MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Drilling through the Mantle of Large-Scale Mining - The Supreme Court Ruling in La Bugal Case

Published by MAC on 2004-02-01

Drilling through the Mantle of Large-Scale Mining - The Supreme Court Ruling in La Bugal Case

A Statement by the Women and Men of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK), Co-Petitioners and Co-Counsels in the Case of La Bugal v. Executive Secretary

01 February 2004

Hope glimmers in the horizon.

The women and men of LRC-KSK applaud the Supreme Court for declaring as unconstitutional the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of Western Mining Corporation (WMC) and certain provisions of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. It is a hard earned victory.

The Supreme Court has shown that protecting the land and resource rights of indigenous peoples and rural poor communities will redound to protecting the national patrimony.

After almost eight years since the case was filed in 1997, the High Court vindicated the cause of local communities suffering from the adverse impacts of mining. The case was built on the experiences and sacrifices of peoples whose economic and cultural survival were jeopardized with the entry of large scale mining firms, but who never saw the promised package of development and prosperity. These communities endured military harassment, loss of land, property and livelihood, erosion of culture, alienation within their communities, division among their kin, and in some instances, the loss of precious lives.

Despite these challenges, they organized, studied and mobilized meager resources to reclaim their rights and their lives. It is an uphill battle, considering the vast resources of the foreign and local mining firms boasting of a battery of lawyers, researchers and consultants.

While we celebrate this legal victory, we acknowledge that the struggle is only beginning. Government and commercial interests will not take this turn of events sitting down. DENR Secretary Elisea Gozun earlier on announced that the government will ask the Court to reconsider its decision. The mining industry, both domestic and foreign, is busy projecting doomsday scenarios in media following the decision. It is quick to dangle threats of investment pull-out, perhaps hoping that the High Court will succumb to such bullying tactics.

If there is anyone that will doom the mining industry, it is its own self. Not the Philippine Constitution, not the indigenous peoples and certainly not the Supreme Court.

Through all these developments, we remain vigilant and determined to preserve the gains thus far achieved by years of hard work, sacrifice and commitment.

We reiterate our call to undo the grounds on which commercial interests justify their iniquitous and wanton exploitation of our resources and the undermining of national patrimony.

We echo the call of the advocates of the Dapitan Initiative for the government to:

• Immediately cancel all existing financial and technical assistance agreements (FTAAs), mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs), exploration permits, and other mining agreements, licenses and other instruments;
• Scrap Republic Act No. 7942 (Philippine Mining Act), RA 7076 (Small-scale Mining Act); PD 463, and all related laws that result in the increasing marginalization and impoverishment of rural poor communities;
• Declare a moratorium on the issuance of large-scale mining permits, licenses, agreements and other instruments for one hundred years;
• Rehabilitate and restore ecological disaster areas left by that resulted from unbridled mining exploitation and further hold accountable those mining corporations for the destruction caused by their operations;
• Uphold the rights of mine workers; and
• Prohibit state and privately sponsored armed groups from operating in areas where there are current and prospective mining operations.

Salud! To the hard earned victory. Onwards with the struggle for meaningful freedoms!

The Women and Men of LRC-KsK

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