MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Provincial Legislators Criticise Tvi For Press Manipulation

Published by MAC on 2007-09-09

Provincial Legislators criticise TVI for Press Manipulation

By Tito Natividad Fiel, DCMI

9th September 2007

Dipolog City- Members of the Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Provincial Board of Zamboanga del Norte expressed irritation over an offending press statement during its second committee hearing conducted last week in Dipolog City.

The press statement was penned by Bong Garcia, a correspondent of Sun Star, but it was presumed the information in it originated with TVI, a Canadian mining firm operating in Mt. Canatuan, Zamboanga del Norte. The release stated that the Provincial Board of the Province affirmed the claim of TVI that there was no collapse in any of its dams in Mt. Canatuan, and that only some erosion had occurred. The press release further quoted Board Member Cedric L. Adriatico as saying he had "discovered that the pictures of the dam collapsed were taken at an angle to make it appear that there was a dam collapse".

At the start of the second committee hearing, Board Member Adriatico vehemently denied that he had made such a statement. "I did not make any conclusion about the collapse after the Committee Hearing in Siocon, because the investigation is still going on".

Board Member Adriatico stressed that he was dismayed over the news published in the national newspapers that they have affirmed the claim of TVI that there was no dam collapse. "It is for this reason that the Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Protection did not send any invitation to press people who might make press releases that would pre-empt their investigation" further said.

Board Member Adriatico, explained that after the first hearing held in Siocon on August 18, some press people, who came with Rocky Dimaculangan, TVI's Director for Public Affairs, introduced themselves and interviewed him.

Rocky Dimaculangan, when questioned by Board Member Edgar Baguio during the Committee Hearing, admitted that he was in the company of the media and press people when he went to Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte for the first committee.

But Mr. Dimaculangan did not answer the question of Board Member Baguio as to whether TVI paid for the plane tickets of the media and press people who allegedly made the false press statements. The press who attended were primarily from Manila and Zamboanga City.

Board Member Baguio warned Mr. Dimaculangan, in the course of the second committee hearing, that the Provincial Board of Zamboanga del Norte did not want a repeat of the false press release, as it undermined the integrity of the august body.

During the committee hearing a presentation was made on the structural design and integrity of the dam in question. Drawings of the dam were presented by Mr. Dimaculangan that showed to the committee the downstream portion of the dam that "eroded".

Board Member Baguio noted during the course of the discussion that "the term collapse and soil erosion are two confluent terms that connote the same meaning". He further added that when a collapse of a dam occurs, soil erosion normally follows.

Mr. Dimaculangan proudly told the Committee that the sulphide dam in question is well designed by American engineers, and it could withstand even in an intensity eight earthquake.

But Board Member Baguio explained that one can never guarantee the integrity of any dam against the force of nature, especially when such a dam is constructed out of soil and rocks. He noted that there are mining dams in the United States that had also collapsed. "I have served as Board Member of this province for several terms and I was also briefed like this by Philex Mining in Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte on their dam".

"Philex Mining had also explained to me in 1996 that their dam was well-designed and can stand against the strongest earthquake, but in 1997 its dam collapsed and caused millions of pesos in damages to properties of the community residing below the mining site."

During the course of the presentation, Mr. Dimaculangan was caught flat footed and blushed when asked by Board Member Baguio whether he was an expert of the dam. Mr. Dimaculangan replied "No your honor, but I was well educated by our Vice President for Civil Works in relation to the sulphide dam". Board Member Baguio continued to question him why was he tasked by his company to do the presentation of the structural design and the integrity of the dam when he did not possess the technical knowledge and expertise of a civil or structural engineer. Mr. Dimaculangan could not satisfactorily respond to the question. Board Member Baguio further said that Mr. Dimaculangan was not the right person to do the presentation in the absence of Jay Nelson, who is the Vice President for Civil Works and in-charge of the construction of the dam in question, since his field of expertise is only Public Affairs.

Mr. Dimaculangan was accompanied by Felise Yeban, Vice President on Corporate Social Responsibility and a number of the staff of TVI's Community Relations and Development Office (CREDO)

TVI's sulphide dam started construction around October 2006 utilising a tributary creek. It is asserted that the dam initially collapsed on April 2, 2007, and subsequently collapsed again on July 11, although TVI's management vehemently denies this.

Due to these two reported incidents of the sulphide dam collapse, Provincial Board Member Cedric Adriatico brought this issue to the attention of the Provincial Board - using a privilege speech - during its regular session on August 6, 2007. Consequently the Provincial Board referred the matter to the Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Protection for disposition.

Also present in the second Committee Hearing was Corazon Balingit, a resident in the area of the dam in question and eyewitness of the incident. Corazon presented her affidavit narrating the actual collapse to disprove the claim of TVI.

Onsino Mato, the spoke person of "Timuay" or Chieftain Jose "Boy" Anoy, the legal and legitimate holder of Ancestral Domain which is encroached by the company without their consent, presented his affidavit attesting to the fact that he personally took the pictures of the dam collapse a day after and showed the photos to the Board Members who were present.

Mr. Mato also criticized the article published in Balita Pinoy, an online publication based in the United Kingdom, calling the picture released by the community fake and claiming that it was taken maliciously at an angle to make it appear that there was a dam collapse.

Timuay Jose Anoy, challenged those media people not to allow themselves to be corrupted by financial offers from the mining company and to write based solely on the facts. They should not rely on the deceptive information of the mining firm.

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