MAC: Mines and Communities

Ncip Beefs Up Legal Capacity In Support Of Mining Industry

Published by MAC on 2005-10-09
Source: Manila Bulletin

NCIP beefs up legal capacity in support of mining industry

By Melody M. Aguibam, Manila Bulletin

October 9, 2005

The National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) has strengthened its legal capacity in support of the mining industry which government eyes as a major driver for economic growth and poverty alleviation.

Rosalina L. Bistoyong, NCIP executive director, said NCIP has appointed more legal officers to speed up processing of bureaucratic requirements of mining companies.

"From 14 appointed legal officers nationwide in 2002, we have increased this with the appointment of 39 more legal officers or a total of 53," Bistoyong told a mining stakeholders’ forum.

NCIP is also currently improving its guidelines for the implementation of Administrative Order No. 1 or the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan. (ADSDPP).

The guidelines for ADSDPP, a plan for sustainable development in ancestral domains, will ensure that indigenous people (IP) will have a significant share in economic progress from mining operations.

This is along the objective of cutting the time for the issuance of a free and prior informed consent (FPIC). As required by law, a mining company with a project in an IP area has to obtain an FPIC from IPs before it is granted a mining permit. This FPIC issuance is facilitated by the NCIP.

In order to promote the interest of IPs who are expected to be interested in preserving their cultural practices and in sustaining their environment, Bistoyong said the NCIP is also reviving the constitution of the Indigenous Peoples Consultative Body at the ethnographic and national levels.

"This will advise the Commission on the formulation of policies based on the true interests and aspirations of indigenous people on the ground," she said.

The NCIP just endorsed with Malacañang the creation of the Minerals Development Council (MDC) which is aimed to accelerate processing of mining permits which are usually halted at the local government units and grassroots level.

"The MDC will hasten up dialogues of implementing agencies to foster a better understanding and implementation of policies. This will also ensure indigenous people’s participation in planning for mining thrusts and enhance their share in the benefits of mining," she said.

Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 itself has salient provisions for striking a balance between the goal to advance economic recovery and to sustain the environment while uplifting indigenous people’s and impoverished communities’ living levels.

Bistoyong admitted that mining companies may have committed grave mistakes in the past against the environment or the rights of IPs, but this should only inspire a stricter watchdog among IPs.

"NCIP is not blind on the ill effects of aggressive mining. Rather, these have become one of the precursors why NCIP pushes on the series of stakeholders forum in order to identify these negative impacts and check on these while we collectively improve from the mistakes of the past," she said.

Among the issues NCIP faces are environmental pollution and degradation caused by active and abandoned mines, safety and health hazards to communities, economic dislocations, violations of human rights, labor disputes and exploitation, and militarilization.

Other concerns are displacement of communities, depletion of resources, nonequitable sharing of benefits, and slow turnover of taxes to the communities.

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