MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines Update

Published by MAC on 2006-04-21

Philippines Update

21st April 2006

The Philippine government continues to promote mining as the saviour of the economy, and looks for new ways to placate the opposition, including asking opponents to join them, new warnings to companies to clean up their act and the idea of a some form of militarised environmental task force (the product of the new head of the Department of Natural Resources, who is an ex-army man). However, even the promise to review their much-criticised mining legislation is doing little to placate opposition, especially the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. This is mainly because of back-tracking that is making the promise look increasingly hollow. Faced with this situation communities continue to take the initiative in opposing projects through investigation missions, protest and continued legal action.

Mining Disaster Looms in Sipalay City

Sipalay City faces another mining disaster with the operation of Colet Mines, says an Environmental Investigation Mission.

BY KARL G. OMBION, Bulatlat -

9th 15th April 2006

Bacolod City – Sipalay City is facing a repeat of of the mining disasters in the 80s and 90s, when a mining company starts its full-blast operations this year.

Mining engineer Efren Fabila warned that the operations of the Colet Mines might cause havoc comparable to those caused by the Maricalum Mining and Philex Gold Mines in the past two decades.

Fabila headed the three-day Environmental Investigation Mission that surveyed Sitio Dung-I, Brgy Manlocahoc, Sipalay City on April 5 to 7. Sipalay City is 155 kms. south of Negros Occidental.

Sitio Dung-i is in the heart of the Colet Mines operations, which has an approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) covering 2,965.1041 hectares.

The three-day environmental investigative mission was conducted by Defend Patrimony, a broad alliance of environmental activists that include the Negros Concern for Environmental Protection, Paghidaet sa Kauswagan Development Group, Builder Inc., Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Mapisan farmers Federation, Binhi foundation, National Federation of Sugar Workers, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and partylist Bayan Muna.

Diverse flora and fauna

Sitio Dung-i is a farming community with 537 households. It has an estimated 97-hectare rice fields with a year round supply of water. It has five cropping seasons within a two-year period.

The area has 15 creeks and three river systems which drains into Sipalay River. Three natural springs are also located inside the sitio and serves as the only source of potable water for the community.

The area has 80 hectares of forest cover supporting a diverse flora and fauna, such as bakatin, or the local term for wild pig.

Also found in the area are endangered species such as the Red Spotted Deer and globally-threatened bird species such as the Philippine Cockatoo, Blue-naped Parrot, Tarictic Hornbill and the Green-faced Parrot finch.

The creeks and rivers are home to fishes and other freshwater aquatic resources such as banag, awis, busog, haluan, sili, tilapia, uyagbang and ulang.

Destruction looms

“With the entry of Colet Mines, local folks have no other recourse but to gear for a renewed struggle in defense of their land resources and the environment,” Fabila warned.

He said, “The socio-economic and cultural impact of the opening of Colet Mines far outweighs the purported economic gains that may be achieved from the mining operations.”

Fabila said that their mission found out that the deposition area of the planned open pit mine of Colet poses a frightening scenario.

“Though Colet Mines is still at the final stage of its exploration, the head waters of Montoboy and Caiwanan creeks that join the Sipalay River, register an extremely high level of acidity of 3.2 PH, far from the normal 7 PH. These creeks are almost dead, unhospitable to living creatures,” Fabila revealed.

“The waters of the creeks is reddish and coconut trees are dying along the banks of the creeks. A hectare of rice land was already covered by siltation from exploration drilling sites, ” he added.

Fabila also said that once Colet Mines operate full blast at Lepanto mountain, Montoboy and Caiwanan creeks and the head waters of Sipalay River will be covered by mine waste. All of the farms downstream will also be heavily silted. Toxic affluents of mining operations will pollute the whole Sipalay River system.

He said the fertile rice lands of Sitio Dung-i where the mine tailings dam will be constructed is capable of producing 9,500 cavans per cropping or 23,750 cavans per year.

The pollution of the Sipalay River System will adversely affect the rich marine ecology of Sipalay coastlines, Fabila said. It would in turn have a negative impact on the tourism industry of the city which recently won the top “Hiyas ng Tourism Best Diving Site” award.

“It is ironic that while Mayor Oscar Montilla promotes tourism, he also allows the pollution and destruction of its rivers and coastlines with toxic mining effluents,” Fabila added.

Militarized area

During the mission, the local residents reported that they are constantly harassed by military troops, their paramilitia and local assets.

Soldiers belonging to the Army’s 12th Infantry Batallion reportedly told the people not to support groups outside their community. They added that before the mission came, they were warned not to cooperate because they will only be used for their money-making and propaganda against the government.”

Greg Ratin, Secretary General of the DEFEND PATRIMONY who led the investigative mission said that they were harassed by military intelligence operatives and their assets posing as “vendors selling VCD players and stereo radios.”

Alternative people’s mineral policy

Trixie Concepcion, a geologist from Defend Patrimony national office, clarified that they are not against mining, but stand for a mineral policy that is part of a national industrialization plan.

“We cannot just allow a king of mining policy that allows mining companies especially multinational companies to search, open, rake our minerals, destroy environment and communities, and leave the country with their super profits,” she said.

She said that the government’s mineral policy should be selective, responsive to the needs of national industrialization, protective of natural resources and the people.

“Such policy must be comprehensively and carefully planned by the government and all the stake holders,” she added.

“What we have now is a destructive policy, favoring only foreign interests,” she stressed.

Cha-cha to worsen plunder in the Philippines

The team also chided government statements that Cha-Cha will protect the country’s national economy and patrimony from plunder.

“Cha-cha will not improve the mining policy in the country, but will only worsen it. The advocates of cha-cha want to completely remove the remaining constitutional obstacles to the sell-out of our resources to foreign interests,” said Peter Benayres, a forester and former researcher of DENR-Environmental Research Bureau.

Benayres said: “We must muster a stronger and broader forces, and wage sustained advocacy not only to frustrate the cha-cha scheme of the government, but also protect our resources from all forms of exploitation and plunder.”

MGB-6 asks anti-mining groups as partners in protection vs mining

PIA Press Release -

12th April 2006

Iloilo City -- The Mines and Geosciences Bureau Region 6 (MGB-6) urges anti mining groups to be government's active partners in ensuring mining companies' compliance with environmental and social commitments as provided for by laws that govern the country's mining industry rather than inciting the people against mining.

"Rather than uniting the people against mining, the government implores various anti-mining groups to be active partners in ensuring the observance of all applicable laws, compliance of economic, environmental and social commitments and respect for the rights of Indigenous People's (IPs) and local communities by mining companies", said MGB 6 Officer-in Charge Engr. Rene B. De la Cruz.

De la Cruz said the MGB 6 also appreciates these concerns and initiatives by various anti-mining groups to protect the environment. "In this way, we can constantly improve the way we manage our precious mineral resources and review existing policies pertaining to environmental and social protection", he added.

Protection of the environment and the people, De la Cruz said is still the government's top priority in its effort to revitalize the country's mining industry. These are given paramount consideration as it is determined to enforce all the environmental safeguards and standards to protect their welfare and the communities as well as the overall ecological stability of the country. This is also to ensure that responsible mining is achieved in the country which is in contrast to past mining practices under the old mining laws that painted a grim picture of the industry.

Now, he explained, the safety and protection of the environment and the people are considered in every stage of a mining activity. These are taken into account by the two major policies governing mining in the country. These are Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and Presidential Decree No. 1586 or the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) System.

PD 1856 or the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) System ensures that environmental concerns are adequately addressed in all stages of project implementation. It identifies potential environmental impacts from development activities like mining and provides for mitigative or ameliorative mechanisms to minimize or eliminate such impacts. It also sets the process in obtaining social acceptability.

On the other hand the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) provide the framework for responsible mining wherein at every stage of the projects, the impacts are being guarded.

To further put premium consideration to environmental protection, stringent measures were institutionalized in the Mining Act of 1995 to ensure the compliance of mining contractors/operators to internationally accepted standards of environmental management during the actual mining operation stage.

Also, on the top of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) conditionalities, are other mandatory requirements such as the allocation of an approximately 10 percent of the initial capital expenditures of the mining project for environment-related activities, annual allocation of 3-5 percent of the direct mining and milling costs to implement an Annual Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program, establishment of a Mine Rehabilitation Fund (MRF), and operationalization of a Multipartite Monitoring Team composed of representatives from MGB, DENR Regional Office, affected communities, Indigenous Cultural Communities, an environmental NGO, and the Contractor/Permit Holder, to monitor mining operations.

Socio-economic developments in the project areas are given consideration to by the mining law. It provides that mining contractors/operators shall allocate a minimum of 1 percent of their direct mining and milling costs for the development of the host and neighboring communities and mine camp to promote the general welfare of inhabitants in the area. This includes the construction and maintenance of infrastructures such as roads and bridges, school buildings, housing and recreational facilities, water and power supplies, among others.

De la Cruz said there is probably no other industry in the Philippines that is required to spend for community development than mining, said De Veyra. (PIA)

Reyes seeks superbody to fight eco-terrorism

By Norman Bordadora, Inquirer -

9th April 2006

Editor's Note: Published on page A3 of the April 9, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

EXPRESSING grave concern over the continued environmental degradation of the country's natural resources, Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes over the weekend asked all stakeholders to support his seven-point agenda that includes the formation of a superbody on environmental law enforcement. Reyes, a former Armed Forces chief of staff and secretary of interior, proposed the creation of an Environmental Protection Commission comparable to the presidential anti-crime task groups to go after poachers, illegal loggers and other violators of the country's environment laws.

"We intend to propose to the President the creation of an Environment Protection Commission, similar to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission to mobilize all resources of the government and the private sector to put a stop to the pollution and the destruction of our environment," Reyes said.

Reyes said that as a career member of the Armed Forces, a former secretary of national defense and later of the interior, he had always been involved in fighting terrorism and crime.

More harm and damage

"(The) degradation and destruction of the environment inflicts more harm and damage than any criminal or terrorist can hope to achieve," Reyes said.

He asked the private sector and big business to help the government ensure that laws against pollution and environmental degradation were implemented and produced results for the country.

"I call on the private sector to take a leading position in responding to the serious environmental challenges before us. Our real mission is to enable a partnership between the government and the private sector in a common quest to protect our environment and conserve," Reyes said.

Other points in Reyes' agenda include the need for responsible mining to generate revenues while sustaining mining resources, the completion of the country's geohazard map to forewarn communities of potential landslides and flashfloods, the revival of the Pasig River, arrest forest denudation, control air and water pollution, and the closure of all open and controlled dumps nationwide.

"We will accelerate the rehabilitation of abandoned and idle mining projects that continue to pollute our environment. We will prioritize the Marcopper mines in Marinduque, the Basay mining project in Negros and the Bagacay mines in Samar," Reyes said.

The Arroyo administration sees the mining sector as one of the keys to the country's economic progress. The Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995, removing one of the major obstacles to mining exploration by foreign companies in the Philippines.

Zambo Norte Subanens sue Canadian mining firm

By Cheng Ordonez, Sun Star Zamboanga -

12th April 2006

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Enraged with alleged continuing harassments, threats to lives and destruction of properties, a group of Subanens filed a suit against Toronto Ventures Incorporated (TVI), a Canadian-owned mining firm operating in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.

Gigi B. Bedro, of the Legal Rights & Natural Resource Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth-Philippines, said Timuay Lino L. Tii led the Subanen petitioners in filing a case Thursday for the immediate cancellation of TVI's mineral production sharing agreement.

The suit was filed before the panel of arbitrators of the Mines & Geo-Sciences Bureau in Zamboanga City, according to Bedro.

Tii's group claimed that TVI violated several national laws, several provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, and this is sufficient ground for government to revoke the corporation's mining permit.

The complainant Subanens also claimed that, at least, three national laws were violated by TVI's mining operations in the area. These include the Philippine Mining Act, Indigenous People's Rights Act, and Local Government Code of the Philippines of 1991, said Bedro.

"The decision to file a case was made after the government failed to address their interest of protecting their land from development aggression caused by TVI's mining operations," Bedro said.

Tii said they sought the help of local government units, environment department, Office of the President, and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples over their predicament but without result.

He added that they are asking that TVI be not allowed to operate in the area because it is part of their sacred mountain that was occupied by their ancestors since time immemorial.

The Subanens in Siocon were awarded a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on June 12, 2003.

"This makes them the second indigenous peoples' community in the country whose rights are fully recognized," according to Bedro.

But tribal chieftain Timuay Jose "Boy" Anoy said the certificate was not enough to protect them from the "destructive mining operations of TVI," added Bedro.

Others groups backing the Subanens are stakeholders in the area like Moro and Visayan farmers, fishers, women, church workers, and the youth.

TVI, according to Tii's group of Subanens, has also continuously spread terror among residents in the area with the heavy presence of the military and paramilitary forces.

The Subanens hope that their grief allegedly caused by "TVI's unending destruction of their sacred mountains" would finally come to an end. "TVI's mining operation has to be stopped. TVI and other large-scale mining firms have no place in the Philippines especially in ancestral domains of indigenous peoples," said Anoy.

Reacting to the suit, TVI expressed disappointment that Apu Manglang Pusaka and Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center again resorted to forum hunting in their denigration campaign against the mining firm.

"The issues they raised are a mere rehash of their unfounded allegations that have been ventilated in various fora, including Congress. We categorically deny their accusations," it said.

The firm said TVI's mineral agreement with the national government was issued ahead of the certificate given to Subanon in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.

But even if the company enjoyed prior rights over the ancestral domain claim and title, TVI entered into an agreement with the Siocon Subano Association Inc. for the development of Canatuan "as a gesture of good faith and affirmative action."

Bicolanos protest renewed mining operations in Albay

Rhaydz B. Barcia, Manila Times -

21st April 2006

LEGAZPI city: Multisectoral organizations across the Bicol region have joined forces to oppose the resumption of mining by Lafayette Philippines Inc. in Rapu-Rapu, Albay, next month.

The protesters regrouped Thursday at the Peñaranda Park here and want to the regional office of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources where they protested the resumption of polymetallic mining in the coastal town of Rapu-Rapu.

Fr. Fedelino “Ino” Bogaoisan, assistant parish priest of Santa Florentina Parish here, the Sagip Isla movement and other environmentalist groups said they will camp out at the DENR premises for two days.

“We will fight to the fullest to save the people of Rapu-Rapu and the environment,” Bogaoisan told The Manila Times.

Last month Bogaoisan and Sagip Isla led a protest from the town proper of Rapu-Rapu to Binosawan and nearby areas demanding that the Australian mining conglomerate leave the town.

Joselito “Sarge” Sarmiento, director and corporate secretary of Lafayette Philippines Inc., said that the new management, led by Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez, will comply with all the safety measures set by the government.

“We would like to reiterate to the Bicolanos and the government that the new management will adopt the most modern technology to ensure the protection of the environment, and most especially the people,” Sarmiento said.

Rep. Jose Solis of Sorsogon told the management of Lafayette not to resume operations until after the investigation conducted by the House of Representatives.

Solis, chairman of the House Committee on the Environment, vowed to push through with the investigation when Congress resumes its regular session.

Members of the Albay provincial board are also set to visit the mining firm next week to find out its capability to protect the health of the residents if the DENR allows it to operate.

The Lafayette Philippines Inc. has been subject of controversy following two consecutive toxic spillages that caused a series of fishkills. The fishkills have greatly harmed the livelihood of poor fishermen in Rapu-Rapu, the municipalities of Bacon, Prieto Diaz, Barcelona and nearby areas in Sorsogon.

CBCP sticks to anti-Mining Act stance

By Allen V. Estabillo, MindaNews -

20th April 2006

GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- The influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has remained firm on its demand for the scrapping of Republic Act 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995 and for a "pro-people alternative" despite an ongoing review of the proposed amendments to the controversial law ordered by Malacañang.

Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez said they were wary of the Arroyo administration's promise to revise the "controversial provisions" of the mining law, especially the terms on the granting of Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA) to foreign companies.

"They are politicians and we have all the reasons to be skeptical about their actions," the bishop said in a press conference after a big rally against an Australian-backed mining firm in Tampakan, South Cotabato on Wednesday which he and two other bishops led.

But he said they "will wait and see" if the government will make good their promise.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reportedly agreed to study some possible amendments to the Mining Act during a dialogue last March 10 with Bishops Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, Pedro Arigo of Puerto Princesa, Antonieto Cabajog of Surigao, Reynaldo Evangelista of Boac, Warlito Cahandig of Calapan, Archbishop Carmelo Morelos of Zamboanga and retired Jesuit Bishop Francisco Claver.

Among those who joined the dialogue were House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes, Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor and Socio-economic and Planning Director General Romulo Neri. Gutierrez, who heads the CBCP's National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, acknowledged that the Mining Act of 1995 has some "good provisions" but that they were overshadowed by the controversial terms in the FTAA and the perks it supposedly extends to foreign mining firms.

"It fully liberalized mining in the country and especially allowed the foreigners to control our lands and do anything with them as they please," he said.

He reiterated the provisions that allow foreign mining companies to control 100 percent of a mining venture through the FTAA and to charge all their expenses against the future income of the mining venture, and the tax holidays.

Citing the proposed large-scale copper and gold mining venture of the Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) which holds an FTAA with the government, Gutierrez said the company was allowed not just to mine the area's minerals but also "to control the area's watershed, enter into private properties, manage the timber and the surrounding communities."

"We will replace all these unfair provisions with nationalistic terms based on an alternative law that would be introduced by the people themselves," he said.

Bishop Jimmy Afable of Digos reiterated that majority of the bishops really want the Mining Act replaced by an alternative law.

He stressed that consultations have been ongoing nationwide for the formulation of an "Alternative People's Mining Act." The technical consultations are spearheaded by the Legal Resources Center and the Alyansa Tigil Mina. He, however, said the CBCP did not set a timetable as to when the alternative mining law would be introduced to potential sponsors in Congress.

"All the legal processes are being explored to come up with sound pro-people policies. It will come out when it's done and we will then make a big push for it (in Congress)," the bishop added.

Meantime, aside from waiting for the government's promised amendments to the mining law, Bishop Romulo Valles of Kidapawan said they would continue to push for the exclusion of Marinduque from the 23 mining projects being pursued by the government.

"It doesn't make sense to allow another mining venture to set in when the area destroyed by the past mining activities is not yet fully rehabilitated," he said.

He said another immediate action is the delisting of the Rapu-Rapu mining project and the "stoppage of all other proposed ventures in the country including that of SMI."

Bishops Gutierrez, Valles and Afable yesterday joined forces to press for the eviction of SMI from the area before the start of its planned large-scale mining operations in 2009.

The three bishops announced the move after leading some 8,000 residents coming from at least six provinces and five cities in southern and central Mindanao to a protest caravan and rally against SMI in Tampakan town.

SMI, which is financed by the Australian Indophil Resources NL, is currently conducting exploratory drilling activities in the tri-boundaries of Tampakan, Columbio and Kiblawan towns to confirm the viability of the copper and gold deposits in the area.

SMI's proposed mining area, which covers at least five barangays in the three towns, was earlier cited by company officials as one of the largest high grade copper and gold deposits in the Far East.

Philippines Orders Cleanup of Mines Before Rains

19th April 2006

MANILA - The Philippines said on Tuesday it had ordered owners of two mining areas in the country to clean up and improve their infrastructures before the start of the rainy season.

"With the onset of La Nina, we have to take the necessary precautions to ensure that some of the abandoned mines will not pose any hazard to the environment," Angelo Reyes, secretary of the environment department, told a news conference. Meteorologists have said cool sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific point to a La Nina weather phenomenon, which could result in storm surges and strong winds in some parts in Asia.

The rainy season in the Philippines usually starts in May and ends in September.

Reyes said he had ordered the owners of Marcopper Mining Corp. to reduce the water level at their Tapian pit and clean up the pond area of their Maguila-guila silt dam in Marinduque province.

"Should an untoward incident happen for failure to implement this directive, the department will be constrained to file appropriate action," Reyes said in a letter sent to Placer Dome Inc. and the current owners of Marcopper.

The province of Marinduque served a lawsuit in the United States last October against Placer Dome, Canada's second-largest gold miner which previously owned 40 percent of Marcopper.

The government of Marinduque is seeking compensation for damage caused when tonnes of mine waste from a copper mill owned by Marcopper spilt in to the Boac River, 150 km (94 miles) south of Manila in March 1996.

Placer Dome, which previously said it has spent millions of dollars to help clean up the area and compensate residents, sold its stake in Marcopper in 1997.

"You cannot operate a mine and then just abandon it. You have to clean up the mess," Reyes said.

Reyes also ordered Dizon Copper Silver Mines Inc. and Benguet Corp. to fix the collapsed spillway of its Bayarong tailings dam at their mine site in Zambales province in northern Philippines.

He also ordered both firms to rehabilitate their Camalca waste dump.

"Given the potential danger to the environment and to life and property posed by the Camalca waste dump and the Bayarong tailings dam, please be directed that your company shall be held liable should any untoward incident occur as a result of your failure to implement these directives," he said.

Reyes said Dizon owned the mine site in Zambales while Benguet was the operator.

The Philippines is trying to lure foreign investors to pour $8.5 billion into 23 priority mining projects and 37 exploration deals for the sector's revival after years of neglect.

Early last month, the government bowed to pressure from the Catholic Church to review a law allowing foreign firms to own up to 100 percent of local projects from 40 percent previously to further strengthen its environmental provisions.

"We had a dialogue with the bishops and their concern is to strengthen the laws, provide it more teeth so that environment would be better protected," Reyes said.

He said legislators have yet to come up with their recommendations.

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