Philippines UpdatePublished by MAC on 2006-03-20
20th March 2006
NGO worker and radio anchor abducted and still missing in Aurora Province, Philippines:
A call for urgent action
Joey Estriber of BATARIS has long been involved in campaigning against the widely discredited Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and consequent mining activity in the country.
Through the work of Bataris, Aurora Province was one of the provinces that passed a resolution calling for a national moratorium on mining operations.
Joey Estriber was also very active in the two national mining conferences that organized together with MAC partner, KALIKASAN-Pne, in 2002 and 2005.
Please act on, and endorse, this urgent alert following the abduction, illegal arrest and enforced disappearance of Joey Estriber.
Where is Joey Estriber and what has happened to him?
NGO Worker and Radio Anchor Abducted by Armed men in Baler, Aurora, Philippine
3rd March 2006
* 37 years old, married with 4 children, Program Officer of Bataris Formation Center , a Catholic Church-sponsored program
* Radio Anchor/ Commentator of program "Pag-usap Natin" (Let's Talk) over local radio station, dzJO, in Baler, Aurora, Philippines
* Secretary of Multi-Sectoral Action Group (MSAG)
Place of Incident: Burgos Street Corner San Luis Street, Baler, Aurora, Philippines
Date of Incident: 03 March 2006 at around 6:20 p.m.
Perpetrators: Alleges Intelligence Group of the Philippine Army of 48 th Infantry Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. Joselito Kakilala
Account of Incident:
On March 3, 2006 at around 6:20PM, Mr. Joey Estriber, a staffer of BATARIS Formation Center, was on his way home from an internet café (Gr8site). While waiting for a ride at San Luis St. Corner Burgos Extension, near Baler's electric cooperative office, four (4) armed men abducted him. He was forced into a heavily, tinted, maroon Besta van without a plate number.
According to witnesses, one of the abductors grabbed Joey while the rest of the abductors helped in subduing him. Joey had a chance to shout "Ah! Ah!" but bystanders thought he was just fooling around. It was when a van which was just parked nearby was driven to where Joey was and he was forced inside the vehicle by his abductors, that the people realized that the abduction and Joey's resistance were for real. The armed men immediately closed the van's door and sped away, southbound.
Joey left the other one of his rubber slippers on the site where he was forcibly taken, proof that he was abducted. Relatives and co-workers of Joey were quickly informed. They then went to the police to make a blotter report.
Prior to the incident, at around 5:00PM of the same day, witnesses recounted that they had already noticed the van parked in front of the AURELCO (Aurora Electric Company), a few meters away from Gr8site, the internet café where Joey came from. They also noticed the presence of suspicious looking men who were lurking near the church.
At around 6:45PM, half an hour after Joey was abducted, a text message from the victim was received saying "Huwag kayong mag-alala, ok lang ako" (Don't worry, I'm alright). When he was asked where he was, he replied "Nagtatago ako" (I'm in hiding). The recipient of the messages, however, doubted if they really came from Joey. After that, Joey's number could no longer be contacted.
Prior to the abduction, other incidents and human rights violations have already been inflicted on BATARIS Formation Center staff:
Last December 14, 2005, two of its staff members were threatened to be arrested after they removed a streamer containing black propaganda against BATARIS at the San Luis, Aurora Highway;
On December 25, 2005, the BATARIS building was burned down;
On February 15, 2006, the military went to the BATARIS office, headed by 1st Lt. Tony Pilas,looking for Mrs. Josie Panginen and Nilo Serrano of PAMANA. The military arrogantly talked to the Bataris staff but calmly left the place after local officials from the Baler Provincial Government came to intercede;
On February 16, 2006, 1st Lt. Pilas blatantly admitted in an interview at dZJO FM that members of various People's Organization (Pos) and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) are in the "Order of Battle" list (OB) of the military;
On February 28, Joey was a speaker during a seminar workshop on Charter Change at the Mt. Carmel College. Four (4) soldiers from 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in street clothes headed by 2nd Lt. Molina came and gate crashed into the seminar saying that they wanted to participate in the event, despite not being invited to it. The school administration intervbened and prevented any untoward incident from happening.
Joey's abduction was reported to the police and local government on the evening of March 3, 2006. Members of the Philippine National Police from Baler had put up checkpoints in various areas but failed to find the victim. Joey's family had also made calls on the radio for his whereabouts but Joey remains missing to this day.
Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:
1. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into the abduction, illegal arrest and enforced disappearance of Joey Estriber;
2. The arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of the crimes of abduction, illegal arrest and enforced disappearance;
3. The immediate and proper indemnification of the victims; and
4. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of its provisions.
You may send your communications to:
H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Cell#: (+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
Hon. Rene V. Sarmiento
*Office of the Peace Process
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 635 9579
Hon. Avelino J. Cruz, Jr.
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue
Voice:+63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488
Fax:+63(2) 911 6213
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org@philonline.com
Hon. Purificacion Valera Quisumbing
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Diliman, Quezon City
Fax: +632) 929 0102
Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the said government official to our address below.
URGENT ACTION Prepared by:
KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights)-National Office
43 Masikap St. Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Voice: (+632) 435 4146 / Fax: (+632) 928 6078
Emails: email@example.com@tri-isys.com /
Arroyo to review, may amend Philippines mining law
by Christian V. Esguerra, Philippine Daily Inquirer
11th March 2006
APPARENTLY bowing to pressure from the influential Catholic Church, President Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday agreed to review the controversial Mining Act of 1995, a law that opens full ownership of local mining projects to foreign investors.
After a two-hour, closed-door meeting with five Catholic bishops at the Traders Hotel in Manila, the President assured the prelates from the country's most active mining areas that she would work to have the mining law reviewed and possibly amended.
The bishops earlier assailed Republic Act No. 7492, otherwise known as the Mining Act of 1995, for allegedly "destroying life" and called for the cancellation of all mining concessions.
Ms Arroyo was accompanied by Speaker Jose de Venecia, Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes, National Economic Development Authority chief Romulo Neri and Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor.
"(We) agreed with our beloved bishops that we will review the Mining Act immediately," De Venecia told reporters after the meeting. He said he would ask the Congress committee on environment and natural resources headed by Rep. Leovigildo Banaag to immediately look at the possible amendment of provisions in the Mining Act.
The Speaker said Congress would integrate the strongest possible safeguards for the environment and safety standards for mining communities, noting that the bishops were not against mining per se, but were against 'irresponsible mining."
Very nice talk
The law was upheld in a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2004, prompting a government drive to attract foreign investment to dig up an estimated $1 trillion worth of mineral wealth.
''We had a very nice talk," Palawan Bishop Pedro Arigo said.
''At least she heard us. She seemed very nice, at least today," Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes quipped.
During the dialogue, Bastes told the President to ''listen to the people, not the politicians," in deciding on mining issues.
''If she is sincere in addressing [the problem of] corruption, this is her test case," he later told the media, noting that destructive mining operations existed largely with the help of corrupt public officials.
De Venecia requested the Church's National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace to gather complaints against mining, including their scientific bases, and submit a consolidated report to Congress ''as soon as possible," said Sr. Roseanne Malilin, Nassa executive secretary.
According to De Venecia, the report would help the committee formed by Congress to look into the Mining Act.
''That was a positive sign on the part of the government to review the law," she told reporters.
But the bishops were still keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that Ms Arroyo would indeed make good on her promise.
''We'll see if she's sincere in containing the evil effects of mining. The ball is in [her] hands," Bastes said.
''What will come out of this remains to be seen," Arigo said. ''We are hoping and praying that the government will make good its promises."
Bastes and Arigo were accompanied by fellow prelates equally passionate about the mining issue, namely Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista of Boac, Antonieto Cabajog of Surigao, and Bishop Emeritus Francisco Claver of Bontoc-Lagawe.
Claver said the bishops made it clear to Ms Arroyo that they were ''not against mining per se but on how it is practised in the Philippines now."
He said they also raised the issue of the ''faulty and very weak" implementation of environmental laws, and the need to review RA 7492.
''There has to be a wide dialogue," he later told reporters. ''Let the people speak out."
The positions raised by the bishops were consistent with the January pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines calling for a repeal of the law.
''Our experiences of environmental tragedies and incidents with the mining transnational corporations belie all assurances of sustainable and responsible mining that the Arroyo administration is claiming," the CBCP said.
In March 1996, tons of mining waste from a copper mill partly owned by Canada's Placer Dome spilled into the Boac River in Marinduque, causing millions of dollars' worth of damage.
''Increasing the number of mining affected communities, Christians and non-Christians alike are subjected to human rights violations and economic deprivations. We see no relief in sight," CBCP added.
AO on Lafayette
Bastes was visibly upbeat yesterday after Ms Arroyo informed him that an administrative order covering the specific functions and composition of the Rapu-Rapu commission was now ready.
He went straight to Malacanang after the affair to see the document for himself.
In a hastily arranged dinner with Bastes and some other bishops last Jan. 30, Ms Arroyo told the group that she was forming a commission to investigate the spill of toxic wastes by Lafayette Philippines Inc. in Rapu-Rapu, Albay.
In yesterday's dialogue, Bastes said he was appointed by the President as head of the 10-person commission.
He said the commission was tasked to gather information about the spill, including complaints from affected residents, and submit a recommendation within a month.
However, Lafayette said yesterday that tests made by the University of the Philippines-Natural Sciences Research Institute (UP-NSRI), on March 1 show that water and fish from around Rapu-Rapu Island and Sorsogon are safe for human consumption.
The UP study, Lafayette said in a press statement, reinforces the five previous studies of the Bureau of Fish and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) that the mercury contamination of Sorsogon fish and waters near Rapu-Rapu as alleged by anti-mining groups never existed.
According to the UP study, the surface water samples from all the 29 sampling stations in and around Rapu-Rapu as well as the eastern coast of Sorsogon, including Prieto Diaz and Bacon, were safe and had mercury and arsenic contents well below the allowed limits.
Fish fit to eat
It also said that the 11 kinds of fishes sampled in the same places were safe and fit for human consumption. The tests also cleared seawater around Rapu-Rapu and wastewater from Lafayette's Rapu-Rapu project.
The five previous tests conducted by BFAR showed that water and fish from Bagacay, Rizal, Barcelona and Prieto Diaz in Sorsogon were well within the allowed mercury limit.
Anti-mining groups from Sorsogon had said the Rapu-Rapu project in Albay, across the sea, was the source of mercury contamination in Sorsogon.
No mercury problem
The company, however, insisted that it does not use mercury in its operations and that Rapu-Rapu Island does not have a mercury problem.
These groups also claimed the company caused the skin problems of a few children. Government doctors who examined the children, however, said the condition was not caused by mercury but by bacterial infection, Lafayette said.
Environmental groups caution Catholic Bishops against the Arroyo administration's mining promises
13th March 2006
Press Release - Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
Environmental activists caution the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on the promise of President Arroyo to "review and improve" the much criticized Mining Act of 1995. Several Catholic Bishops headed by Bishop Francisco Claver had a consultation with President Arroyo and her top Cabinet officials, which ended with Speaker Jose de Venecia and DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes promising to review of the mining law in order to improve environmental safeguards and safety standards to affected communities but according to environmental groups is not enough.
"We cheer the CBCP taking initiatives to seek meaningful changes in the government mining policies and the mining industry. We are one with them if their saying that the mining industry should be oriented towards benefiting the community and genuine economic progress at the same time ensuring the people's lives and environment," says Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE).
"While reiterating our support to the CBCP, we also call on them to remain vigilant with the Arroyo administration mining undertakings and firm on their patriotic positions, which are first and foremost, to repeal the Mining Act of 1995, moratorium on large-scale mining operations, cancel the 24 mining priority projects, and support the local people struggle against the operation of mining TNCs in defense of the environment and people's rights."
"We find Speaker de Venecia's statement another political maneuvering to assuage the growing clamor for the nullification of the Mining Act of 1995, as well as to ward off critics of the unpopular Arroyo's administration, also castigated for its anti-environment image. It is undeniable that President Arroyo is still hell-bent on peddling our mineral resources to foreign transnational mining corporations (mining TNCs). Consistent with the Mining Act, all the policies undertaken by the Arroyo administration from the Mineral Action Plan to the Mining Revitalization Program prove only to entice and give leeway to foreigners to control and intensify their exploitation of our natural resources to the detriment of the local communities and the environment," declared Mr. Bautista, "Instead of securing livelihood for her own people, she has made them more susceptible to dislocation, environmental disasters, and poverty by peddling our mineral lands to mining TNCs and fast-tracking the approval of large scale mining projects."
Last January, CBCP issued a pastoral statement on mining states, "the implementation of the Mining Act will certainly destroy both environment and people and will lead to national unrest. President Arroyo's Mining Revitalization Program is encouraging further the entry and operation of large-scale mining of TNCs."
"It is not only the lack of environmental safeguards that the people are concerned with, it is that the enforcement of Mining Act of 1995 carries with it more disastrous consequences, such as human rights violations caused by the militarization of mining areas as well as the loss of our mineral resources which is vital to our own industrialization. It is a law that fundamentally undermines our national patrimony by perpetuating foreign exploitation in our already ravaged country. Yet despite strong and continuous opposition by various sectors like the Church, indigenous peoples, and local government units (LGUs), the Arroyo administration has chosen to push on with its mining liberalization policies and 24 large-scale mining projects. She has even appointed a military strongman as the new DENR Secretary to ensure its full execution" adds Trixie Concepcion, spokesperson for Defend Patrimony!, a multi-sectoral alliance opposing mining liberalization policies and corporate large-scale mining in the country.
Under the Mining Revitalization Program, the government identified 24 priority large-scale mining projects. According to the government, the priority projects will generate a total of $6 billion in investments.
Clemente Bautista 09283448797
Trixie Concepcion 09275254951
Manila to review investor friendly mining law
by Dolly Aglay, Reuters
10th March 2006
MANILA - The Philippine government bowed to pressure from the Catholic Church on Friday and agreed to review its investor-friendly mining law, putting a much-vaunted revival of its mining industry back into limbo.
Manila, which is trying to lure foreign funding of about $6.5 billion to tap its rich mineral deposits, made the commitment after bishops in the mainly Catholic country called for the cancellation of all mining concessions earlier this year.
The bishops want environmental rules strengthened and for the financial benefits of mining to be shared by local communities.
"We will review the Mining Act immediately," House of Representatives Speaker Jose de Venecia told reporters after officials led by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo met with bishops from the country's most active mining areas.
De Venecia said he will ask the lower house's committee on environment and natural resources to look at the possible amendment of provisions in the mining act of 1995.
He said the review will take 30 days. Any amendment to the law, however, may take more than a month because it has to be deliberated by both houses of Congress.
"We have agreed to look at the Chilean model, the Australian model, the Canadian model with regards to their legislation that strengthens the protection of the environment in mining operations," de Venecia said.
A landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2004 cleared the way for full foreign ownership of mines and prompted a state drive to attract foreign investment to dig up an estimated $1 trillion worth of mineral wealth.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the Philippines was one of the biggest mining centres in the world but two decades of neglect, environmental mishaps and clashes over land rights have seen its potential stunted.
Analysts said the review could derail the industry's tentative efforts to get back on its feet.
"This is very disturbing. It puts uncertainty back into the sector just when interest was being aroused around the world," Peter Wallace, president at consulting firm Wallace Business Forum, told Reuters.
"I would not be surprised to see foreign investors defer interest until this review is completed and the outcome well known. But even then, will be able to trust what is decided?"
The bishops said the mining law had to be reviewed to strengthen environmental rules and to ensure the financial benefits from mining are shared by local communities.
"We are not against mining per se, but we are very much against the way mining is being accomplished right now in the Philippines," retired Bishop Francisco Claver told reporters.
"The action of the government has been very weak with the implementation of environmental laws and the sharing of the wealth with the poor," he added.
The bishops said they also raised last year's cyanide spills by a unit of Australian-listed Lafayette Mining at its Rapu-rapu polymetallic project in central Philippines.
Rapu-rapu mine-- the first to be developed by foreigners in nearly four decades -- halted operations after the cyanide spills, just three months after it started gold production.
Lafayette has said it will not restart the mine until it is certain the operations will be conducted in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista of Marinduque said he asked the government to exclude the proposed rehabilitation of the Marcopper copper mine, where tonnes of waste spilled into a river in the central Philippines in 1996, causing extensive damage.
Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes said Manila will require foreign firms to set up a fund to cover future accidents. "If they are going to develop mining in the Philippines, a fund will be set up to address any untoward incident."
Philippines warned not to amend mining law
by Roel Landingin in Manila, - Financial Times
13th March 2006
The Philippines government has been warned not to amend a mining law that was cleared by the Supreme Court little more than a year ago, amid fears this would create fresh uncertainty and delay investment plans for the sector.
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the country's president, called for more environmental safeguards to be built into the law when it is amended by Congress, which is reviewing the legislation in response to calls from influential Catholic bishops.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines had urged a repeal of the law after an accidental mining waste spill in October, despite the sector being one of the few attracting large-scale investment.
Jose de Venecia, the speaker of the House of Representatives, announced an immediate review of the mining law to "incorporate the strongest possible safety and environmental standards" after a two-hour meeting between Mrs Macapagal and the bishops on Friday.
The move is seen as another case of regulatory uncertainty in the Philippines, where government policy can be held hostage by powerful lobby groups. Conditional support from the Catholic bishops has helped Mrs Macapagal fend off calls for her resignation over allegations of poll cheating.
She recently also declared a week-long state of emergency to quell alleged plots against her leadership.
The announcement on the mining law creates ambi-guity that could affect the pace of investment flows into the sector, warned Peter Wallace, a Manila-based business consultant who advises foreign companies. "It puts a question mark all over again on one of the economy's few bright spots," he said.
Eugene Mateo, president of the Philippine unit of Canada's TVI Pacific group, said: "Investors, wary of ultra-strict provisions that would be very costly tocomply with, may decide to wait and see for the changes in the mining law before putting in funds for new ventures."
Investment in mining has been rising again after the Supreme Court in December 2004 affirmed the country's 1995 law was constitutional, reversing an adverse ruling 10 months earlier. Investment in more than 20 big mining projects doubled to $107m (€90m, £62m) last year and is expected to rise to $350m this year and $1.5bn next year.
Roberto Herrera-Lim, Asia analyst at the Eurasia group, a New York-based political risk consultancy, said the threat of a drastic policy reversal was low. The move was meant "to hold off the bishops for the near term, as [Mrs Macapagal] tries to keep the bishops from becoming more critical of the administration in the face of recent political and military threats", he said.
Manila spooks foreign investors with mining review
13th March 2006
by Carmel Crimmins, Reuters
MANILA - The Philippines is trying to reassure foreign investors they have nothing to fear from a review of its mining law but analysts say the surprise move has spooked foreign firms vital to the industry's revival.The government said on Monday that re-examination of the law, which allows for full foreign ownership of local mines, was simply to address environmental concerns raised by the country's powerful Catholic bishops and not a re-write of ownership rules.
"If it needs to be amended to strengthen the implementation of the environmental issues then it will have to be amended," Romulo Neri, socioeconomic planning secretary, told Reuters.
He said the bishops asked for a review of the law "to ensure that it has more teeth."
After pressure from the Catholic Church, the government announced on Friday it would conduct a 30-day review but any amendment would take longer because it would have to be debated by Congress.Manila is dependent on foreign investors to tap an estimated $1 trillion in mineral wealth but analysts say the government's apparent willingness to re-write laws could jeopardise efforts to attract $6.5 billion in funding for the once mighty mining sector.
"That's not good news for the Philippines, there was a perception policy was going the other way," Ted Leschke, mining analyst for Shaw Stockbroking in Sydney, said.
"From a geological standpoint, the Philippines is A-1, but if they keep changing things, miners will go to Mongolia or somewhere else."
The Philippines ranks in the world's top five for its deposits of copper, nickel and iron ore and is geographically closer to resource-hungry China than the region's other major mining centre, Indonesia.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the country hosted one of the biggest mining industries in the world but two decades of neglect, environmental mishaps and clashes over land rights have seen its potential stunted.
Political instability has also deterred prospectors from pouring money into the Philippines, where there have been more than a dozen coup attempts since the ousting of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
Last month, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo uncovered a coup plot and declared a week-long state of emergency, which she said gave her the power, if necessary, to take over privately-owned utilities.
"The Philippines will need to demonstrate significant changes in the way the country is run to attract a meaningful level of foreign mining investment. That clearly is not happening," Keith Goode, director of Eagle Mining Research of Australia, said.
Local communities, particularly those reliant on fishing, are concerned about the dangers to their lives and livelihoods from mining.
Australia's Lafayette Mining became the first foreign firm in nearly four decades to develop a Philippine mine but cyanide leaks last year triggered a wave of anti-mining protest, particularly among the mainly Catholic country's bishops.
The government has said it will await the recommendations of a fact-finding commission headed by bishop Arturo Bastes into the impact of the Lafayette leaks before completing its review. The review is expected to take 30 days.
Arroyo also wants mining companies to devote at least 10 percent of capital expenditures to fund environmental expenses and to spend 3-5 percent of direct mining and milling costs for annual environmental programmes. Companies must also take out environmental insurance coverage.
PIA (Philippines Information Agency) Press Release
13th March 2006
Commentary: Bishops for responsible mining
Iloilo City (13 March) -- Members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said they are not against mining per se. What they are against is irresponsible mining, according to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
This was what the Bishops told her during their recent meeting. The Bishops said they had concerns about mining as it is being practiced today. What the Bishops are against is the way mining is being done now because of the Lafayette situation but not against the concept of mining.
Hence, the President said there was a need to make mining today even more responsible.
The President pointed out that there are more good experineces than bad experiences in mining. She cited that there had been good and still continue to have good experiences in mining. According to the President mining in the Cordilleras has and by large been a good experience. Specificially she pointed out the mine in Bankayan [sic], Benguet where the mining company over the years has provided the people with a high standard of education. Likewise in Masbate, the President pointed out that after the mining company left, they provided for what they call remediation measures. What used to be a mining pit has become the resident's source of clean water. In other places in the Philippines, mining companies have given residents opportunities for good education and good infrastructure.
However, the President also pointed out the bad experiences in mining like the Rapu-Rapu case and vowed that cases like these should not be allowed to happen, particularly she said as she wants to revive the mining industry for our economy to survive.
by MACEC Press Release
24th March 2006
Boac, Marinduque - March 24 is Black Friday in this part of the country. Thousands of Marinduqueños wearing black shirts, sporting black armbands and carrying black banderitas flocked to the capital town through a circumferential caravan coming from all the municipalities of the island. It is a day of mourning, unity and prayer in the entire province to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the infamous Boac River Mining Disaster of 1996 that wreaked havoc to their environment and livelihood. This year also marks the 30th Anniversary of the dumping of mine wastes in Calancan Bay in Sta. Cruz and the 13th year of the collapse of Maguila-guila Siltation Dam in Mogpog.
Bells tolled in every Parish as early as 5AM, followed by solemn mass celebrations as people mourn for all the losses the entire province incurred due to tragedies resulting from 30 years of irresponsible mining. People lament that despite these disasters - which generally affected the social, economic, environmental and health spheres of the individual victims and the entire province - the national government through the DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) responded by including the San Antonio Copper Project in the list of 23 mining priority areas in the country.
As stated in the Marinduque Declaration, the inclusion shows the national government's insensitivity and callous disregard of the plight by those affected and those who continue to suffer as a result of the disasters caused by large-scale mining. "Today, we are one in prayers and action as we commemorate these tragic events to strengthen Marinduqueños' resolve in our collective struggle to seek justice for the people and the environment," Bishop Rey Evangelista through Vicar General Msgr. Ramon Magdurulang said.
For Marinduque Congressman Edmund O. Reyes, Jr., the solidarity and collective action demonstrated today by Marinduqueños has been inspiring. "Talagang walang imposible kung nagkakaisa tayo at kasama ang Panginoon. Thanks to our united efforts and prayers, there is a very strong chance we may finally obtain justice our people deserve. Our case is rock solid owing to world-class objective evidence from some of the best international environmental, engineering and health experts. We have the United States Geological Survey (USGS) studies worked on together with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Health Poisons Control Center, Oxfam Australia, testimonies from Congressional Hearings, and various studies by the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo," Reyes added.
The people of Marinduque, through the Provincial Government, has filed a suit against Placer Dome, Inc. (PDI) in Nevada, U.S.A. on October 24, 2005 for environmental remediation and natural resource damage in the hope of obtaining just compensation favorable to the Marinduqueño people and for the next generations of Filipinos. PDI is the giant Canadian mining company that managed and controlled Marcopper Mining Company (MMC). PDI operated the mine until 1997 when it divested its shares in Marcopper. Attys. Walter Scott, David Ammons and Reda Dennis, three members from a powerhouse team of many other American lawyers representing the Province, were one with the people in the commemoration, as they prepare to defend the case against countermoves filed by Place Dome, Inc.
"Placer Dome has filed a Motion to Dismiss last March 1, 2006 after several requested extensions," said Scott. The moves to dismiss by Placer Dome were on the basis of personal jurisdiction and forum non conveniens. "There were no surprises as we have anticipated these grounds," Scott added.
According to Scott, Placer Dome first makes a simplistic assertion that the Court lacks general jurisdiction over Placer Dome, and that the Province - and every other plaintiff - not allowed to sue Placer Dome in Nevada because it supposedly does not conduct any business there despite the enormous profits it reaps from mining operations in Nevada. Placer's particular jurisdictional challenge is premised on a sworn statement of Mark Ruus, Placer Dome's Vice President of Taxation, which has already been contested as false and misleading by one of Placer Dome's own former executives. "Placer Dome's position is disproved by the facts, and the Province has responded to Placer Dome's jurisdictional challenge with a more than one foot-thick motion of its own highlighting Placer Dome's pervasive contacts in Nevada while also demanding jurisdictional discovery to further probe Placer Dome's contentions," Scott said.
Placer Dome's forum non conveniens argument contends that, instead of Nevada, the only appropriate or convenient forum for the case is Canada - and not the Philippines. Under the applicable tests and considerations, there is nothing to argue in favor of Canada over Nevada other than that some, but not even all, of Placer Dome's personnel reside in Canada; however, that fact is not of any real consequence to the determination at hand, according to Scott. Placer Dome does not even consider the Philippines as an alternative forum. "It is ironic that Placer Dome uses forum non conveniens to defend against suits brought in Canada while in this case, it argues in favor of Canada," he said. "Of course Placer Dome would want the case to be in Canada. It's home court advantage. What we want is a neutral hearing so that a fair decision can be reached by the court. I am hopeful that we can get justice from the U.S. Federal Court of Nevada," said Marinduque Governor Carmencita Reyes.
In a statement issued by the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC), in the 30 years of hosting large-scale mining projects, Marinduque remains one of the only seven fourth-class provinces in the country, ranked as 14th poorest province in the Philippines and as having the 3rd most denuded forests, and has a high poverty incidence of 71.9%. According to MACEC Executive Secretary Myke R. Magalang, this should be a reminder to the national government and a wake up call to other provinces lest they fall into the trap of "economic miracles" promised by mining projects especially with the major thrust of the current administration to revitalize mining in the country. "The overwhelming support of the people of Marinduque to heed the call for a day of mourning, unity and prayer demonstrates that we are in solidarity in our campaign for a mining-free province," Magalang said.
Atty. Walter Scott 0918-2770026
Bishop Rey Evangelista 042-332-21788
Cong. Edmund O. Reyes 02-9316427
Governor Carmencita O. Reyes 042-332-1002
MACEC Exec. Sec. Myke R.Magalang 042-332-2713
MAKE MARINDUQUE A MINING-FREE PROVINCE!
MIGUEL "Myke" R. MAGALANG
Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns
Second Floor, Sacred Heart Diocesan Pastoral Center
Cathedral Compound, Boac, 4900
Tel: (042) 332-27-13
Marinduque Declared as Mining Free
by Dennis Espada, Bulatlat - Vol. VI, No.
8th March 2006 - 1st April 2006
As Marinduque folks commemorate a decade of mining debacles
After three decades of hosting large-scale mining projects, Marinduque remains impoverished, ranked as the country's 14th poorest province with a staggering poverty incidence of 71.9 percent.
The people of Marinduque (some 170 kms south of Manila) marked March 24 as a "day of mourning, unity and action" to remember an ill-fated decade following the infamous Boac River disaster and other mining-related tragedies, considered the worst ever that occurred in Philippine history.
Mine tailings coming from a defective drainage tunnel at the Tapian Pit operated by Marcopper Mining Corp. gushed down from the mountain on March 24, 1996, filling the 30-kilometer Boac River with three million tons of toxic wastes.
On Dec. 6, 1993, a deluge of dam water drowned two children to death in Mogpog town after the collapse of the Maguila-guila siltation dam. Meanwhile, some 36 residents of Calancan Bay died due to diseases believed to have been caused by heavy metal contamination after Marcopper dumped 200 million tons of mine wastes into the river system from 1976 to 1991.
All these serve as a painful reminder that natural resources are not for sale.
During a recent protest gathering in Boac town, church leaders, local government units, academic institutions and multi-sectoral organizations urged the Macapagal-Arroyo administration to put an end to ecological ruin by making their island-province mining-free.
Last Jan. 31, key leaders in the province, among them Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista of the Diocese of Boac, Marinduque Council of Environmental Concerns (Macec) chairman Msgr. Senen Malapad, Gov. Carmencita Reyes and Cong. Edmundo Reyes Jr., endorsed the "Marinduque Declaration". It demands the removal of the San Antonio Copper Project from Malacañang's mining priority list and rejection of all pending mining applications in the province.
In a pastoral letter, Evangelista said more than 80 lay leaders and representatives of pastoral councils, diocesan commissions, religious groups and church organizations assembled last month for the First Church People's Diocesan Colloquium on Social Concerns to draw out activities for the enhancement of advocacy and information work on mining issues. They collectively expressed support for the "Marinduque Declaration" and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) statement calling for the scrapping of Republic Act No. 7942 or Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
After three decades of hosting large-scale mining projects such as the Consolidated Mine Project and Tapian Copper Project, Marinduque remains impoverished, ranked as the country's 14th poorest province with a staggering poverty incidence of 71.9 percent and has the third most denuded forest.
"It (San Antonio Copper Project's inclusion in the mining priority list) is insulting for us, Marinduqueños, and really shows callous disregard of the national government for the suffering of our children, women and men as a result of large-scale mining," the declaration read.
"It is quite clear that the government still doesn't realize the gravity of environmental problems in our province, just don't care about the poor people's welfare, or has lost all capacity to function as a sovereign government for the best interest of its people and the nation's future. Whichever it is or a combination of all three, there resides in the Marinduqueños a deeply-rooted sense of justice and rights and a long history of willingness to fight for those rights in the face of oppression."
ForsakenMacec's executive secretary Myke Magalang blamed the executive, legislative and judicial branches for their utter failure to give justice to the victims.
He said that while lawsuits against Marcopper are still pending before the courts, Placer Dome Inc., the Canadian firm that controls Marcopper, fled the country without satisfactorily cleaning-up their mess.
"We had to run after Placer Dome and when we found them in Nevada in the United States, we filed a civil case in that foreign country, a very expensive quest for justice," Magalang told the media.
Bayan Muna (People First) Party-list Rep. Joel Virador pointed out that the Marinduque catastrophes are glaring cases of neglect that "concretize the pitfalls of the government's mining liberalization policy".
"The Philippine Mining Law is a clear case of how this government tailor-fits its own law to serve the interests of foreign multinationals and to be consistent with GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and the rules of World Trade Organization," Virador said. "Indeed, it is high-time for us to combine our strength and together say no to the plunder of our finite natural resources." Bulatlat.
Marinduque still a mining site despite 1996 disaster
by The Philippine Star
25th March 2006
It was Black Friday in Marinduque yesterday as residents of the island marked the 10th anniversary of the infamous Marcopper mining disaster, which wrought havoc on the pristine waters of Boac River.
But despite the protests of black-clad residents who marched in a caravan to the capital, the government continues to include the area in the country's list of mining priorities.
"The inclusion shows the national government's insensitivity and callous disregard of the plight of those affected and those who continue to suffer as a result of the disasters caused by large-scale mining," Marinduque Rep. Edmund Reyes lamented yesterday.
The young lawmaker revealed that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has included San Antonio copper project in the list of "23 mining priority areas in the country."
In expressing the sentiments of the local communities, Reyes said Marinduquenos still feel the pain brought by the tragedy, which damaged the environment and adversely affected their livelihood, not to mention its impact on their social and health status.
Thousands of Marinduquenos, who have been crying out for justice, wore black shirts and armbands yesterday while carrying black banderitas as they flocked to the capital through a circumferential caravan coming from all the municipalities of the island.
"It was a day of mourning, unity and prayer in the entire province to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Boac River mining disaster of March (24) 1996," Reyes said in a statement.
2006 is also the year, according to him and his governor-mother, Carmencita Reyes, marking the 30th anniversary of the dumping of mine wastes at Calancan Bay in Sta. Cruz and the 13th year of the collapse of Maguila-guila siltation dam in Mogpog town.
"Today, we are one in prayers and action as we commemorate these tragic events to strengthen Marinduquenos' resolve in our collective struggle to seek justice for the people and the environment," Bishop Rey Evangelista said.
Rep. Reyes also expressed confidence that the provincial government will win the case it filed October 2005 in a Nevada court, launching a "landmark suit" against Canadian mining firm Placer Dome, which dumped mine tailings in a large part of the province 10 years ago.
"Our case is rock solid owing to world-class objective evidence from some of the best international environmental, engineering and health experts," he said, citing the help they got from the US, Australia, congressional testimonies and from UP and Ateneo.
Reyes said the province is seeking at least $100 million from Placer Dome for the rehabilitation of areas, including rivers, damaged or silted when a large mine waste dumpsite collapsed, discharging thousands of tons of toxic wastes in low-lying areas.
He said the Canadian firm should also pay for "economic damages," including compensation for lost properties and income opportunities of the people affected, and for health problems caused by the toxicity of the mine tailings.
"If this case prospers, it will send a clear signal to all multinational corporations doing business in the Philippines to think twice about damaging our environment and risking our health. Although they can run away, they won't be able to hide for long," he stressed.
Reyes said the province sued Placer Dome in Nevada because the company has three major mining operations there. Placer's Nevada investments total more than $1 billion and accounted for 17 percent of its more than $6 billion in revenues in 2004, he added.
Lawyers Walter Scott, David Ammons and Reda Dennis, who are among the team of American lawyers representing the province in the case, joined Marinduquenos in marking the disaster.
Scott said Placer Dome filed a motion to dismiss last March 1 following several requested extensions. The basis for the motion, he said, was related to personal jurisdiction and forum non-convenience.
Meanwhile, the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (MACEC) pointed out that in the 30 years of hosting large-scale mining projects, Marinduque remains one of only seven fourth-class provinces in the country, and ranked 14th poorest province in the Philippines.
The council also said that Marinduque's forest is the third most denuded, and that the province's poverty incidence was at a high 71.9 percent.
Miguel Magalang, executive secretary of MACEC, said that these figures should serve as a reminder to the national government and a wake-up call to other provinces to avoid falling into the trap of "economic miracles" promised by mining projects, especially with the current administration's thrust to revitalize the mining industry in the country.