you. Either you follow strict government standards or you close.”
Based on reporting and opinion in Philippine newspapers and on television news, public sentiment for Lopez to keep her job outweighs the opposition. More than 3,000 people demonstrated in Manila last month in support of the suddenly embattled environment secretary.
“Confirmation of the incumbent secretary is a matter of both urgency and continuity for environmental reforms,” said Greenpeace Philippines in a statement. “It’s one sign that the Duterte administration is actually committed to its promise of positive change over the greed of the few that has for many years ravaged the environment and the lives of the Filipino people.”
After raid, Philippine nickel miner asks Duterte to allow shipment
By Manolo Serapio Jr
9 April 2017
- Minister says miners must pay $40,000/ha to ship ore
- Miners appeal against "illegal" fee
- Philippines is world's top nickel ore supplier
MANILA - A suspended Philippine nickel miner has asked President Rodrigo Duterte to allow it to ship ore stockpiles after some cargoes were seized as tensions escalated over a required fee it claimed was illegal.
BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc has filed an urgent motion with Duterte's office to issue a cease and desist order against the environment ministry after its officers, along with agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), raided its operations on Thursday, halting the loading of nickel ore into two Chinese vessels, a company official told Reuters on Sunday.
Reuters reported last month that eight nickel miners, including BenguetCorp Nickel, were suspended for environmental breaches in a mining crackdown. However, miners in the world's top producer of the raw metal were allowed to remove previously mined ore that could pose environmental hazards.
But Environment Secretary Regina Lopez required the miners to put 2 million pesos ($40,175) per hectare of disturbed land into a trust fund "to further mitigate the adverse impacts of the mining operations to the environment and to the affected communities."
The environmentalist-turned-regulator has ordered the closure of more than half the Philippines' 41 mines to protect water resources, a move largely supported by Duterte.
BenguetCorp Nickel, a unit of Benguet Corp, the Philippines' oldest miner, said it secured permits in February to lift and ship stocked ore - about 1 million tonnes - from its mine in Zambales province, north of the capital Manila.
The company was loading 110,000 tonnes of ore into barges en route to the Chinese vessels when it was raided, executive director Isidro Alcantara said.
The miner sought Duterte's intervention to stop the environment ministry "from harassing, stopping and committing criminal acts against our operation," Alcantara said.
Duterte has yet to issue a decision on the motion filed on Friday.
Lopez said miners cannot haul ore unless they pay the required fund, adding she sought the help of NBI agents in confiscating the cargoes and in the subsequent inquest of the crew before the prosecutor's office.
"It's a policy directive. It cannot be stopped by simply questioning it in the Office of the President," Lopez said in a text message.
"We have to receive a stoppage order from the Office of the President or the court, else, we continue."
Affected miners believe the additional money isn't necessary since they have already set aside funds for rehabilitation.
BenguetCorp Nickel said the required trust fund, which it has appealed with Duterte, is "patently illegal" as there is no law that authorises the environment ministry to impose it.
Another suspended miner, Citinickel Mines and Development Corp, also filed an appeal with Duterte, saying the fee was not a valid requirement to secure an export permit until Lopez ordered the miners to comply with it this year.
Citinickel's "filing of the notice of appeal stays the execution of the assailed order," Duterte's Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said in a letter on the matter issued on March 3.
Citinickel President Caroline Tanchay confirmed that the company is able to ship out its ore stockpiles.
($1 = 49.7820 Philippine pesos)
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Additional reporting by Enrico dela Cruz)
Gina slams Medialdea over mining trust fund order
By Louise Maureen Simeon and Elizabeth Marcelo
20 April 2017
MANILA, Philippines - Environment Secretary Gina Lopez yesterday slammed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for “counteracting” her order for mining firms to set up a P2-million trust fund for farmers affected by destructive mining as precondition for the removal and export of their ore stockpiles.
Lopez said Medialdea is going against President Duterte’s thrust of helping the poor by allowing mining companies to remove their stockpiles from mine sites even without paying P2 million in compensation for affected farmers.
“Medialdea has given a directive to all the mining companies counteracting my order and I’m really not happy about this at all. He has gone against my order and I don’t know what he’s thinking,” Lopez said in a briefing yesterday. In a text message, Medialdea denied contradicting Duterte’s stand against destructive mining policies.
Lopez has issued a directive requiring each mining firm to open a trust fund account of P2 million for every hectare of exploited land before it would be allowed to remove stockpiles from mining areas and given export permits.
“Medialdea said that they (mining companies) can now remove the stockpiles. He is saying that mining companies can go ahead and take the stockpiles and there’s no need to put money for the farmers. Is that even fair?” she said.
“I just want to make sure that when the mine rehabilitation starts, farmers will have their own money. What will happen to the farmers out of the rehab area, who will take care of them? That’s my prerogative as DENR secretary and so why is he going against me?” Lopez added.
The environment chief, reappointed by the President after being bypassed by the Commission on Appointments, said that based on information gathered by her team, mining companies have started removing their ore stockpiles without giving any amount as a result of Medialdea’s order.
“Since I gave the order, my team can stop them (from exporting). But now that Medialdea has placed the order, I cannot do anything. He counteracted each and every order in all areas and I can’t do anything about it,” Lopez said.
Lopez added that she has already texted Special Assistant to the President Bong Go regarding the issue but the latter has not replied yet.
“My heart resonates with the President because he loves the people so I stand by it. But the Cabinet is made up of many people. I don’t want to fight but when I’m giving an order to stop and you’re going against me, then I will really fight,” she said. – With Mary Grace Padin, Alexis Romero
Lopez stands by decision on mining rehab fund
By Louise Maureen Simeon
The Philippine Star
8 April 2017
MANILA, Philippines - Environment Secretary Gina Lopez stands firm on her decision to require a P2-million rehabilitation fund from mining companies before they will be allowed to remove and export their ore stockpiles.
Lopez wants each mining firm to open a trust fund account of P2 million for every hectare of exploited land before it would be allowed to remove stockpiles from mining areas and given export permits.
“If they (mining companies) want to remove the stockpiles, they should comply. They have so much money,” Lopez told reporters in a chance interview yesterday.
“They are going to make billions of pesos with the stockpile, can’t they give P2 million for the farmlands? What’s wrong with that?” she added.
Mining stakeholders have been contesting Lopez’s decision, saying it has no legal basis.
They said her directive is contrary to the previously imposed implementing rules and regulations.
“Then question it. In the Mining Act, we should take care of the resources in a way that benefits the community. If somebody is doing mining and a lot of farmers are suffering, then that is what’s against the law,” Lopez insisted.
The new trust fund is separate from and on top of the existing rehabilitation trust fund set up by the government, as required under the Philippine Mining Act.
“They are going to make these money, they have a rehabilitation fund but that fund is not going to be able to take care of the farmers that are out of the rehabilitation areas. Who’s going to take care of them?” Lopez said.
“In my authority as DENR secretary, why can’t I say that you’re going to make billions, why don’t you put aside a certain amount of money for the farmers that have been disadvantaged because of your practices,” she added.
Lopez also denied allegations that she is abusing her power as environment chief by imposing additional payments on mining companies.
“You take care of the farmers, that’s what I’m asking for. Is there anything wrong with that? The money will not be for the DENR but for the farmers,” Lopez said.
The industry is already mulling legal cases against Lopez and the DENR over her order.
‘I lost my cool’
Lopez, meanwhile, admitted that she lost her cool after a recent encounter with a BusinessWorld reporter whom she called a “f**ing employee.”
“There’s no excuse for losing your cool and I lost my cool. But why out in the news? I’m not maligning anyone,” Lopez said.
The environment chief admitted she already had issues with the reporter even before the encounter on Thursday.
“Whenever she asks me questions, she’s already made up her mind. Even if I talk about social justice and concern for the poor, she had her mind set already,” Lopez said.
“I have issue with BusinessWorld. I was taped without my knowing, then they made it news. I feel that my privacy was violated,” she added. Lopez reiterated that the incident was not properly presented in the media.
“I feel the whole thing was blown out of proportion and what’s the agenda? To put a hole in my character,” Lopez said.
This was not the first time Lopez got involved in a heated argument with a reporter.
She earlier unleashed a tirade against a Manila Times reporter on live television after the reporter questioned her over the cancellation of mining contracts.
Philippines orders mine closures, suspensions in green campaign
24 March 2017
(Updates number and list of mines being closed, suspended.)
MANILA - The Philippines' environment ministry has tweaked the number of mines ordered closed and suspended under a crackdown meant to protect water resources in the world's top nickel ore supplier.
The number of mines ordered shut was reduced to 22 from 23 announced in February and the number of those ordered suspended was cut to four from five, according to an updated list on the ministry's website. No reason was given for the changes.
This suggests that 15 of the Southeast Asian nation's 41 mines passed the July-August audit last year.
Platinum Group Metals Corp, a unit of Philippine No. 2 nickel ore producer Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc, and TechIron Mineral Resources Inc were removed from the list of mines ordered shut.
Strong Built Mining Development Corp, earlier eyed for suspension, is now among those ordered closed.
Below is the updated list including the 2015 output of nickel ore producers.
FOR SUSPENSION 2015 NICKEL OUTPUT (kt)
Berong Nickel Corp 16
Oceanagold Phils. Inc.
Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp.
Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. 17
Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp.
BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Inc. 0
Eramen Minerals Inc. 6
Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. 0
LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc. 2
Mt Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corp.
Emir Minerals Corp.
AAMPHIL Natural Resources Exploration 1
H.Y. Mining Corp. 0
Oriental Synergy Mining Corp. 2
ADNAMA Mining Resources Corp.
Claver Mineral Development Corp. 0
CTP Construction and Mining Corp.
Carrascal Nickel Corp. 25
Marcventures Mining and Development Corp. 19
Hinatuan Mining Corp. 24
Wellex Mining Corp. 7
Libjo Mining Corp. 4
Oriental Vision Mining Philippines Corp. 7
Strong Built Mining Development Corp.
Sources: Philippines' Department of Environment and Natural Resources, UBS (Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Tom Hogue)
Closed, suspended mines in Zambales and Nueva Vizcaya still operating with impunity
Kalikasan PNE press release
02 March 2017
MAKATI CITY—Local mining-affected communities from the provinces of Zambales and Nueva Vizcaya stormed the central offices of large-scale mining companies that continue to defy the mine closure and suspension orders of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
“The closure and suspension of big mining companies remain standing and in force, but these notorious offenders are still operating with impunity. These corporations should be penalized for stonewalling against the government’s regulations and prolonging the suffering of affected communities,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
The Movement for the Protection of the Environment in Zambales (MOVE Now! Zambales) led the action outside the office of Benguet Corporation, one of four large-scale nickel mines closed down in the province. The alliance raised alarm over the imminent shipping out of raw ore stockpiles from the mine sites despite their supposed closed status.
According to Cristeta Sison, a peasant woman leader and spokesperson of MOVE Now! Zambales, said “the big mines are trying to justify their last-ditch effort to plunder their stockpiles by posing it as a supposed rehabilitation measure. They should be paying for the burgeoning damages that our farmlands and fisheries have sustained through the years and not get a single cent out of our mineral wealth anymore.”
“If anything, the government should confiscate these stockpiles and ensure that its value will be used for the restoration of our agricultural lands, rivers, and seas,” Sison declared.
Indigenous Ifugao under the Samahang Pang Karapatan ng Katutubong Magsasaka at Manggagawa (SAPAKKMMI) and the Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Inang Kalikasan (ANNVIK) from Nueva Vizcaya meanwhile led the protest at the office of Australian-Canadian transnational mining corporation OceanaGold to demand their compliance to the suspension of their operations of the gold-and-copper mine.
“OceanaGold should be reinvestigated for its continued defiance of the mining suspension order of the DENR and business-as-usual operations that continue to pollute our environment and displace our livelihood,” said Councilor Celia Bahag, a board member of SAPAKKMMI.
“Just recently, local state forces have heightened their harassment of our leaders to intimidate us from persisting with our opposition. This seems to be part of a recent wave of human rights violations against environment defenders to quell the resistance to environmentally destructive projects such as OceanaGold’s Didipio mine,” Bahag furthered.
Dulce said their groups are exploring actions to be taken to help uphold the DENR’s decision to suspend these mines, including possible legal or legislative interventions to help hasten the process.
“An important step forward is to hasten the passage of House Bill 2715 or the People’s Mining Bill. This will remove the various legal impediments that big miners like Benguet Corporation and OceanaGold are exploiting to continue plundering our mineralized lands,” ended Dulce.#
Reference: Leon Dulce, Kalikasan PNE campaign coordinator – 0917 562 6824
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 920 90 99 | E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | Site: www.kalikasan.net
Philippines' Duterte wants mining ban, links miners to destabilisation plot
By Manolo Serapio Jr and Enrico Dela Cruz
13 March 2017
MANILA - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday accused some miners of funding efforts to destabilise his government as he talked about a possible plan to impose a ban on mining given the environmental damage producers have caused.
Duterte, who has said the Southeast Asian nation can survive without mining, has backed a crackdown on miners by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez in the world's top supplier of nickel ore.
Duterte said he was looking at a total mining ban "and then we'll talk", referring to miners.
"When it comes to the preservation of my country, the land...I will do what is necessary," Duterte told a media briefing.
"I know that some of you are giving funding to the other side to destabilise me," he said, referring to companies in the mining sector he did not name. He did not say how his government was being destabilised, only that there could be efforts to make him "unpopular".
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, which groups many large-scale miners, said in a statement it was "unaware of any mining company that is supportive of any destabilisation efforts against the administration".
Duterte has supported Lopez's Feb. 2 order to shut 23 of the country's 41 mines to protect watersheds. She suspended another five for environmental infringements and also cancelled 75 contracts for undeveloped mines.
"You think you can live with it (environmental degradation) because of the 70 billion (pesos) or because they contributed to campaign funds? Not me," Duterte said, while showing pictures of the environmental harm mining has caused.
The mining sector contributes an estimated 70 billion Philippine pesos ($1.39 billion) a year in revenue.
Dante Bravo, president of Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc, the Philippines' No. 2 nickel ore miner, said he was surprised at Duterte's comments on his leadership.
"We're definitely not one of those who would fund such a destabilisation effort," Bravo told Reuters in a text message.
Bravo also said while Duterte is considering a mining ban, he believed the president "is a reasonable man and he'll follow what's in the law".
"The current law allows mining, so we'll have to take that as the existing regime which the president is mandated to enforce," said Bravo.
Miners have complained about Lopez's mine closure orders, saying they were baseless, did not follow due process and would affect 1.2 million people who depend on mining for their livelihood.
Lopez defended her decisions in Congress last week where lawmakers held a two-day hearing on her appointment. She said her orders were above board and were made to protect functions of watersheds.
Lawmakers will meet on Tuesday before they vote on whether to confirm or reject her appointment in June last year when Duterte took office. In the Philippines, confirmation hearings can take place long after ministers start work.
($1 = 50.2960 Philippine pesos)
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr. and Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Tom Hogue and Susan Thomas)
Destabilization fund? Mining group unaware
By Louise Maureen Simeon and Marvin Sy
15 March 2017
MANILA, Philippines — The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) is unaware of any mining company behind destabilization efforts against the administration, saying its members fully support President Duterte and “condemn” such moves.
“We… reaffirm our commitment to work with this administration, and to follow the law and the Constitution,” the chamber said.
However, the chamber warned the administration that it might have to face a $16-billion international arbitration case should stakeholders decide to sue the government for the cancellation of mining contracts. The $16 billion will cover compensation and damages for the mines ordered closed or suspended.
The industry reiterated that like the President, it is also committed to responsible mining and to ensuring that mining is done under the highest standards using the best technology available.
“Illegal mining is a scourge that must be eliminated and we are committed to help government achieve this objective in any way we can,” the chamber added.
The industry also slammed anti-mining advocates and non-government organizations for spreading misinformation, following the release of photographs shown by the President in Baguio City where he attended the Philippine Military Academy graduation rites on Sunday and during a press conference on Monday.
“The pictures given to the President show active mining areas and do not present a complete picture of responsible mining. Like any project still under construction, an active mine does not look green or pleasing to the eye. However, mining areas, once completed, are rehabilitated, planted with local species and made useable for agriculture or forestry, or preserved as an eco-tourism site,” the chamber said.
“We will happily enter into a dialogue with the President, together with the MICC, on the review of all mining operations and the possibility of amending some policies to better enhance mineral resources development in the country,” the industry added. MICC refers to the Mining Industry Coordinating Council.
Duterte alleged mining firms were funding the “opposite side” to destabilize him but maintained he would not bow to their pressure to reverse the decision of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.
An official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) refuted the claims of representatives of the mining industry that Lopez did not accord due process when she ordered the suspension and closure of several mines.
DENR undersecretary Maria Paz Luna branded as “baseless” the allegation of COMP, which filed a complaint against Lopez before the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday for having violated Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when she “skirted” due process at the expense of the mining firms.
The audits began in July 2016 and took eight months, Luna explained, noting the mining firms were given opportunity to respond to the findings of the DENR.
“The mining companies knew of these audits; they allowed these audits. After the audits were done by the teams, the DENR sent them the audit reports,” said Luna, who heads the department’s legal office.
“Arbitration cases may be filed by the mining companies as a result of the MPSA (mineral production sharing agreements) cancellations announced by Lopez. The government is a party to the agreement contracts in the development of the country’s mineral resources as provided in the Philippine Mining Act,” the chamber said.
Based on the Philippine Mining Act, contractors are entitled to the basic rights and guarantees provided in the Constitution and recognized by the government, including repatriation of investments, remittance of earnings, foreign loans and contracts, freedom from expropriation and requisition of investment.
A good number of the mines ordered closed or suspended have bilateral investment treaties (BIT).
The BIT asks host countries to provide certain protections for foreign investments, such as limiting expropriation of investments without due regard for international law standards.
Affected foreign investors, under the BIT, could claim prompt, adequate and effective compensation for their capital investments, liabilities, other investments and advances stemming from the arbitrary cancellation of the MPSAs.
Stakeholders earlier maintained that the current state of the industry might cost the government “several billion dollars” since contractors are entitled to investment guarantees.
The chamber said stakeholders would consider full reimbursement of mining contracts and not mere compensation.
Despite this, the industry remains optimistic that the planned review of the MICC will prevent arbitration cases from being filed.
To date, no mining company has filed an arbitration case against the government as the industry considers it a last resort.
Last month, Lopez announced her decision to cancel 75 MPSAs of mining operations within watershed areas after she ordered the closure and suspension of 28 mining firms.
An MPSA is an agreement wherein the government shares in the production of the contractor, whether in kind or in value, as owner of the minerals, and the contractor gets the rest. In return, the contractor provides the necessary financing, technology, management and personnel for the mining project.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told the Commission on Appointments (CA) yesterday the DENR failed to observe due process when it ordered the closure and suspension of 28 mining firms.
Dominguez was invited by Sen. Manny Pacquiao, chairman of the CA’s committee on environment and natural resources, to attend the meeting on Lopez’s fate. The committee was supposed to have a closed-door meeting on whether Lopez would be confirmed or rejected by the CA.
She has been deemed bypassed as her confirmation hearing was no longer scheduled for today, the last day of session before Congress goes on a break. Duterte will have to reappoint Lopez if he wants her to stay on as DENR chief.
Dominguez briefed Pacquiao’s committee on the review being done by the MICC, which he co-chairs with Lopez, on the mines’ closure and suspension.
Lopez was not around to face Dominguez since she is currently in the US on a retreat, which was questioned by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Loren Legarda.
Dominguez explained that the MICC has the mandate of reviewing and assessing all mining-related laws, rules and regulations, issuances and agreements, and to ensure the continuing dialogue and coordination among all stakeholders in the mining industry.
Last February, the MICC approved a resolution forming a multi-stakeholder committee that will review and advise the DENR on mining companies in the country.
Dominguez lamented that Lopez agreed to the review and even brought a lawyer with her, only to change her mind later. “I don’t know what to say,” the finance chief said.
During yesterday’s hearing, Dominguez, brother of Paul Dominguez, who is involved in the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato of Sagittarius Mines Inc., affirmed the claims made by the mining industry players and noted that the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Social Welfare and Development have all noted that they too were not consulted on the decision against mining firms.
“Quite frankly, my job is to make sure that deficiencies of others are covered,” Dominguez said.
“As also a responsible member of the Cabinet, I had to make sure that the potential liabilities of the government are covered. So if it takes us to do a proper due process so that the mines stay closed and we do not have any potential damage claims, I have to make sure that this is done. This is the job of the MICC,” he added.
Like the COMP, Dominguez warned that closing mining operations without due process could lead to the filing of cases against the government, which would cost “a heck of a lot of money” if these reach international arbitral tribunals.
“It’s my job to make sure that our expenses are for the benefit of the people and not for paying for somebody’s mistakes,” he said.
Asked by Drilon about the statements made by Duterte last Monday supporting the position of Lopez on the imposition of a mining ban, Dominguez said that he “can’t read the mind of the President.”
“I don’t know what he meant but there are procedures that must be followed,” Dominguez said, adding that he knows the President as a stickler for rules and procedures.
A number of the affected mining firms have filed their respective appeals to the order of Lopez before the Office of the President. Dominguez said that until the President signs the closure orders, the issue remains unresolved.
Dominguez stressed Lopez’s post “requires more than a crusader” as he noted the mining industry’s importance and contributions to the economy – providing raw materials for cellphones and cars, without which “we all go back to stone age.”
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano indicated Lopez may have been more “arbitrary” than strict.
In a presentation prepared for the CA, Finance undersecretary Bayani Agabin noted that the closure of the mining firms, if it pushes through, would cost the host local government units around P821 million annually.
Agabin said eight LGUs in particular stand to lose over 50 percent of their revenues if the mining firms are closed because they rely heavily on these operations to prop up the local economy.
In a press conference in Malacañang on Monday night with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte cited the need for a no-nonsense dialogue with the mining industry to address the urgent concerns raised by environment groups.
He had also said he was not totally anti-mining and cited Philex Mining Corp. for its responsible industry practices that could be emulated by other firms to help protect the environment.
He mentioned the rehabilitation work done by a Philex company in its gold mine in Sibutad, Zamboanga de Norte when it closed in 1999.
Philex’s final mine rehabilitation and/or decommissioning plan for Sibutad covered hundreds of hectares with over half a million trees of different species, even if only 38 hectares had been used for actual mining operations.
Duterte also cited Philex’s P1-billion rehabilitation and clean-up of Balog Creek following an accident in the firm’s operations in its Padcal Mine in Benguet in 2012.
“So I’d like to say thank you to these two companies. I do not know them but if you’re like them – there is denudation and you immediately reforest, then the Filipino people will be happy, especially if you plant trees. It takes about 30 years to grow a tree,” Duterte said.
He exhorted Filipinos to undertake massive tree planting as “our payback” to the environment.
Dominguez also cited Philex’s “excellent record” in dealing with accidents, referring to the Padcal mine.
No effects yet
Amid the hullabaloo, not a single mine has actually been closed, Danilo Uykieng, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) assistant director, told the House committee on good government.
“It’s business as usual for them. Nothing has changed. All of the 41 companies that have been audited are operating normally. They get the transport and export permits they need,” he said.
Former MGB director Leo Jasareno, a consultant of Lopez, informed the committee that based on the agency’s mining audit, the secretary had ordered the closure of 22 mines and the suspension of four others for various violations of laws.
“But all of these companies are operating because they have pending appeals with the department or Malacañang. Their decision to appeal temporarily stayed Secretary Lopez’s closure and suspension orders,” he said. – With Paolo Romero, Jess Diaz, Rhodina Villanueva
CA defers vote on Gina amid strong opposition
By Paolo Romero
The Philippine Star - http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/03/09/1679358/ca-defers-vote-gina-amid-strong-opposition
9 March 2017
DENR Secretary Gina Lopez takes her oath before the Commission on Appointments at the Senate yesterday. Philstar.com/File photo
MANILA, Philippines - Environment Secretary Gina Lopez continues to face strong opposition in the Commission on Appointments (CA) and is expected to be bypassed by the bicameral body next week.
But Lopez took her confirmation hearing at the Senate yesterday as an opportunity to confront lawmakers with mining interests.
Lopez was allowed to make a presentation before members of the CA committee on environment and natural resources led by Sen. Manny Pacquiao on her plans to address the concerns of the mining industry.
Last year, Lopez closed 23 mines and revoked 75 mineral production-sharing agreements.
Lopez showed various aerial photographs of mining sites in the country that she ordered closed for their reported destruction to the environment and livelihood of communities. They included mines owned by the family of San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, vice chairman of the CA, and Surigao Rep. Prospero Pichay.
As she showed a photo of a mining site on Nickel Asia Corp. in Hinatuan Island in Surigao del Norte, Lopez addressed Zamora, who was seated beside her: “Sorry, Mr. Chair, that’s your mine.”
When it was pointed out to her that it was his elder brother Manuel who owned the mine, Lopez corrected herself and said: “Sorry, Mr. Chair, that’s your brother’s mine. Tell your brother to behave, he totally killed the mountain.”
Zamora was seen fiddling with his smartphone while Lopez was annotating her presentation.
She, however, said some of the Zamora-owned mines were well run, including the Taganito mines in the same province.
Lopez also showed photos of closed mines reportedly owned by Pichay, who did not react during the hearing. “I took those pictures myself,” she said.
After the hearing, Zamora shrugged off Lopez’s comments even as he stressed he has no business interest in his brother’s mining company. The lawmaker was a member of the board of Nickel Asia until 2013.
“I don’t know what she meant that when you have a sibling, that would constitute business interest,” Zamora said, adding his younger brother also owns a mine but he also has no stake there.
“Very clearly she is passionate about her job. Whether she is qualified for that, that is something that the commission will be determining,” he said.
Lopez maintained she was merely implementing the relevant provisions of mining laws, including the Mining Act itself.
The policy she laid down at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is that no mining will be allowed in watersheds.
However, some CA members, including Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Franklin Drilon and Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Sato, pointed out the law seems to refer only to “critical watersheds.”
“Who defines what is a critical watershed?” Drilon asked.
Lopez presented a list of 143 critical watersheds as she countered that she is given leeway to determine whether a particular watershed was being destroyed by a mining project.
Carlo Arcilla, an objector to Lopez’s appointment, pointed out she had been loosely using the term watersheds and open pit mining.
Arcilla alleged that a Lopez-owned firm operated an open pit mine in Batangas. She countered the firm no longer operates and was not issued a permit by the DENR.
The confirmation hearing was suspended after only two were able to express their opposition. Lopez has a total of 23 “oppositors,” Pacquiao noted.
“It looks that way,” Pacquiao told reporters when he was asked if Lopez would be bypassed.
An appointee is deemed bypassed if Congress, therefore including the CA, goes on a break without being able to decide on the appointment.
Congress will go on recess on March 17.
The CA on Tuesday approved its new rules including its “three-strike” policy where the body will force itself to decide or vote on the fitness of an appointee if he or she is bypassed three times.
The hearings on Lopez’s appointment will continue today. If bypassed next week, it will be the third for her.
‘Brash’ move but long-awaited
Mary Louise G. Dumas
Inquirer Opinion - http://opinion.inquirer.net/101982/brash-move-long-awaited
27 February 2017
Funny how the tide can change. Now that mining companies are on the defensive, they demand “due process.” After Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered the closure of at least 23 mines and the cancellation of 75 mining contracts, they now ask to see the “audit report” which they say they didn’t see before being told of their company’s fate, giving them no opportunity to defend their side.
Tough luck. For generations, due process has been what communities affected by their operations have been deprived of.
Last year, Undersecretary Mario Luis Jacinto of the environment department, himself a veteran official of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, pointed out that ethical mining involves free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of mining-affected communities. However, securing an FPIC through atrocities has become almost synonymous with mining in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao.
Arnold Alamon, in his study on the marginalization of lumad, traced the roots of violence against the Banwaon of Agusan del Sur (which eventually led to the killing of one of their leaders, Necasio Precioso, in December 2014, and the evacuation and search for sanctuary by several families the following month) to: “the entry of three mining companies (Malampay, Makilala, and Tambuli) in the area which precipitated the supposed clearing operations of the military in the area.”
While mining companies wash their hands of any involvement in human rights abuse, it can be said they provide local leaders, private and state-backed militias and other unscrupulous elements the motivation to remove any resistance on the ground.
A study on mining noted that before the World Bank’s push for the liberalization of economies in the 1970s, mining in a number of countries was state-owned. This allowed the countries to develop domestic industries. Eventually, Third World countries were convinced that state-owned enterprises were costly and inefficient, and the best way to solve the economic crisis in the 1980s was to privatize industries and let the market stabilize the situation. The Philippines was among the first to liberalize its mining industry with the passage of the Mining Act of 1995.
It also pointed out: “The Mining Act was designed to serve an export-oriented mining industry where the minerals are taken out of the soil and the waters and exported in their raw or semiprocessed form. It reflects the national government’s lack of interest in building national industries using the country’s rich mineral resources, and instead allowing few large corporations and foreign markets to benefit.”
The government’s desire to attract foreign investments also resulted in antipeople internal security plans over the years. At the core of every military initiative is the protection of investments. In rural Mindanao, this translated into attacks on communities protesting the intrusion of companies into their lands.
Economic experts now point to loss of government income due to the mining closure. But to the affected communities, it is income at their expense—income that has caused their displacement and kin’s deaths. Secretary Lopez’s move may seem brash, but it has long been awaited.
Mining is necessary, but there are ways that it can be ethical, propeople, and sustainable.
MARY LOUISE G. DUMAS, executive director, Mindanao Interfaith Institute on Lumad Studies, advocacy officer, RMP-NMR Inc.
#SupportGina: DENR unionists, environmental activists unite to support Gina Lopez’s big mining campaign
Kalikasan PNE press releaase
24 February 2017
QUEZON CITY—Around 100 environmental activists under the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) and members of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Employees Union (DENR-EU) held a joint action at the DENR Central Office to express their support for Environment Secretary Gina Lopez’s crackdown on erring large-scale mines.
“We oppose the moves of big mining lobbyists to sabotage Sec. Lopez’s closure and suspension of 28 large-scale mines by blocking her confirmation. Where is the due process long denied from farmers and fisher folk suffering from displacement and environmental destruction if you sabotage the public servant who finally heeds their calls?,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
The environment group said the decision of Sec. Lopez to close down large-scale mining operations can be scientifically corroborated, noting that some of these closed or suspended mines were subjected to rapid independent scientific investigations by their network’s experts and were found to have caused adverse environmental and socio-economic impacts years prior to the audit.
The Didipio mine of Australian-Canadian mining transnational corporation OceanaGold, a large-scale mine suspended by Sec. Lopez’s mining audit, was found in a 2014 environmental investigation mission (EIM) to have caused massive water pollution in the river systems that flowed through the mine site.
Sediment samples gathered had copper concentrations that were 6.5 to 7.4 times greater than the severe-effect level for riverbed organisms. Water samples, meanwhile, had copper concentrations two times over safety levels for irrigation use and eight times greater than the maximum level for the survival of organisms.
A 2015 EIM in Zambales, meanwhile, a flood mapping revealed that five out of six observed river systems were main sources of massive flooding for the municipality of Sta. Cruz, including three that were directly affected by massive siltation from the four big mines up for closure.
“The mining audit actually establishes a pattern of impunity by big mines since it found big mining operations still violating environmental and social standards years after our independent scientific investigations found them guilty of environmental pollution and community displacement,” explained Bautista.
The groups also said majority of the closed and suspended mines were in areas where anti-mining activists and communities have been subjected to extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations (HRVs). At least 20 of the mines are in areas where activists and communities were harassed, intimidated, slapped with harassment lawsuits, subjected to militarization, and other HRVs. Six companies are associated with killings of environment defenders. A total of 85 killings involving anti-mining activists and community members have been monitored by Kalikasan PNE since 2001.
“The killings, militarization and other human rights violations in mining-affected areas should also be a strong basis for suspension and closure of big mines,” Bautista added.
The groups said the closure and suspension of large-scale mines should be upheld and followed through with further scientific investigation into these mines’ long-term impacts.
“The DENR should uphold the closure and suspension of these mines and take bolder steps to hold these mines accountable. They should cooperate with social movements and the academe to study the far-reaching effects of these mines to the people’s livelihood, health, and environment. This would be the basis of the damages that companies must compensate to the people and the environment,” said Bautista.
“The audit results also fully demonstrated the many gaping holes in our mining policy that is being abused by the big mining companies to sabotage their closure and suspension. Sec. Lopez should work with progressive legislators in Congress to push for a new mining policy that ensures a policy of national industrialization, environment safety, and respect of people’s rights in the mining industry,” ended Bautista.#
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 920 90 99 | E-mail: email@example.com | Site: www.kalikasan.net
Cordillera IP group backs Lopez on mining
By Artemio A. Dumlao
23 February 2017
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — An indigenous people's group opposed to large-scale mining has thrown its support behind Environment Secretary Gina Lopez for deciding to close and suspend some mining companies.
“No [Department of the Environment and Natural Resources] secretary has ever done this before—to make a decision for social justice for all communities who have been demanding for a stop to the operations of mining companies that have historically violated indigenous peoples’ rights, destroyed and plundered ancestral lands and the natural resources therein, said Igorot leader Abigail Anongos, secretary general of the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA).
Anongos said they are supporting Lopez in cancelling 75 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements in watershed areas, five of which are located in the Cordillera region.
“In fact, mining companies should not be allowed to operate in the Cordillera because the Cordillera is the watershed area of the entire Northern Luzon,” she said.
The CPA is also hoping that DENR will also recommend that instead of just a suspension, Lepanto Mining should actually be included to the list of 23 mining companies for closure.
Anongos said that “80 years of Lepanto’s operations have polluted and silted the Abra River and destroyed people’s agriculture. Lepanto’s operations brought in militarization, resulting to many human rights violations to the people of Mankayan.”
Also, Anongos added, “in addition to its envienmental crimes, Philex Mining should in fact be included in the list of those up for closure.” Three years ago, Philex’s tailings pond 3 collapsed and dumped 50,000 tons of tailings into the river, making it the worst mining disaster in the country in recent history.
The DENR, Anongos urged, must now also work for the rehabilitation and compensation of mining-affected indigenous communities.
Lopez faces confirmation hearings at the congressional Commission on Appointments for her post as Environment secretary.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has filed an official opposition to her confirmation, sayign she has "an undeniable bias against and antagonism towards large-scale mining, rendering her unfit and incapable of a responsible, fair, just and balanced implementation of the Constitution, the Philippine Mining Act and related laws and regulations, and of upholding personal interest and advocacies over public interest."
Philippine minister says Duterte agrees with mining ban in watershed areas
By Neil Jerome Morales
23 February 2017
MANILA - The Philippines' environment minister on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte had backed her decision to ban mining in watershed areas at a meeting earlier this week, winning his support once more for her crackdown on the sector.
Duterte who warned last year that the Southeast Asian nation could survive without a mining sector had supported Lopez's decision this month to shut over half the country's mines. But he later did not rule out reviewing her order amid the potential revenue losses from mining.
"He said: 'I agree with you. Don't worry, you are my cabinet secretary and I also believe that there should be no mining in watersheds'," Regina Lopez told a media briefing, recalling her meeting with Duterte on Monday.
Lopez on Feb. 2 ordered the closure of 23 of 41 mines in the world's top nickel ore supplier for environmental violations, saying many of them were in watershed zones that threaten water supply and quality. Another five mines were suspended.
She also ordered the cancellation of 75 mining contracts, or nearly a third of mineral production sharing agreements for mines that have yet to go into production, for being located in watershed areas.
She reiterated her stance on Thursday, saying she would not allow mining at the expense of the environment and people who depend on seas and farms for their livelihood. Lopez also repeated that her decisions were above board.
"Every step of the way, I followed due process," she said.
The recent moves by Lopez, a staunch environmentalist long before she joined Duterte's cabinet last June, have angered domestic miners many of whom have appealed their case with the president.
Miners that have filed appeals with Duterte can continue operating unless he rules otherwise.
A mining industry group has said the mining closures and suspensions would affect 1.2 million people.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines last week sought to block Lopez's appointment, saying her recent moves showed an "undeniable bias" against the sector. Lopez is among a few cabinet members who have yet to be confirmed by Congress and her next confirmation hearing is on March 1.
Amid the uproar, a government inter-agency panel will have its own review of the 28 affected mines that will begin in March and will take three months.
The Mining Industry Coordinating Council will engage experts from state universities and other independent professionals for the review.
The council will submit its recommendations to Duterte who will make the final decision on the environment agency's closure and suspension orders, Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said in a statement on Thursday.
Still largely underexplored, the Philippines' mining sector contributes less than 1 percent to the overall economy, with only 3 percent of 9 million hectares identified by the state as having high mineral reserves being mined, according to government data.
For a graphic on Philippine mine closures, click here
(Writing and additional reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Joseph Radford)
DENR begins consultation with communities affected by mine audit
24 February 2017
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has embarked on a comprehensive consultation and engagement with communities affected by the mining audit recently conducted by the agency. The consultation kicks off in the Caraga region, where majority of mining operations ordered closed by the DENR are located.
In a special order she signed on February 20, DENR Secretary Gina Lopez authorized the conduct of simultaneous community consultation and engagement in the provinces of Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur on February 20-24.
Lopez said the exercise was meant to assist the communities and households affected by the mining audit, “particularly ensuring that they will be able to transition well from being mining workers or mining communities to an empowered social entrepreneur or a vibrant community enterprise, impelled by the principles of ecosystems integrity and social justice.”
Lopez tasked Forest Management Bureau (FMB) Director Ricardo Calderon to head the DENR team that will conduct the consultation. Calderon will be assisted by DENR Caraga acting regional director Charlie Fabre and Director Nonito Tamayo.
Other members of the consultation team are personnel from the DENR central office, FMB, DENR-Caraga and consultants.
The team will be supervised by DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations Philip Camara and Assistant Secretary for Field Operations-Mindanao Marcial Amaro Jr.
The output of the community consultation and engagement will be presented during the plenary session with Cabinet officials and representatives of affected communities on February 25-26 in Butuan City.
On February 2, Lopez ordered the closure of 23 mining operations and suspension of five others found to have committed serious environmental violations. Fifteen of these mine operations are in the Caraga region.
Just last week, Lopez announced her plan to cancel 75 mineral production sharing agreements or MPSAs for mine sites within or near watershed areas.
Billions of Dollars in Litigation Awaits Philippines Mine Closures
By Jose Rodriguez T. Señase
23 February 2017
The Philippine government faces decades-long litigation costing billions of dollars in legal fees and compensation if it pushes through with its planned mine closures, jeopardising foreign investment due to the apparent abandonment of due process and the rule of law. At least so says the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (Comp).
Two weeks ago against a backdrop of Michael Jackson’s hit song “Heal the World,” Philippine Environment Minister Gina Lopez unveiled a video titled “Heal the Hurt” as she announced the suspension of 23 mining operators throughout the archipelago. A further five were suspended. Ms Lopez later unveiled plans to cancel 75 of 311 mining contracts in the Philippines.
The cancellations came in the wake of a nationwide mining audit covering all 41 large-scale mines in the Philippines, with Ms Lopez earlier saying that she would close mining companies that fail the audit (See: Philippine Mining Sector: Polluting Mines to be Closed).
While environmentalists have lauded Ms Lopez for her resolute stand on mining, mining companies and their allies have expressed horror and questioned the legality of Ms Lopez’s closure and suspension order.
In a statement the Comp, an organisation whose role is to advance the interests of mining, quarrying and mineral processing companies, said that Ms Lopez violated due process and did not give proper notice by consistently refusing to release the results of the audit to affected parties.
While the involved mining companies have for now refrained from questioning the closure and suspension order in the courts pending an appeal to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, there is no question that’s where they will go should their appeals be rejected.
Speaking with CNN Philippines Mick Wilkes, president and ceo of Australia-based OceanaGold Corporation, questioned the legality of the mine closures and expressed optimism that they can overturn the Order based on strong legal grounds.
However, Mr Duterte is flip-flopping on the issue; one day saying he supports the closure order and then changing his mind the following day.
That the courts are the likely end point is becoming increasingly certain, with a top Comp official saying Ms Lopez will be wasting billions of dollars of public money in fighting lawsuits if she will not give in or compromise on the mine closures.
The Philippine judicial system does not have a reputation for being the fastest legal system in the world and is susceptible to delaying tactics. Cases involving wealthy and powerful people often languish in the courts for several decades before being resolved. That 75 mining law suits could still be going through appeals well into the next administration is not difficult to imagine, along with the contingency liability for any damages the courts might award.
Of the 23 mines slated for closure 19 are nickel producers, accounting for half of the nickel output by the Philippines, which is the world’s number one supplier of the metal. Well-known nickel producers affected by the Philippines mine closure orders include Hinatuan Mining Corporation and BenguetCorp Nickel Mines, Inc.
With Indonesia’s recent flip-flop on the export of raw ore (See: Philippines & Indonesia Combine to Cause Nickel Industry Concern) coupled with the bans proposed by Ms Lopez and there is little doubt that the title of world’s largest nickel supplier will rapidly return to Indonesia.
According to a Reuters report a team that reviewed that audit only recommended that the erring mining companies be suspended and ordered to pay fines for violations. Ms Lopez reportedly overrode the team’s recommendation, asserting that the violations warrant the extremest punishment and that many of the mines are located in ‘watersheds’.
According to Ronald Recidoro, Comp vice president for legal and policy affairs, the mine closures risked “sending signals to the market – and to mining investors in particular – that they are not welcome here”.
The Comp also claims that the mine closures will affect the economy and livelihood of many people, especially in the areas where the mining sites are located. Some 1.2 million workers will lose their livelihoods it says, with the communities on Dinagat Islands and Surigao del Norte and Surigao de Sur provinces where 14 mine closures are slated set to be among the hardest hit.
In addition, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez estimates that local government units (LGUs) will lose some P650 million (about US$12.946 million) annually because of the mine closures. Of this some P441.92 million (US$8.8 million) was generated by taxes, fees, and other charges that LGUs levy on mining companies, with the balance coming from the LGUs share of mining taxes collected by the national government.
Ms Lopez is unmoved by their arguments. “We have been mining this country for more than 100 years, what do we have to show (for it)? All the areas we have mining are the poorest,” she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“The Philippines is the world’s fifth most mineralised country in the world and is the planet’s top nickel producer, but firms take 82 per cent of the profits, and nearly all the money goes out of the local economy,” she added.
In place of the mines Ms Lopez is proposing the creation of “green jobs” for people who will be out of work because of the mine closures and suspensions. The “green jobs” proposal is part of the planned rehabilitation that the Department of Environment and natural Resources (DENR) will spearhead in the mining-affected areas of the country, she says.
Citing the eco-tourism project she initiated at Ugong Rock in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Ms Lopez also called on governments to look at other industries aside from mining to create jobs for locals.
Philippine minister stands by call to shut mines as review begins
By Manolo Serapio Jr
20 February 2017
MANILA - The Philippines' environment minister said on Monday she stands by her decision to shut more than half the country's operating mines and bar mining in watershed zones as an inter-agency panel began a review of her actions.
Members of the government's Mining Industry Coordinating Council will scrutinize the affected mines to ensure due process was followed and consider the impact on jobs and the economy after an outcry by the mining industry in the world's top nickel ore supplier. The review could take three months.
The council cannot overturn her orders, but its findings could feed into a decision by President Rodrigo Duterte, who has said he will review the planned closures after initially throwing his support behind his environment minister.
"My stand on no mining in watersheds is staunch," Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez told Reuters by phone. "It's madness to do any kind of extractive industry in areas which are the source of the water supply of the island."
Lopez on Feb. 2 ordered the closure of 23 of the Southeast Asian nation's 41 mines and suspended five others for environmental violations including harming watershed areas and causing siltation in coastal waters.
The decision angered domestic miners which said they would contest the move. A mining industry group has said the closure or suspension of 28 mines would affect 1.2 million people who depend on the sector for their livelihood.
She also ordered the cancellation of 75 mining contracts, or nearly a third of mineral production sharing agreements for mines that have yet to go into production, for being located in watershed zones.
Lopez, who is a committed environmentalist, co-chairs the Mining Industry Coordinating Council with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.
Senior members of the mining council met on Monday to discuss the review and to assess all aspects of affected mine operations, Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said.
"It will be investigative and done in a scientific manner. And we determined that we will probably need experts to look at the technical, economic, social aspects of the mine operations," Agabin told reporters. The experts would not come from mining firms, but would likely be academics, he said.
"Even if a contract has been made, the (Environment and Natural Resources) secretary is in full authority to review contracts and make decisions based on the common good," Lopez said.
"The priorities I am legally mandated to comply with are in many laws."
Duterte has previously criticized the environmental damage from mining and said last August that the country could survive without a mining industry.
Still largely unexplored, the Philippines' mining sector contributes less than 1 percent to the overall economy, with only 3 percent of 9 million hectares identified by the state as having high mineral reserves being mined, according to government data.
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Additional reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Richard Pullin and Jane Merriman)
‘Eco-tourism an alternative to mining’
By Rhodina Villanueva
The Philippine Star - http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/02/22/1674651/eco-tourism-alternative-mining
22 February 2017
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to develop mined-out areas into eco-tourism zones that would help rehabilitate the mining sites and provide livelihood to affected communities.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said they are now looking at areas that have big potential for becoming eco-tourism sites, consulting with community members on the transition.
“In fact, we already identified 13 towns in Dinagat and Surigao that can be developed as such. We call this ‘mine sites revegetation’,” Lopez said during a discussion with The STAR editors and reporters yesterday.
DENR Undersecretary Philip Camara said the area would be treated as one eco-tourism site, just like what is being done in Palawan, which has many tourist destinations.1
He said it is more beneficial to divert the sites’ orientation because eco-tourism gives better quality jobs.
This way, he added, 95 percent of the income will go to the affected communities as opposed to the mining business where the bulk of profits goes to investors.
“And then it flows into health and wellness products because of the biodiversity in the areas. This is a process of mitigating the impact of the decisions the government or the DENR is making,” he added.
Aside from community discussions, the department is now consulting scientists on what can be harvested from a rainforest.
“Rehabilitation or re-vegetation stimulates a green economy. For every 100 hectares, it will create 1,000 livelihoods. For example, we can have agriculture wastes converted into biochar as one form of livelihood,” Camara said.
The DENR, he added, is now talking with the Departments of Labor and Employment and of Social Welfare and Development to provide jobs or livelihood incentives, like an emergency employment program, for those affected by the order to close some mining firms in the country.
Lopez said the DENR can also help mining firms in using the Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) fund so it would benefit more people, adding that some communities were able to make a P1-million capital grow to P30 million in just one year.
Lopez stressed that she doesn’t just issue closure orders for erring mining firms, but also looks at plans to invest in the area and help residents become productive.
The DENR earlier ordered the closure of 23 mining companies and the suspension of five others. At least 13 mining firms passed the audit.
Lopez said the affected firms could still appeal the decision before the Office of the President. – With Louise Maureen Simeon, Catherine Talavera
Mining firms: Lopez has no power to declare an area is a watershed
By Ronnel W. Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer - http://business.inquirer.net/224866/mining-firms-lopez-no-power-declare-area-watershed
20 February 2017
Mining activities are disallowed only in watersheds that are by law declared “critical,” and only the President has that power, according to the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP).
The COMP was refuting statements of Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, who earlier ordered the closure of at least 15 mines and the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA). Lopez claimed the areas involved were in watershed areas.
Lopez had said all open-pit mining operations in the Philippines were being done in a watershed, which “should never be allowed.”
She added there should be no more mining not just in legally proclaimed watersheds, but even in “functional” watersheds.
“The environment secretary has no power to proclaim that an area is a watershed,” COMP vice president Ronald Recidoro said in an interview.
Citing the Revised Forestry Code or Presidential Decree No. 705 issued in 1975, Recidoro said section 18 stated that the President may establish forest reserves that are for preservation as critical watersheds or for any other purpose. The President can also modify the boundaries of existing forest reserves.
PD 705 defines a watershed as “a land area drained by a stream or fixed body of water and its tributaries having a common outlet for surface runoff.”
Further, the law defines “critical watershed” as a drainage area of a river system which supports existing and proposed hydro-electric power, irrigation works or domestic water facilities that need immediate protection or rehabilitation.
The River Basin Control Office, which is under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, lists 142 critical watersheds across the country.
“These are what the law says and there is nothing about ‘functional watershed,’” Recidoro said. “If (Lopez) can make her own definitions, then even her home stands in a watershed.”
The dictionary refers to a watershed as the region or area drained by a river, stream, and other bodies of water. Terms used interchangeably with watershed include “drainage basin” or “catchment.”
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), watersheds “can be as small as a footprint or large enough to encompass all the land that drains water into rivers that drain into Chesapeake Bay, where it enters the Atlantic Ocean,” referring to a big chunk of the US East Coast.
“If you are standing on ground right now, just look down. You’re standing, and everyone is standing, in a watershed,” the USGS said in its website.
In 2009, then President Gloria Arroyo issued Presidential Proclamation No. 1747, which identified a total of 43,601 hectares in Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Norte as critical watershed forest reserves.
The proclaimed watershed areas overlap sites in the towns of Carrascal, Cantilan and Madrid towns in Surigao del Sur, where Marcventures Mining and Development Corp. (MMDC) operates a nickel mine. MMDC brought the mine into commercial operation based on an MPSA issued in 1993.
Recidoro said MMDC had been allowed to continue mining operations even with PP 1747 because the proclamation recognizes prior rights.
Lopez unfazed by possible graft raps
By Louise Maureen Simeon
The Philippine Star - http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/02/20/1674035/lopez-unfazed-possible-graft-raps
20 February 2017
MANILA, Philippines - Environment Secretary Gina Lopez is unfazed by possible graft charges that mining firms may file against her.
Lopez stood firm on her decision to close down 28 operations and cancel 75 mining contracts.
“I have followed the law at every step of the way. I am backed up by the Constitution and law and everything I have done is within my powers as DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) secretary,” Lopez told The STAR.
Lopez was responding to claims of the mining industry that she is violating the Revised Administrative Code of 1987 of the Civil Service Commission, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Industry sources bared majority of the affected mining companies are planning to file graft cases against Lopez for lack of due process in her orders to close down the operations of several mining firms.
Lopez refused to address the possible graft charges, saying it might hamper her scheduled confirmation by the Commission on Appointments (CA).
“I don’t do things to get confirmation. I do things because it’s the right thing to do. I just let the dice fall where they may,” Lopez said.
“We simply cannot and must not mine our watersheds. We have a severe water shortage coming because of climate change,” she added.
Lopez has failed to get the nod of the CA and was just reappointed by President Duterte as DENR chief.
Her confirmation was originally slated last Feb.15 but she requested to have it rescheduled to March 1.
In a separate interview over the weekend, Ronald Recidoro, legal and policy vice president of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), maintained companies that will choose to file cases against Lopez have the right to do so as stated in their contracts.
“We insist on due process. We feel that her announcements failed to comply with due process. She cancelled and suspended operations without giving firms the opportunity to rebut the finding against them or remediate the alleged violations,” Recidoro said.
Stakeholders also urged the government to put in motion Resolution No. 6 of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) to form a multi-stakeholder committee that will review and advise the DENR on the operations of mining companies in the country.
“While we are grateful (for the resolution), we are also confused because Lopez seems to have other ideas,” Recidoro said.
“We’d really like to see some clarity on the multi-stakeholder review, who’s going to head and what would be the objectives,” he added.
The MICC resolution states that the review shall be based on the guidelines and parameters set forth in the specific mining contract and other pertinent laws, taking into account the valid exercise of the state’s police power to serve the common good.
The MICC will have its organizational meeting today that will include relevant government agencies and other institutions.
Investors and labor worries
While international and local business communities have expressed uncertainties towards the current investment environment in the country, Lopez maintained that investors who put premium on local communities and the environment are the only ones welcome.
Some investors are now worried about putting money into business ventures, as they might lose their investments overnight due to the recent pronouncements of Lopez.
Lopez, however, assured foreign investors that they should not be worried if their businesses do not cause environmental degradation and suffering in areas in which they operate.
Lopez clarified that she is not against mining ventures as long as they do not cause damage to the watersheds and the local communities.
“If they invest and rape the country, I prefer that they go away. We want investments that will help us, like investments in our biodiversity, investments which will pay our people well. We welcome investments in areas where they can make money, but they are helping everybody else improve also,” she said.
About $22 billion worth of mining investments in the pipeline were supposed to be developed since 2013 but are now on hold.
No mass displacement
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), on the other hand, said there will be no massive displacement of workers in the mining industry.
Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod, however, noted closures of mining companies might affect over 20,000 mining workers in the Caraga Region.
“There is no suspension yet, but based on our data, about 20,589 mining workers may possibly be affected with the closure of 13 mining firms,” Maglunsod said.
Of these workers likely to be affected, Maglunsod said half or about 10,974 are direct-hires while the rest are under contract or sub-contract employment.
“There is off-season in the mining industry because of the weather. Operations of mining companies slow down when the weather is bad,” Maglunsod pointed out.
He further noted that one of the companies listed for closure, Claver Mineral Development Corp., closed down in 2015.
DOLE has yet to undertake a study on the possible impact of mining firms’ closures on employment.
Maglunsod said he personally supports the decision of Lopez to close down mining firms because of the negative impact on the environment.
“Mining can be very destructive to our environment aside from violations on health safety standards,” he said.
Maglunsod said the DOLE regional offices where there are mining companies are preparing package of assistance for mining workers who would be displaced.
Assistance will be given to affected mining workers through the DOLE’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers Program (TUPAD).
Those to be hired under TUPAD will be paid with the regional minimum wage and will be working for a minimum of 15 days and maximum of 30 days.
DOLE will also extend training for workers wanting to upgrade their skills with the help of the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA). – Mayen Jaymalin, Elizabeth Marcelo
Philippines' Duterte says cancellation of mining contracts based on law
By Manolo Serapio Jr
15 February 2017
MANILA - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday supported his environment minister's decision to cancel nearly a third of contracts for undeveloped mines, saying it was based on law.
Duterte has backed Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez's tough stance against miners she says have damaged the environment, warning shortly after taking office in June that the country can survive without a mining sector.
Lopez on Tuesday ordered the rescission of 75 mineral production sharing agreements, or MPSAs, because they are located in watershed zones and developing them would threaten water supply and quality in those areas.
That came less than two weeks after she ordered the closure or suspension of 28 of the country's 41 mines for damaging watersheds and for siltation of coastal waters and farmlands.
The Philippines is the world's top nickel ore supplier and the shuttered mines would account for about half the country's output.
Duterte also backed that action, which the industry has said will affect 1.2 million people.
The cancellation of the 75 agreements is consistent with Philippine laws "that mining applications are closed to proclaimed watershed forest reserves," Duterte spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
But Abella said Lopez's agency should "establish that it has gone through due process before enforcing the applicable laws, rules, or regulations."
One of the mining contracts Lopez canceled is the $1.2 billion Silangan copper-gold project of Philex Mining Corp, among the country's biggest miners, in the southern Philippines.
Philex told the Philippine Stock Exchange in a filing on Wednesday that "none of the areas covered by the Silangan Mining MPSA is located in a proclaimed watershed forest reserve where mining is prohibited."
The company said "Silangan Mining is, therefore, confident that its MPSA is valid and can withstand any legal challenge."
Australian miner OceanaGold Corp, which runs the Philippines' biggest gold mine and was earlier ordered suspended, said it has filed an appeal with Duterte's office "which, in accordance with the rules and regulations, stays the execution of the suspension order."
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)
Suicide, lost jobs after Philippine mine closures, but some relieved
By Manolo Serapio Jr
15 February 2017
SANTA CRUZ, Philippines - His brother kept telling him that the mine would reopen and he would be hired again: but when Winston Ordonez didn't get a call from a mining firm, he took a laptop charger cable, tied it around his neck and hanged himself in his kitchen.
Ordonez worked at the nickel mine operated by Eramen Minerals Inc near Santa Cruz, a town in the mountains of the northern Philippines, that was suspended for environmental offences in July and later ordered to shut for good. He took his own life in September.
"He became depressed. He said his life was worthless," his widow, Leni Modelo, told Reuters from their home where she is now raising their seven-year-old boy on her own. "He tried to find work in city hall but there was none."
The Philippines is the world's top nickel ore supplier and China's huge demand for the raw material that makes stainless steel meant there was long a captive market for the four big mines in the Santa Cruz area.
But the suspension and closure of the mines by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez has meant thousands of jobs have disappeared here. A crusader for the environment, Lopez has ordered the shutdown of 23 of the country's 41 operating mines. She stepped up her crackdown on Tuesday, cancelling almost a third of the country's contracts for undeveloped mines.
The mining sector employed 219,000 people as of end-September last year, according to government data. But the planned closures and the suspension of another five mines will affect about 1.2 million people, including families and businesses that rely on mining for a livelihood, according to Artemio Disini, head of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
At Eramen's mine, company president Enrique Fernandez said headcount had dropped to 150 from more than 1,000 previously and more workers could go by the end of this month.
In a nearby mine run by Zambales Diversified Metals Corp (ZDMC), owned by property-to-power firm DMCI Holdings Inc, the number in work has fallen to under 50 from a peak of 1,200, said Hendrik Martin, manager at ZDMC.
Ronald Esquiray, 39, was among those laid off. He now weaves bamboo strips to make walls for small huts, which pays half of what he used to earn in a day.
Many who lost their jobs tried their luck in Manila, Esquiray said, including his 20-year-old son who found work at a construction project.
Many residents of Santa Cruz won't miss the mining. They say it denuded mountains, leading to heavy flooding in valley villages. Locals also blame the mines for the siltation of farmlands and rivers, and the destruction of the main road that heavy trucks used to rumble along carrying ore to the port.
Martin from ZDMC said mining is demonised so routinely in sermons at his local church that he has stopped attending the weekly service.
When it rains heavily here, thick mud rolls down from mine sites in the mountains, contaminating farmlands and streams below with nickel laterite ore.
Mining companies scrape the laterite off planting areas, but farmers and residents say it is only pushed to the side, submerging parts of houses. And the crop yield is far smaller than before, forcing farmers to use more fertilizer.
Rice farmer Eduardo Morano lost money on his last crop as the harvest from his one-hectare plot more than halved. "I had to sell one of my animals to pay off debt. Then I had to take a new loan to buy more fertilizer," he said.
The siltation has spread to rivers, said Edgardo Obra, vice chairman of the Concerned Citizens of Santa Cruz, pointing to one that he says had almost dried up because of the silt. "Kids used to dive here."
Fishermen have to go farther into sea due to the sediment build-up closer to land, he said, adding that only a few town officials benefit from the funds allocated by mining companies to help communities around them.
"I feel like we were fooled," said Obra, a Baptist pastor. As a former village official, he approved mining in the area but was dismayed two years later by the environmental damage.
As in Santa Cruz, opinions in government are divided on Lopez's campaign. President Rodrigo Duterte has supported her decision to shut erring mines but his finance minister, Carlos Dominguez, wants a review of the order.
"When you take action like closing a mine, there are other considerations to be taken," Dominguez said after a five-hour meeting with Lopez and other officials last week.
Countering accusations that he has a vested interest, Dominguez said he has no mine investments and has not been involved in the sector since 2006.
Miners have also questioned the appointment of Lopez, a former yoga missionary who describes herself as an eco-warrior.
Among them is Dante Bravo, president of nickel ore producer Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc, who says Lopez was "overwhelmed by her emotion without putting science into consideration".
Click here for graphics "Philippine mine closures" here - http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/PHILIPPINES-MINING/010031S942V/index.html
(Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan
Lopez warns two ‘erring’ mining firms in Negros of strict sanctions
By Philippine News Agency
25 April 2017
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Regina Lopez on Tuesday (April 25) afternoon announced that she will issue on Wednesday show-cause orders against two mining companies in southern Negros after seeing purported violations of environmental laws.
Sec. Lopez arrived in Dumaguete City early Tuesday and flew via helicopter to Basay in Negros Oriental and the next town, Sipalay in Negros Occidental, for an ocular inspection of the defunct Copper Development Corporation of the Philippines (CDCP) and the still operational Maricalum Mining, respectively.
In an interview at the Dumaguete-Sibulan airport after her ocular inspection, Sec. Lopez described both mining sites as “really bad” but went on to say that Maricalum Mining was a “nightmare.”
Lopez pointed out to such beautiful greenery around while flying to the south, and when they got to Sipalay, she noticed an open-pit mine site there that caught her attention.
There were also four tailings there, Lopez said.
According to her, the two firms will be given seven days under the show-cause order to explain the alleged violations pertaining to environmental laws.
If they fail to submit a show-cause report, Lopez warned of strict sanctions, saying “they’re finished”.
The CDCP mining in Basay, Negros Oriental has long since been abandoned but while rehabilitation efforts have been made, apparently these were not enough to satisfy the DENR executive.
Lopez said she was informed that the toxicity level of the Pagatban River is high, posing danger to people and the environment.
“They have not done their job well”, said Lopez of the CDCP mining company.
Sec. Lopez arrived here following receipt of numerous complaints that the water in Pagatban River is acidic as a result of heavy metals such as lead, copper and zinc, which are still found in the bottom of the river at concentrations 200 to 5,000 times higher that acceptable levels, which is risky to the health of the people.
According to a research conducted by Silliman University in Dumaguete City, the general water quality of Pagatban River can be classified as Class C which can be suited for aquaculture use but the heavy metals in its bottom is not compatible with any fishery activities in the area even after more than three decades since it was stopped in 1983.
After CDCP, Sec. Lopez proceeded to Sipalay to see for herself the reported erosion of a garbage dumpsite in the area that has affected a lot of farmlands.
Sec. Lopez had been to several open pit mining sites all over the country, findings of which will be presented during a roundtable discussion, so policies can be finalized before the scheduled date of her confirmation as secretary of DENR.
Meanwhile, Sec. Lopez said she wants to craft policies for the DENR before anything happens to her confirmation or non-confirmation by the Committee on Appointments this coming May 2, 2017.
By Thursday, Sec. Lopez said government policies on mining will be out in an announcement she will make through a press conference in Manila.
Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Viernov Grefalde and staff met with Sec. Lopez in the afternoon at the airport where she discussed some concerns with them in a brief and informal huddle before departing for Manila.
Altered audit caused mining firm’s suspension – DENR exec
By Iris Gonzales
The Philippine Star - http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/04/28/1694647/altered-audit-caused-mining-firms-suspension-denr-exec
28 April 2017
MANILA, Philippines - A ranking official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has attested in an affidavit submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman that former environment undersecretary Leo Jasareno instructed him to change last year’s audit findings on Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. to make it appear that it committed major violations.
The affidavit dated April 6, 2017 and executed by the audit team leader sheds new light on the process implemented by the DENR in coming out with its suspension orders on mining companies.
The STAR obtained a copy of the four-page affidavit, but the head of the audit team requested that his name be withheld for security reasons.
“(Jasareno) instructed our team to change the result of our mine audit for Lepanto by insisting that ‘major violations’ rather than minor lapses (as we found in our audit) were supposedly committed by Lepanto and that the team ‘should recommend the suspension of its mining operations,’” the audit team leader said in his signed affidavit.
The team leader was referring to the events that took place last year before Jasareno announced in a televised interview on Sept. 27, 2016 that Lepanto was among the mining companies suspended by the DENR.
“I immediately consulted with members of my team by phone regarding (Jasareno’s) instruction. My team decided that we will not change our audit report and should maintain our findings that Lepanto had substantially complied with the environment and mining laws and no penalty is recommended,” the affidavit also stated.
He said he was “disturbed by the instructions of Jasareno,” and as such, he conferred with the leaders of the other audit teams who said that they were also given similar instructions to change their audit reports and recommend either the suspension or closure of the mining operations they audited.
“On Sept. 13, 2016, Jasareno called me to his office again. With his guidance on the wordings, he directed me to draft another memorandum that will contain a recommendation that ‘Lepanto should be ordered to show cause why its operation should not be stopped,’” he further narrated in his affidavit.
In response, he said he had no choice but to sign the draft memorandum dated Sept. 13, 2016.
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, however, did not sign the draft memorandum because the report cited only several lapses and not major violations.
“It came as a shock to me and to members of my team when Jasareno announced on live television in the morning of Sept. 27, 2016 that Lepanto is one of the additional 20 companies recommended for suspension when that pronouncement was contrary to our findings and conclusion in our audit report,” the team leader said in his affidavit.
In a short message sent to The STAR, Jasareno denied the allegation hurled at him, saying the audit alteration is not true.
“Nothing can kill the truth,” Jasareno said, but refused to elaborate.
On Oct. 13, 2016, Lepanto filed a complaint-affidavit against Jasareno before the Office of the Ombudsman for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In response, Jasareno argued that he was only performing his official duties when he made the public announcement.
He also said that he merely relied on a Sept. 13, 2016 Memorandum, stating that, “Lepanto should be ordered to show cause why its operation should be stopped.”
Lepanto is a listed mining company incorporated in 1936 and operated on enargite copper mine in Benguet until 1997, then shifted to gold bullion production. It continues to produce gold.
The company has appealed the matter to Malacañang, aside from filing a case before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Furthermore, last April 25, 2017, Lepanto submitted to Malacañang the affidavit executed by the team leader to support its stance that Jasareno’s televised announcement on Sept. 27, 2016, was in contrast to the findings and recommendations of the audit team.
Jasareno headed the overall Audit Committee of the DENR, with several team leaders under his watch.
In October last year, President Duterte replaced him amid allegations that he granted special favors to some mining companies.
Duterte appointed Wilfredo Moncano, who has been regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau - Davao Region since 2015, as Jasareno’s replacement.
Jasareno is now a consultant of Lopez.
Lopez wants to work with NPA for peace, development
ABS-CBN News - http://news.abs-cbn.com/business/04/20/17/lopez-wants-to-work-with-npa-for-peace-development
20 April 2017
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez gestures during a Reuters interview at the DENR headquarters in Manila on Feb. 6, 2017. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters
MANILA – Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said Thursday she planned to enlist communist rebels for development projects in mining communities in Agusan del Norte province.
Mining companies are required to set aside a portion of their operating costs for development projects in host communities, and in Agusan del Norte alone some P100 million are available annually, Lopez said.
“I already asked the President if I can work with the NPA,” Lopez told a business forum, adding she recently met with a rebel representative, whom she described as an “ex-seminarian.”
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging one of Asia's longest-running Maoist insurgencies.
President Rodrigo Duterte has restarted peace talks to end the rebellion that has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives.
An army officer in the audience asked Lopez how her plan would affect security in the province. She replied: “They’re really nice if you meet them.”
“What I’ve seen with the NPA, they just really want to get people out of poverty, they’re really not bad people,” she said.
“If we’re able to engineer a situation where they have inputs into the development plan, where their children and the people there can put food on the table and send their kids to school and everybody’s earning and the place is beautiful, why will you fight?”
“My hope there is we do it in one place, we’ve done it everywhere,” she said.
Environmental activists support dialogue between DENR Sec. Lopez, NPA
Kalikasan PNE press release
20 April 2017
Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) welcomed the recent pronouncements of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez on engaging the New People’s Army (NPA) for development projects in mining-affected communities in Agusan del Norte, saying both parties can also cooperate in enforcing the closure of destructive large-scale mines in the province.
“Sec. Lopez is commendable for her introspection on how armed conflict is rooted in social injustices that include the wanton depletion of natural resources and destruction of the environment. In Agusan del Norte, the DENR and the NPA can particularly cooperate in establishing ‘rainforestation’ and agricultural development programs, and can help assess and facilitate the closure and cleanup of mining-polluted areas within the revolutionary forces’ territories. The NPA can also help enforce the cancellation of mining agreements in the area,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
Earlier in February this year, the DENR cancelled a total of 75 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs), including the permits of Asia Alstron Mining and Phil Alstron Mining located in Agusan del Norte. However, none of the commercially operating large-scale mines in Agusan del Norte were suspended or closed after the DENR audit.
“These large-scale mining corporations have not only caused direct adverse ecological impacts, but have brought with them military and paramilitary groups that terrorize communities opposing their big mines. Sec. Lopez and the revolutionary forces can cooperate in ensuring that the ecological rehabilitation and development projects break away from the tradition of Social Development and Management (SDMP) programs of mining companies that are used to divide and conquer communities, instead of genuinely developing their socio-economic stature,” ended Bautista.#
Group rejects Lopez’s proposal to enlist NPA help in mining areas
By Jonathan L. Mayuga
24 April 2017
While some environmental groups welcome Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez’s plan to enlist the help of the New People’s Army (NPA), the antimining group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) said armed groups, including NPA rebels, are not welcome in mining-affected areas.
ATM said it is opposed to the idea of having more armed groups in mining-affected areas, saying mining itself is already causing conflict in areas with their mere presence.
Besides, ATM National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera said, Lopez’s pronouncement, which drew mixed reactions, was allegedly done or announced without consulting mining-affected communities.
“We intend to seek clarification from the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] Secretary about her plan. We were not consulted about it,” Garganera said.
Garganera was reacting to Lopez’s pronouncement that she will work with the NPA in Agusan provinces to establish an ecological, economic and educational (E3) zone in communities around mining sites.
Lopez even described the NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), as “nice people” who only want to help people get out of poverty.
Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) expressed support behind Lopez’s plan, saying there are areas of collaboration wherein NPAs can help the Duterte administration, particularly in enforcing Lopez’s mine-closure orders.
Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan-PNE, said working with the NPA will also boost environmental protection and prevent “environmental terrorists” from further causing damage to the country’s fragile environment. He said the group also supports Lopez’s idea of implementing “area development”, wherein the communities will benefit from whatever their natural environment has to offer first and foremost.
While supporting Lopez’s idea of implementing an area-development approach in mining communities, Garganera said having more armed groups—whether NPA or Moro rebels—in mining areas will only complicate the situation and endanger the lives of innocent civilians in case of a firefight with Philippine National Police or Armed Forces of the Philippines forces in those areas.
Militant groups have been demanding for the pullout of the police and the military in mining areas, as well, blaming them for human-rights violation with some anti-mining groups ending up victims of extrajudicial killings.
“We are hesitant to commit [our] support behind her plan. This was a unilateral move by the DENR secretary. We were not consulted…[and] we are unaware [of the role they will play]. If they [the rebels] are active combatants, I would agree with the reaction of the Chamber of Mines that this is perplexing. Will it be for rehabilitation or conflict mediation? I don’t [know] where she is coming from in announcing her plan,” Garganera said.
“We will seek clarification what she [Lopez] mean[t] about it. Our member-organizations have defined activities and mandate in some areas. We support peace initiatives in those areas, but we [are] also humbly requesting…armed groups to stay out of mining communities,” Garganera said.
He added mining communities have legitimate calls to stop mining because of the destruction of the environment, and the adverse impact of mining to people and livelihood. “We are not favoring one group over the other. What we want is for armed groups to stay out of mining areas to make these areas zones of peace,” he added.
Lopez, for her part, clarified that NPAs should make sure they will not bear arms when they go to mining communities to extend their help.
“No firearms. I want them to be there to help…for peace and development…plant trees… or kamote,” she said.
Lopez added that NPAs or Moro rebels can help bring peace and development by working together with the government.
Lopez: PH can earn more from investments in biodiversity than in mining
by Madelaine Miraflor
18 April 2017
The criticism over her decisions, orders, and what she believes in have been overwhelming in the past months. But Environment Secretary Gina Lopez still thinks that the Philippines can earn more from investments in biodiversity than in mining.
Since the beginning of her takeover at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Lopez already made it clear that except for those that are, in any way, mining-related, she will consider any project that can be beneficial to the environment and the communities.
Lopez, in a roundtable discussion with Manila Bulletin on Monday, said she prefers billions of pesos worth of investments to go to biodiversity and area development rather than to the mining sector.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) earlier projected that the country is poised to make at least $30 billion from mining investments over the next 10 years but Lopez believes this wouldn’t necessarily benefit the Filipino people.
For this year, she allotted a bulk of DENR’s P29-billion budget to massive reforestation and climate change initiatives instead.
According to her, as she continues leadership within the agency, more funds will go to the development of biodiversity, ecotourism, and more green projects.
“If you’re going to make choices, why don’t we make the ones that benefit the people the most?” Lopez said.
“Each decision that I make literally benefits thousands of lives. Every year, the budget that we get is P26 billion (on average). If I can maneuver and design an organization which is honest, committed, and compassionate, we can do so much. Politics is not easy but it’s the promise of making a massive difference,” Lopez said.
As of now, Lopez is no longer sure if she’ll get to keep the Cabinet secretary position for a long time after eight months of service.
The Commission on Appointments (CA) had earlier bypassed her appointment twice before closing its last session in March. Congress will convene again on May 2.
“May 2 is the hearing. I’m not confident at all (about getting the confirmation). I don’t know. I find politics very unpredictable. The first hearing was like a baptism of fire. It’s like you never know. In politics, what you see is not what you get,” Lopez said in a round table discussion with Manila Bulletin on Monday.
Lopez is up against at least 20 oppositors at the CA, while there are at least 10 groups that have expressed their support for her.
“I felt that the situation (at CA) is very unfair because the only ones that were given the voice, a lot of them were the oppositors. How about the ones that stand to benefit from the mine closures? The whole process, I felt, was very one sided,” she added.
Nevertheless, Lopez assured she won’t let go of the job so easily.
“I’m really a fighter,” she said.
“Since I’m still the DENR Secretary, I’d want to use the time I have to explain my side. I don’t know how long I’m going to be with DENR, so if I can ask the people to see the value and the wisdom in caring for our environment, then (I’ll do it) so you can keep the light shining,” she added.
When asked if it’s still worth it to stay with DENR despite all the issues that she’s facing, Lopez said “yes because of the possibility of making a difference.”
“The mandate of DENR is to manage the country’s resources to benefit the present and future generations. I am just fulfilling my mandate,” she said.
Mining groups to Lopez: Provide more details on area development, biochar program implementation
By Jonathan L. Mayuga
25 April 2017
While Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez has shown much enthusiasm in implementing her so-called area-development approach and biochar livelihood program, mining companies appear to be oblivious about it.
Ronald Recidoro, vice president for policy and planning of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), which represents the mining industry’s big players, for one, said mining companies have not seen the program’s “blue print” and how the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) plans to implement the program in mining communities.
“There are a few mining companies that entered into an agreement with [the] DENR, but most are still unaware of the specifics,” he told the BusinessMirror in a telephone interview.
The DENR is aggressively promoting its concept of area development through the sustainable integrated area development (SIAD) and biochar program as part of its thrust to turn the DENR from a mere regulatory into a development agency.
Lopez, an environmental advocate who has ordered the closure or suspension of 28 operating mines so far as a result of a mining audit last year and cancellation of 75 mining contracts to protect watersheds, wants the agency to shift from a mere regulatory agency to a development-oriented one under her watch.
Recidoro said COMP member- companies and even players outside the group are not aware of the specifics as to mining companies’ would-be roles.
He said mining companies are willing to see Lopez’s plan in black and white for them to appreciate the shift.
“We’ve only heard about it from Secretary Lopez through the media. But we really still don’t know how it will help mining or the people in mining communities,” he said.
Likewise, he said the DENR chief’s plan to apply the biochar technology should be discussed thoroughly with mining companies.
“What I know about charcoal-making is it is produced by burning. So are we burning materials now to make charcoal? What’s the technology? Who is going to make biochar?” Recidoro said.
“Even if it works, it should not be monopolized in such a way that it will benefit one company or group,” he added.
Environmental groups under the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) group are also unaware of the details of SIAD or biochar.
Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan-PNE said their group will request for an audience with Lopez to know more about SIAD and biochar. They said they need to know more as to how it will help boost the livelihood of rural folks, particularly in mining-affected areas.
“I’ve heard about it from Secretary Gina, but I still do not know the details of the program. Maybe we need to know more about it first,” Bautista said.
Kalikasan-PNE supports Lopez’s antimining stance and her proenvironment policy, such as the dismantling of fish cages in Laguna de Bay.
The group also supports Lopez’s idea of promoting social justice by giving premium to environmental protection and conservation, while promoting the welfare of the communities who seldom benefit while being at the losing end of destructive development projects.
The antimining group, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), meanwhile, welcomes Lopez’s plan to implement SIAD.
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of ATM, said it is an “innovative approach” and is welcomed by many civil-society organizations (CSOs) and even local government.
“My impression is that there is a positive synergy and positive reaction from the departments of Health, Agriculture, Social Welfare and Development and even Education working together in specific geographic sites,” he said.
Garganera said he knows of the general framework of SIAD wherein the DENR will download programs in selected and specific sites, with the community and even local government units having broader and direct participation in managing their natural resources.
“This is very participatory. Even agencies outside [the] DENR welcome this approach,” he said.
According to Garganera, SIAD is popular among CSOs.
Garganera said he became familiar with SIAD because of his previous engagement with the Philippine Partnership for Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas, which implemented it as a main strategy for development from 2001 to 2006.
“That is why when Secretary Lopez mentioned about SIAD, I know what she’s talking about,” Garganera said.
However, he said he is still unaware of the details of how the DENR chief plans to execute SIAD.
“We plan to seek an audience with her about it to learn more,” Garganera added.
In an interview with Lopez during her interaction with mining-affected communities in Mogpog and Santa Cruz town in Marinduque on Monday, Lopez said area development simply means the people will be given jobs, livelihood and benefit from the natural resources, which they will protect and conserve.
Lopez said in rehabilitating abandoned or mined-out areas, biochar will be used by the DENR under her watch, but expressed concern that without former DENR Undercretary for Field Operations Philipp Camara, may prove to be a tough job.
“Only Philipp knows how to make biochar work. The DENR doesn’t know anything about biochar,” Lopez said. Camara’s appointment was rejected by the Civil Service Commission and a protest launched by DENR employees forced Camara to quit his bid for the position.
Lopez said she intends to talk to Camara to convince him to help the DENR in his capacity as a private individual.
Last month the DENR issued policy guidelines for the two major programs—the SIAD and biochar programs—which it says were “designed to provide communities with sustainable livelihood opportunities while protecting the environment”.
Department Administrative Order (DAO) 2017-02 calls for the formulation and implementation of a six-year SIAD action plan by the government, civil society and the private sector, and DAO 2017-05 laid down the guidelines on the implementation of the biochar program, an initiative that uses the SIAD approach.
Lopez said the SIAD strategy aims to apply area-based interventions, concepts on its natural resources development programs including the Enhanced National Greening Program and integrated island development.
SIAD will cover, but is not limited to, river basins and watersheds, and will be initially implemented within 29 priority sites and expansion areas identified by the DENR last year. SIAD shall also be implemented in other areas of the Philippines, Lopez said.
Meanwhile the biochar program calls for the efficient utilization of abundant agricultural waste materials into marketable products created by rural communities for green energy, soil enhancement, mine revegetation, and a host of environmental products and services, making it a remarkable climate-change mitigation technology with a poverty alleviation through community enterprise.
Biochar is charred biomass strictly from agricultural wastes like rice hull and straw, bagasse, pili shell, mango seed, coconut husk and shell and corn cobs, which are produced by high heating (>500 degrees Celsius) with very limited oxygen.
Lopez said biochar has 52 known uses, including as feed additive in animal farming, carbon fertilizer, insulator, protection against electromagnetic radiation, water decontaminant, biomass additive, ingredient in cataplasm for insect bites and abscesses, fabric additive for functional underwear and filling for mattresses and pillows.
Biochar also draws carbon from the atmosphere, providing a carbon sink on agricultural lands. After its initial or cascading use, biochar can be recycled as soil conditioner.
Red 5 cites regulatory uncertainty as it shuts Philippines gold mine
By Esmarie Swanepoel
18 April 2017
PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Mining operations at the Siana gold mine, in the Philippines, have been suspended with immediate effect, ASX-listed Red 5 reported on Tuesday.
The company said the decision was taken on the back of uncertainty around regulatory and government mining policy and the group’s assessment of the likely resulting changes to openpit operations after taking into account the delays in the approval of the environmental compliance certificate amendment for the long-term tailings storage facility and other mining challenges.
Red 5 was in January forced to revise its operational strategy and openpit mine plan for Siana, after delays in obtaining regulatory approvals for the amendments to its environmental compliance certificate.
The company stated on Tuesday that while the decision to suspend mining was not taken lightly, it was the best way to preserve the significant inherent value of the large in-situ gold inventory and the infrastructure at Siana, and to protect the company’s balance sheet and shareholder interest.
Underground mine development has also been suspended, and a notice will be given to the underground mining contractor to cease activities and demobilise equipment. A February 2016 feasibility study forecast underground production of about 60 000oz/y at an all-in cost of $930/oz to 980/oz over eight years. Underground development started in the second half of last year.
Based on Red 5’s current cash position, the company had sufficient funds to maintain the assets in good standing, and if necessary, continue the suspension of operations for a period of at least two years.
The Siana mine produced 35 527 oz in the first half of the 2017 financial year.
Red 5 is listed on the ASX and the Siana mine is its only producing asset. The company’s stock fell 32% to A$0.04 a share on Tuesday.
OceanaGold fights against Philippine mine suspension
24 April 2017
Australian company OceanaGold has appealed directly to Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte against the suspension of its gold and copper mine on Luzon island that employs 1800 workers, most of them Filipinos.
Philippine Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez, an ally of Mr Duterte, this week expressed frustration that a controversial order she made in February to suspend or close more than half of the country's mines has not been carried out, including OceanaGold's Didipio mine, 270 kilometres north of Manila.
Ms Lopez issued the order as part of a government campaign to fight environmental degradation without giving 23 mining companies the opportunity to oppose the decision, business analysts say.
The mines are the world's top nickel exporter.
Melbourne headquartered OceanaGold told Fairfax Media in a statement that if negotiations to lift the suspension fail the company will consider "all legal and administrative remedies" available to "ensure there is no disruption to the mine and its workforce".
Didipio, one of the world's lowest-cost gold mines, which began operation in 2013 after years of delays, was awarded Mr Duterte's 2016 Mineral Industry Environment Award, which recognises safe and responsible mining.
Peter Wallace, a leading business consultant in Manila, said the mine crackdown has set back the potential for new mines in the Philippines, which is one of the most richly mineralised countries.
"A number of overseas mining companies have decided not to even look at the Philippines for the time being," he said.
OceanaGold's troubles in the Philippines come after Thailand's military government shut down Sydney-based Kingsgate's Chatree gold mine 280km north of Bangkok on 31 December, throwing 1100 people out of work.
Australian mining company Eumeralla Resources, which is undergoing restructuring and a name change, has abandoned its plans to pursue mining opportunities in eastern Myanmar after an almost four-year wait for a permit.
In the Philippines, another Australian-based miner, Red 5, has ceased operations at its Siana gold and silver mine in northern Mindanao, citing delays in obtaining approvals to develop and uncertain regulatory and government mining policies.
In 2015 the Anglo-Swiss miner Glencore quit the Tampakan copper-gold project in Mindanao – one of the world's largest gold prospects – after stiff opposition from local communities and environmental groups, which delayed approvals.
Ms Lopez, a 63-year-old staunch environmentalist and former yoga missionary, has vowed not to reverse her order despite outcries from the mining industry and powerful Philippine business leaders and politicians.
"I'll be so blatant to say the Philippines is unfit for mining … because we're an island ecosystem with biodiversity like no other," she said when announcing the order.
On Wednesday, Ms Lopez publicly criticised Mr Duterte's executive secretary, Salvador Medialdea, for overturning her ban on nickel stockpiles being exported unless companies pay hefty fees for every hectare of land they have disturbed.
She said appeals to Mr Duterte by companies such as OceanaGold have become "stuck" because papers have not reached his office.
Mr Duterte, a firebrand former provincial mayor swept into office last year promising to eliminate drugs and crime, has backed Ms Lopez's order, saying the Philippines could survive without a mining industry.
The President reappointed her to head the department this week but the appointment has still to be ratified by the country's parliament, giving mining companies hope Mr Duterte will be forced to name a replacement.
The companies have signalled they are prepared to take legal action en masse if necessary.
"The minister's order violated due process. The companies were not given the opportunity to respond," said a business consultant in Manila, adding that Ms Lopez's audit team members who recommended the closures were mainly environmental activists.
The auditors reportedly found faulty construction in a single house near Didipio mine site.
The Philippine mining industry body has described Ms Lopez's order as "illegal and unfair".
"We have a total of 1.2 million people affected," said Artemio Disini, chairperson of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
OceanaGold had a stormy relationship with indigenous locals and officials before the mine opened, including violent protests.
It was accused of illegally demolishing 187 houses in Didipio town in 2008.
In 2011 the Philippine Commission on Human Rights recommended the government consider revoking the company's license because of its treatment of indigenous people.
OceanaGold told Fairfax Media its operations have delivered significant direct and indirect benefits to the local community, including providing health and social services, education programs, scholarships and training.
It said more than 3000 jobs would be lost if the mine were to close, including the 1800 employees, and up to 7000 would be affected.
The company said it has paid taxes and royalties estimated at $US70 million to the government over three and a half years.
It has plans to continue mining until 2030.
Oceana Gold: History, abuse, mining
By KATRINA STUART SANTIAGO
5 March 2017
If I owned a mining company in the Philippines, and my mine was declared closed or suspended by the new leadership of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), I would fight back.
I would fight back with transparency. After all, I demand it of the DENR audit; I should be able to expect it of my own mine. I would release all information on the operations of the mine, and I would allow the community, scientists and academics, media, government officials, to enter my mines, study my operations, and look at the environment that surrounds it. I would answer questions that have been asked all these years. I would be thankful for those years when the DENR didn’t care enough, and accept that regulation is now the name of the game. I would up and leave.
I wouldn’t operate like it’s business as usual, while the suspension is in place. That would be foolish, when the nation’s eyes are on the mining sector.
But then again, I’m not Oceana Gold which, despite years of protests, countless studies and reports, and now a suspension order, continues to operate in Nueva Vizcaya (Bulatlat.com, 3 March) like it hasn’t done anything wrong at all.
Destroying the environment
Oceana Gold is an Australian-New Zealand company that started operations under the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) in 1994, with the government of Fidel V. Ramos. The villagers of Didipio strongly resisted the mine’s intrusion, and with “legal struggles and financial problems” it was only in 2013 that Oceana Gold was “able to ship out its first 5000 tons of copper-gold concentrate” (Nov 2013, GreenLeft Australia).
The 765-hectare open-pit mine of Oceana Gold required the cutting down of thousands of trees and the destruction of a biodiversity corridor in the Sierra Madres (GreenLeft Australia). The open-pit mine replaced the Dinkidi Mountain. Wildlife and sea creatures disappeared, the river was polluted (Sept 2013, PinoyWeekly).
In 2013, it was already found that “mine tailings have been dumped in huge ponds, a mixture of toxic waste, including arsenic, radioactive material, sulphur, mercury and cyanide. The tailing pond has been moved without any review of the leaks into the water supply.” With their water source polluted by Oceana Gold’s mining activities, “Rice fields are filled with silt and the river is the color of sardines. The rice plants are stunted and diseased because of the silt and toxins in the water used for irrigation.” (GreenLeft Australia)
Two years after, in a 2015 scientific assessment by AGHAM, it was found that “the river in Didipio shows elevated heavy metal (copper) and turbidity in Didipio River (below the mine).” According to Australia-based organization Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines (APDP), “Residents report skin irritation after contact with water from the river (Feb 2015, Business Mirror).
It was also found that “Oceana Gold refused to acknowledge or respond to residents’ concerns about the release of sewerage water into the river adjacent to homes in Didipio,” as the mine “requires residents to ‘prove’ its violations” (Business Mirror).
Violence Against the People
Oceana Gold of course knows that proving the mine’s violations requires a huge amount of money, not to mention proper government support, neither of which the people of Didipio have.
After all, mines do best at ensuring the impoverishment of communities they invade. In Didipio, where farmers used to be able to till their own lands and sustain their families with their harvests, Oceana Gold’s intrusion has turned farmers into laborers. Four years ago they earned P50 per hour, as revealed Simeon Ananayao, community relations officer for Oceana Gold (PinoyWeekly).
To make matters worse, “local hires” were paid lower than those from Manila, who are also given benefits (PinoyWeekly). When a local engineer started being active in the workers’ union and speaking against the Oceana Gold management, he and the union president were dismissed from their jobs, in a “clear case of union-busting” (PinoyWeekly). When the workers staged a protest rally, the police promptly dispersed them (GreenLeft Australia).
While big landowners sold their land and left, a majority of Didipio’s villagers were displaced from their homes, to wooden houses outside the mine complex gates. Some landowners charge Oceana gold with cheating, too: “They thought they were signing for a loan and that their land was the collateral. Instead, they were told they had sold the land to the company. The contract was in English, which they didn’t understand.” (PinoyWeekly)
The 2015 investigation found that “residents of Didipio experience the heavy-handed tactics of company lawyers when these residents seek action on OceanaGold’s failure to honor the company’s commitments to buy lots, pay compensation, provide scholarships or offers of employment” (BusinessMirror).
Under the government of Noynoy Aquino, in 2015, environmental protections were removed and the size of Oceana Gold tripled (GreenLeft Australia), it then started exploratory drillings (Business Mirror). Its FTAA covers 37,000 hectares of land (GreenLeft Australia).
And just to drive home the point of how un-regulated, and spoiled! Oceana gold is,“ The company, however, claims a five-year tax exemption under the FTAA, while undergoing a ‘recovery period.’” Yet that year they exceeded their per annum target. (PinoyWeekly) Still no taxes paid.
Justification and basis
In February, Oceana Gold shot back at the DENR suspension saying that it “is unjustified nor has any basis in law” (3 Feb, Manila Standard).
Well, what about the justification and basis in the community itself, in the environmental degradation, the loss of our forests and mountains?
No matter how Oceana Gold spins it, its history is replete with proof of its irresponsibility, investigations on it, protests against it. That is not only enough reason to close it down. It’s also enough reason for Oceana Gold to tone down its arrogance.
Because all that proves is how defensive they are, and that just makes them even more suspicious.
Mines bureau in Zamboanga goes after illegal mining
By Antonio M. Manaytay
5 April 2017
THE Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in Zamboanga Peninsula has intensified its crackdown against illegal mining activities, as it issued its fourth cease and desist order this year against illegal miners in Baliguian, Zamboanga del Norte.
The order, issued by the bureau, told the local small-scale miners in Pigbogololan area of Baliguian town to stop their illegal activities. It marked the agency’s effort to curb illegal mining in the region.
On February 15, an order to stop the illegal mining in Barangays JS Perfecto and San Fernandino in R.T. Lim, Zamboanga Sibugay, was also issued.
Two days after, another order to cease and desist was issued against the illegal mining in Barangays Payungan, Kauswagan, and Milagrosa in Alicia town, Zamboanga Sibugay.
Emma Deverala, MGB information officer, said the Pigbogololan order stemmed from a complaint filed by the TVI Resource Development Philippines, a mining firm operating in the vicinity.
TVI’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) has the jurisdiction over the gold-rich area in Sitio Malusok, Barangay Kilalaban.
A military checkpoint in Mambong, Barangay Candis, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, apprehended on February 12 a truckload of an estimated 500 sacks of gold ores on its way to a processing plant in nearby R.T. Lim town.
Some individuals are making money from a number of illegal small-scale mining due to the presence of gold and other valuable minerals in the area, Deverala said. (SunStar Philippines)
As Salvadoran congress prepares to vote on unprecedented bill to end metal mining, governor from the Philippines crisscrosses El Salvador to reveal impact of OceanaGold’s operations in his province
29 March 2017
San Salvador/Ottawa - Visiting this Central American nation on the eve of a historic vote on legislation to ban metallic mining, a government official from the Philippines is warning Salvadoran political leaders that the mining company trying to gain a foothold here has wreaked social and environmental havoc with its operations in the Philippines.
“The reality of OceanaGold's so-called 'responsible mining' in the Philippines has been an environmental disaster. Judge it by the reality of its mining operations in my country not by its words or promises,” remarked the Governor of the province of Nueva Vizcaya, the Honourable Carlos Padilla.
While in El Salvador, Governor Padilla has testified before members of the public and in legislative forums about the serious impacts of Australian-Canadian mining company OceanaGold’s operations in the Philippines, calling on the Salvadoran legislators to take action on a bill that may take El Salvador further than any nation in banning mining.
“With photos, videos & very clear data, Governor Padilla and his engineer have demonstrated how OceanaGold has flaunted rules & regulations in the Philippines -- from environmental regulations to labour laws,” said Robin Broad, Professor of International Development at American University in Washington, who is accompanying the delegation from the Philippines in El Salvador.
On the topic of water—a crucial matter in this parched Central American nation—Padilla observes that OceanaGold’s open-pit mining in his province of Nueva Vizcaya has put a critical watershed at risk, and exhausted wells and rice irrigation reservoirs, harming in particular the communities around the company's Didipio mine.
According to the Governor, the mining company's Didipio gold and copper mine has destroyed 975 acres of grasslands, forests and species habitats and incited strife, theft and respiratory problems in neighbouring communities.
In El Salvador, OceanaGold has unsuccessfully sought to pressure the government into granting it a mining permit. The company acquired the El Dorado project in the northern province of Cabañas when it purchased Pacific Rim Mining in 2013, whose principal asset was a US$250 million dollar arbitration suit against El Salvador.
Six months ago, in an important ruling for affected communities and the Salvadoran government, the World Bank Group’s international arbitration panel found that El Salvador did not have to pay compensation to the mining company, given that the company never met regulatory requirements to obtain a permit.
According to Broad, the American University professor, the company's case proved to be so weak that the three-person panel ruled unanimously against it. The company had never acquired the rights to all the land in the area it sought to mine, nor had it completed a feasibility study or gotten its environmental license approved.
“The company’s suit against El Salvador and stubborn insistence on sticking around, seem to have worked against it,” Broad said. “Here in El Salvador, there is broad-based opposition to mining linked to concerns about already stressed water supplies.”
Broad noted that the government of the Philippines recently suspended OceanaGold’s Didipio mine on environmental and social grounds.
In the Philippines, the company has also faced complaints of forcible and illegal demolitions of homes, as well as harassment of residents and violation of indigenous cultural rights, in addition to the effects on the regional water supply. Two community members involved in anti-mining activities were murdered in 2012 in connection with conflict over the mine.
Just after the Governor’s presentation to a Salvadoran legislative committee on Tuesday, members of the Committee on the Environment and Climate Change voted to approve the proposed ban on metallic mining, which goes before the full legislature later today.
In its October ruling, in the seven-year dispute between El Salvador and OceanaGold, the World Bank panel at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington ordered the company to pay El Salvador US$8 million in legal costs.
The company has not shown any indication that it will pay. Rather, it has stepped up a public relations campaign in El Salvador to try to persuade the government and the public that it is a responsible company. Yesterday, the World Bank tribunal ruled that the company must pay interest on the money owed.
“Out of respect for the self-determination of the Salvadoran people, it is time for OceanaGold to pay up the $8 million that it owes and pack up from El Salvador,” said Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, an Ottawa-based group advocating for communities affected by Canadian mining worldwide. “The company has tried to bully around the country for long enough with its costly suit, which it should never have been able to bring in the first place."
Contact: Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, (613) 569-3439, jen(at)miningwatch.ca
MiningWatch Canada is a member of the International Allies coaltion that acts in solidarity with the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining in El Salvador.
Compostela Valley a virtual ‘killing field’ of environment, land defenders
Kalikasan PNE press release
29 March 2017
With his children watching, 48 year-old farmer-leader Pedro Pandagay was shot dead by suspected military elements inside his residence in Barangay Anitapan, Mabini, Compostela Valley in the early morning of March 23, 2017.
A board of director of the Golden Valley Banana Planters Association, Pandagay was part of the widespread people’s resistance against banana plantations and the mining exploration of the Australia-based One Asia Resources mining firm. Violent attacks against land and environment defenders have escalated in the province under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, with Pandagay being the 6th case of environment-related killings in the province and the 16th since Duterte came to power.
“We highly condemn the murder of Pedro Pandagay as the latest in the worsening spate of killings against land and environment defenders under the Duterte administration. The supposed ‘new thrust’ of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ counter insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan is clearly no different from the previous administrations. The killings of environmental defenders spurred by militarization are at an even higher rate than the previous Arroyo and Aquino regimes,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
“The AFP’s Oplan Kapayapaan is a misnomer. Their all-out war has transformed Compostela Valley into a virtual killing field,” Dulce lamented.
Compostela Valley is known for its several agribusiness plantations and large-scale mining projects. These big business corporations are known to be highly destructive and pollutive to the environment, and continue to destroy and displace several communities in the province.
Just last March 27, three peasant activists active in land dispute struggles were also killed in separate occasions, also by suspected army intelligence operatives.
The AFP has categorically stated in past occasions that their unabated military operations were also to secure ‘vital installations’ in the countryside that include large-scale mines, plantations, and other big business projects.
Since 2001, there have been 117 cases of environment-related killings monitored by Kalikasan PNE. During Arroyo’s administration, killings reached an average of almost four cases per year, while the Aquino administration reached almost an average of 10 killings per year. The 16 cases of environment-related killings under Duterte occurred in just a span of nine months.
“We strongly urge the Duterte government to probe this alarming rise in killings and investigate the military, paramilitary, police, private armed security, and corporations involved in these cases. We are calling on the international community to help Filipino environmental activists demand accountability over the military’s impunity,” ended Dulce.
The group said they are also mulling the possibility of raising the spate of environment-related killings to the human rights bodies of the United Nations.#
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 920 90 99 | E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | Site: www.kalikasan.net
AFP, paramilitary groups, mining companies terrorize residents in Sultan Kudarat town
Press Statement - http://www.karapatan.org/AFP%2C+paramilitary+groups%2C+mining+companies+terrorize+residents+in+Sultan+Kudarat+town
29 March 2017
"The Marine Battalion Landing Team 2 (MBLT 2), in cahoots with the private guards of David M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI), a mining and logging company, have been wreaking havoc in communities in Sultan Kudarat. The MBLT 2 and DMCI tandem is a match made in hell, responsible for heinous crimes against the people, including the disappearance of two indigenous people in November 2016 and the recent evacuation of residents in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
On March 19, 2017, around 48 elements of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 2 (MLBT 2) and company guards of DMCI, considered as paramilitaries, arrived in Sitio Tinagdanan, Brgy. Hinalaan, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat. According to a fact-finding mission led by KALUHHAMIN and KARAPATAN SOCKSARGEN on March 25, soldiers and paramilitary men encamped at the town church and several civilian houses.
On March 20, an encounter ensued between the marines and the NPA. The soldiers blocked the main road and prevented residents from going in and out of the community. A resident, Omen Gantangan, was approached by the soldiers and was asked if his house could be destroyed for it to be used as a landing area of their helicopter. Military operations in the area prompted the evacuation of 17 families from Pangyon, Sitio Tinagdanan.
The next day, March 21, soldiers illegally arrested Mateo Gantangan and interrogated him for three hours, accusing him of being a member of the NPA. Residents also reported going back to their house only to find these damaged and their things and domestic animals stolen.
On March 22, 11 residents approached the marines to hand them a letter from Brgy. Captain Gerry Sulangoy. The letter was a request for the marines to allow the residents to evacuate, given that the soldiers blocked the main road. Instead of any positive response, the residents were accused of faking the letter and were detained and interrogated from 8am to 3pm. A lumad pastor, Godofredo Gantangay, who was among those detained was ordered to stay in a ‘sit-in-the-air’ position for seven hours and was repeatedly threatened to be killed. On the same day, the marines and DMCI guards went to the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) school in Sitio Tinagdanan and interrogated the students and the teachers.
"The continuing attacks against the Filipino people is sickening to the gut. It is a manifestation that State security forces are readily available for the defense of private companies and other State sanctioned policies to repress and suppress dissent. However, when it comes to the task of upholding human rights and showing basic decency towards marginalized communities, they arrive with their guns and tower at the people, feeling superior and invincible. Spreading fear and curtailing rights is what they are good at," said Palabay.
"The military's all-out-war rhetoric has resulted in intensified attacks against the Filipino people, fueled by the implementation of counter-insurgency programs in the countryside. With the number of political killings at 46 and the attacks against communities on the rise, the Duterte regime seems hell-bent in unraveling its fascist character with no-holds-barred. We must respond with continued indignation, with resistance, and with an ever urgent demand to discover all viable forms to change this damned system," ended Palabay.
Reference: Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831
Angge Santos, Media Liaison, 0918-9790580
Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.
Medusa Mining: Death in underground mine in Philippines
by Jessica Amir
27 March 2017
Medusa Mining Limited (ASX:MML) has announced a contract miner has died at its underground mine in the Philippines.
The fatal accident occurred at the gold producer’s Co-O mine on Wednesday 22 March 2017, when two miners were extending a timber support that was about 6 meters above a main track level.
The second miner heard a loud noise and then found his work partner on the track level below and unconscious. He was immediately taken to the company hospital but pronounced dead on arrival.
The company has continued to operate the mine, but stopped activities where the incident occurred while a detail investigation takes place.
Medusa Mining is providing support to the miner’s family.
Shares in Medusa Mining Limited (ASX:MML) last traded 1.4% higher on Friday at 36.5 cents.
Irish nun attacked in Philippines waits days for urgent surgery
Sr Kathleen Melia (70) was closing the convent’s windows when she was punched by masked man
12 March 2017
An Irish missionary nun who was savagely beaten in an attack on a remote island in the southern Philippines at the beginning of March has arrived in Manila and is awaiting urgent surgery after an arduous five-day journey by land and sea and a frantic search for blood donors.
Columban Sister Kathleen Melia was closing the windows at her convent at the San Jose Parish Church in the remote region of Midsalip on March 1st when she was attacked by a masked man.
She was gagged and repeatedly punched in the face and chest. The attacker then fled the scene leaving the 70-year-old nun, who is from Mohill, Co Leitrim and has been working as a missionary in the Philippines for more than 30 years, unconscious and gagged.
When she came round she was able to raise the alarm and was treated in the town before enduring a two-hour van journey through the mountainous region to a local hospital where x-rays revealed she had a broken femur, which required surgery.
An immediate complication arose as a result of the nun’s B Negative blood type. Less than 1 per cent of the Filipino population share her blood and the hospital had no supplies available.
A frantic search among the local community led by Columban missionaries eventually yielded sufficient supplies for surgery to take place but the complexity of the procedure meant the missionary nun had to be transferred to the Filipino capital Manila for a follow-up procedure.
No planes servicing the remote region where the nun has been working for more than three decades were able to accommodate her stretcher so she had to wait three days for a boat and then embark - in the company of a registered nurse and a fellow missionary - on a two-and-a-half day journey across rough seas to Manila where a fresh search for donor blood began.
The missionary community have managed to find four donors and the surgery has been scheduled place on March 14th.
No arrests have been made but sources close to the missionary community in region have linked the attack to mining in the region.
For many years Sister Kathleen has been working with the Subaanen tribal people helping them in their ongoing fight against companies engaged in large-scale mining, which the tribes fear will destroy their way of life.
She has worked at translating documents and preparing legal papers for the tribes as well as developing feeding, agricultural and education programmes for the local community which has been ravaged by widespread deforestation ahead of the removal by overseas companies of gold and other resources.
“We don’t know who was behind the attack but the ones that stand to gain most from it are people connected with mining industry,” one source familiar with the region told The Irish Times. “We don’t know who else would do such a thing.”
Enough of 22 Years of Plunder and Suffering under the Mining Act of 1995!
Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC) Press Statement
3 March 2017
Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the enactment of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. The Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC) is one among countless crusaders for scrapping this law that for decades has only been used to legitimize the foreign dominated, anti-people and plunderous orientation of the mining industry. We give our full support for DENR’s decision to close 23 and suspend 5 minining operations and cancel 75 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs).
The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has paved the way for 100% foreign-owned corporations to mine out the country’s mineral resources, for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years, in spite the constitution’s 60-40 rule on Filipino ownership and control of our natural resources. Foreign corporations have thus been allowed to fully repatriate profits and resources to their home countries. The law also grants them easement rights, water rights and timber rights. The mining law also gives freedom from requisition of investment and freedom from expropriation.
To entice foreign investments, a tax exemption for a grace period of 10 years is also given. On top of these, there are tariff and tax exemptions for the materials and supplies imported for their mining operation or exploration and free use of port for t0 years. This law continues to trample our national patrimony and sovereignty that we have so long fought for. It has thus fully liberalized the mining industry and gives more benefits and incentives to transnational corporations far greater than those provided to Filipino entrepreneurs.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) now reports that mining contributes only 0.6% of total employment and 0.004% of government revenue, a far cry from the glowing and promises of the DENR, under former President Arroyo in 2005. This failure can be attributed to the export oriented and foreign investment driven character of the mining industry. Our country’s natural resources have been extracted, leaving behind the destructive impacts of mining to aggravate the poverty of our people. The minerals are semi-processed, if at all, thus failing to create robust and strategic industries and more jobs for the country. The mining law has failed to ensure protection of host communities, local and indigenous residents, heightening strife and conflict in the rural areas. This can be seen in the massive militarization in Mindanao that push protest caravans or “lakbayan” to Manila of the indigenous peoples and Moros.
In addition to this, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 is incognizant of the fragile ecosystems and rich biodiversity of the Philippines In spite the much vaunted environmental provisions of the law, 22 years have shown that these provisions are no match to the pervasive corruption and pro- imperialist system of the country’s political economyIt is high time for a pro-people, nationalist and pro-environment mining law such as the People’s Mining Bill (HB 2715). The law gears our mineral resources for use only towards the Philippines’ national industrialization and development. The People’s Mining Bill puts premium on feeding the needs of local industries to address needs for the modernization of agriculture that can complement a genuine agrarian reform program, as well as develop the manufacturing and industrial sectors. It hopes to ensure host communities’ and people’s organizations’ participation in decision making. .. The bill also pushes for greater national government and community shares. Environmental and human rights protection measures are more extensive and comprehensive.
In this light, CEC calls for the upholding of DENR’s recent decisions on the mines and the scrapping of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. This should be immediately replaced with a pro-people, nationalist and pro-environment People’s Mining Act.
Reference: Lia Alonzo, email@example.com, 09306925030
PH lost 93.4% of extracted mineral wealth to foreign big mines over past 20 years
Kalikasan PNE Press Release
3 March 2017
Groups picket Chamber of Mines for its promotion of mining plunder, sabotage of mine closure orders
Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) led local communities and grassroots organizations in a picket protest outside the office of mining lobby group Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) on the occasion of the 22nd anniversary of the Mining Act of 1995.
“We condemn the COMP for being among the top promoters of the country’s mining liberalization policy that has resulted to the plunder of 93.4 percent of the total mineral wealth extracted from our lands. This export wholesale of our mineral wealth is one of the major drivers that keep our economy remaining backward and pre-industrial. The COMP is now attempting to sabotage the historic mine closure and suspension order of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to prevent the reversal of the mining industry’s business as usual,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
The group cited data of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) showing that from 1997 to 2015, the total mineral production value generated by the industry was at P1.69 trillion while total exports in the same period was at P1.59 trillion. Collected taxes, fees, and royalties amounted to only 11.8 percent of this total amount at just P199.3 billion—roughly a peso for every ten pesos worth of minerals.
The group said the DENR and other appropriate public authorities should uphold the closure and suspension of majority of the big mines in the country not only because of their various adverse environmental and social impacts found during the DENR’s mining industry audit, but also to give time for authorities to determine the extent of our losses from the costs of plunder and environmental damages as well.
“We do not benefit economically from the massive extraction of our mineral resources, but we do not even know the extent of the losses resulting from two decades’ worth of mining damages to our environment and communities. A comparison between recent major mine spills in the Philippines and in Brazil, for instance, would show that we are valuing damages at just one percent of how another country would estimate its impacts,” explained Dulce.
Philex Mining, a company that passed the audit of DENR, paid P1.03 billion for a 20.69-million metric ton mine spill it caused in 2012. BHP Billiton, the largest mining transnational corporation in the world, caused a 60-million metric ton spill for which it paid USD5.1 billion or around P255.6 billion. Philex paid on a P50.00/ton rate for its tailings fine, while BHP Billiton’s damages payment translates to P4,260.00/ton.
The group also noted that there is still no comprehensive assessment of damages inflicted by large-scale mining operations on environmentally sensitive sectors of the economy such as agriculture and eco-tourism.
“The mine closure and suspension orders must remain in place while our regulatory agencies carefully study the damages for which many of these mining companies are responsible for. Only then can we determine if we are on the losing end of this crackdown of mines or if it will actually help our economy, communities, and environment,” said Dulce.
Mining companies that are members of the COMP were assailed particularly by local communities from Nueva Vizcaya and Zambales, where residents have monitored how these corporations continue to defy the DENR’s closure and suspension order.
“The closure and suspension orders of Sec. Lopez are standing and should be implemented, but we already heard reports of mines in Zambales attempting to ship out their mineral stockpiles. Australian-Canadian big mining company OceanaGold was also reportedly defying the order, saying it did not have sufficient legal basis,” said Dulce.
“The DENR and its regional offices should work together with other public authorities such as the local governments and police forces to enforce the closure and suspension orders. It must resist attempts by the COMP to continue with the current mining liberalization pathway that plunders our mineral patrimony and leaves behind unimaginable damages and other costs to our communities, lands and environment,” ended Dulce.
Reference: Leon Dulce, Kalikasan PNE campaign coordinator – 0917 562 6824
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 920 90 99 | E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | Site: www.kalikasan.net