MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Summary of meeting of Mindoro community representatives at UK parliament

Published by MAC on 2006-05-16

Summary of meeting of Mindoro community representatives at UK parliament

Andy Whitmore, PIPLinks

16th May 2006

Two Mindoreos, Fr Edwin Gariguez and Ramil Baldo, are currently visiting the United Kingdom, to voice the opposition of communities to the activities of Crew, a UK-based company, who are planning to mine on their land. Today they were invited by the British Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn to address a meeting at the Houses of Parliament in London. The meeting was attended by number of representatives of parliament, journalists NGOs and academics.

Sharon McClenaghan of Christian Aid chaired the meeting. She opened the meeting by stressing the destructive reputation of multinational mining, how the UK was increasingly central to financing the mining industry and the importance of legislation to ensure that UK companies took their responsibilities in other countries seriously. Geoff Nettleton of PIPLinks then set the historical and legal context of mining in the Philippines, stressing the determination of the government to push through mining projects regardless of the will of the people or the laws in place to defend their rights.

Fr Edwin then spoke at greater length about the Mindoro Nickel Project proposed by Crew, and the opposition to it, while also expanding upon the national situation. He stressed how little benefits had accrued to the people, and emphasised the greater costs associated with any benefits. He emphasised how the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines had come out strongly against mining in the Philippines, noting that the 1995 Mining Act destroys life. He summarised the reasons for opposition including the loss of forest, the loss of biodiversity, the loss of land to the Mangyan Indigenous Peoples, the risks to the rivers given the mining will be in a watershed area, the problems caused by mining waste disposal - especially if it is to be by submarine tailings disposal - and finally the insulting way the company has claimed it has local support when time and again this has not been proved to be true. He finished by looking at the ways the UK parliament could assist those who wish to protect their environment and way of life in Mindoro, citing possible fact-findings and resolutions (known as Early Day Motions in the UK parliament), stricter regulation of UK companies and complaint mechanisms for affected communities.

Ramil spoke next, and stressed how he was here to express the Mangyan opposition to the mining project, because if the mining goes ahead there will be nowhere else for his people to go. He noted that by preserving their land, they were preserving their culture. He noted how the Mangyan depend on the local natural resources, and that although the company has offered them money it would not be any use to them without their land. Ramil asked “Why should we lose our land for the government and the company’s benefit?” He stated that “The foreigners say our lands are barren, but we have been planting there all our lives & that’s not true. The mining companies are dividing our communities. Now they are there we are always divided. We want to maintain our communities. We want to live together.” He asked for the support of those present.

After these statements there was a lively debate, with various journalists and NGO representatives asking questions to those who spoke. One early question asked how it was possible for the company to proceed without Indigenous Free Prior Informed Consent? Ramil replied that this is also what they would like to know, and Fr. Edwin and Geoff pointed out how easy it was for a company, as in this case, to get a small number of people to sign on behalf of a community, without there being real community support. Fr. Edwin pointed out that it was well documented how Crew had gone about this process. Also Geoff noted that the position, where it was only one central government official who certified the consent, was a situation that was open to abuse. Issues were raised around the responsibilities of the Philippine government, the benefits - or lack of them - from company taxes, the right to legal redress that communities have in the Philippines – both nationally and internationally – and finally any contribution that UK-based investors or legislation could contribute to support the speakers. Other particiapants noted how this was not an isolated case, as a similar meeting took place in parliament with another UK-based company in Peru, called Monterrico Metals, where many of the same issues had arisen. It was stressed how important it was to deal with these complaints via effective legal mechanisms in the United Kingdom.

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