MAC/20: Mines and Communities

The national minerals policy consultations held from February of this year have been purely promotin

Published by MAC on 2003-03-15

The national minerals policy consultations held from February of this year have been purely promoting supposed "best practices" of mining while being unmindful of countless catastrophes that pegged millions of destroyed communities. We remain vigilant to the dillution of policies promoting IP rights such as the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) by the Arroyo administration through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB).

Through this fax barrage, we are forwarding our unified opposition to the promulgation of policies that will only result to further disenfranchisement of marginalized communities.

We reject the draft "National Minerals Policy Framework".

Scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

<Your Organization’s name>

Reject the draft "National Minerals Policy Framework".

Scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

We, communities affected by mining operations and advocates are alarmed with the draft National Minerals Policy Framework (NMP) and the undemocratic process undertaken for its passage. The Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) is fast tracking a 2-month timetable of regional consultations, a national consultation and presentation of the final document to the Philippine Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD). This process is expected to be completed by the end of March 2003 before President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signs an Executive Order for its implementation.

We question the token nature of the so-called "democratic processes" of the regional consultations on the NMP. Invitations and the accompanying draft NMP document were sent late. Only a few stakeholder community members and advocates were invited. There were attempts to silence dissent. The few anti-mining activists who attended the regional consultations were harassed and the presentation of their position papers was disrupted by pro-mining participants and by the MGB personnel themselves.

We protest the target to finish the national consultation and come up with a final document by the end of March 2003. This is too short to gather more substantial comments from those who would still like to contribute and process the results of the regional consultations.

We reject the present draft of the National Minerals Policy framework. It is full of rhetorics and contradictions. It is contrary to the claim of the MGB and the mining industry that the NMP is in response to the problems raised against mining.

The following are the reasons why we reject the NMP:

1. Its scope is only limited to the first two (2) phases of mining and minerals development, thus, further strengthening the extractive and export-import nature of our economy.

2. It allows further destruction of the environment especially with the recommendation to allow the disposal of mine tailings into the sea. Instead of strictly regulating the unauthorized disposal of tailings into the environment, mining companies are merely asked to pay P 50/ton for damages they have incurred. To make matters worst, mining companies are allowed to operate in areas of known seismicity and in developed areas. They are required only to institute an Emergency Response Program to respond to problems that may arise in the future in these areas.

3. It facilitates further foreign control of the mining industry as embodied in the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (RA 7942) and its Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR). The NMP affirms the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) attract Foreign Direct Investment and encourages the entry of multi-national corporations with the assumption that we could take advantage of their "modern technology" through "knowledge sharing" and "technology transfer" and because of their "exposure to stringent environmental regimes".

4. It weakens democratic processes. The NMP recommends the endorsement of a mining project by any two of the local government Units instead of abiding by the rule to get the endorsements from all levels of the LGUs. Further, it recommends the harmonization of other laws such as the IPRA, NIPAS, LGC etc. to RA 7942 in order to do away with provisions that are hindering the full implementation of the Mining Act. The harmonization of the IPRA to RA 7942 is an attempt to do away with the provision on Free and Prior and Informed Consent of indigenous peoples in order to make land access easier for mining companies into indigenous peoples land. The government weakened its regulatory functions. The draft NMP recommends self-regulatory and non-regulatory approaches in dealing with mining companies with flimsy reasons so that they will become more innovative and come up with Best Practices for their mining operations.
We reiterate our call to scrap RA 7942 and its IRR as we find these to be flawed both in substance and in practice. Our opposition are based on the following grounds:
a. The law is based on an export-oriented economic framework, a policy which remains as a key factor in driving the country's economy to bankruptcy.

b. The law has opened our mineral wealth to full exploitation by foreign investors, thus surrendering our national patrimony and sovereignty to corporate entities who have the control of capital and technical know-how.

c. The law is not based on Philippine realities. We are an archipelago with fragile ecosystems and the areas where minerals are located are inhabited mainly by indigenous peoples.

d. The law does not guarantee the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples to their territories and their right of self-determination.

e. The law further distorts the development of our economy which could be achieved primarily by strengthening agriculture and undertaking national industrialization instead of just attracting foreign investments for extractive industries like mining.

In this light we present the following demands:

1. Cancel all mining permits already issued and to declare a moratorium on large scale mining activities.

2. Formulate a new National Minerals Policy which respects the integrity of the Creation, truly adheres to the principles of sustainable development, clearly defines the role of the mining industry in strengthening the country’s economy based on supporting agricultural development and national industrialization, ensure that it respects basic human rights and strengthens democratic processes.

3. Legislate a new mining code based on this new National Minerals Policy.

4. For the MGB improve on their practice of democratic processes: to go through a very thorough process of consultations to ensure that those who have been and will be affected by mining operations are fully consulted, allow the expression of people’s sentiments and demands; and that results of consultation be disseminated for comments. We also seek the formation of an inter-sectoral body that will study the impact of mining policies.

5. Recognize and respect indigenous peoples right to land and to self-determination. This should not be diminished when securing permission to access indigenous peoples territories to implement development projects such as mining.

6. For the resolution of outstanding issues of mining-affected communities, (i.e. the clean up of Mogpog and BOAC Rivers, conflict between the Subanon peoples in Siocon and TVI, the rights of small scale miners in Diwalwal, Lepanto’s pollution of the Abra river, the rehabilitation of open pit mining areas of Benguet Corporation, the cry of the people of Didipio for a people’s initiative, the protest of the people against Western Mining Corporation etc.) instead of rushing the approval of a clearly pro-mines industry National Minerals Policy.

7. Conduct a social and environmental impact assessment of almost 8 years of implementation of RA 7942 and its IRR.

Let the voices of the people be heard. The strength of a government can only be ensured if it responds to the basic aspirations and demands of the majority who still remain marginalized and oppressed.

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