3. Attempts to influence local decision making.Published by MAC on 2001-05-01
3. Attempts to influence local decision making.
I have already reported on a consultation in the House of Bishop Jimenez on 30 June 97. This was preceded by an unusual and exclusive meeting. During the weekend of 28-29 May a new environmental initiative was launched in region 9 (Zamboanga and western Mindanao) with a meeting entitled "Media Congress on the Environment and Mining Exploration in western Mindanao."
The meeting over 2 days (one night) was held in the Plaza Beatrix Hotel, described as the regionís most elegant and expensive hotel. The meeting was convened by the Misamis Occidental (provincial) Press Club. The participants included representatives of the Government, press club members (though according to some in the church run radio station not all press club members were informed. The church radio had been critical of the mining expansion) and representatives of the government DENR (8 reps) and Rio Tinto (8 reps).
A parish priest and church worker form Zamboanga del Sur who tried to gain admission because they were deeply interested in the subject were barred. The agenda was relaxed starting with lunch and including also dinner, fellowship night, breakfast and ending with lunch. According to one of the journalists who attended the whole cost of the event was paid by Rio Tinto. The Pagadian Times subsequently reported "35 media practitioners who attended the Congress have formed themselves into an organisation called Western Mindanao United Media " with the purpose of monitoring mining and learning more. (and holding more seminars) On 30 June in a press conference after the Rio Tinto dialogue Bishop Z. Jimenez expressed his concern about media practitioners accepting lavish hospitality from Rio Tinto. The subsequent reports by a senior newsman who on the previous day was appointed vice president of the new WMUM contained strong attacks on the Bishop.
Rumours of attempts to influence local decision-making frequently circulate in the Philippines. Some such rumours are associated with this case. I will only report on one such where I have direct testimony.
Datu Agdino Andus told us when we interviewed him that he had originally welcomed the proposals of Rio Tinto. He had, he said "not much previous exposure to mining" and welcomed the jobs that might emerge. Agdino was invited, as a guest of Rio Tinto to Manila 1000 miles to the north. Here he was entertained and housed in a well known hotel (Sulo Hotel?) for 5 days (4 nights) while he had meetings with company representatives. ( In good practice regarding negotiations with indigenous peoples it is customary to ensure that any negotiations take place within the territory of the affected group or as near by as possible.)
Datu Agdino reports that in addition to the lavish hospitality he was given a camera before he left Manila. However if these are seen as attempts to influence decision making it should be reported they failed. Subsequently Datu Agdino was pressed by Subanen in his area to oppose the company because of what they had seen of a recently opened gold mine nearby, operated by Philex Gold (a Philippine/Canadian company.) As a result Datu Agdino reversed his earlier view and now opposes large-scale mining development for Sindangan. He made this clear in the interview with us and in the subsequent open meeting of the Sindangan Tribal Council.