MAC: Mines and Communities

Report Cites Dangers Of Rp Mining Policies

Published by MAC on 2007-01-26
Source: Manila Times ()

Report cites dangers of RP mining policies

By Katrice R. Jalbuena, Reporter, Manila Times

26th January 2007

A fact-finding team from the United Kingdom criticized the Philippine government on Thursday for looking the other way when mining firms fail to comply with national and international safety and environmental standards.

Alyanse Tigil Mina (ATM) bared the results of a fact-finding mission on the Philippine mining sector at the University of Santo Tomas Social Research Center. ATM was part of the mission, with the Missionary Society of St. Columban, Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, Irish Center for Human Rights, Triocaire and the Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links.

The report, "Mining in the Philippines: Concerns and Conflicts", was written by a team from the United Kingdom, led by MP and former UK Minister for Development, Clare Short.

The report was launched simultaneously in the Philippines and the UK with the UK launch held at Westminister Hall, London. Minister Short addressed the assembled at the Manila launch via a previously taped video interview.

'Shocked'

"I was deeply shocked by the negative impact of mining in the Philippines. During our visit we found scant evidence of mining benefiting the local people of the country's economy," said Short.

"I hope that the findings of this report and the recommendations will force the Philippine government to assess their stand on mining as well as encourage investors in the United Kingdom and worldwide to think before making a bad investment in an activity that is so exploitive of the Philippines and its people."

The team visited three mining sites in Mindanao and conducted a series of dialogues and interviews with representatives of the local government and civil society from four other mining sites-including the controversial Rapu-Rapu, Albay, site under the Australian company Lafayette.

The gold mining activities in Rapu-Rapu were shut down in 2005 after a tailings spill. It has been issued a provisional permit to restart operations.

"The claimed economic benefits of mining are too short-term," said ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera. "They cannot compensate for the social displacement, cultural conflicts and environmental degradation that might happen. Large-scale mining endanger what existing sustainable livelihood and cultural development is already present in the area."

Violations

The report found several other instances in which the Philippine government allegedly demonstrated a willingness to circumvent its own laws on protecting the environment and human rights.

The government, it added, has tried to loosen standards in a bid to encourage foreign investors.

The fact finding team responsible for the report spent the months of July and August 2006 visiting three local communities affected by mining in Mindanao-Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur; Mount Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte; and Barangay Libay in Sibutad, Zamboangal del Norte.

According to tribal leaders in Midsalip and Mount Canatuan , applicants for mining permits routinely fail to get the indigenous people's informed consent, a violation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and the Mining Act.

"Mount Canatuan is our ancestral domain and our sacred mountain," said Subanon tribal leader, Timuay Jose Boy Anoy. "We do not need the development promised by mining. We need peace. We need our land to continue our way of life."

In Mount Canatuan, Canadian mining company TVI reportedly evicted families despite their Certificates of Ancestral Domain. Local farmers and fishermen also reported damage to their livelihood and health that they traced to pollution wrought by mining activities.

Slow recovery

In the third site, the barangay of Libay in Sibutad, which was subject to large-scale mining from 1997 to 2002 by the Canadian company Philex Gold, the land and people have still not recovered.

Though Philex Gold still remains in control of the land, no restoration efforts have been put in place.

From 1997 to 2004, tailing dam overflows and mudslides destroyed rice fields, mangroves and corals, the report said.

Due to toxicity and siltage, fishing in no longer viable in the nearby Murcellagos Bay. While the team was in the area, a landslide blamed on deforestation destroyed 14 houses.

"As the only senator from Mindanao, and an author of the Local Government Code, I can attest to the veracity of the claims of tribal groups in Mindanao who are being oppressed by government policies relating to mining," said Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who was a guest speaker at the launch.

"The history of mining in the Philippines has shown that they have little positive results in the actual area where they operate," said Pimentel. "The resources of the nation must be utilized, but not at the expense of the local communities."

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