MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines Update

Published by MAC on 2007-07-13


Philippines Update

13th July 2007

Philippine papers have reported that Lafayette is to sue one of its most vociferous critics within the country, the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC-Phils), for libel; although at the time of writing no papers had actually been served. If such papers are served CEC are more than eager for their day in court, so this legal intimidation could well backfire. Anti-mining groups are also apprehensive about the implementation of the government's anti-terrorism law (the Human Securities Act), and whether it will be used for yet further intimidation. However, with new politicians taking up their posts after the election there is also news that the new vice mayor of Brooke’s Point in Palawan has an anti-mining stance, and the new Vice Governor of North Cotabato is urging the national government to reconsider its aggressive promotion of mining projects.


Lafayette Mining harassing environmental NGO with P10M libel suit

Kalikasan-PNE Press Release

12th July 2007

Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) today lambasted Lafayette Mining for filing a P10 million libel suit against non-government organization (NGO) Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC-Phils).

Media reports said that Lafayette Mining filed a complaint before the Pasig City Prosecutor's Office last Monday, July 9 against the trustees of the CEC-Phils and its Executive Director, Frances Quimpo. CEC-Phils is a member NGO of Kalikasan PNE.

"This reported libel suit by Lafayette Mining is a form of harassment and intimidation. We think that its sole objective is to bring about a chilling effect. This threat of penalization is trying to promote self-censorship among environmental advocates and people's organizations," Kalikasan PNE National Coordinator Clemente Bautista said.

"This libel suit from Lafayette Mining is no different from the Human Security Act (HSA) being pushed by the Arroyo administration. Both attempt to use the law for self-serving purposes, by targeting their most vocal critics," Bautista said.

"The libel suit is baseless, an empty bluff. We believe that this move by Lafayette Mining will not prosper. It will die a natural death and eventually end up in the trash bin due to its lack of merit," Bautista said.

"We will not be cowed by the threat of a costly and lengthy lawsuit against one of our member NGOs," Bautista said, stressing that more environmentalists and organizations are prepared to support CEC-Phils as the case progresses.

"This move to harass CEC-Phils will only generate more popular opposition to Lafayette Mining on the provincial, national and international levels. Already, many of our networks and allies have sent in their messages of support,' he said.

"We will face this libel suit in the legal arena and beyond. We will intensify our information-dissemination campaign to show more people in and out of the country what is really happening in Rapu-Rapu island as a result of Lafayette's mining operations. We will generate more grassroots support for the call to close the Lafayette mine in Rapu-Rapu, uphold a mining moratorium on the island, and work for genuine and sustainable program for the people's livelihood and welfare based on genuine land reform," Bautista said.

"This libel suit will not deter us environmental activists from opposing these destructive projects being approved by the Arroyo administration. It will not stop us in our mission to pursue a genuine people's mining policy that will benefit the majority of Filipinos and not an elite clique conniving with foreign business interests," Bautista ended.

Reference: Clemente Bautista, Jr. National Coordinator
Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Email: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com


CEC Statement on Lafayette's raps

11th July 2007

A local daily reported that Lafayette Philippines filed libel raps against the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC – Phils). Among the statements that Lafayette was said to deem libelous were our assertions that the company "engaged in the illicit sale of the Philippine natural resources, had been deceitful in reporting its production, epitomized irresponsible mining, and had caused fish kills and various ailments in the community."

Let it be known, that we from the CEC – Phils are most ready to face the charges, and at this point, already plead not guilty. We stand by our statements, duly-supported as they are by no less than the findings of the Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission (RRFFC), which President Arroyo herself convened following public outrage.

In our campaign against the polymetallic project in Rapu-rapu, we have always referred to the RRFFC's findings and recommendations to support our calls to stop the mining operations in the island. In fact, it was the RRFFC which noted that Lafayette's project epitomized irresponsible mining and greed for profit – as shown in their violation of 10 of 29 conditions of its Environmental Compliance Certificate to environmental laws, anomalies in their tax payments, and more importantly, their insensitivity to the suffering of the Rapu-rapu folk, who continue to live in extreme poverty.

Naturally, Lafayette did not attempt to sue the RRFFC. Instead, it was keen on harassing us, a non-government organization which promotes people-oriented, patriotic, scientific, progressive and sustainable environmental advocacy. We had earned their ire for showing sound scientific evidence of the destructive impact of mining operations in Rapu-rapu, including geophysical characteristics of the island which render it a high-risk area for mining. Moreover, studies of the Institute for Environmental Conservation and Research, and of AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People), reveal that Rapu-rapu has a fragile ecosystem with hilly terrains and steep slopes, and massive sulfide rocks capable of generating sulfuric acid. Also, Rapu-rapu is vulnerable to landslide due to loosened soil and tailings resulting from the mining project.

Hence, amid the efforts of Lafayette to clear its otherwise ugly name, we shall continue to condemn transnational mining corporations who exploit the country's mineral resources, at the expense of the people and the environment. Finally, we will continue to condemn the principal authors of the Mining Act of 1995 and their cohorts in the DENR, who have allowed the plunder of our natural resources and the sale of our national patrimony.

We welcome the said libel suit, and we see it as an opportunity to continue exposing the consequences of destructive mining in Rapu-rapu that the government, neglected when it allowed the company to resume operations.

Lafayette's legal efforts cannot thwart us. Instead, we are all the more inspired to fight for the people and the environment. Together with the Filipino people, the Center for Environmental Concerns shall continue to struggle for a mining policy that will truly benefit the Filipino people and support national progress.

FRANCES Q. QUIMPO
Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines, Inc. (CEC)
No.26 Matulungin St., Bgy. Central Quezon City, Philippines 1100
TelefaxNo. +632-9209099,+632-9248756
Email: cecphils@gmail.com, cesqq2001@yahoo.com


Lafayette files libel raps vs ecology group

Tribune - http://www.tribune.net.ph/business/20070711bus2.html

11th July 2007

Australian mining giant [sic] unit Lafayette Philippines sued yesterday an anti-mining group and its key officers for libel, saying, "Their brand of irresponsible and unprincipled advocacy employed a systematic pattern of lies and hate-mongering to pressure the government to close down the company."

"We are taking this unprecedented defensive measure to protect the company and the thousands of people we employ directly and indirectly, and to force these anti-mining groups to be a positive force through a moral, honest, and responsible advocacy," Lafayette president Carlos Dominguez said.

Included in the complaint filed before the Pasig City Prosecutor's Office were the trustees of the Center for Environmental Concerns Inc. and its executive director, Frances Quimpo, who, for almost two years running, insisted on allegations that had long been proved as a hoax and unscientific.

The company is seeking P10 million in damages which it plans to use as a scholarship fund for deserving Rapu-Rapu students to secure advanced degrees in environmental management and protection.

The company is also preparing similar complaints against radical groups, including a Rapu-Rapu Island resident who even flew to Melbourne just to distribute anti-Lafayette handouts to the company's bankers.

"These groups want Bicol region's biggest investor and job creator to close down under the guise of protecting the environment. Some of them have even gone as low as telling the Rapu-Rapu residents that they are better off as poor fishermen than have the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project around," he said.

Dominguez said the anti-mining advocates succeeded last year in making people believe that the company caused a mercury spill off the coast of Sorsogon, across the sea from Rapu Rapu, the project's location. He said the company does not use mercury at all.

"It took us months to clear our name with the help of independent scientific groups. But the worst injury of the mercury hoax was on the 5,000 Sorsogon fishermen who could not sell their catch. The poor got poorer and more desperate, while the miscreants got away," he said.

Dominguez said this should not be the case because responsible NGOs (non-government organizations) have a big role to play especially in monitoring as the country becomes a major mining player in the region.

CEC, in its various handouts and campaigns, had accused the company of "engaging in the illicit sale of Philippine natural resources," being "deceitful in reporting its production," "epitomize(s) irresponsible mining," "causing fish kills" and causing various ailments in the community that doctors said came from poverty and poor hygiene.

Clemente Bautista
National Coordinator
Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Email: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com Website: www.kalikasan.org


An Anti-Mining Voice in Pro-Mining Chorus

By Redempto Anda, Inquirer - http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/regions/view_article.php?article_id=76122

12th July 2007

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY -- For the first time in her life, maverick lawyer and antimining activist Jean Feliciano banged the gavel on July 3 as the new vice mayor of Brooke’s Point in Palawan and presiding officer of its legislative council.

The agenda for the council’s inaugural session was, by tradition, nothing more than parliamentary niceties.

In the next few weeks, however, Feliciano and her peers will buckle down to tackle a highly charged debate on whether or not to allow two major nickel mining companies to operate in Brooke’s Point.

“It’s like the most impossible job in the world, but I’m here to fulfill a mandate,” Feliciano said after taking her oath of office on June 30.

Thrust into public office by a simple majority of the municipality’s antimining constituency, she ironically found herself as the lone voice in a chorus of a promining body politic.

Feliciano had been prodded by nongovernment organizations and mining site communities to join the political fray. She fought a closely contested fight for vice mayor, winning over the three-term mayor by just over 200 votes.

“Her victory shows that there is a strong sentiment in the communities against mining and other extractive forms of development,” said Cleofe Bernardino, executive director of the Palawan NGO Network which supported Feliciano’s candidacy.

Her upset win was a major victory for an emerging antimining lobby in a province that hosts some of the country’s biggest nickel ore mining operations and nearly a hundred other mining venture applications.

Feliciano credits her victory to the support of tribal villagers where the mining projects are located and in the poblacion “where voters are generally more attuned to the issue of mining.”

Green Vote

A practicing private lawyer in the otherwise sleepy town of Brooke’s Point, Feliciano was at first reluctant to take on the mining companies planning to operate in the nickel-and-chromite-rich region of southern Palawan.

She had come back to Brooke’s Point after 12 years of working overseas and was determined to pursue a childhood dream to become a judge.

“I have already begun to fill up my application and had spoken to several individuals who were to endorse my application until I got sidetracked into this advocacy,” she said.

“I saw how blatantly accommodating (to the mining companies) the national government has been to MacroAsia and I saw the plight of the affected indigenous communities.”

Feliciano claimed that when MacroAsia got its mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) in December last year from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the agency attached to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in charge of issuing permits, the municipality was caught off guard.

“They (MacroAsia officials) haven’t even conducted community consultations to see if there is local acceptability as required by the Mining Code,” Feliciano said.

MacroAsia, Atlas

MacroAsia, the flagship company of airline and cigarette magnate Lucio Tan, and Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. are set to start full scale operations in Brooke’s Point. Both companies are making a big push into the dollar-rich nickel ore business as they ride the tide of the national government’s open arms policy and the favorable world demand for nickel.

MacroAsia has secured two MPSAs from the MGB allowing it to conduct exploratory activities, a permit which Feliciano claimed was defective.

Celestial Nickel Mining Exploration, a satellite company of Atlas Consolidated, has an MPSA issued in 1993 covering close to 3,000 hectares in the neighboring municipality of Quezon.

Feliciano vowed “transparency and strict observance of the law” in the municipality’s dealings with mining companies, adding that “the true sentiments of the communities that will be affected by the project [will] be taken into account.”


New mine sharing rule comes too late

Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star, http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=83364

4th July 2007

The good news is that new profit-sharing rules on foreign miners offer big take for the government. The bad news is that it may be too late.

All new foreign mining deals under Financial/Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAAs) will have 50-50 revenue splits after taxes and capital recovery. Filipinos are not covered, but must pay more taxes. Past FTAAs did not require foreign miners to share — an oddity upheld in 2004 by the Supreme Court but opposed by Justice Antonio Carpio. Last week the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources issued the new scheme that makes foreign investors contractors for the government. “(It) will result in a more equitable sharing of benefits, where the contractor gets a reasonable return on investments while the government gets a reasonable share,” DENR Sec. Angelo Reyes said.

There’s a catch, though. The rule will be applied prospectively; that is, for newcomers. More than $700 million in FTAAs granted since 2004 will still enjoy the old package of low taxes and no obligation to share incomes. Prospective (versus retroactive) use is justified as normal in any new regime. But the anti-mining lobby fears that old FTAA holders will enjoy undue edge even though they knew they came in under wrong zero-sharing rules. The 1987 Constitution holds that use of natural resources shall be under full State control, even if through joint venture or production sharing for “real contributions to economic growth.” The 1995 Mining Act at first was declared unconstitutional for breaching this mandate. And when upheld constitutional after all in 2004, the Supreme Court said the President or Congress could change the sharing scheme any time. So the early FTAA grantees expected to be put under changed rules.

What makes thing worse, anti-miners cry, is that FTAA applications under the old rule flooded the DENR before the new one was issued. The government expects $300 million new mining investments this year. Bulk of it may already be in process under the low-tax, no-sharing bonanza.

Anti-miners expectedly will contest the new rule before the High Court. Tribesmen driven out of ancestral lands uncompensated by foreign mines will demand their just rewards this time, under a retroactive instead of prospective operation of 50-50 sharing. New justices since 2004, plus the old dissenters, could win the day for them.

In leading the 2004 dissent, Carpio twitted both the law and its sub-rules. The rules questionably gave miners three ways to compute the State’s share of revenues. Abusing undue power, Carpio said, miners would opt only for the second formula, which looked good only on paper. The State under that scheme would get a hefty 25-percent of profit once the miner’s ratio of net income to gross output hits 40 percent in two consecutive years. Using the Bureau of Mines’ own figures, the ratio has never happened nor ever will; the ratio can only be 23 percent in the best of times for mining in the Philippines or elsewhere.

Carpio then proceeded to raze the Mining Act as the culprit. In spite of the Constitution’s call for real economic earnings from any use of natural resources, the law is silent on income splitting. Five sections even state that State shares in mining shall come only from corporate income, dividend, excise, and import taxes.


Human Security Act may be used against communities opposed to mining

Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) Press Release

6th July 2007

The Human Security Act could be used as a tool of coercion, intimidation, and even repression among mining-affected communities throughout the Philippines thereby violating the principle of free and informed prior consent with regards to mining projects, environmental activists from Kalikasan Peoples' Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) asserted today.

"It's a dangerous law that operates on a flimsy and vague definition of 'terrorism'. Under the HSA, or what would be better termed as the Terror Law, anti-mining protests and grassroots initatives to protest the entry of foreign mining firms could be very well be misrepresented as an 'unlawful demand' and even inciting to 'terrorism'," Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan PNE National Coordinator, said.

Kalikasan PNE and the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC-Phils) today sponsored a forum on the implications of the HSA on environmental advocates and their campaigns against foreign TNC mining, large dams, and other destructive projects often undertaken jointly by the government.

"Even before the HSA, many environmental activists, especially in the provinces, have been subjected to surveillance by suspected state forces and harassment by private guards because of their advocacies against large-scale mining projects, for example. But with the HSA, the state will gain only more impunity to commit more human rights violations against communities who are rightfully protesting against the destructive effects of these projects on their lands, livelihood, and lives," Bautista said.

Bautista said this as peasant organizations today aired their opposition to the mining project of Australian-owned Egerton Gold Phils, Inc. in Batangas.

"We are expecting more pockets of protest from many communities nationwide as the Arroyo administration continues its all-out 'clearance sale' of our national patrimony to foreign mining firms. The government might use the HSA to preempt the tide of opposition from the local communities," he said.

At least 17 mining companies are eyeing 10 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) and seven Exploration Permits from the DENR, covering areas in Surigao del Norte, Batangas, Ilocos, Ceby, Southern Leyte, Misamis Oriental, Bulacan and Rizal.

"In spite of the threats posed by the HSA to civil liberties, we will expose it as an unconstitutional law and vow to oppose the violations that will occur in the course of its implementation," Bautista said.

Bautista said that it would be conducting more information-dissemination campaigns on the HSA among its nationwide network of non-government organizations, people's organizations, and environmental advocates in the coming days.

Reference: Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator
Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Email: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com Website: www.kalikasan.org


Piñol warns gov’t on mining - Says he prefers environment-friendly agriculture activities

By Ali G. Macabalang, Manila Bulletin - http://www.mb.com.ph/PROV2007070897381.html

8th July 2007

KIDAPAWAN CITY – Three-term North Cotabato Governor and now Vice Governor Manny Piñol has urged the national government to reconsider its aggressive attitude towards mining operations in the country, saying it could aggravate the threat of global warming.

Piñol, who has spent his nine-year governorship without mining operations in his province, said the government should instead focus on a comprehensive, environment-friendly agriculture to ensure the country’s sustainable growth and, at the same time, contribute to the worldwide efforts to combat global warming.

"For the national government to talk of starting efforts to arrest global warming but at the same time push for massive mining operations in many parts of the country is simply ironic," Piñol said in a press statement.

Piñol said "history will prove that mining operations have greatly damaged the environment and have (had) very little impact on rural development (because) rich multinational companies are the main beneficiaries."

"To talk of mining as the seeming hope for national economic salvation of the Philippines is to ignore the fact that nowhere is there a mining area in the country where people ended up prosperous after the mining operations," he said.

The former journalist-turned-politician said his nine-year stint as the top provincial leader maintained the "no mining" policy because "I am not willing to see my province’s mountains ripped apart in search of a few kilos of gold or copper."

Instead, he said, these mountains would be more useful for the people if these are planted to crops such as rubber, oil palm or coconut.

Piñol said he decided to slide down to the vice governorship and give way to his former vice governor, Jesus N. Sacdalan, who was elected governor last May, because he wants the anti-mining policy pursued.

North Cotabato has been transformed from one of the five poorest provinces in the country in 1998 to its current 29th rank among the 30 progressive provinces with population’s involvement in "sustainable and market-oriented agriculture," Piñol said.

The Piñol administration had pushed for massive farming and production of oil palm, rubber, coconut and bananas under its plant-now-pay-later program where farmers are given seedling loans payable upon the start of harvest.

The uplands have been reserved for rubber trees, the midlands for coconut and banana, while the lowlands are for rice and oil palm. Fruit trees are also grown in selected areas in the province, Piñol said.

"Right now, we are working for the accreditation of our rubber farms in the ‘Carbon Credit’ program under the Kyoto Protocol," he said, stressing that scientific studies in Malaysia have proven rubber trees as very efficient converter of carbon dioxide to oxygen.

North Cotabato now has about 35,000 hectares of rubber trees, 25,000 hectares of coconut farms, 3,500 hectares of oil palm and very areas planted to midland table bananas, he said.

Piñol has been designated by Governor Sacdalan to head the Province’s Priority Crops Program, which eyes vast local reforestation areas and public lands for rubber tree farming for poor families.

"Unless somebody could assure that there is huge mineral deposit underneath our soil in North Cotabato that would make each of our people millionaires, we discourage mining and just focus on agriculture," Pinol said.


Industry’s exploration investments yet to bear fruit - Philex cautious about claims of mining boom

By Likha C. Cuevas-Miel, Reporter, Manila Times - http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2007/june/27/yehey/business/20070627bus5.html

27th June 2007

PHILEX Mining Corp. doused cold water over the triumphalism of peers in the local mining sector, saying the industry has yet to turn in solid gains.

On the sidelines of the listed company’s stockholders’ meeting, Walter W. Brown, Philex chairman, said news of big investments in the sector should be “taken with a grain of salt” since most of the funds already in the country are merely for exploration.

“[There’ is so much hype in the market about the exploration,” he said, adding a lot of impediments remain before exploration activities could bear fruit. These factors include bureaucratic red tape and the delays in feasibility studies preparatory to mining activity.

Brown echoed the sentiments made earlier by Michael Clancy, Philippine Business Leaders Forum chairman, who cautioned people against rejoicing this early since the “big money” has yet to come into the country.

Jose Ernesto C. Villaluna, Philex president, said that although the company has received a number of offers for possible joint venture projects, it has reconsidered these proposals.

At present, Philex is still capable of funding its projects in the pipeline and can easily tap the equity or debt markets for fresh capital, he said. Possible joint venture partners therefore should be bigger than Philex to merit the company’s interest.

Philex has a joint venture with Anglo American Exploration (Philippines) B.V. in the Boyongan project in Surigao. Anglo American shelled out the funds for the exploration and feasibility studies amounting to $2.2 million.

The Philippine company also has a venture with FEC Resources in the Lanscogon project.

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