The Impact of Philex Mining Operation in SibutadPublished by MAC on 2001-05-01
THE IMPACT OF PHILEX MINING OPERATION IN SIBUTAD
By Tito Natividad Fiel
DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues
(DCMI), G/F, DPC, Sicayab, Dipolog City
The Philippine Government with its line agencies, Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB), Department of Environment and Natural Resources sings the same lyrics and tone with the mining company that mining brings development.
In Sibutad Zamboanga del Norte the local government members mostly mouth the same as the Philex Mining that their operation brings development, jobs, water system, roads, etc.
Aside from writing the reality of this place, at least one and a half year of monitoring the people and the environmental destruction caused by the Philex Mining operation in the sloppy terrain of Lalab, Sibutad, have given the writer enough reason and inspirations to do this document.
Organizing and making people understand in the preparation for their struggle against the destruction made by the Philex Mining have given him ample opportunities to live and work with them and to observe and realize what are their problems, their weak points and their ambitions, aptitude, initiative, industry and independence.
Sharing these experiences to the environmental activist, human rights advocates in regional, national and international level has strengthened his energy in developing and articulating the people’s problem. Making Sibutad as precedent of destruction by the mining communities has added his spirit in wrapping this study.
SIBUTAD, ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE
This is an inland municipality of Zamboanga del Norte, around forty-five kilometers from Dipolog with sixteen barangays. Six of these are along the coastal areas, namely: Sawang, Panganuran, Canim, Libay, Calube and the island of Sinipay. These are also the most affected barangays of Philex Mining Operation. The communities in and around Sibutad have traditionally relied on farming and fishing as their main sources of income, the latter resulting from their proximity to Murceilagos Bay.
The preliminary assessment of the investigating team from DENR central office on March 14-17 1998 confirmed that "the operations of Philex Mining in Subutad are situated in an area above several communities on the slopes facing Murcielagos Bay." They found out that "unmitigated or inadequately mitigated earthmoving activities would aggravate the problem of siltation, which by itself is already a natural occurrence."
ABOUT PHILEX MINING:
Philex Mining Corporation was incorporated in Manila Philippines in July 1955. It engages in the exploration, development and extraction of mineral products. The company listed at the Philippine Stock Exchange and has over 50,000 stockholders. Its President is Gerald Brimo; the other big stockholders are Gokongwei, Soriano, SSS, GSIS, Disini, Sy, and Palanca. 60.71% Filipino interest. While 39.27% various foreign nation interest, like Witalo, HK Ltd., HSBC, Ltd., Philtread Tire and Rubber Corp., GST Phils, Inc., and Philex Gold Inc. (Canadian). Philex Mining claims to be the largest mining company in the Philippines in terms of copper, gold and silver output from three mining operations located throughout the country.
The company’s first mining operation is the Padcal copper mine with gold and silver by-products. The mine is located in the municipality of Tuba, Province of Benguet, about 17 aerial kilometers from Baguio City. Mining operations commenced in 1958, and have continued for more 39 years.
The company’s second operation, under its subsidiary Philex Gold Philippines, Inc., is the Bulawan gold mine in the municipality of Sipalay, Province of Negros Occidental. Bulawan commenced commercial operation in January 1996. Then it has recorded a lot of environmental destruction, damages of lives and means of living in the communities.
Its third mine, is the Sibutad heap leach operation in the municipality of Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte. The mining operation has destroyed the environment, lives and means of living especially the people in coastal communities. The people had been suffering the operation of Philex Mining which contrary to the company’s claim that they bring development.
THE ENTRY OF PHILEX MINING IN SIBUTAD
Combining the concealment of company’s interest in the area, establishing friendship with the landowners, maximizing its connection in the national government, building a close relationship with the local government of Sibutad down to barangay level was the key way in achieving its goal to enter the area. Then finally the company has employed these following activities:
1. Building Friendship with the Small-scales miners
In the late 1980’s, Sitio Lalab in barangay Libay became the primary site of a ‘gold rush’ where thousands turned to small-scale mining. At the beginning, the company has pretended to be also small-scale miner by buying the waste from the small-scale miners cooperative in Sitio Lalab, until such time the mining engineer of the company has established friendship with the small-scale miners, tunnel and landowners. Engineers have offered unconditionally to help the Small-Scale Miners in distinguishing the exact location of gold deposits. The SSM has accepted the offer. But they did know nothing that the company was interested over the area.
2. Giving Business to individuals in the Local Government Unit
While establishing friendship with the small-scale miners, simultaneously the company has established rapport with the mayor of Sibutad, Benito Tolentino. The company was giving business opportunity to the said town father, his two dump trucks were used by Philex mining to haul excavated soils from the mining site to somewhere for PHP 2, 000.00 per day. Then the mayor called his barangay captains who were politically supportive to him and informed them about the grace from Philex mining. Each one of them was given a piecework contract to the company if they agree to the Philex Mining Operation. Of course the captains have no courage to refuse, because it is their opportunities to get much money. Except the two captains from barangay Sinipay and Sawang since the mayor on his call did not include them.
The company to gather their people for them to explain their presence used these barangay captains and that mining activity will bring development. The workers of the captains in the piecework contract were gathered successively and reported as a series of consultation. The said bogus consultations were used by the company to show to the different government agencies and the public that no one is opposed to their presence and operation in Lalab Sibutad.
The company also gave the other municipal officials piece work contract then the mayor influenced them to pass a resolution accepting the presence and other mining activities of Philex Mining. In 1995 the company constructed a diversion road leading to its mine site. It applied for and was granted an Environmental Compliance Certificate ("ECC") on 23 January 1997 for its continued operations. Its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement ("MPSA") was subsequently granted on 10 April 1997.
3. Force Acquisition of land
The mayor together with his close ally, engineer Titi Redillas, personally helped the company in negotiating the tunnel and landowners to sell their rights to the company because whether they like it or not, the company would operate and bulldoze the area. The people was not able to refuse the mayor out of fear since he is known to of short temper and is an acknowledged good shot with his pistol. They had no time to say no except yes while the mayor fixed the amount to be paid to them.
In spite of the help from the previous mayor and engineer Titi Redillas in negotiating the land, many of the tunnel owners and small-scale miners refused to sell their land and tunnels. Then the company arbitrarily bulldozed the tunnel of small-scale miners. One of the victim was Cerilo Niebla, vice chairman of the Sibutad Small-Scale Miners Multi-purpose Cooperative (SSSMMPC). His tunnel has existed since 1987, while the company only arrived in Sibutad in the 90’s. The company’s negotiator approached him but he refused. But the company went on its way and bulldozed and burned all structures and necessary equipment that they have built and procured. He has demanded that he be paid for the destruction. The case is in the court. While the victim is waiting the justice, the company has benefited the area by bulldozing and subsequently producing gold.
Eufracia Andilab during the Kalikasan Council meeting expressed her sentiments on April 29 this year, that her family was the victim of forced acquisition of land. When the company was about to fully operate in 1995, Engineer Mariano Manuson, resident manager, together with Titi Redillas negotiated the father of her husband that the land, with a size of three hectares, should be bought by the company. The Andilab family refused since they were not satisfied with the price. The two negotiators then told the Andilab family whether they like it or not the company would bulldoze the area. Fearing any untoward incident may happen, they were forced to sell the three hectares of land worth PHP 89,000.00 with matching promise of getting a job in the company.
Jerry Balingit a resident and secretary of Barangay Libay expressed that he was also a victim of Semi-land grabbing. When Philex Mining was about to operate in 1995, the management approached him to lease for a road right of way traverses through his land. He and the management of the company entered into a very low priced lease contract for Three Hundred Pesos (P300.00) a year. Without his consent the company added few square meters of land and built guards house and silt dam which was not included in the contract. The contract expired last May 1998 with the company terminating its obligation to the landowner. For two reasons, the company’s unilateral termination of its obligation and the subsequent environmental destruction of the land due to the road and the dam, he feels he must be justly compensated. It was the company that benefited in its use.
The company did nothing. "We have consulted our lawyer, Peter Co, on what we should do, and his advice was to close the road. So we closed it, but the company has forcibly opened." The landowner has closed the road eight times and everytime the company forcibly opened it. The Balingit family has filed nine cases in court with eight counts per case. For this they have experienced a lot of intimidation and harassment by the resident manager of the company, Art Ranin, by telling them that the management would also file a case against them. The cases are still in court while the company’s equipment continue to pass and use that portion of land where the road and the dam were built.
The research used the technical definition of impact, that is, those negative effects the lives and means of living of residents affected by operation of Philex Mining in Sibutad.
METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDY
The DCMI researcher has made a random interview with the community leaders especially in the directly affected barangays. It has made an interview with the local government officials of Sibutad, and the barangay officials of the affected communities.
The DCMI Organizer has made a different consultation/workshop and forum to the direct and most affected barangays of Sibutad. Different sectors and interest in the barangays attended the activity with a satisfactory numbers.
3. Reading of existing documents
The researcher considers the different existing documents, like petition, letters made by the affected communities and barangays, and other product of deep research made by different NGOs and POs.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The Study reaches all Sibutad and other part of Zamboanga del Norte, and the part of Misamis occidental within the scope of murcielagos bay.
PEOPLE’S LIVES AND MEANS OF LIVING BEFORE THE OPERATION OF PHILEX GOLD PHILIPPINES
Absence of Siltation, drinking water was natural:
Libay is a coastal barangay where the center of Philex Mining operation is located. It is also home base to the small-scale miners. Barangay record shows there are 458 households living with a total population of 2,610. Male is 1,207, while female is 1,403. Of 458 families, only 23 families were employed by the company.
Representing fisher folk, farmers, small-scales miners, women, and youth 128 people attended the consultation/workshop held on February 23, 1998, facilitated by the organizer of DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues ("DCMI"). Facilitator divided the participants into six groups, and each group explained through their consolidated idea about the impact of Philex Mining operation in Sibutad. Their report said, before the arrival of Philex their seashore was so clear: fish and seashells were in abundance, fishermen never experienced foul odor from the mountain especially at night that they believe to be poisonous chemicals, no drinking water shortage, or fears of poison in their water. The farmers were able to utilize a vast tract of rice field. Some people also engaged in small-scale mining to augment their income, and people’s capacity for buying increased. And due to the high buying capacity of the people even small businesses were so feasible in the area resulting in the mushrooming of sarisari stores and some funhouses with one putting a warehouse for beverages.
This barangay is located near the town proper; the people have traditionally relied on farming, as main source of their daily needs. The barangay captain with the other barangay officials is a piecework contractor of Philex Mining. Representing women, farmers and government employee twenty-eight people took part the consultation/workshop held on March 2, 1998 at their chapel and facilitated by the DCMI Organizer. The facilitator divided the participants into two groups, each group was asked to express their experience before the commencement of Philex Mining operation. Most of them didn’t have any qualms in buying the seafood from the fishermen in the coastal area of Sibutad, for them the effect of contamination is not an issue yet because they see more the effects of having dust due to a busy, unpaved road and easy for them to get a drinking water.
This barangay is located along the coastal area with a total population of 507 with 249 males and 258 females. The people have traditionally relied farming and fishing as main source of their livelihood. Of the whole population only 23 persons has been employed to elsewhere.
Representing farmers and fishermen forty-seven people attended the workshop/consultation held on March 7, 1998, at the chapel that facilitated by the DCMI Organizer. Facilitator divided the participants into four groups. Same as the other barangays, each group was asked to answer all about the impact of the Philex mining operation in Sibutad to further dig up about the real sentiments and position of the people. All groups expressed that before, no one was poisoned by seashell. The seashore was so clear without mud and fishermen could easily catch the fish and seashells along the seashore.
This is located beside Barangay Libay, and very close to the mining site. Before the commencement of the company’s operation, 142 households settled this barangay while engaging in small-scale mining. Most of the people have traditionally relied on farming and fishing as their main sources. The barangay captain with his son and son-in-law and few other barangay officials are piecework contractor of the company.
Despite the act of harassment by manipulating and barring people to attend the consultation/workshop which was facilitated by DCMI organizers held at the chapel on March 24, 1998, farmers, women youth and fisher folk attended the consultation/workshop. Facilitator again divided the participants into four groups. The same with the answer from other coastal barangays, before the commencement of Philex Mining operation, the farmers had plenty of rice harvested, they never experienced of siltation and soil erosion that buried the seashells and feared to be poisonous. Some of them were engaged in small-scale mining.
This barangay is located very close to the town proper and the mining site. The Barangay captain here is a regular worker of Philex Mining and very supportive to the company. People have traditionally relied on farming. Representing farmer, women, youth and the church in the person of a lay minister of the Eucharist, twenty- three people attended the workshop/consultation facilitated by DCMI organizer on March 29, 1998, at the barangay chapel.
The facilitator divided the participants into four small groups and he asked each group to state their experience lives and means of living before the commencement of Philex mining operation. Most of the participants’ answers were, there are enough sources for food for the present, and that small scale mining has helped poor people in increasing their buying capacity, making them feel good and comfortable.
This Barangay is an island, a kilometer NE of the port of barangay Libay, Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte. The people have fishing as main source of livelihood while a few of them engaged in small-scale mining before Philex Mining started its operation. Some of the men are now working with the company. Barangay captain is supportive with the peoples’ cause against the environmental destruction due to the Philex mining operation. This barangay has 105 household, 321 male and 337 female with a total population of 658.
Representing mostly fishermen, women and youth, fifty people attended the consultation/workshop facilitated by DCMI organizer held at the barangay hall on April 14, 1998. As with the other barangays before the company operated, fishermen easily caught fish as much as ten kilos on a given night by fishnet, while different kinds of seashells were in abundance that allowed school children to earn a little amount for their weekly allowance during school days. They enjoyed a fresh drinking water from the source in the mountains of Lalab, Sibutad, where the Philex Mining is being placed now. The barangay has spent thousands of funds for the people in the island to avail of fresh drinking water for which it is now useless.
This place is the last barangay of Sibutad and very close to Dapitan City. It is also located along the coastal area. The barangay has 258 households, with a total population of 1,238. Female is 626, and male 612. Most of the people here are either farmers or fishers. The barangay officials here are supportive with the people’s cause against the destruction of the environment. Representing different sectors, twenty-two people including barangay officials attended the consultation/workshop on April 25, 1998 at the barangay chapel that was facilitated by the DCMI organizer. The people’s answer was: they have a hard time selling their catch due to fear that was aroused that marine products of the Bay is already contaminated with poisonous chemicals.
This barangay is located along the coastal area in between Libay and Panganuran. People here have traditionally relied on farming and fishing. The barangay captain here, Arnold Banglos, is a piecework contractor of Philex Mining on any kind of work given by the company just to avoid protest from this place. The captain has control over his people, since those jobless and political riders would be benefited by his contract even if it means work for only a day or a week. But despite that, many people have secretly registered their opposition against the large-scale mining operation and voiced their sentiments, because the siltation, soil erosion and other chemical contamination affect their fishermen.
Representing farmers and fishermen, fifteen people attended the consultation/workshop facilitated by the DCMI organizer on April 27, 1998 held at the barangay chapel. They confirmed what the other barangays have answered. They felt the scarcity of marine products along the murciellagos bay and the difficulty in selling these to neighboring towns.
THE SIBUTAD PEOPLE’S SITUATION WITH PHILEX MINING OPERATION
There was a poster published by the Kinaiyahan Foundation, Incorporated of Davao City entitled "Mao ba Kini?" wherein pictures of open pit mining in Antamok, Itogon, Benguet is shown. That is exactly the same sight one can see in Libay. There one can see the eroded soils and where it goes down. The hills have not only become bald; it is becoming a wasteland. The siltation has reached sitio Looc in Libay and along the shorelines of Calube. There are fears that it will go as far as the island of Sinipay and even in Panganuran
Also in Looc, the once fertile and arable ricefield is now covered with the waste from the dam. For now it is a veritable badland since there is no agricultural use. In the port of Libay, where people used to take their swimming, along the shoreline the mud is already knee deep. Not only is it difficult to get clams and seashells but nobody dares to get them anymore for the agonizing work and the fear that it may be contaminated with cyanide. Different organizations have found about this chemical contamination resulting to environmental destruction.
- Mercury Contamination:
- Cyanide Contamination:
- Fish Kills and Blindness
- Heavy Siltation
- Loss of Drinking Water
- Flash flood and Mudflow
Philex Mining denies any involvement in mercury contamination in the bay, since the company has not been using that kind of chemical for gold processing. The company attributed this event to the small-scale miners through their Environmental Impact Statement page 72 conducted by BHP in 1993 as quoted by the report of Marine Biologist of University of San Carlos.
But the result of a study conducted by marine biologists based in the University of San Carlos, Cebu City, Leonila Adarna and Victoria Napisa, in September 27,1997, showed a higher mercury concentration in the sediments in the site close to where Philex mining is operating.
The report further explained that "While it is true that small miners and their gold mining operations contribute to the mercury contamination of the waters in Murcielagos Bay, the contamination from Philex Mining operation by no means more massive and could be irreversible aside from the social impact it brings." Mercury is a natural element included in the rock sediments, and the more you excavate, more contamination it may bring. They added, in the Philippines and elsewhere experiences have shown that almost all of the water bodies where there are large-scale mining operations (e.g. Honda Bay, Palawan, Calancan Bay Marcopper Mining Corporation) are virtually contaminated with mercury after years of operation.
The shellfish in Murciellagos Bay exceeded the tolerable limit of mercury contamination as reported by the investigating team of DENR central office, which quoted a report of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Manila. DENR report page 11.
Along the shoreline and in the creeks near the mining site, it seems that there is an increase in mercury concentration in these bodies of water as per report from the two marine biologists would suggest.
TABLE 1: Areas tested and concentrated of mercury of murceilagos bay, Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte.
MERCURY (ug Hg/g)
Barangay Sinipay Is
Barangay Sinipay Is
Sitio Looc Libay
Source: Report from Water Laboratory of University of San Carlos, Cebu City, entitled Mercury concentrations in the sediments and biota from selected sites of Murceilagos Bay, Zamboanga del Norte Page 5, September 27, 1997
The Save Nature Society (SNS), a member of DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI), through their research team surveyed the coastal barangays of Baliangao, Sapang Dalaga, Misamis Occidental, and Rizal and Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte. They established sampling stations. They took samples from the areas suspected to be sources of mercury and cyanide contamination. They took samples particularly in the outlet jointly close to the ball mills of the small-scale miners in Barangay Calube. They also took samples from Libay below where Philex mining is operating above.
SNS collected 100 ml of water at the Philex mining creek, and submitted to the Cyanide Detection Test (CDT) Laboratory Network of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on February 24, 1999. The result of the test was positive for presence of Cyanide. The result is certified true and correct by Melessa G. Melchor, CDT Chemist, and noted by Benita E. Manipula, Assistant Laboratory Director.
The people of Sibutad and its neighboring places have unconsciously suffered the presence of cyanide contamination from 1998 up to this year. See table 2.
The 1998 to 1999 Cyanide Contamination in the coastal area of Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte and all over Murceilagos Bay.
Positive for presence of Cyanide
Positive for presence of Cyanide
Positive for presence of Cyanide
Source: From the report of Save Nature Society (SNS) with the certification of Laboratory Network, Cyanide Detection Test (CDT) of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
The Philex Mining Company has to deny their involvement of cyanide contamination in the coastal area of Sibutad and all over the murceilagos bay, but they can not be discounted for contamination, since they are using cyanide in extracting gold from ore. See table 3.
Areas were tested, contaminated and uncontaminated of Cyanide.
Philex Mining Creek
Positive for presence of cyanide
Sitio Lalab - I
Small Scales Miner’s Creek
Philex Mining Creek A, Lalab Libay, Sibutad, Z.N.
Positive for presence of Cyanide
Philex Mining Creek B. Lalab
Positive for presence of cyanide
Source: SNS Report and certified by Laboratory Network, Cyanide Detection Test (CDT) of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
Fishes and shellfishes are also contaminated with cyanide as a result of the research conducted by Save Nature Society where quoted from the report of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, see table 4.
Banded pony fish
Japanese Blae Sprat
Banded Tailed Goat
Spotted Rose Snapper
Three-striped Goat Fish
SOURCE : From the report of Save Nature Society quoted from the report of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, January 28-29, 1998.
In mid-1998 the people saw for the first time fishkill. A heavy rain from 26 midnight until June 27 dawn resulted in the silt dam of the company overflowing with the torrents going down to the seashore. In the morning, people saw a lot of dead fish, and some of them tried to get it for exhibit.
Francisco Suan, a fisher folk leader and chapel president of barangay Sawang, Sibutad brought about one fourth (1/4th) kilo of dead fish to the DCMI office at around 10:00 a.m. He informed the DCMI staff rather than the DENR personnel because of fears that the department would not tell the truth and this incident has never happened before.
In the afternoon, about 5:00 o’clock, Vinancio Angot and Doming Lumunggo, both living in Sitio Looc, Libay, brought about five kilos of dead fish at DCMI Office in Sicayab, Dipolog City. Angot and Lumungo affirmed what Suan said.
DCMI Staff verified the incident on the next day June 28 in the afternoon and went to barangay Libay. Due to heavy rains he failed to reach out the right person to be interviewed and talked positively. At 6:30 a.m. June 29, he talked the newly elected mayor of Sibutad, Roger Dizon. The incident was confirmed by the mayor and he himself tried to get much dead fish and gave to his cat and dog, but the animals refused to eat. He confirmed that was never happened before the company’s operation.
At the house of mayor Dizon, Rosario Buhisan from Looc and a neighbor of the mayor, also confirmed what he observed to be fish kills with alimango, kitong, balaknitan and many others showing up dead.
After verification of the incident DCMI staff went back to Diplog and talked to Jojo Leyson of Zamboanga del Norte Center for Social Concern and Development, a DCMI member who called the attention of Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Dipolog City.
On June 30, 1998, in the person of Boy Montana and Jose "Noli" P. Ruiz of CENRO, coordinated with the DCMI staff in order to talk with a right person. CENRO personnel and DCMI staff traveled to barangay Libay of Sibutad and went to the mini-port of the barangay. First, they met with Pudol Tumaroy, a resident of Libay, and fisherman who also confirmed the fish kill incident. He saw personally the different kind of dead fish, like gisaw, danggit, banak, kitong and balaknitan floating on the water. Tumaroy and other people believe the incident was due to the water from the siltation dam of the company that was discharged during the heavy rains.
Few minute later, DCMI Staff and CENRO personnel saw personally the dead fishes, of the Kitong variety floating by the mini-port of Libay. The CENRO personnel took the dead fish and placed it in the plastic bag for exhibit. Then, they went to the house of Vinancio Angot who also preserved a lot of dead fish at home for exhibit in case somebody would ask, and there, CENRO and DCMI saw personally the different kind of dead fishes.
Last April 29 this year Kalikasan Council meeting where held in Sinipay Rosario Buhisan from Looc, Libay, Sibutad testified that sometime last year, one morning, his children went for a swim at a small River beside his home along the seashore. While watching his children in bathing, he observed fishes coming in from the sea and went to the mouth of the river and when they were already there they suddenly went dead. He took the dead fish and gave it to Mr. Cerilo Niebla, a small scale-miner. Niebla confirmed the incident.
Mrs. Leonila Colot, a resident of barangay Panganuran, a chairperson of barangay chapter of "Kalihukan Alang sa Kalingkawasan (KALIKASAN)" or Movement for Liberation, [a freedom from destruction of environment people’s lives and means of living] has confirmed about the one eye blind fish. She has heard many testimonies about this fish from neighbor-fishermen. She didn’t mind it before until her family personally experienced it, when they caught one on April 12, 1999.
Peloteo Pacatang, of legal age, married with six children, a resident of Panganuran, Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte, confirmed that he himself caught a fish that was blind and that it was his first time, and it has been happening ever since Philex Gold Philippines is continuing its operation. "Nakakuha Ko og Lima ka isda nga halap ang pikas nilang mata" [I caught five fishes and all of them were blind in one eye. He himself and his family didn’t even eat, and he sold it without informing the buyer. Asked why he didn’t eat it, he said was afraid.
The seashore from Libay to Calube is sandy. Before the full operation of the mining company they never noticed its mud, if ever there were mud. It was a full of seashells and clams. Now it is full of silt and mud and covers and area of 300 to 500 meters from the shoreline towards the sea and is estimated to be two feet thick. This has also affected the other coastal barangays of Kanim, and Sawang. It has also damaged a Seven 7 million-peso mangrove reforestation project by DENR along the seashore of Libay .
The report of the investigating team of DENR central office reveals that the operations of Philex in Sibutad are situated above several communities on the slopes facing Murcielagos Bay. They found out that unmitigated or inadequately mitigated earthmoving activities would severely aggravate the problem of siltation, which, by itself, is already prone to occurrence due to its natural geography. Heavy earth moving is, therefore, not recommended.
Before the arrival of Philex Mining, the people of barangay Sinipay have enjoyed fresh drinking water sourced from the place where the mining company is operating now. Sinipay is about two kilometers from this source. The materials used by the barangay in order to bring the drinking water at the doorstep of the people of the said barangay were due to the endeavors by the people, led by the barangay officials. Then Philex management conducted a certain gathering with the people of Sinipay informing the residents that the company has to use the place where the source of drinking water of the residents originated. Then promises followed that people should not worry because the company will replace it by building a water treatment plant. The residents did neither said yes nor no. They only hope they can still drink fresh water. The promise has stayed a promise without any fulfillment.
In Barangay Libay, the same thing has happened. The company used the same sources of water. To avoid questioning from the people of Libay, the company has built a water treatment plant. At first they felt okay but later on apprehensions and worries cropped up because they have come to realize their water is not already safe at all since it has been treated. The irony here, the company personnel do not even drink the water from the plant. They have to buy mineral water from Dipolog City.
In the early hours of the morning of November 6, 1997, after two hours of heavy rain, mudflow occurred in Lalab. This mudflow came from the Lalab exploration area of Philex and it adversely affected five nearby houses including that of the Vice Mayor of Rizal, Zamboanga del Norte, Weeben Ko, and rice fields causing millions of pesos of damage .
What happened was that the extracted soils and crushed rocks accumulated in the area provided temporary check for the rains. But owing to the heavy rainfall these soils plus the huge rocks and boulders eventually gave in to the pressure of the accumulated rain water thereby loosening it and spilling them down to the silt dam falling down from a height of around 20 feet and three meters wide. In the process the exploration tunnel’s entrance, the stock pile of soil taken out from the exploration tunnel failed to check the flow of the water resulting in the "flashflood" which escalated down towards the houses below and down to the bay. In the memory of the people this was never happened until the operation of Philex Mining.
ECONOMIC AND PHYSICAL DISPLACEMENT:
The company has vehemently denied any displacement of the people from the area as resulting from their operation. But the truth in barangay Calube, 25 families of 142 households has transferred their residence to Dumanguete City and elsewhere in the country. They forced themselves to vacate from the area out of fear due to the tensions and threats from the company goons and blue guard.
Fortunato Gordobe, a chairman of Sibutad Small-Scale Miners Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SSSMMPC) in Lalab, Sibutad, has confirmed that before the arrival of the company, Lalab was the center of gold rush in the 80’s. There were around 20,000 small-scale miners then. But with the coming of this big company these numbers have been reduced to only 300 to 500. In effect, the small-scale miners had been displaced. There were two cooperatives existing prior to the arrival of the company, one was SSSMMPC, and the other one was North Sibutad Small Scale Miners Multi-Purpose Cooperative (NSSSMMPC). Last year the later decided to stop their operation because Philex Mining has fenced off their areas thereby making their areas inaccessible to them. This plus the blue guards of the company made it impossible for them to continue with their livelihood.
Willy Andilab, a resident of barangay Panganuran, and formerly Chairperson of KALIKASAN, has added, that before the operation of Philex Mining his fishnet placed about fifty meters from the seashore, could caught at least eight kilos of fishes. But after a few years when Philex commenced its operation, it’s hard to get even one or two kilos while mud would cover his fishnets.
For the families who used to take seashells along the seashore they have found out how difficult it is now, because of the knee-deep mud covering the seashore. Leonila Colot, Chairperson of KALIKASAN in barangay Panganuran estimates that, 90% percent of 507 total population in the said barangay used to get shellfish. Before the arrival of Philex Mining they used to get the said marine products around few meters from the shoreline. While when the Company’s operation has full blown, they could not get shellfish near because of mud, but they have to go in the deep about 100 to 200 kilometers from the coastal line which difficult for those who have no boat.
Colot further explained that before the commencement of company’s operation, they people in Panganuran who used to get shellfish could get 20 kilos in one week, but now they would just happy if they can get five kilos in one week.
In Barangay Sinipay, an island barangay of Sibutad, 95% percent of the population relied their income from marine products. Those fishermen could catch fishes 40 to 50 kilos at night like "Anduhaw and Dangit" fish before the commencement of Philex Mining Operation. In 1995 while Philex fully operated five kilos fish was already hard to catch. In 1999, the one kilo is hard to catch and get.
The people in Sinipay who used to get seashells have observed that before the arrival of Philex Mining company, they could easily get the 20 kilos seashells within two hours. When the company commenced its operation they suffered the significant reduction of their produce that fell down to two to three kilos.
In most of the workshops conducted in the different coastal barangays, the seashells augmented their income by providing the schooling children with allowance during school days. Their children used to take seashells on Saturdays and Sundays then sell them to the market or elsewhere in Sibutad. They don’t even need to ask money from their parents. But now most of the parents and poor people in the coastal areas feel it very hard to send their children to school. Many youths from the coastal places in Sibutad finished their college by helping their parents in taking seafood during vacation. But now it is so hard, as Hon. Avelino Yabo, a councilor of barangay Libay, has strongly expressed it.
HARASSMENT AND KILLING:
The area fenced by the mining company was the area of the small-scale miners. There are still many areas claimed by the small miners that have not yet been sold to the company. They still have the rights over the area as provided by R.A. 7076, a law provides for the small-scale mining. But the company guard kept on harassing these people and ordered them to vacate the area. Fortunato Gordobe, SSSMMPC chairman has confirmed this. The blue guards have threatened them that they might do something just to show a sample if the small miners persist in occupying the said territory.
It happened that in the early hours of the morning of May 3, 1998, Creliam Cadalin and other small miners went to their tunnel, which has been fenced off by the company, to dig for gold. After extracting several kilos of soil they decided to go back to their houses where they can process and extract the gold. It was at this time when the company guards, belonging to the 88Security Agency, owned by a politician suddenly appeared and without neither provocation nor warning took aim and shot them with high-powered rifles. Most of them suffered slight injuries and were able to escape from the hail of bullets. But not Creliam. He was shot by a 12-gauge shotgun at point blank range.
The victim sustained nine gunshot wounds and brought by his companion to the hospital in Dapitan City at around 6:30 in the morning. Unfortunately, owing to the lack of facilities and medicines the one in charge at that time recommended to forward the patient to the Provincial Hospital of Zamboanga del Norte in Dipolog City. Again, the attending physician refused them so they have to bring him to the Dipolog Medical Center but was pronounced dead at 8:30.
FINAL REMARKS, EVALUATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
EVALUATION AND CONCLUSIONS:
- The area is not suitable for large-scale and open cast mining:
- National Government action frames for a "win-win" solution, which is equal to a "consuelo de bobo:"
- Local Government is inclined towards Philex Mining
- Majority of affected communities are opposed the operation of Philex Mining.
- The weaknesses of the people
- Weakness of the campaign against Philex Mining.
The area being operated by the company is not suitable for large-scale and open cast mining. The study reveals that the operations of the company are situated above several communities on the slopes facing Murcielagos Bay, which is around 300 meters from the coastal line. Even the Field Investigation Team of DENR central office has found out that unmitigated or inadequately mitigated earthmoving activities would severely aggravate the problem of siltation, which by itself is already a natural occurrence. It is much more if there’s heavy downpour of excavated soils as Philex Mining did. The Topography and physical characteristic of the subject area indicates sufficient facts that it this is not suitable for large-scale and open pit mining. The operation has damaged the environment, people’s lives and their livelihood.
The government’s perception of this case takes the wrong notion that the conflict only involves Philex Mining and the small-scale miners. Without considering seriously that the issue is not merely on the claims but the destruction of the environment, physical and economic displacement wrought on the people and the loss of livelihood for some of these. The government’s framework in solving the problem is for the two to co-exist. While it is true that a peaceful co-existence is the best for everyone, yet the outcome of the entry of big business in laying their claims to the area has brought misfortunes on the local and small people. As can be observed, the small-scale miners have been deprived for a long time now while Philex Mining has benefited the continuing production and protected by the government. So the Government’s previous action was equivalent to "consuelo de bobo" for the poor and in effect it is highly favorable to the company.
If we look back the position of the National Government from Fidel Ramos up to the present one can find that the government has more support for large-scale mining like Philex Gold Philippines than to the plight of ordinary and small people. The probability of the veracity of this allegation lies in the fact that certain government institutions like the Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). Could be part of the major investors of Philex Mining
Antonio Laviste, the husband of Senator Loren Legarda, Board of Investment (BOI) Governor on 02 February this year pronounced that the government has to approve more Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), exploration and other mining activities in the country in order to bolster the economy in general and help the mining industry in particular. The said pronouncement is a clear manifestation that the government is not seriously addressing the needs and problems of the common people and the environmental destruction brought about by the continuos operation of Philex Mining in Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte.
The entry of Philex Mining was made during the time of the leadership of Governor Isagani Amatong in the province of Zamboanga del Norte.
There was no move to solve the problem and this only deepened. In fact, Roldan Dalman capitalized on this problem in his campaign against Amatong in the 1995 election. He won but Dalman threw the problem like a small baggage. Now that Amatong has returned to power the problem is still there. No progress has been made except the re-establishment of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board which is defective in its composition.
Obviously the politico-economic situation is the reason why local officials do not delve into the problem seriously. As in the national level, the local government units refuse to deal the problem in favor of the poor and marginalized population in deference to the next election plus the fact that there are few industries available.
Gov. Amatong can not move for the resolution of the problem because there are a lot of people under his administration who are closely allied with the mining company. For example, in the provincial government, Olos Elumbaring is a member of the provincial board at the same time is the legal counsel of the company. He is the number one spokesperson of the company within the provincial legislative body. There is, therefore, the possibility that the other board members will support the company in their operation.
At the municipal level, the new mayor, Roger Dizon, cannot make any move for its resolution since he was part of the municipal council that approved the entrance of the company through their resolution. Even though he was active in people’s organization then, he did not boldly campaign for the cancellation of Philex Mining Operation when he ran for his present position. Added to this is the fact that his brother is a piecework contractor of the company.
Furthermore, most of the members of the local legislative bodies, both in the municipal and barangay levels, are associated with the company. For example, the Vice-Mayor is the son of Olos Elumbaring, a legal counsel of the company; first councilor is Loly Tolentino, the wife of former Mayor Benito Tolentino, a very close and diehard of the company; another councilor, Remlanie Quiiniones, Chairman of Committee on Environment is a piecework contractor of Philex Mining. These, to name a few. One does not forget the Barangay officials in the affected communities who are workers, if not piecework contractor, with the company except the few barangay officials in Libay, and all officials in barangay Sawang and Sinipay.
Contrary to the claim of Philex Mining, majority of the people in the affected communities are opposed the operation of the giant company. Only the members of the local government units down to the barangay officials have agreed to the operation of the company through their pacifying benefits like short-term jobs and individual business with the company. But even within the local government there are a few who are opposed to its operation. The consent from the community as claimed by the company was based on deception and coercion, not from the heart of the people.
Poverty is the number one weakness of the people. Confined to look for their daily needs issues on politics and ecology hardly strike them as very important. Their financial difficulties and the hardship in eking out a living made some of them susceptible to the come-ons of those who have the power and the money. For a small amount of peso and some job contract opportunities offered by the giant mining they will readily acknowledge the importance of the company in their lives. Not withstanding the ecological destruction and the economic dislocation that others have suffered. Even those officers of "Kalihukan Alang sa Kaling Kawasan (KALIKASAN)" or Movement of Liberation, a Multi-Sectoral group that seek freedom from destruction of environment, people’s lives and means of living all over Sibutad, find it hard to attend meetings due to lack of resources for fare.
Fear is the second weakness but the number one enemy of the people. Few would not move or go against Philex mining out of fear and are afraid to show their sentiments. They don’t want to die or be injured by the company’s armed men.
The lack of environmental concern, basic human rights awareness and knowledge on how to overcome this problem is the third.
The organizer assigned is over stretched. There are 6 barangays alone in the municipality of Sibutad that are directly affected by the operation. Added to these are those belonging to the municipalities of Rizal, ZN and Sapang Dalaga and Baliangao, both of Misamis Occidental that numbers around ten or more. These, too, are to be affected not only by the contamination that is already happening in the Bay but also of the other adverse effect brought about by huge mining activities. Owing to the size of the area it becomes hard for him to consolidate its forces and to make people internalize the issues. His tasks are so complex that he can’t get the basic information on the company’s movements and plans.
There should only be one organizer that will focus on Sibutad alone so that he can have a closer rapport with the people. He can, therefore, consolidate and raise the awareness of the people in the affected communities more effectively and can visit at least the majority of the households in the affected areas.
2. Company’s movement and plans must be monitored and gathered
Philex Mining has local contacts within the community that can feed them basic information on the needs and weaknesses of the people.
They also have more experts like sociologist, psychologist and anthropologist that can easily analyze the weaknesses of the people and address it sensitively. Campaign is a tool of political warfare. In war the campaigner must know its enemy and know itself and he can fight a hundred of battles without defeat, this is the dictum of an ancient Chinese military strategist, Sun Tsu. The one assigned in Sibutad must study and verify all information about the movement of the company. This will be the basis of people’s activities and actions.
3. Constant Awareness Raising
The organizer must constantly raise the awareness of the people in terms of environment, mining and their basic constitutional rights. He should study how the people can internalize their awareness and make it into practice. The organizer should live with the people, eat with the people and work with them. The education process for the people in Sibutad must not be passive and must be aggressive to make them braver in their stand rather than to fold their knees and beg to the company.4. Organization and consolidation
The affected communities in Sibutad, which have not yet been organized, should be organized and be included in Kalikasn and must be consolidated. The following are proposed process and procedures:
- Small Group Organizing
The municipal level of Kalikasan Organizational structure is intact there’s an assembly as its highest policy-making body. Its council is represented from the different affected barangays and is also intact as its policymaking body when the assembly is not in session. Its Executive Committee is the implementing body of their plans and programs as approved by their different policymaking bodies. But the problem of Kalikasan is the barangay level organization. Its barangay organizations are relatively skeletal. The barangay officers can’t manage easily its rank. It is here that organizing problem occurs. There is still the need to organize further the people through small groupings since these can be managed easily by its leaders. The organizer should contact three to five persons. They would be organized into small group organization. Each member of SGO should be tasked to contact three to five and be organized again as SGO. As many SGO in a certain barangay is the better.
In creating SGOs, it shall be done on a day to day manner. Formation activities shall include the following: knowing each participants, orientation about small group organization, then presentation of their experiences and problems upon the entry of the mining company, next is the study about the national problem and trend on mining. Fifth activity is a study about possible actions and resolutions, then a study on legal or constitutional rights of the people as bases of their action and resolution. The last activity is the election of Group Leader, Vice Group Leader, and Finance. The task of GL is to insure that his group can move in line of the program of Kalikasan. The VGL shall take over the responsibility of GL if it is absent. He takes record of the group activities. The Finance officer shall collect the contribution from the members for the Kalikasan activities in line with their struggle.
- Barangay Assembl
Those members of the different SGO in the barangay shall be called in a barangay assembly. If all members from different SGO are there the better, the membership is so clear.