MAC/20: Mines and Communities

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Published by MAC on 2001-05-23

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INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND

The Philippine Government with its line agencies, Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB), Department of Environment and Natural Resources sings the same lyrics and tone with the mining company that mining brings development.

In Sibutad Zamboanga del Norte the local government members mostly mouth the same as the Philex Mining that their operation brings development, jobs, water system, roads, etc.

Aside from writing the reality of this place, at least one and a half year of monitoring the people and the environmental destruction caused by the Philex Mining operation in the sloppy terrain of Lalab, Sibutad, have given the writer enough reason and inspirations to do this document.

Organizing and making people understand in the preparation for their struggle against the destruction made by the Philex Mining have given him ample opportunities to live and work with them and to observe and realize what are their problems, their weak points and their ambitions, aptitude, initiative, industry and independence.

Sharing these experiences to the environmental activist, human rights advocates in regional, national and international level has strengthened his energy in developing and articulating the people’s problem. Making Sibutad as precedent of destruction by the mining communities has added his spirit in wrapping this study.

SIBUTAD, ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE

This is an inland municipality of Zamboanga del Norte, around forty-five kilometers from Dipolog with sixteen barangays. Six of these are along the coastal areas, namely: Sawang, Panganuran, Canim, Libay, Calube and the island of Sinipay. These are also the most affected barangays of Philex Mining Operation. The communities in and around Sibutad have traditionally relied on farming and fishing as their main sources of income, the latter resulting from their proximity to Murceilagos Bay.

The preliminary assessment of the investigating team from DENR central office on March 14-17 1998 confirmed that "the operations of Philex Mining in Subutad are situated in an area above several communities on the slopes facing Murcielagos Bay." They found out that "unmitigated or inadequately mitigated earthmoving activities would aggravate the problem of siltation, which by itself is already a natural occurrence."

ABOUT PHILEX MINING:

Philex Mining Corporation was incorporated in Manila Philippines in July 1955. It engages in the exploration, development and extraction of mineral products. The company listed at the Philippine Stock Exchange and has over 50,000 stockholders. Its President is Gerald Brimo; the other big stockholders are Gokongwei, Soriano, SSS, GSIS, Disini, Sy, and Palanca. 60.71% Filipino interest. While 39.27% various foreign nation interest, like Witalo, HK Ltd., HSBC, Ltd., Philtread Tire and Rubber Corp., GST Phils, Inc., and Philex Gold Inc. (Canadian). Philex Mining claims to be the largest mining company in the Philippines in terms of copper, gold and silver output from three mining operations located throughout the country.

The company’s first mining operation is the Padcal copper mine with gold and silver by-products. The mine is located in the municipality of Tuba, Province of Benguet, about 17 aerial kilometers from Baguio City. Mining operations commenced in 1958, and have continued for more 39 years.

The company’s second operation, under its subsidiary Philex Gold Philippines, Inc., is the Bulawan gold mine in the municipality of Sipalay, Province of Negros Occidental. Bulawan commenced commercial operation in January 1996. Then it has recorded a lot of environmental destruction, damages of lives and means of living in the communities.

Its third mine, is the Sibutad heap leach operation in the municipality of Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte. The mining operation has destroyed the environment, lives and means of living especially the people in coastal communities. The people had been suffering the operation of Philex Mining which contrary to the company’s claim that they bring development.

THE ENTRY OF PHILEX MINING IN SIBUTAD

Combining the concealment of company’s interest in the area, establishing friendship with the landowners, maximizing its connection in the national government, building a close relationship with the local government of Sibutad down to barangay level was the key way in achieving its goal to enter the area. Then finally the company has employed these following activities:

    1. Building Friendship with the Small-scales miners

In the late 1980’s, Sitio Lalab in barangay Libay became the primary site of a ‘gold rush’ where thousands turned to small-scale mining. At the beginning, the company has pretended to be also small-scale miner by buying the waste from the small-scale miners cooperative in Sitio Lalab, until such time the mining engineer of the company has established friendship with the small-scale miners, tunnel and landowners. Engineers have offered unconditionally to help the Small-Scale Miners in distinguishing the exact location of gold deposits. The SSM has accepted the offer. But they did know nothing that the company was interested over the area.

2. Giving Business to individuals in the Local Government Unit

While establishing friendship with the small-scale miners, simultaneously the company has established rapport with the mayor of Sibutad, Benito Tolentino. The company was giving business opportunity to the said town father, his two dump trucks were used by Philex mining to haul excavated soils from the mining site to somewhere for PHP 2, 000.00 per day. Then the mayor called his barangay captains who were politically supportive to him and informed them about the grace from Philex mining. Each one of them was given a piecework contract to the company if they agree to the Philex Mining Operation. Of course the captains have no courage to refuse, because it is their opportunities to get much money. Except the two captains from barangay Sinipay and Sawang since the mayor on his call did not include them.

The company to gather their people for them to explain their presence used these barangay captains and that mining activity will bring development. The workers of the captains in the piecework contract were gathered successively and reported as a series of consultation. The said bogus consultations were used by the company to show to the different government agencies and the public that no one is opposed to their presence and operation in Lalab Sibutad.

The company also gave the other municipal officials piece work contract then the mayor influenced them to pass a resolution accepting the presence and other mining activities of Philex Mining. In 1995 the company constructed a diversion road leading to its mine site. It applied for and was granted an Environmental Compliance Certificate ("ECC") on 23 January 1997 for its continued operations. Its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement ("MPSA") was subsequently granted on 10 April 1997.

3. Force Acquisition of land

The mayor together with his close ally, engineer Titi Redillas, personally helped the company in negotiating the tunnel and landowners to sell their rights to the company because whether they like it or not, the company would operate and bulldoze the area. The people was not able to refuse the mayor out of fear since he is known to of short temper and is an acknowledged good shot with his pistol. They had no time to say no except yes while the mayor fixed the amount to be paid to them.

In spite of the help from the previous mayor and engineer Titi Redillas in negotiating the land, many of the tunnel owners and small-scale miners refused to sell their land and tunnels. Then the company arbitrarily bulldozed the tunnel of small-scale miners. One of the victim was Cerilo Niebla, vice chairman of the Sibutad Small-Scale Miners Multi-purpose Cooperative (SSSMMPC). His tunnel has existed since 1987, while the company only arrived in Sibutad in the 90’s. The company’s negotiator approached him but he refused. But the company went on its way and bulldozed and burned all structures and necessary equipment that they have built and procured. He has demanded that he be paid for the destruction. The case is in the court. While the victim is waiting the justice, the company has benefited the area by bulldozing and subsequently producing gold.

Eufracia Andilab during the Kalikasan Council meeting expressed her sentiments on April 29 this year, that her family was the victim of forced acquisition of land. When the company was about to fully operate in 1995, Engineer Mariano Manuson, resident manager, together with Titi Redillas negotiated the father of her husband that the land, with a size of three hectares, should be bought by the company. The Andilab family refused since they were not satisfied with the price. The two negotiators then told the Andilab family whether they like it or not the company would bulldoze the area. Fearing any untoward incident may happen, they were forced to sell the three hectares of land worth PHP 89,000.00 with matching promise of getting a job in the company.

Jerry Balingit a resident and secretary of Barangay Libay expressed that he was also a victim of Semi-land grabbing. When Philex Mining was about to operate in 1995, the management approached him to lease for a road right of way traverses through his land. He and the management of the company entered into a very low priced lease contract for Three Hundred Pesos (P300.00) a year. Without his consent the company added few square meters of land and built guards house and silt dam which was not included in the contract. The contract expired last May 1998 with the company terminating its obligation to the landowner. For two reasons, the company’s unilateral termination of its obligation and the subsequent environmental destruction of the land due to the road and the dam, he feels he must be justly compensated. It was the company that benefited in its use.

The company did nothing. "We have consulted our lawyer, Peter Co, on what we should do, and his advice was to close the road. So we closed it, but the company has forcibly opened." The landowner has closed the road eight times and everytime the company forcibly opened it. The Balingit family has filed nine cases in court with eight counts per case. For this they have experienced a lot of intimidation and harassment by the resident manager of the company, Art Ranin, by telling them that the management would also file a case against them. The cases are still in court while the company’s equipment continue to pass and use that portion of land where the road and the dam were built.

THE RESEARCH

The research used the technical definition of impact, that is, those negative effects the lives and means of living of residents affected by operation of Philex Mining in Sibutad.

METHODOLOGY OF THE STUDY

1. Interview

The DCMI researcher has made a random interview with the community leaders especially in the directly affected barangays. It has made an interview with the local government officials of Sibutad, and the barangay officials of the affected communities.

2. Workshops

The DCMI Organizer has made a different consultation/workshop and forum to the direct and most affected barangays of Sibutad. Different sectors and interest in the barangays attended the activity with a satisfactory numbers.

3. Reading of existing documents

The researcher considers the different existing documents, like petition, letters made by the affected communities and barangays, and other product of deep research made by different NGOs and POs.

SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The Study reaches all Sibutad and other part of Zamboanga del Norte, and the part of Misamis occidental within the scope of murcielagos bay.

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