MAC: Mines and Communities

Mine Applications Fast-tracked

Published by MAC on 2007-08-30

Mine Applications Fast-Tracked

Nordis - http://www.nordis.net/blog/?p=1456

30th August 2007

BAGUIO CITY --- The regional leadership of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) recently dismissed the creation of the Regional Minerals Development Council (RMDC) Tuesday as a move to fast-track the mining applications in the Cordillera.

Windel Bolinget, CPA secretary-general, claimed that the formation of mineral development councils nationwide is meant to revitalize the mining industry as a priority agenda of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration.

The Cordillera RMDC was created on August 28 to coordinate the smooth facilitation of mining projects in this highland region and assist the Mineral Development Council implement mining programs of the GMA administration.

The regional federation of indigenous peoples' groups in the region, CPA, however, claimed that this will hasten the exploitation of vast tracts of mineral lands by big companies in the region.

A move to revitalize mining industry

"It aims to remove the obstacles, legal and otherwise, for any mining application," Bolinget pointed out. He claimed that it is fast tracking these mine applications as a result of lobbying by mining companies in Malacañang.

The move, pointed out Bolinget, is a move that would disregard democratic processes granted to local government units and to affected communities. As the RMDC is directly under the Office of the President, applications would be facilitated while they would disregard democratic processes under the guise of mine investments.

"How will the NCIP, strictly enforce the "no free, prior and informed consent, no mine project" principle with that set-up?," asked Bolinget. He added that some 1.2 million hectares or 66% of the total 1.8 million-hectare land area of the region has been applied for mining explorations and operations by big mining companies. With most communities opposing such projects, the said, RMDC will facilitate the applications of these companies, he added.

Bolinget foresees an strengthened indigenous peoples' opposition due to the creation of the council as most Cordillera communities had seen the ill-effect of mining in several areas of Benguet.

Corporations welcome move

Benjamin Philip Romuladez, president of the Chamber of Mines, welcomed the creation of the councils in an interview with national media. He claimed that the councils will at least address issues in a certain degree. He estimated that in the next five years starting 2008, foreign investments would hit $1 billion a year. He added that in 2010, mining can have a total capital investments as high as $10 billion due to fast entry of foreign investments.

Since the Supreme Court decided for the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995, foreign multi-national companies had been interested in investing in the country. The Philippines has an unexplored gold, copper and nickel worth trillions in pesos.

The Mineral Development Council was created under Executive Order 460 which created the Mineral Development Council in 2005.

In the Cordillera, the RMDC will be headed by Regional Executive Director Samuel Peñafiel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources -- Cordillera Administrative Region (DENR-CAR). Other members with permanent and alternate representatives come from the regional offices of the Departments of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Agrarian Reform (DAR), Agriculture (DA), Labor and Employment (DoLE), Finance (DoF), Trade and Industry (DTI), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Presidential Management Staff (PMS), National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

A representative from the private sector who comes from the Chamber of Mines will be named by the national Chamber of Mines. There is no local counterpart in the Cordillera.

The Nordis source claimed that the council is expected to address conflicting functions of different agencies on certain application as different committees will be created to iron out problems that would be encountered. The council will promote mining under the Minerals Action Plan of the administration, he said. # Arthur L. Allad-iw for NORDIS
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