MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Negros Folk Gear for War with Mining Companies

Published by MAC on 2006-02-20

Negros Folk Gear for War with Mining Companies

After some years of silence in mine-dominated southern Negros, in the Visayas islands in Central Philippines, farmers' groups, environmentalists, and church groups here are gearing up to stage a campaign against mining expansion.

BY KARL G. OMBION

by Bulatlat

20th February 2006

Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental - After some years of silence in mine-dominated southern Negros, in the Visayas Islands in Central Philippines, farmers' groups, environmentalists, and church groups here are gearing up to stage a campaign against mining expansion.

Last Feb. 18 around 100 delegates coming from 34 organizations launched the multi-sectoral alliance Defend Patrimony Movement (DPM) south Negros whose aim is to resist the deluge of mining operations in a large part of southern Negros.

Meanwhile, Negros Occidental provincial board member Reynaldo Depasucat, chairman of the provincial committee on environment and natural resources, has authored a resolution opposing the granting of new mining permits in the province. The resolution was approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) in its regular session last Feb. 15.

Aglipayan priest Fr. Ben Duran, elected chairman of the DPM said its launching is timely because aside from Philex Gold Mine, currently operating in the area, new mining companies have started explorations in Sipalay City, Cauayan, Hinobaan and portions of Negros Oriental. Duran cited in particular Colet Mines & Development Corp., which has started to operate in Sitio Dong-i, Brgy Manlocahoc, Sipalay, with target concession area of 3,000 has. and the Philex expansion around the Sipalay-Hinobaan border. Their operations, Duran said, have affected more than 300 upland rice farmers and settlers.

Mining Engineer and environmentalist Efren Fabila revealed that there are 50 other mining applications covering tens of thousands of hectares. Areas applied for are in Calatrava, Kabankalan City, Candoni, Hinobaan, and Talisay City. Specific target of applicants are exploration and production of manganese, basalt, iron ore, coal, and chromite.

The Center for Investigative Research and Multimedia Services (CIRMS), a Bacolod-based social research outfit, had earlier noted that as in the rest of the country, mining has stripped bare Negros island's forest lands and scraped the bottom of the earth in
search of precious minerals. Along with logging, mining has caused Negros to become what it is today: an island threatened by constant flashfloods and other calamities that have killed thousands of people and inundated countless rural villages, CIRMS added.

Duran said they expect more support for their campaign because people of southern Negros have had adverse experiences with mining companies, especially the Maricalum Mining Company, which closed sometime in 2000.

Fabila also believe that mining is behind the recent increase in military deployment and operations in southern Negros. "They are just disguising their presence as part of their anti-insurgency campaign when all indicators point to their role in clearing mountain villages of actual and potential opposition to mining operations," he said.

"This is the same pattern all over the country, that every time mining companies enter the villages, the military comes in for clearing operations in the guise of hunting rebels," Fabila added. "It is a double whammy for mostly farmers and upland settlers."

In a related development, the four Catholic dioceses of Negros will launch their joint anti-mining campaign on Feb. 20 at the John Paul II Cultural Center, Sacred Heart Seminary, Bacolod City.

Expected to lead the affair are Bp. Vicente Navarra of the Diocese of Bacolod, Bp. Patrick Bozon of the Diocese of Kabankalan, Bp. Jose Advincula of the Diocese of San Carlos, Bp. John F. Doe of the Diocese of Dumaguete; and a representative of the Abp. Angel Lagdameo of the Archdiocese of Jaro, Iloilo, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The activity is viewed by local Christian communities as a response of the local Catholic leadership to the CBCP's recent pastoral statement calling for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995, the cancellation of all mining permits, and the junking of the pending applications. The bishops said the mining business in the country "destroys life."

Fr. Mao Buenafe, social action director of the Diocese of Bacolod and head of the campaign secretariat said that the four bishops will issue their joint position on the launching date. Although he did not elaborate on the content of the position, he said that: "It is definitely consistent with the stand of the CBCP."

Buenafe said the launching will be graced by prominent anti-mining advocates, among them Congressman Edmund Reyes of Marinduque and Fr Cesar Aculan, social action director of Calbayog diocese, Samar.

Buenafe calls on the people for prayers and support for this "important" advocacy, and enjoins them to take part in the launching program.

Since 1995, the Diocese of Bacolod, along with other sectors, has been opposing the mining operations in Negros because of its "destructive" character, and for supposedly benefiting only the mining companies.

The mining operations in the country have taken a resurgence since December 2004, when the Supreme Court reversed its earlier decision declaring the Mining Act as unconstitutional.

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