MAC: Mines and Communities

Mining Firm Office Set On Fire After Sc Ruling

Published by MAC on 2006-04-04
Source: Manila Standard

Mining firm office set on fire after SC ruling

By Abe Almirol, Manila Standard

Tuesday 4th April 2006

SOLANO, Nueva Vizcaya-Fire gutted a building at the Didipio field office of the Australasian-Philippines Mining Inc. (Apmi), the company cleared to operate mines in Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino, after newspapers bannered the news on the Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of the 1995 Mining Act.

The fire started at 1:30 a.m. yesterday, and residents of Barangay Didipio in Kasibu suspected that it had been set intentionally.

Apmi's office was razed to the ground, but residents of Sitio Bacbacan were able to save the Community Relations Office and the office of the Barangay Development Council.

"The office had a separate kitchen and there was no way that the fire could have started from inside," one resident said.

The company's guards had been drunk the night before, a resident of Sitio Dinauyan claimed, but police were still on their way to investigate.

"We have sent our men to go up with the police to investigate," said Chito Gozar, a representative of the mining firm. "We don't want to speculate."

"We are saddened by this incident," said Councilor Peter Duyapat, a known critic of the mining company.

"We hope this will not be reason for the company to ask military and police forces to come to our village. The company has offended many residents due to the problem of providing just compensation for our land."

The Didipio Earthsavers Multi-Purpose Association had petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the deal granting Apmi the right to operate mines in the Philippines as unconstitutional, claiming it violated the residents' right to ownership of their land.

But the Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of the Mining Act in a resolution en banc or in full court and with full judicial authority.

Meanwhile, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to enforce all safeguards on the mining industry after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of allowing foreign investors to tap into the country's $1 trillion mineral wealth.

Mrs. Arroyo praised the high court's decision to uphold the government's liberal policy on mining, but she would like to make sure the influx of foreign firms would not compromise the government's efforts to protect the environment, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

"While President Arroyo welcomes the affirmation by the Supreme Court, she is equally determined to enforce all the environmental safeguards and standards to protect the welfare of our communities," he said. With Joyce Pangco Pañares

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