MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines High Court rules vs. full foreign ownership of mining operations

Published by MAC on 2004-02-01


The following are a mixture of press releases and articles on the recent developments in the Philippines, where opposition to mining is strong despite the President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's January signing of an Executive Order promoting foreign-owned mining. The first three press releases are from different popular organisations all welcoming the Philippine Supreme Court decision to uphold complaints from local communities against the legal basis for WMC's Tampakan claim, and drawing wider conclusions about what this will mean for multinational mining companies.

The exact impact of the case is still arguable (thanks to possible appeals & the machinations of the companies - see the final two articles for their response), but for the moment the B'laan people and their supporters are celebrating a significant victory.

Finally there is a piece about a committee of the provincial development council (PDC) banning mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya province - showing that even as the central government attempts to promote mining there is obvious opposition from local government in the Philippines.


Drilling through the Mantle of Large-Scale Mining - The Supreme Court Ruling in La Bugal Case

A Statement by the Women and Men of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK), Co-Petitioners and Co-Counsels in the Case of La Bugal v. Executive Secretary

01 February 2004

Hope glimmers in the horizon.

The women and men of LRC-KSK applaud the Supreme Court for declaring as unconstitutional the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of Western Mining Corporation (WMC) and certain provisions of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. It is a hard earned victory.

The Supreme Court has shown that protecting the land and resource rights of indigenous peoples and rural poor communities will redound to protecting the national patrimony.

After almost eight years since the case was filed in 1997, the High Court vindicated the cause of local communities suffering from the adverse impacts of mining. The case was built on the experiences and sacrifices of peoples whose economic and cultural survival were jeopardized with the entry of large scale mining firms, but who never saw the promised package of development and prosperity. These communities endured military harassment, loss of land, property and livelihood, erosion of culture, alienation within their communities, division among their kin, and in some instances, the loss of precious lives.

Despite these challenges, they organized, studied and mobilized meager resources to reclaim their rights and their lives. It is an uphill battle, considering the vast resources of the foreign and local mining firms boasting of a battery of lawyers, researchers and consultants.

While we celebrate this legal victory, we acknowledge that the struggle is only beginning. Government and commercial interests will not take this turn of events sitting down. DENR Secretary Elisea Gozun earlier on announced that the government will ask the Court to reconsider its decision. The mining industry, both domestic and foreign, is busy projecting doomsday scenarios in media following the decision. It is quick to dangle threats of investment pull-out, perhaps hoping that the High Court will succumb to such bullying tactics.

If there is anyone that will doom the mining industry, it is its own self. Not the Philippine Constitution, not the indigenous peoples and certainly not the Supreme Court.

Through all these developments, we remain vigilant and determined to preserve the gains thus far achieved by years of hard work, sacrifice and commitment.

We reiterate our call to undo the grounds on which commercial interests justify their iniquitous and wanton exploitation of our resources and the undermining of national patrimony.

We echo the call of the advocates of the Dapitan Initiative for the government to:

• Immediately cancel all existing financial and technical assistance agreements (FTAAs), mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs), exploration permits, and other mining agreements, licenses and other instruments;
• Scrap Republic Act No. 7942 (Philippine Mining Act), RA 7076 (Small-scale Mining Act); PD 463, and all related laws that result in the increasing marginalization and impoverishment of rural poor communities;
• Declare a moratorium on the issuance of large-scale mining permits, licenses, agreements and other instruments for one hundred years;
• Rehabilitate and restore ecological disaster areas left by that resulted from unbridled mining exploitation and further hold accountable those mining corporations for the destruction caused by their operations;
• Uphold the rights of mine workers; and
• Prohibit state and privately sponsored armed groups from operating in areas where there are current and prospective mining operations.

Salud! To the hard earned victory. Onwards with the struggle for meaningful freedoms!

The Women and Men of LRC-KsK


DENR Act Now! Implement the Supreme Court Decision!

Cordillera Peoples Alliance - For the Defense of Ancestral Domain and for Self-Determination

Press Statement

February 2, 2004

The Supreme Court’s decision declaring as unconstitutional major provisions of the Mining Act of 1995 (R.A. 7942) on January 29, 2004 already puts in question the constitutionality of the controversial law in its entirety. The Cordillera Peoples Alliance reiterates its commendation of the Supreme Court justices for taking the right path in upholding Philippine sovereignty and national patrimony. It is a victory in our quest for indigenous peoples’ rights, national sovereignty and justice, together with the peoples’ movement and advocates who have been calling for the scrapping of R.A. 7942 for almost a decade.

After the highest judicial body of the land has decided, let the rule of law prevail on the Philippine Mining Industry. Instead of challenging the Supreme Court’s ruling by filing for a motion for reconsideration, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should now act accordingly. President Arroyo and the DENR should immediately revoke and cancel all approved and pending FTAAs (Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement), review and cancel all approved and pending MPSAs (Mineral Production Sharing Agreement) and EXPAs (Exploration Permit Application) in the context of seriously respecting indigenous peoples’ rights and welfare, environmental protection and genuine development. The call for a moratorium of large-scale mining in the Cordillera becomes more urgent given the Supreme Court decision.

In the Cordillera, the remaining FTAA application of a US mining company, Newmont Mining, with a total land area of 77,549 hectares affecting Mountain Province, Ifugao, Benguet and Ilocos Sur should be thrown into the trashcan just as pending MPSA and EXPA applications affecting a total land area of 433,377 hectares must be reviewed and cancelled. The Cordillera Peoples Alliance also urgently calls for the scrapping of 9 approved MPSA in Abra and Benguet with a total land area of more than 13,000 hectares.

With this development, the DENR should also finally address urgent issues and longstanding demands on rehabilitation and compensation on damages to victims of mining disasters such as the environmental pollution of the Abra and Agno rivers, land subsidence in Mankayan, destruction of the environment and livelihood sources in Tuba and the rehabilitation of and turn over of mined out areas in Itogon, Benguet.

It is high time that the mining giants, namely Benguet Corporation, Lepanto Mining Company and Philex Mining Company be made accountable for the adverse impacts of their commercial mining operations to the people and the environment and the violation of the rights and welfare of workers for several decades. The DENR and mining companies should act now on these urgent issues and stop their divisive maneuvers and empty rhetoric on responsible and sustainable mining.

The Supreme Court decision of January 29 is a big blow against President Arroyo after issuing her Executive Order 270 meant for the unhampered implementation of the Mining Act of 1995. As the decision did not hammer down the full scrapping of the whole law, we pursue the campaign to totally scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and E.O. 270.

It does not lay down the fundamentals of Philippine economy on national industrialization and progress. Thus, we call on all concerned groups to work together and push for a nationalist development policies and programs in accordance to our needs as a people while remaining vigilant in protecting our patrimony and sovereignty. Further, we pose the challenge to the Supreme Court justices to remain firm on their decision and not to be swayed by pressures from the big mining giants.

Reference persons: Ms. Joan Carling, Chairperson

Mr. Windel Bolinget, Secretary General


Supreme Court decision on RA 7942 spoils Arroyo's environmental record

Kalikasan - people's network for the environment

Press Release

February 2, 2004

"The Supreme Court decision declaring provisions of the Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 as unconstitutional, vindicates the relentless opposition to it by environmental groups and mining-affected communities," said Clemente Bautista Jr, national coordinator of the national environmental network Kalikasan-PNE.

"The Mining Act of 1995 allows foreign companies or individuals to 100% own a mining company in our country and obtain equal rights to control and exploit our mineral resources, which can cover 81,000 hectares for 50 years. Moreover, the Mining Act provides mining companies with Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) which grants them auxiliary rights such as timber rights, water rights, easement rights and arbitration rights that as a matter of principle should only be given to Filipinos. There is no doubt that this law violates our sovereignty and the 1987 Constitution," explained Mr. Bautista.

The Supreme Court decision also nullifies and voids the FTAA given to the Australian owned Western Mining Company (WMC). In March 30, 1995, the government granted an FTAA to Western Mining Co, Philippines (WMCP) covering 99,387 hectares of land in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur and North Cotabato. The La Bugal-Blaan Tribal Association, a local indigenous people organization in Sultan Kudarat, challenged the validity of the Mining Act and the FTAA awarded to WMC in February 7, 1997.

"The Supreme Court decision virtually negates the recent Executive Order 270, entitled 'National Policy Agenda on Revitalizing Mining,' issued by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo last January 16. The EO 270 clearly states 'that the Mining Act of 1995 upholds our sovereignty and serves as the framework for its mining policy.' If only for this lie, we believe that the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the EO 270 should totally be scrapped, including all other laws related to or arising from the unconstitutional provisions of the mining law", said Mr Bautista.

Both the EO 270 and Mining Act of 1995 betray the insidious intent of its primary authors which is to sell off our natural resources and patrimony to foreign interest at the expense of our people and environment.

It should be remembered that President Arroyo, then a Senator, co-authored the Mining Act of 1995 and sponsored such unpatriotic, pro-globalization policies and agreements as the General Agreement of Tariff and Trade (GATT). It should not be a wonder why environmental groups are vowing not only to not vote for her, but also to campaign against her re-election," added Mr. Bautista.

Phone: Enteng Bautista 9248756/ 09185539682

Email : kpne@edsamail.com.ph


High Court rules vs. full foreign ownership of mining operations

BusinessWorld Internet Edition

Friday, January 30, 2004

By Bernadette S. Sto. Domingo, Reporter

Despite businessmen's criticism of "judicial intervention" in matters impinging on much-needed investments, the Supreme Court yesterday issued another decision with far-reaching impact on their sector.

Yesterday, it declared as unconstitutional provisions of the country's mining law that would have allowed big foreign mining firms to do business in the country.

In particular, the highest court in the land struck down as illegal the provisions of Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 that would have allowed the execution of service contracts with foreign-owned corporations for the exploration, development, exploitation, and use of the country's resources.

And as expected, those in the mining business expressed disappointment with the decision, which the government said it would appeal soonest. Mining companies said the court ruling put into question the revival of their industry, especially now that world metal prices are at new highs.

Much-awaited Decision

In its decision, the Court also declared as null and void the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA7942, contained in Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 96-40.

"The Court hereby declares unconstitutional and void provisions of RA7942, AO 96-40, and the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) between the government and WMC Philippines, Inc.," the court said in a 95-page decision written by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Under the Constitution, foreign companies are limited to providing technical and financial assistance to the government in the large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of the country's minerals, petroleum, and mineral oils, the court said. It also said that, at the time the government entered into an FTAA with WMC Philippines, the company was owned by WMC Resources International Pty., Ltd. - a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Mining Corporation Holdings, Ltd., which is a publicly listed Australian mining and exploration company.

In petitioning against RA7942, farmers and indigenous peoples' cooperative La Bugal B'laan Tribal Association, Inc., and residents of areas affected by mining activities of WMC Philippines said under Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, FTAAs should be limited to technical or financial assistance only. But contrary to the law, WMC's FTAA allowed the foreign-owned corporation to manage and operate every aspect of the mining activity.

"Petitioners' submission is well-taken. Accordingly, following the literal text of the Constitution, assistance accorded by foreign-owned corporations [in the large-scale use of resources] should be limited to technical or financial assistance only," the court said.

It stressed the 1987 Constitution retained the Regalian doctrine, which declared that, "all lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the state." The court also said "exploration, development and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the state."

And in relation to this "full supervision and control" over natural resources, the State may directly undertake utilization or it may enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or entities at least 60% of whose capital is Filipino-owned.

WMC told the court earlier it sold all its shares in its local unit to Sagittarius Mines Inc., a corporation organized under Philippine laws, on January 23, 2001.

WMC Philippines was subsequently renamed Tampakan Mineral Resources Corporation, which claimed at least 60% of its was owned by Filipinos or Filipino-owned corporations, and about 40% by Indophil Resources NL , an Australian company. The company also said by such sale and transfer of shares, "WMC Philippines has ceased to be connected in any way with WMC."

But the court said the transfer did not render the case moot since the validity of the transaction had yet to be decided.

The tribal cooperative also said the FTAA was a service contract that allowed WMC Philippines -- or Tampakan -- to manage and operate every aspect of the mining activity, in effect, "granting [it] beneficial ownership over natural resources that properly belong to the State and are intended for the benefit of its citizens."

The management and operation of mining activities by foreign contractors, the primary feature of service contracts, was precisely "the evil that the drafters of the 1987 Constitution sought to eradicate," it added.

In ruling on the matter, the court said a service contract was a contractual arrangement for engaging in the exploitation and development of petroleum, mineral, energy, land, and other natural resources.

It allows a government or its agency, or a private person granted a right or privilege by the government, to authorize the a service contractor to engage or participate in the exercise of that right or the enjoyment of that privilege.

The service contractor provides financial or technical resources, undertakes the exploitation or production of a given resource, or directly manages the productive enterprise, operations of the exploration and exploitation of the resources, or the disposition of marketing resources.

"This Court finds that RA7942 is invalid insofar as said Act authorizes service contracts. Although the statute employs the phrase 'financial and technical agreements' in accordance with the 1987 Constitution, it actually treats these agreements as service contracts that grant beneficial ownership to foreign contractors contrary to the fundamental law," the court said.

It thus nullified the provision that a legally organized foreign-owned corporation would be deemed a qualified person for purposes of granting an exploration permit, FTAA or mineral processing permit.

"By allowing foreign contractors to manage or operate all the aspects of the mining operation, the above-cited provisions of RA 7942 have in effect conveyed beneficial ownership over the nation's mineral resources to these contractors, leaving the state with nothing but bare title thereto," the court said.

Concurring with Ms. Morales's decision were Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. and associate justices Reynato S. Puno, Leonardo A. Quisumbing, Antonio T. Carpio, Renato C. Corona, Romeo J. Calljeo, Sr., and Dante O. Tinga.

Associate Justices Jose C. Vitug, Artemio V. Panganiban, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Alicia Austria-Martinez dissented.

They said the Constitution did not prohibit service contracts between the government and foreign-owned corporations in the large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of the country's resources.

Associate Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna abstained. And as expected, mining investors said the decision was inconsistent with the government's program to promote the mining sector as well as endangered other government contracts with foreign companies.

The Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, Inc. (AnzCham), which has been lobbying for the liberalization of the mining sector, said the country could lose $2 billion to $3 billion in investments annually because of the court decision. Peter Wallace, chamber director, said the decision was very disappointing because it was contrary to the government program to promote the mining sector.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued early this month Executive Order 270, or the former National Minerals Policy now known as the National Policy Agenda on Revitilizing Mining in the Philippines, which meant to revive the ailing industry. Mr. Wallace said even Congress has expressed support for reviving the mining industry.

"President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has recognized that all things weighed up, mining is overall beneficial. It [Judiciary] is only the third branch of government that does not agree," Mr. Wallace told BusinessWorld.

He said the Philippines has already lost a lot of investments, including those of many Australian firms, because of the issue raised against the Mining Act.

Instead of appeasing investors, Mr. Wallace said the court decision would only concern the international community, hinting that foreign mining firms could abandon investment plans for the Philippines.

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said that the decision would most likely have far-reaching consequences beyond the mining industry.

"It may open questions on other government projects, including oil and gas investments. It may also put the Malampaya [natural gas] project into question," chamber president Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez told BusinessWorld.

Mr. Romualdez said the decision declared null and void contracts dating back to 1995, and thus raised questions even on old contracts involving natural resources.

"Government could be subject to suits," Mr. Romualdez warned. He said the chamber has urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to file a motion for reconsideration. But at the same time, the decision has ended the uncertainty in the mining sector, and paved the way for investors to take concrete steps, he said.

"At least we now have an idea of what would be possible and what would not be available. And we can look at our options. We will work within the legal framework the government has provided," Mr. Romualdez said.

Environment Secretary Elisea G. Gozun said DENR would file a motion for reconsideration next week.

"We will be coordinating with the Office of the Solicitor General in filing the motion since they represent us in the case. Our legal department will also be reviewing the decision so we could plan our next moves," she said.

The court decision affects the FTAAs with Climax-Arimco Mining involving 21,465 hectares of land in Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino for the exploration of gold and copper, and with Sagittarius Mines Inc. for 30,490 hectares of land in North and South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur for the exploration of gold and copper.

Under RA7942, for a minimum investment of $50 million (or its equivalent in pesos for a Filipino corporation), a mining firm can get a maximum of 81,000 hectares of land for mineral exploration for a period of 25 years per contract, which is renewable for a maximum of another 25 years.

The FTAA provision practically allows foreign companies to have full equity and control of mining projects.

Troubled from the Start

Republic Act 7942 or The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 was signed into law on March 6, 1995 by President Fidel V. Ramos. On August that year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued the law's implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

After years of persistent lobby in Congress, a legal framework was made concerning the management, controllership, and supervision of exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources. With these tasks given to the State, it followed that only the government could grant mining rights to qualified individuals and corporations.

Under RA7942, the government may grant three major kinds of mining rights: exploration permits, which grant rights to undertake purely mineral exploration activities; mineral agreements, which grant the right to explore, develop and utilize the minerals within a contract area and allows 40% foreign equity. It provides for mandatory area relinquishment and is subject to an environmental work program (EWP) during the exploration period, and an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) and environmental protection and enhancement program (EPEP) during the development and operation period. This agreement has three types: mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA), co-production agreement, and joint-venture agreement. financial or technical assistance agreement (FTAA), which is a mining contract for large-scale mining operations with an investment of not less than $50 million.

This agreement allows up to 100% foreign equity participation or ownership and, similar to the other agreements, has provisions for mandatory relinquishment and is subject to EWP, ECC and EPEP.

Mining contractors of MPSA and FTAA can avail of various fiscal and non-fiscal incentives. These include those granted under the Omnibus Investment Code of 1987 such as income tax holiday, incentive for pollution control devices, income tax carryforward for losses, income tax-accelerated depreciation, investment guarantees, repatriation of investments, and remittance of earnings. In February 1997, a group of nongovernment organizations challenged the Mining Act by filing a case in the Supreme Court that questioned its constitutionality. Following a series of environmental disasters brought about by mining operations that heightened public concerns, environmentalists, social activists and indigenous peoples organizations criticized the law, particularly its FTAA provisions.

Their major contention was that the 1987 Constitution classified the FTAA as an agreement for financial or technical support from foreign entities in the development of mineral resources but that the Mining Act allowed them to have full control of the mining operation.

And by allowing 100% foreign control over large-scale mineral exploration, development and utilization, the law supposedly jeopardized the lawful claim especially of indigenous people over mineral lands.

In 1998, the State implemented a 100-day moratorium on the signing of FTAAs on mining areas. This was in response to the continued confusion in the ownership of mineral resources. Even after the moratorium expired, low level of investments in mineral exploration and mine development persisted, given the lack of clarity on the issue. -- with reports from Iris Cecilia C. Gonzales, Jennifer A. Ng and Rizzarene S. Manrique

Copyright 2003. BusinessWorld Online, Inc. All rights reserved.


Business as usual says Indophil

Michael Quinn

Friday, January 30, 2004

Indophil Resources maintains that a Supreme Court ruling made this week in the Philippines that appears to put at risk its exposure to the massive Tampakan copper-gold project is merely a short term "hiccup".

Indophil said it structured its agreements with its Philippines partners with an eye to just such a "negative" ruling being made.

Indophil also pointed out that the Philippine Government is appealing the court's decision, which ruled that the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement that was awarded to original project owner WMC was unconstitutional and void.

An FTAA is an agreement with the President of the Philippines granting the right to conduct mining operations.

According to a Dow Jones report, the Court nullified several provisions of the 1995 Philippine Mining Act that empowered the Government to grant contracts that allow foreign companies to own and manage mining claims in the country.

After WMC decided to get out of the Philippines, the FTAA was subsequently transferred to Sagittarius Mines, which is the entity through which Indophil and its Philippine partners, Alsons Corp and the Tampakan Group of Companies, hold their interest in Tampakan.

The Court reserved its position in relation to the effect of this transfer, with Indophil saying Sagittarius is a 60% owned Philippine entity.

Even should the ruling(s) on the FTAA remain in place, Indophil argues its bases are covered by the fact that the Tampakan Group of Companies hold the preferential rights to Mineral Production Sharing Agreements over the Tampakan area.

Indophil further said drilling and pre-feasibility studies were continuing as normal.

Investors took fright with today's announcement, with Indophil's share price initially dropping as low as 18 cents after closing last night at 41 cents. However by early afternoon the stock had recovered part of its losses to 32.5 cents.

Fellow Philippine hopefuls were also down on a day the gold price dropped below US$400/oz, with Lafayette Mining shares off 2 cents to 11 cents, Red 5 down a similar amount to 19 cents, Climax Mining down 1.5 cents to 15 cents, and Medusa Mining down 1c to 43.


Lafayette says unaffected by Philippines ruling

Michael Quinn

Friday, January 30, 2004

Lafayette Mining does not believe the Supreme Court ruling that voided a Philippine government agreement allowing Indophil Resources and its partners to develop the Tampakan project will result in any delay in the development of its Rapu Rapu polymetallic project.

However, Lafayette did caution that its local legal counsel were reviewing the ruling.

The Supreme Court ruling related to a financial and technical agreement between the Philippines government and WMC covering the Tampakan project, with the FTAA established to encourage the investment in large-scale mining projects and allowing for 100% foreign ownership. According to Lafayette, only two such titles have ever been issued.

Lafayette's development of Rapu Rapu on the other hand uses a more conventional mineral processing sharing agreement.

The company has reported that it has all government and environmental approvals in place for development of the project, with first production due in the final quarter of 2004.

Rapu Rapu will have annual output of around 10,000t of copper, 14,000t of zinc in concentrates, 50,000oz of gold and 600,000oz of silver.

Shares in the company closed Friday down 2 cents at 11 cents.


Vizcaya council shuts door to mining

By Melvin Gascon and Ben Moses Ebreo, Inquirer News Service

Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya -- A committee of the provincial development council (PDC) banned actual mining operations in the province, ignoring President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's recent order promoting mining in the country.

Voting 4 to 1, the six-member PDC executive committee also rejected an endorsement by its economic development committee to promote mining as one of the "investment opportunities" in Nueva Vizcaya.

The move came even as the President ordered the revitalization of the mining sector in the country, following a shift in government policy from tolerance to full support of the industry.

Executive Order 270 outlined a national policy agenda that aimed to promote responsible mineral resources exploration, development, and use to enhance economic growth.

But the latest PDC resolution virtually shut the door to future mining operations in the province, according to Gov. Rodolfo Agbayani, council chair.

"Ongoing explorations may be continued but only until the permits expire. But actual mining operations would no longer be allowed from hereon," he added.

At present, at least three areas in Kasibu town are covered by exploration permits. One area is covered by a financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) that covers a big portion of Kasibu, including the ore-rich village of Didipio.

Agbayani said the PDC stand would now make it difficult for investors to initiate mining activities in the province because of the legal requirement on the social acceptability, especially in indigenous communities.

The PDC decision would be elevated to the executive committee of the regional development council, which determines the stand of each of Cagayan Valley region's five provinces on mining as an "investment priority."

Jerrysal Mangaoang, Mines and Geosciences Bureau regional chief, however, said they would appeal the PDC committee decision.

"What we are asking is for the entire membership of the PDC to join the deliberations, before they make the decision. This would also allow us (in the mining sector) to explain our side," he said.

Expected to be adversely affected by the PDC move is the controversial application of Climax Arimco Mining Corp. (CAMC) for a gold-copper project in Barangay Didipio in upland Kasibu, some 60 km from here.

Jose Leviste Jr., CAMC-Philippines chair, downplayed the PDC decision. "The vote was made by (the executive committee) of PDC, not the (entire) PDC. (The executive committee) is meant to monitor projects of the PDC, not to be the PDC," he said.

He lamented that the mining company was not given a chance to air its views on the issue before the PDC committee made the ruling.

Earlier, Bishop Ramon Villena of the Bayombong and Quirino diocese appealed to provincial officials to reject the bid of CAMC to extract gold and copper deposits in Barangay Didipio in Kasibu town.

In a letter dated Jan. 21 to Agbayani and members of the PDC executive committee, Villena assailed a decision of the economic development committee to endorse mining as one of the priority investments in Cagayan Valley.

"I personally feel that this resolution will now open the proverbial gates to mining activities in our region and particularly in our province," he said.

Cagayan Valley region is composed of the provinces of Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino.

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