MAC/20: Mines and Communities

IP, Environment, Church Groups Picket International Mining Confab

Published by MAC on 2004-12-30

IP, Environment, Church Groups Picket International Mining Confab

Bulatlat Vol. V, No. 1 February 6-12, 2005

BY Noel Godinez

"We have had enough of big foreign and local companies that compromise environmental protection and respect for indigenous peoples and their ancestral domain in their pursuit for maximum profits." - Rev. Fr. Allan Jose Arcebuche, OFM.

BAGUIO CITY -Some 200 protesters, many of whom traveled all the way to Manila from different regions, greeted the opening of the International Mining Investment Conference at the New World Hotel last Feb. 3. The two-hour picket condemned the sell-out of mineral resources to multinational mining corporations.

The protesters belonging to the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Kalikasan network, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP or Alliance of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines), Bayan Muna (People First), and the Promotion of Church People's Response (PCPR) converged in front of the hotel in Makati City at 10 am.

Rev. Fr. Allan Jose Arcebuche, OFM, of the coalition Defend Patrimony, said "We condemn this government-sponsored mining summit which promotes the business of massive extraction of gold mines and other minerals with the grave consequences being left to poor Filipinos. How many more denuded forests, poisoned waters, killer flashfloods and displaced communities will it take before the government seriously stops massive logging and open-pit mining? We have had enough of big foreign and local companies that compromise environmental protection and respect for indigenous peoples and their ancestral domain in their pursuit for maximum profits.

We condemn the latest Supreme Court ruling that declared the Mining Act of 1995 as legal."

Joan Carling, chair of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), said the conference aims to get foreign investors interested in 23 mining projects yet the affected communities of these projects have not been consulted properly.

The 23 mining projects are Batong Buhay Copper-Gold Project in Pasil, Kalinga; Far-Southeast Gold Project, Itogon Gold Project, and the Teresa Gold Project in Mankayan, Benguet; Padcal Expansion Project in Tuba, Benguet; Didipio Copper-Gold Project in Kasibu, Nueva Viscaya and Nagtipunan, Quirino; Adlay-Cagdianao-Tandawa Project in Surigao del Sur and Claver, Surigao del Norte; Amacan Copper Project/Hijo Gold Project, Diwalwal Direct State Utilization Project, King King Copper-Gold Project in Compostela Valley; Aroroy Gold Project in Masbate; Boyongan Copper Project in Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte; Canatuan Gold Project in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte; Mindoro Nickel Project in Oriental Mindoro; Nonoc Iron Fines Project and Nonoc Nickel Project in Surigao del Norte; Palawan Nickel Project in Bataraza, Palawan; Pujada Nickel Project in San Isidro & Gov. Generoso, Davao Oriental; Rapu Rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay; San Antonio Copper Project in Marinduque; Siana Gold Project in Surigao del Norte; Tampakan Copper Project in South Cotabato; and Toledo Copper Project in Cebu.

Furthermore, Carling emphasized that there is "an obvious lack of transparency in the process of planning and identification of these projects" wherein the government has "disregarded the rights of the affected communities" as well as "the protection of the environment." She also warned that conflicts will arise in the areas of these projects because "the people will continue to assert their rights and defend their resources" from mining companies.

She also criticized the government for believing that corporate mining is a solution to the chronic economic and financial crisis citing the experiences of Zaire, Bolivia and Sierra Leone which relied primarily on foreign investments to develop their mining industry but until now have remained among the poorest of nations. Furthermore, these countries are facing catastrophes, disasters and conflicts brought about by the operations of mining corporations.

Tax holidays

Carling criticized the government for giving out tax holidays and incentives to foreign mining corporations while bleeding the Filipinos dry by way of additional taxes like the increase of the value added tax. "We demand the full respect to our collective rights as indigenous peoples and the patrimony of the Filipino people over our natural resources. We will not allow the plunder of our land and we will resist and expose all attempts of deception and coercion by the government and mining companies," Carling ended.

In Mindanao, religious groups particularly the Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN), Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, and the Religious of the Good Shepherd, and non-government organizations affiliated with the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (INPEACE) have "vowed to take the fight in the communities and work with Lumads and farmers in Mindanao in opposing the entry of foreign mining firms in the country."

Moreover, the groups vow to support mass actions of communities as the only way to "reverse" the Supreme Court's legalization of the entry of transnational, open-pit mining in the country led by American, Canadian, and Australian corporate giants.

According to Sr. Carmen Dianne Cabasagan, SAMIN chairperson and INPEACE Convenor, the Supreme Court decision on the legality of the Philippine Mining Act "was clearly rushed to please foreign investors attending an the international mining conference."

The mining conference, organized by the Philippine Chamber of Mines and supported by the Office of the President, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Department of Trade and Industry is aimed to put the Philippine mining industry "back on the global map."

According to a conference flyer, the country's mineral deposits are spread across nine million hectares and are "worth a potential US$840 billion."

Church Leaders, Lumads Gear for Anti-Mining Protests in Mindanao

By Tyrone Velez

The Supreme Court has upheld with finality the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995 but the struggle against this law that allows transnational corporations to engage in destructive mining activities continues, especially in Mindanao.

Church Leaders, Lumads Gear for Anti-Mining Protests in Mindanao The Supreme Court has upheld with finality the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995 but the struggle against this law that allows transnational corporations to engage in destructive mining activities continues, especially in Mindanao.

DAVAO CITY - With the Supreme Court (SC) deciding with finality on the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995, the fight against it is now in the communities of lumad (an indigenous group in Mindanao) and farmers in Mindanao.

Religious groups and non-government organizations (NGOs) thus said last week as they vowed to raise opposition against the entry of foreign mining firms in the country.

The Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (Inpeace), Sisters Association in Mindanao (Samin), Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS) condemned the SC ruling of Dec. 1. Last week, the high court quashed the motion for reconsideration lodged by the legal counsel of La Bugal B'laan Tribal Association questioning the former's earlier ruling on the legality of the law allowing transnational mining in the country.

Sr. Ma. Carmen Diane Cabasagan, Samin chairperson and Inpeace convenor, condemned the decision as it was clearly rushed to please foreign investors attending the international mining conference of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.

Human rights lawyer Joel Mahinay, another convenor of Inpeace, said the SC did not consider the new information and arguments presented by the lawyers of La Bugal.

Legal, moral

"The Supreme Court ruling reminds us of the long upheld principle 'what is legal may not necessarily be moral,'" Mahinay said."It is now up to the people to be affected by large-scale mining to assert their political rights over their land and livelihood."

Sister Cabasagan said that the Mining Act is more than a legal issue. "It has become a moral issue because it affects the well-being of the majority especially the poor, as the few transnational investors and their Filipino partners stand to gain billions of dollars while wiping out whole communities and destroying the environment," she said.

She said it is urgent to support mass actions of communities as the only way to reverse the SC's legalization of the entry of foreign mining firms led by American, Canadian, and Australian corporate giants. Datu Tomas Ito, chairperson of the Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations, said, Lumad groups "will muster all their powers to resist this renewed assault on the last frontiers of Mindanao which are our ancestral domains."

Unity statement

The groups earlier led a signing of a unity statement in a forum held last Jan. 29 in Davao City calling for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995. One hundred-sixty participants from religious orders, environmental groups, NGOs, local governments and academe signed the statement.

The statement called for a moratorium on large-scale mining in the country and the cancellation of Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) given to foreign mining corporations. The signatories also demanded that foreign corporations own up to rehabilitating areas ravaged by their operations and to respect the indigenous communities.

The Mining Act of 1995 was a "scheme of the national government that spells wholesale surrender of our national patrimony to foreign countries," they said.

Lawyer Gus Gatmaytan of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center - Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KSK) criticized the government's economic strategy which is foreign investment-dependent and export-oriented. Such economic policy, he said, may "bring prosperity but not progress." Profits will only benefit a few, he said.

Five of 23 mining showcases in Mindanao

The LRC revealed that of the 23 mining showcases by the government, five are in Mindanao.

The Australian firm Indophil Resources is tying up with the local Sagittarius Mines Inc. (formerly Tampakan) copper project in South Cotabato which is considered the largest undeveloped copper field in Southeast Asia. Estimates showed the reserve has a potential value to earn $14 billion.

Mining firms are also eyeing the gold-rich Compostela Valley in Southern Mindanao. Already, the Indophil-Sagittarius Mines are applying for exploration permits in Nabunturan. Another Australian firm is eyeing a partnership with North Davao Mining in exploring the mountains of Masara in Maco.

In Davao City, the Solid North Company is set on exploring limestone minerals in Bunawan, covering 5,000 hectares. A reported 820,494 hectares of land in Southern Mindanao are covered by 13 FTAA applications of 11 mining corporations. Bulatlat.

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