MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines update

Published by MAC on 2007-04-24


Philippines update

24th April 2007

Elections are not far off in the Philippines; mining is a serious issue for many candidates and certainly for voters. Lobbying is taking place against pro-mining candidates while a Catholic priest is standing in Mindoro on an anti-mining platform.

The long-running campaign against Lafayette's Rapu Rapu mine has become more internationalised, with a co-ordinated day of action urging the Dutch bank ABN-AMRO to disinvest.

We highlight the international aspect to on-going local opposition to BHP Billiton's Pujada Bay project. As reported last week on this website, two Igorots from the Cordillera attended the Anglo American AGM in London to raise local issues: an article from the Cordillera-based publication Nordis is included below.

There's been tribal opposition to mining in Benguet, also in the Cordillera. Meanwhile, the ever-present threat from attacks and intimidation against international mining companies by the communist New Peoples Army is being widely reported


NGOs urge bank to drop Lafayette funding

By James Konstantin Galvez, Reporter, Manila Times

24th April 2007

Environmental activists on Monday held a picket at the office of the Netherlands-based ABN-AMRO bank, to protest its funding of the controversial Lafayette Mining project on the island of Rapu-Rapu in Albay.

The protesters numbering close to 100 and belonging to the Kalikasan-Peoples Network for the Environment and other cause-oriented groups trooped to the bank's office Monday about 11 a.m. and staged a brief program dramatizing the alleged risks posed by the project to the people's health and the environment.

"We want ABN-AMRO to pull out their financial investment in Lafayette's destructive and dirty mining project on Rapu-Rapu Island. The bank made a mistake in financing the project, which has already caused environmental tragedies, economic dislocation and social miseries to the local people," said the group's national coordinator, Clemente Bautista.

Activists in Legazpi City, Albay, where the project is located, also staged a similar rally.

He said that the risk is very high for the highly respected banking institution to invest, adding that Lafayette Mining Ltd., an Australian company which owns and operates the mine, has yet to fully address the issue of acid mine drainage caused by the project's mine tailings.

The protesters also tried to present a copy of an international petition signed by over 800 environmentalists from 27 countries and local residents, exhorting the bank to withdraw financial support to the project but no bank representative attended the half-hour rally.

Bautista said the mass action was part of an internationally coordinated protest against the Dutch institution with protest actions also taking place in Hong Kong and at the bank's main office in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

In an e-mail message, Theo Droog, chairman of the Nederlans-Filippijnse Solidariteitsbeweging, a Dutch-Filipino solidarity group in the Netherlands, said they would try their best to let the Dutch public know that the bank is funding a mining project without social acceptability of the local communities where it is located.

"We are very concerned about the situation on Rapu-Rapu Island not just over the environmental damage, but also over the social impacts. We fear that the Philippine government will use its security forces to try to silence opposition to the mining projects as it did in the past," said Droog's message, adding that they will get the support of the Dutch people, especially the bank's clients to pressure the institution to withdraw their financial investment.

ANZ of Australia, KFSX of South Korea and the United Kingdom-based Standard Chartered Bank are also funding the controversial project.

It was part of the flagship project of the Arroyo administration to revive the country's ailing mining industry and give a boost to the local economy and generate taxes to the government's coffers.

According to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the 4,663 hectares project has a reserve of about 5.9 million metric tons of mineral ores with an annual production of 10,000 metric tons of copper, 14,000 of silver and 600,000 ounces of zinc.

NEDA estimated potential gross sales of $41 million annually with the government gaining some $800 million in taxes a year and an employment of 274 during commercial operations.

But the project was dogged by controversies. In October 2005 the project's open-pit mining resulted in two mine tailings spills that caused cyanide contamination and fishkills in the area, while in December last year, heavy rains from Supertyphoon Reming hit the mining area causing its mine infrastructure heavy damage.


Stop funding Lafayette Mining in Rapu-Rapu island!

KALIKASAN- PEOPLES NETWORK FOR THE ENVIRONMENT PRESS RELEASE

23th April 2007

Internationally-coordinated protest action demands that ABN AMRO pull out from Australian-owned mining project in the Philippines.

Internationally coordinated protest actions hits ABN AMRO offices in three countries today as environmental activists pressured the international bank to withdraw its support for a controversial large-scale mining project in Rapu- rapu island.

ABN AMRO, an international bank holding main office in the Netherlands, is one of the high-profile investors behind the Rapu-Rapu mine project along with ANZ of Australia, KFSX of South Korea and Standard Chartered Bank of the United Kingdom.

Four protest actions were held today in Makati City and Legazpi City in the Philippines, Cheung Kong Centre in Hongkong and Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

Two protest actions were held in the Philippines: a rally in Legazpi City, Albay headed by local anti-mining organizations Sagip Isla, Sagip Kapwa and Umalpas Ka Bikol and a roving protest in front of ABN AMRO Philippine Office in Makati City.

In other countries, pickets were held in front of the ABN AMRO Hongkong Office, Corporate and Institutional Banking, ABN AMRO Bank N.V. 38/F, Cheung Kong Centre 2 Queens Road Central Hong Kong and the ABN AMRO Head Office, ABN AMRO Bank N.V. Gustav Mahlerlaan 10 1082 PP Amsterdam.

The Australian company Lafayette Mining Limited owns and operates the polymetallic mining project in the small island of Rapu-rapu in Albay Philippines. In October 2005, Lafayette's commercial open-pit mining operations resulted in two mine tailings spills that caused cyanide contamination and fish kills in the rivers and adjacent coastal areas in the island. In December 2006, heavy rains from supertyphoon Reming (international codename Durian) hit the mining area and caused landslides that killed 11 people all from mining-affected communities while Lafayette incurred heavy damages on its mine infrastructures and facilities.

Environmental activists, local Church groups, and the Rapu-Rapu community last February circulated an international petition signed by over 800 environmentalists from 27 countries and thousands of Bicolanos and exhorting ABN AMRO to withdraw financial support for the project and help defuse the environmental time bomb that Lafayette Mining has planted in Rapu-Rapu.

"We want Lafayette to pull out their financial support for Lafayette's destructive and dirty mining project in Rapu-Rapu. ABN AMRO made a mistake in financing the Lafayette's mining project, which has already caused environmental tragedies, economic dislocations and social miseries to the local people of Rapurapu and nearby municipalities," said Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of Kalikasan, a Philippine-based environmental activist group.

"The environmental and social risk of the project is very high for ABN AMRO to gamble with. Up to now, the issue of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) has not been addressed by Lafayette. Many experts and scientists says that Rapurapu is an environmental time bomb. The toxic contamination that will result from Lafayette mine tailings and AMD will be so massive and extensive that will render the island devastated and uninhabitable," Mr. Bautista points.

Meanwhile Filipinos, Chinese and Dutch picketed the offices of ABN AMRO main office in The Netherlands and Hongkong.

"The Nederlans-Filippijnse Solidariteitsbeweging (NFS) is very concerned about the situation in Rapu-Rapu Island - not just over the environmental damage, but also over the social impacts. We fear that the Arroyo government will use its military to try to silence opposition to the mining project - as it did to Mindoro and other provinces," said Theo Droog, Chairperson of NFS, a Dutch-Filipino Solidarity group in The Netherlands.

"The NFS will try its best to let the Dutch public know that the Lafayette mining project which ABN-AMRO is funding is operating without social- acceptability of the local communities. Lafayette mining project will not even pass the Equator Principles that ABN AMRO promotes. We hope to get the support of the Dutch people, especially the ABN-AMRO clients, to pressure the bank to withdraw its support for the said project," added Mr. Droog.

The Equator Principles (EPs) is a voluntary set of guidelines for assessing and managing environmental and social risks in project financing which was signed by several international banks from Europe.

Eman Villanueva, Secretary-General of United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) said that "Lafayette mining project are example of the so-called foreign "development projects" that promises economic prosperity to the Filipinos but actually results in the massive extraction of their resources and destruction of their local livelihoods like what is happening now in Rapurapu. This drives more Filipinos to look for jobs to other countries to support their families. Lafayette mining is not in Rapu- Rapu to help us Filipinos but to rob us of our natural wealth."

Reference: Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator, Kalikasan 0922-844-9787 or 920-9099. Email: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com


Anti-mining advocates unite against pro-mining candidates

Malaya - http://www.malaya.com.ph/apr23/envi4.htm

23th April 2007

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) and the Philippine Misereor Partnership Anti-Mining Campaign (PMP) are standing once again at the forefront of the issue of safeguarding the environment in the upcoming local and national elections.

With the aim of campaigning against pro-mining, anti-environment candidates, ATM-PMP organized a "National Forum on Mining", held last March 21 at the Ateneo de Manila University, highlighted by the plight of youth and indigenous peoples (IP) leaders from all over the country.

Religious leaders and representatives from communities and NGO support groups who attended the event called on the Filipino voters to genuinely rethink their positions on certain candidates, especially those who are vocal and have a history of being instruments in plundering the environment.

"This forum is an educational campaign. It seeks to inform and more importantly, pinpoint national and local candidates who have been known to be pro-mining and anti-environment," said Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of ATM. "We are deeply concerned with the state of Philippine environment and heed the Filipino people to listen to their conscience and vote for ecology-minded candidates," said Bishop Jose Manguiran of the Diocese of Dipolog.

The indigenous peoples and the youth share the same concern.

"The indigenous peoples know better than to support candidates who have been known to support development programs at the expense of the welfare of IPs," Salvador Dimain, president of the Maporac Aeta Organization in Cabangan, Zambales pointed out.

"We, the youth share the same sentiment. Most of us are first time voters but we will only support those who we know to champion the cause of the environment," Errol Comafay, president of Kontra-Mina, a Metro Manila and Luzon- youth and student based anti-mining coalition added.

ATM is a national coalition of NGOs, POs, church and other support groups born out of the collective concern against the impending threat of the revitalization of the mining industry in the Philippines . It is working hand-in-hand with PMP in its national anti-mining campaign.


Catholic priest seeks elected office as mandate for change

UCANews

17th April 2007

QUEZON CITY, Philippines - A third priest in the Philippines has decided to vie for elected office, saying the post of governor would help him end the Small Town Lottery (STL) and mining operations in his province.

Father Ronilo Omanio of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose told UCA News, "We (San Jose vicariate) are celebrating the Year of Social Concern, and part of our concern is the STL, and only the governor can stop it." The vicariate is based on Mindoro Island, about 250 kilometers (about 155 miles) south of Manila, and covers Occidental Mindoro province.

Two other priests already announced their candidacy for public office in the May 14 election. Father Crisanto de la Cruz of Zamboanga Archdiocese and Father Eddie Panlilio of San Fernando Archdiocese are running for Zamboanga City mayor and Pampanga provincial governor, respectively.

Speaking on April 16, Father Omanio said he decided to run after Governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato extended the STL contract at the end of March, even though provincial board members voted against it.

Initiated by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Small Town Lottery is a legal lottery meant to replace the illegal numbers game jueteng.

In a 2005 statement on gambling, the Catholic bishops of the Philippines said they had agreed "to denounce illegal gambling in all its forms and prevent its legalization" and "to combat the expansion of organized and systemic legal gambling."

Father Omanio also maintained that as governor he would be in a position to protect the poor against large-scale mining now entering the province, which has rich mineral reserves. "If I am elected, I will review all these mining contracts and stop the exploitation of our natural resources," he said.

Upon learning that the priest filed his certificate of candidacy on March 29 with the Commission on Elections, Bishop Antonio Palang of San Jose suspended him from priestly duties. He had been in charge of Holy Cross Parish and the Holy Cross Parish Mangyan Mission in Santa Cruz town.

Father Mario Ronquillo, chancellor of the vicariate, told UCA News on April 13 that Father Omanio's candidacy came as a surprise to the bishop and all 13 diocesan and 17 religious priests in the vicariate.

"He did not ask for permission to run for public office. We found out after he had already filed. The bishop was surprised. The church was not asked for its advice," Father Ronquillo said.

On March 30, Bishop Palang released a pastoral letter in which he explained Father Omanio is not an "official candidate" of the Catholic Church.

Father Ronquillo said Father Omanio's situation differs from that of the two other priests seeking election, who asked to be suspended from priestly duties after talking with their bishops before they filed their candidacy papers. "Only after he was suspended did Father Omanio come to see the bishop as to why he was running," the chancellor reported. "The bishop explained that the church had taken stands on all of these issues (gambling and mining) already."

Father Omanio acknowledged the church had spoken on the issues but insisted his candidacy is a matter of "good governance." He said his 15 years' experience as a priest is a "guarantee of good governance," and he credited the church for his understanding of important social issues.

Though registered as an independent candidate, Father Omanio admits that Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi, partners of the Filipino people), the political party of President Gloria Arroyo, is sponsoring his election bid.

"I have no money to run my campaign, so I have accepted the offer of Kampi to pay for campaign materials and especially for poll watchers to protect my votes," he told UCA News. The priest emphasized that he made it clear to Kampi he would have no utang na loob (debt of gratitude) to them should he win. "I will owe no one anything except the people," he stated.

"I told him (the bishop) if I were to lose, I would return to my priestly duties, and while on leave I would remain faithful to my priestly vows, and especially the vow of celibacy," the priest said.

According to statistics, 82 percent of Occidental Mindoro's 314,866 people are Catholics.


Mining protest goes to England - IP leaders register opposition to CEXI

Northern Dispatch Weekly

20th April 2007

BAGUIO CITY - Two representatives of Filipino indigenous peoples from the Cordillera traveled to London recently and attended the Anglo American annual general meeting on April 17 to register their opposition to the company's mining activities in the region.

Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) Deputy Secretary-general Santos Mero and Save Apayao Peoples Organization (SAPO) Chairperson Rupina "Tina" Moyaen demanded for the pull out and cancellation of the mining applications of Anglo-American's subsidiaries Cordillera Exploration Inc. (CEXI) and Northern Luzon Exploration Mining Company Inc. (NLEMCI) over ancestral lands in the Cordillera.

Mero said Anglo-American is most aggressive in Apayao and Kalinga, where there is strong opposition among Cordillera communities against mining. He added that communities where strong opposition prevails are characterized by heavy military presence characterized by military operations, setting up of military detachments in indigenous communities, and recruitment of para-military forces.

"Intended to suppress community opposition and instill fear, militarization results to various human rights violations, harassment and intimidation, illegal arrests and detention, threats and extra-judicial killings," he said.

Mero added that community leaders are often subjected to threats, harassment and eventually, extra-judicial killings.

"We call for a stop to the political and extra-judicial killings in the Cordillera and the Philippines. Anglo American and other mining companies must be held accountable for these extra-judicial killings and human rights violations taking place in areas where they operate," he stressed.

Moyaen, a native of Conner, Apayao and community leader disclosed that since 2005, SAPO launched an active information campaign and lobbying to discourage CEXI's intended operations in their area.

"It took us years to return to normal life after the heavy militarization. In the course of recovery, we are again facing another nightmare. The passage of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 facilitated the entry of mining corporations to our land. Giant transnational mining corporations applied 81% of our land leaving only 19% for our agriculture," she said.

Moyaen further said that CEXI's applications are strongly supported by national government agencies like the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Mines and Geo-Sciences Board of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR) and local government officials.

"The local government units, composed of the provincial and municipal officials, committed the gravest treachery on the people by holding on to their pro-mining position," she stressed.

Moyaen also questioned NCIP's sincerity in conducting consultations with affected communities. She disclosed that NCIP conducted three consultations from March to May 2005 when CEXI first applied for its mining explorations. She said that in all three consultations, affected communities consistently responded negatively to the mining application. She added the communities' position was supported through petitions submitted to the MGB-DENR regional office, NCIP, the municipal and provincial governments of Apayao.

She said NCIP eventually endorsed CEXI's application to the MGB-DENR despite strong opposition.

Moyaen also disclosed that local leaders are being threatened by local officials. She added that she also received death threats. She said unidentified motorcycle-riding men are seen at night near her house and her parents' house. "We learned many lessons from our struggle. We realized that we have to link with the broader public for strength and support. We also realized that it takes courage, sacrifice and patience amidst fear to do the right thing for the people," she said.

MGB-DENR data showed that CEXI has a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) over 1, 787.98 hectares (has.) in Benguet and a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) over 77, 549 has.in Ifugao, Benguet and Mountain Province. CEXI still has pending applications for Exploration Permit Application (EPA) over Apayao (9, 332 has.), Kalinga and Abra (25, 212 has.) and Mountain Province (2,592 has.).

The NLEMCI has an approved MPSA in Benguet covering 872 has. and EPA applications covering 2, 815 has. also of the same province.


"Protect Mt. Hamiguitan or we die”

Written by Froilan Gallardo

MACAMBOL, Mati, Davao Oriental (MindaNews/22 April) -- Higaonon Datu Manaon Victor Aying shuffled his feet as he rose to face the small gathering of Macambol residents intently listening to him.

Raising his voice slightly, the tribal leader said, “we will protect Mt. Hamiguitan and Pujada Bay or we will die.”

Everyone nodded approval as the Datu explained why they have to oppose the plan by BHP-Billiton Limited to open a nickel-copper mining project in Mt. Hamiguitan.

There is a gathering storm of opposition against the mining project here and residents are voicing their protests through small meetings like this.

The Datu said they are concerned the project will destroy the rich natural habitat of the Hamiguitan mountain range, the major source of nutrients for the bountiful fish found in Pujada Bay.

The rivers of Mt. Hamiguitan empty into Pujada Bay, which was declared a Protected Seascape and Landscape Area by President Fidel V. Ramos’ Proclamation 431 in July 1994.

Ten years later, on July 30, 2004, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act 9303 declaring Mt. Hamiguitan range “and its vicinities” as protected area under the category of wildlife sanctuary “and its peripheral areas as buffer zone.”

The Philippine Eagle finds a nesting place in Mt. Hamiguitan. The mountain range is also a known habitat for the endangered Philippine Civet Cat and Philippine Boar and is home to thousands of hectares of Pygmy Forests, a rare natural phenomenon found only in parts of Southern California, Mexico and Central America.

Pujada Bay hosts endangered species such as dugong or sea cow, sea turtles, stingrays and is the major source of livelihood for Macambol’s 3,000 residents, many of whom are fisherfolk.

The Datu said they were surprised why the government gave BHP-Billiton the approval to mine nickel and copper in this delicate natural habitat. “We depend on the mountain for our food, water and wood. Mt. Hamiguitan has been good to us,” he said.

A year after President Arroyo declared Mt. Hamiguitan a protected wildlife sanctuary, then Environment Secretary Michael Defensor approved the applications of three companies “to explore and develop” nickel deposits in Mt. Hamiguitan. Defensor followed the actions of former Environment Secretary Elizea Gozun, who on June 8, 2004, approved the mining applications of four other companies on Mt. Hamiguitan.

The companies were given by the DENR 25 years of mining rights, renewable for another 25 years even as the area had been declared a protected landscape and seascape by Ramos as early as 1994 and even as a law, Republic Act 9303, had declared it a protected area and President Arroyo signed it into law on July 30, 2004.

Still, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, through its secretaries, approved mining in an area of 17,572 hectares on Mt. Hamiguitan, straddling the municipalities of Mati, San Isidro and Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental.

The seven companies -- Galactica Mining and Development Corporation, Mt. Peak Mining and Development Corporation; Oregon Mining and Development Corporation; Hopewell Mining Corporation; P.L. Goldman Mining and Development Corporation; Blue Ridge Minerals and Development Corporation and St. Patrick Mining and Development Corporation -- later formed Asiaticus Management Corporation or Amcor.

Amcor was able to get the financial backing of Australian firm BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company with interests in Africa and South America.

Last Feb. 24, Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes said BHP Billiton, in partnership with Filipino firms, Hallmark Mining Corporation and AustralAsia Link Mining Corporation, may invest $1.5 billion for its nickel mining project in Pujada Bay.

“It could be anywhere from $800 million to $1.5 billion. That is the cost of setting up this operation and also the processing plant,” Reyes told reporters.

He said BHP Billiton could start construction in 2010 of a processing plant with an annual capacity of 50,000 tons of nickel. Current estimates of Hamiguitan’s nickel deposits are about 50 million metric tons at a grade of 1.3 percent nickel.

The Philippine government welcomed BHP Billiton’s investment, hoping it would boost investments in the mining sector. The government has had little success in attracting big mining firms because of legal uncertainties, political risks and opposition from powerful religious leaders and environmentalists. The government wants to attract $6.5 billion in foreign mining investments but last year received only $109 million.

This is no comfort for residents in Sitio Supsopon where BHP Billiton plans to build its processing site from out of the village’s fishponds and beaches. Fermin Remontigue, 68, wakes up at dawn, and as is his usual wont, goes to the kitchen to heat a pot of Arabica beans, a variety of native coffee. Sipping the tin cup of hot coffee, Remontigue gets his hunting rifle and carefully cleans it.

But the old man will not go hunting this morning. Instead, he will attend a gathering of Macambol residents who are opposed to the mining project. “I have been hunting wild boars, Civet cats and bats in that mountain for many years. I do not know if I can hunt again if that mining firm will start to operate,” Remontigue said.

He said the mining firm has sealed off some areas in the mountain where they are conducting tests drills. For an individual who loves open spaces, Remontigue finds the idea of sealing off a mountain “very revolting.”

Remontigue’s passion for hunting is being replaced by seething rage that a foreign firm is out to mine nickel in Mt. Hamiguitan. And he has replaced his hunting rifle, at least for now, with a digital still and video camera.

He has become the “eyes and ears” of the anti-mining movement here. “He is our eyes and ears. He reports what the company is doing up there. No one knows the mountain than “Lolo Fermin,” said community organizer Roger Billote.

Billote said the old man keeps supplying them with pictures and video of the company operations in Mt. Hamiguitan even as some areas had been “sealed.” “The company guards cannot prevent me from climbing that mountain. I know its secrets,” Remontigue said.

Remontigue likes to keep his silence during the meetings. But after the meeting in Sitio Supsopon, he returned to the mountain to take more pictures and video. In its website, www.minesandcommunites.org , the London-based anti-mining group reported that BHP chair Don Argus belied there was a growing opposition to their nickel mining project in Pujada Bay during an interview in Oct. 20, 2005.

“We were made aware of your concerns and sent one of our guys to check it out. They met with the community and we can confirm that what you say about community opposition isn’t correct. There is widespread support for the project,” the group quoted Argus as saying.


Filipino miners 'supporting' New People's Army militants

Mining Journal

19th April 2007

EXTORTION threats against Filipino based mining firms operating in the highly-prospective Mindanao Province has forced them to supply local terrorists with food in order to explore safely in the region.

The government is now considering military action, amid widespread fears the actions by militant communist group New People's Army (NPA), could jeopardise hundreds of millions of dollars in possible foreign mining investment.

Mines and Geoscience Bureau regional director Edilberto Arrez, confirmed companies were paying the communist-based militant group with goods such as rice and fish to avoid retribution. He said overseas investors had yet to be targeted, although an Australian-based company recently had its compound razed during a fatal attack at its Masbate project. The MGB was "talking to the military about how to solve the problem" Mr Arrez said.

Bureau figures showed exploration activites in Mindanao had soared by 50% in the past 12 months.

Mr Arrez said he feared NPA activities would drive investors from the region unless the government acted.

Philippines Chamber of Mines spokesperson, Nelia Halcon, said the country's president had appointed key officials from the Mineral Development Council and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry to address the Mindanao problem. She insisted NPA activities were "not a major setback to" the mining industry. Brigadier general Carlos Holganza said that the military was moving more troops to the region, but denied that the NPA was gaining strength

.The NPA has attacked two mining firms in the past month. On March 21, 60 NPA rebels attacked an unnamed mining company in Surigao del Sur, overwhelming guards and destroying radio equipment. Earlier this month a policeman was killed when rebels razed the compound of Filminera Resources Corp, a subsidiary of Australia's CGA Mining Ltd, in Masbate, leaving behind improvised landmines and grenades.


Mining Firms in Philippines Yield to Communists' Demands

By Mai Gevera, Philippine Information Agency

17th April 2007

DAVAO CITY - A report received by Mining and Geosciences Board regional director Ed Arreza confirmed that mining firms have been yielding to the demands of rebel groups.

He bared this during the Kapehan sa Dabaw yesterday after a high-ranking military official divulged that elements of the New People's Army have been milking the coffers of these mining companies.

"As per the report I got from my employee in the field, mining companies now on their exploration stage have no other choice but to give in to their demands (referring to the rebel group)", he said.

The information revealed by 1001st Infantry Division commander Carlos Holganza tagged the mining industry as one of the major sources of funds of the said rebel group.

He bared that the group has been relying on these multi-national mining firms which are believed to be trapped by the imposition of the NPA group. "It truly affects the exploration activities of these companies because they can't start or continue operations if they are not willing to give.", Arreza said.

He was told that these mining companies were forced to give in just to be able to penetrate and start operations in their respective areas.

Among the companies that are now on the exploration stage are Hallmark, Don Salvador Lopez Mining, Southern Horizon, Bunawan Mining, Alsons Develoment Corporation, and others. (PIA XI/Mai Gevera)


Benguet village folk reject mining exploration project

By DEXTER A. SEE, Manila Bulletin

11th April 2007

BOKOD, Benguet – Residents of a village in this fifth-class municipality are denouncing a mining exploration project in their area, saying they were not consulted about it.

In a petition, hundreds of residents of Bobok-Bisal expressed their strong opposition to a memorandum of agreement (MoA) entered into between the municipal government of Bokod and Magellan Metals Inc. for the conduct of a mine exploration in their village. They said that no consultation was done by the company with the people of the affected communities before the agreement was signed, thereby compromising their rights over their ancestral lands.

The agreement was signed by the municipal government officials without the presence of the multi-sectoral groups, which include the women, elders, farmers, and youth organizations.

The petitioners are apprehensive that the exploration would deprive them of their water needs, noting that the proposed site is the source of potable water and irrigation for residents of the barangay.

Earlier, local officials allayed fears of the residents, saying that the exploration would determine only the mineral potentials of the area and that there is no guarantee that the proponents would push through with their project.

Recent mining explorations had troubled several indigenous communities in Benguet, causing strong opposition by the affected cultural minorities.

In the past, thousands of residents of Kibungan vehemently rejected a planned mineral exploration to be conducted by the Al Magan Mining Corp. for fear of losing their ancestral claims over their properties. They also feared massive pollution of the river systems.

Benguet is considered as one of the mineral-rich areas in the country but indigenous communities have already learned their lessons.

Thousands of people lost their lands by virtue of the entry of multi-national mining companies and because of the massive pollution it caused to the river systems in the province.

At present, the mining companies that are still conducting mining activities in Benguet include the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company in Mankayan, Benguet, the Philex Mining Corporation in Tuba and Itogon towns and the Benguet Corp. (BC), which is still implementing a contract for its mineral claims in Acupan, Itogon.

 

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