MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Statements from Philippine civil society organisations on mining

Published by MAC on 2004-11-11

The following are three statements from different civil society organisations in the Philippines, all registering in different ways their opposition to the continued state promotion of mining to the detriment of the Filipino people and the environment.

A Statement Calling for the Scrapping of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the Rejection of the Mineral Action Plan of the Arroyo Government

NCCP Executive Committee

November 11, 2004

On March 3, 2005, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act 7942 will have been in operation for ten years. One long decade of misery for indigenous peoples and communities gravely affected by the mining industry, which is, by and large, in the hands of foreign mining companies.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Financial and/or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) provision of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 is unconstitutional. However, the Arroyo government has appealed this ruling. Moreover, President Arroyo has issued Memorandum Circular No. 67, "Directing the Operationalization of the Mineral Action Plan for Mineral Resources Development", and Executive Order 270 and 270-A, "National Policy Agenda on Revitalizing Mining in the Philippines". These memos basically lay out the major policy guidelines to "revitalize" the mining industry by giving more economic and political privileges to mining companies.

The Mineral Action Plan (MAP) effectively amended the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Mining Act to simplify and fast-track the procedures of processing mining applications and issuance of permits to mining companies. It also aims to harmonize conflicting laws towards the Mining Act and downgrade the authority of local government units.

The government has already set the MAP into motion, purportedly to help stave off the fiscal crisis. A concrete example is the operation of TVI Pacific Inc. in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte who bulldozed the tip of Mt. Canatuan, home to Subanons, to extract gold even with widespread opposition of the people and without the permit of the local government. Mining permits have been granted in Eastern and Western Samar in spite of a moratorium on mining by the provincial governments. The continued operation and expansion of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company even if the people of Mankayan, Benguet are united in opposition is another case.

These are dangerous developments. They show where the priorities of this present dispensation lie. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) affirms its stand against the liberalization of the country's mining industry by calling for the scrapping of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. The Mining Act "has allowed the intensified extraction of our mineral resources endowed by the Almighty Creator"...and "violates the patrimony and sovereignty of the country with the expropriation of the people's land for foreign mining corporations and the 100% control of equity" ("Resolution on the Philippine Mining Act of 1995", NCCP Executive Committee, November 4, 1996). As such, the NCCP calls on its member churches and the general public to remain vigilant in pushing for the rejection of the MAP and to ensure that the Mining Act of 1995 is scrapped. We call on the Supreme Court to uphold the country's sovereignty and protect our national patrimony as it stands on its previous ruling regarding the unconstitutionality of the FTAA provision of the Mining Act.

We also call on our lawmakers to repeal this very destructive law. No amount of financial or fiscal crisis can justify the devastation of our God-given surroundings that is our legacy.

Let us support initiatives that will ensure a mining policy that is pro- people, and will protect the environment as well as push for the genuine development of the country. We have a responsibility to future generations.

Open Letter to Secretary Mike Defensor of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

On the occasion of the Mining and Safety Week Celebration

Cordillera Peoples Alliance

November 16, 2004

On this occasion of Mining and Safety Week celebration of the government and the mining industry, we cannot be celebrating with you, as mine workers remain unsafe in their workplace, and mining -affected communities continue to suffer from the adverse impacts of mining operations here in the Cordillera and other parts of the country. Time and again, we’ve raised our voice in protest over the destruction of our land and water bodies due to large scale mining operation. Time and again, we urged the government to decisively address these issues as a matter of public accountability, recognition of the rights of indigenous communities and for the protection of the environment.

Yet our calls and legitimate demands have fallen on deaf ears. Until today, communities around the Agno river and the Abra river continue to suffer from serious pollution caused by past and present corporate mining operations. Until today, mined-out areas remain un-rehabilitate for the use of former communities and land owners. Till today, avoidable accidents and injuries of mine workers continue to happen. Till today, we indigenous peoples continue to be denied of our rights over our land and resources.

In spite of the serious impacts of large-scale mining, you have expressed your commitment to aggressively implement the Mineral Action Plan (MPA) for what you claim to be for responsible and sustainable mining. For us, this is a mere lip service and devoid of substance. The Mining Action Plan provides for the further weakening of legal procedures and mechanisms on environmental protection and democratic space for local government units and affected communities. Clearly, the MPA was designed based on the demands of mining companies for their unhampered and smooth operation, using additional foreign investment as a bait. The MPA signals a renewed effort of the government for the complete sell-out of the people mineral resources, sacrificing the rights and welfare of affected communities, and the protection of the environment in the process.

Mr. Secretary, we disagree with your position that massive corporate mining is a key solution to the financial crisis. The financial crisis was brought about by the government’s dependence on foreign debt and investment, on massive corruption and a distorted development framework which worsened the condition of the already impoverished majority of our people. Thus, the solution to this crisis should address comprehensively its root causes, and not by selling out our remaining resources to foreign investors.

Mr. Secretary, we urge you instead to address the past and present destruction caused by corporate mining operations, ensure the recognition of the democratic rights of affected communities and mine workers, and ensure strict implementation of environmental protection mechanisms which should include mandatory and direct accountability of mining companies over adverse impacts of their operations.

Sir, OUR RESOURCES ARE NOT FOR SALE! We shall defend them with all our might and power as a people! We challenge you to act on our demands as a public official, whose primary responsibility is to serve the people and not corporate greed and the interest of a few. Until then, any celebration of Mining and Safety Week is mere public image building for the discredited mining industry.

Massive Forest Conversion Seen; Calls Made to Revoke Midnight Gozun Orders

Kalikasan-PNE Press Release

November 10, 2004

The Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) calls for the revocation of the midnight Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) administrative orders (DAO) signed by former environment DENR Secretary Elisea Gozun last August 31, 2004. A total of 28 DAOs were approved by Secretary Gozun, the highest number she approved in a day during her term.

"The former Secretary, in just a single day before bowing out of public office, practically declared 27,000 hectares of forest lands to be disposable and alienable. Not only will this lead to the denudation and destruction of our remaining forest ecosystem but also bring about the displacement of thousands of peasant and indigenous people residing in these areas," Clemente Bautista, KPNE national coordinator, said.

Bautista is referring to DAO Nos. 2004 37-50, all signed Aug. 31 by ex-DENR Sec. Gozun, which converts to agricultural (alienable and disposable) lands parts of forest lands in Cagayan, Benguet, Zamboanga del Sur, Cebu, Bataan, Bukidnon, Palawan, Surigao del Sur, Capiz, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija.

Aside from these, Gozun also signed DAO 2004-59 that reinforces the conversion of forest areas to agricultural and commercial uses. DAO 2004-59 allows the use and management of forest lands for "special uses" such as warehouse sites, shipbuilding, industrial processing, airports, log depot, lumberyard, mineral storage and/or quarrying, mine waste disposal area, motor pool, power station and other "lawful purposes.

"Converting these biodiversity-rich and environmentally critical areas to other uses facilitates the land grabbing and exploitation of big landlords, commercial loggers and transnational mining companies of the country's rich natural resources. Being a focal ecosystem, this shall lead to such environmental problems as frequent drought, massive soil erosion, depletion of our water resources and tragedies similar to the 1991 Ormoc and 2003 Southern Leyte flashfloods," Mr. Bautista added.

"We are certain that this form of environmental treason does not stop at former Sec. Gozun but can be traced all the way to President Arroyo. As part of her 10 point economic agenda, President Arroyo targets to develop two million hectares of new land for agribusiness and promised to further open up our mineral lands for foreign ownership and exploitation. These DAOs are necessary mechanisms for the administration to achieve its goal of commodifying and selling out our forest and natural resources to generate much needed dollar to address its fiscal deficit and cash strapped government," Mr. Bautista explained.

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