MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines Update

Published by MAC on 2006-12-02


Philippines Update

2nd December 2006

Lafayette's Rapu Rapu project is once again making headlines. Yet again it's been hit by a typhoon. While some in the press may consider this bad luck, the region is well known for typhoon damage and the scale of the storms seems to increase (with the finger of blame for this escalation pointing firmly at climate change). Will the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have the courage to pull the plug on this ill-fated project? If not, then the banks may do it anyway, as international pressure on the bank's financiers is increased.

Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes may finally be getting the message that mining has a poor public image, but his prescription (for mining investors to reach out to their host communities) may be too little too late.

Companies seem to be getting more hard-line, if the reported legal action against Bishop Maguiran and other local churchmen by TVI Pacific is anything to go by.

The House of Representatives is drafting a bill to ensure the government can claw back some of the money it has given away as incentives to the companies. Given threatened resistance from small-scale miners to any corporate take-over at Mt. Diwalwal,.and more controversy over Colet Mining's exploration in Sipalay ,it looks like the government and companies have their work cut out to persuade an extremely reluctant public.

However, none of this has stopped the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, marching up to Manila to 'talk-up' British investment in this on-going struggle.


Lafayette's Rapu Rapu project damaged

The AGe

1st December 2006

Lafayette Mining Ltd's troubled Rapu Rapu polymetallic project in the Philippines has suffered a further setback with a second typhoon causing damage to the operation.

The company said typhoon Reming (also known as Durian) hit the island of Rapu Rapu on Thursday night damaging infrastructure.

"Supertyphoon Reming hit the island of Rapu Rapu in the Bicol region in the Philippines with winds gusting above 200 km/h and mountainous seas lashing the coastline of the operation," Lafayette said.

"Due to the extent of the damage to structures on site, operations at Lafayette Mining Ltd's polymetallic plant and mining operation on the island will be interrupted for a period."

This is the second time a typhoon has disrupted Lafayette's operations at Rapu Rapu, after typhoon Milenyo damaged infrastructure in early October.

Lafayette has requested a trading halt in its shares to assess the implications of the damage.

"Preliminary reports indicate there have been casualties amongst the local population," the company said.

"At this time, there are no reports of injuries to our onsite workforce or damage to our environmental management systems."

Lafayette managing director David Baker, who is overseas, was unavailable for comment but a company spokesman confirmed mining and processing operations had ceased.

"We have temporarily suspended operations while we assess implications of the damage," the spokesman said.

The Rapu Rapu project has been dogged by delays since last year, when operations were suspended following two unscheduled wastewater discharges, for which the company was fined $263,000.

The operation came under the spotlight again when allegations of elevated mercury levels in the waters near the project were falsely attributed to Rapu Rapu.

The project is located on the island of Rapu Rapu which is about 350 kilometres south of the Philippines capital of Manila.

At full production the project is expected to produce about 10,000 tonnes of copper in concentrates, 14,000 tonnes of zinc in concentrates, 50,000 ounces of gold and 600,000 ounces of silver annually.


'Going Down the Drain'

Foreign investors asked to withdraw from Arroyo's flagship mining project Philippine environmentalists will bring the controversial Lafayette mining project to international forums and ask foreign investors to withdraw as the operation violates environmental standards and local community rights.

BY BULATLAT, Vol. VI, No. 42 Nov. 26 - Dec. 2, 2006

Environmental activists affiliated with the Defend Patrimony! alliance and Kalikasan-Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) Nov. 24 vowed to increase international pressure on mining investors and financial institutions (FIs) involved in the controversial Lafayette mining project in Rapu-Rapu, Albay.

They said that the project clearly violates the social and environmental standards that these FIs supposedly stand for.

In a press conference held at the Ibon Foundation office in Quezon City, Defend Patrimony conveners showed reporters findings by Johan Frijns, coordinator of the international financing watchdog BankTrack.

BankTrack is a network of grassroots organizations and individuals tracking the operations of the private financial sector, such as commercial banks, investors, insurance companies and pension funds, and its effect on people and the planet.

The Lafayette project is financed through a syndicate of banks including ANZ Investment Bank in Australia, NM Rothschild and Sons of the United Kingdom and the Australian branch of ABN AMRO Bank NV.

Trixie Concepcion, Defend Patrimony! spokesperson, said that the alliance will ask the investors funding Lafayette Mining's operations to withdraw their support.

Pull out

"The FIs propping up Lafayette's operations should concretely manifest their commitment to advocating environmental and social sustainability by pulling out their support for Lafayette, which has clearly violated environmental standards and local community rights," Concepcion said.

Defend Patrimony is a multisectoral alliance opposing government's mining liberalization program of the government and calling for the closure of Lafayette.

Concepcion said that it would do ABN Amro and ANZ investment bank good to adhere to the Collevecchio Declaration, endorsed by over 200 grassroots organizations, which calls on FIs to embrace six commitments (to Sustainability, to Do No Harm, to Responsibility, Accountability, Transparency, and Sustainable Markets and Governance) and take immediate steps to implement them as a way for FIs to retain their "social license" to operate.

The spokesperson said that the Arroyo government has been giving Lafayette much leeway over their operations despite their adverse negative effects on the small island ecosystem and local populace.

"Three extensions of the Lafayette's test run are way too much. The DENR is giving Lafayette too much slack and the general welfare of the local community and environment in the process," she said.

Losing, destructive, and controversial

Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan-PNE national coordinator, said that it was no use for investors to support a losing, destructive, and controversial venture such as Lafayette's polymetallic project.

"Based on the Annual Financial Report of Lafayette (released last Sept. 29), the company recorded a consolidated loss as of June 30, 2006 of Aus$111,034,348 or 17.8 cents per share," Bautista said. "According to the report this loss includes an amount of Aus$83,130,033 which is attributable to the accounting of losses on base and precious metal hedge contracts."

The report also stated that Lafayette Group's consolidated Balance Sheet as of June 30 this year, disclosed a net working capital deficiency of Aus$89,748,451 and a deficiency of net assets of Aus$172,202,840.

"Lafayette continues to bleed profusely, is now on the brink of bankruptcy, and has no capital to finance its own mining operation. It is actually the Philippine government through the DENR with its lax monitoring and control of Lafayette's operations that is serving as its guarantor to its investors. As the Arroyo government inexplicably refuses cancel their mining permit, investors should take the initiative to pull out," he said.

'Going down the drain'

Bautista also said that government's so-called flagship mining project "is going down the drain" and its expectation that the Lafayette's Polymetallic Project would generate millions of pesos of taxes does not hold water.

"Lafayette, in effect, has been using our precious mineral resources which it still has to mine as collateral to its foreign financiers through hedge contracts. As of June 30 this year, it accumulated a debt of US$11,607,143 (Php638,392,865) and obligated to settle additional base metal hedge contracts that matured last September 29 which is approximately US$13 million or Php650,000,000.00," he said.

Sorsogon Bishop and Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission (RRFC) chairperson Arturo Bastes said that 'he was saddened over the Arroyo government's non-implementation of the RRFC's conclusions and recommendations."

"We fear that the situation in Lafayette will worsen and that more mining tragedies and accidents will happen as President Arroyo pursues the destructive policy of mining liberalization and program for Charter Change," Bishop Bastes said.

Those present at the press conference vowed to bring their calls to their international network.


Rapu-Rapu, make or break for mining

BIG DEAL, By DAN MARIANO, Manila Times

22nd November 2006

Mining boosters insist Filipinos are squandering valuable opportunities for sustainable development by giving companies engaged in this highly controversial extractive industry a hard time.

Litigation and street protests merely stall the discovery of the wealth lying beneath our feet, they say. What fools Filipinos are for passing up this chance at progress!

What the boosters-mostly foreign consultants of multinationals who have somehow established a foothold in the news media-fail to confirm is the sustainability of economic growth from mining, especially as it is being practiced in this country.

Sure, there's gold-aside from copper, iron, zinc etc.-in them there hills, but who is going to profit from them and for how long?

Numerous are the examples of communities, both here and abroad, where mining once thrived but have since reverted to backwardness after the mining companies exhausted the minerals in their areas. Worse, all they were left with are soil and water permanently poisoned by mining chemicals.

True, state of the art technology is already available in order to minimize the environmental damage caused by mining. However, there is little evidence that mining operations in the Philippines now employ such techniques and know-how.

A little over a year ago, for instance, the mining operations of the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project (RPP) of the Australian-owned Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI) were suspended after toxic waste spilled from its mine tailings dam, not once, but twice.

Operating in over 400 hectares covering three seaside villages on the island municipality of Rapu-Rapu in Albay province, RPP proved to be a curse rather than a blessing to the islanders, mostly fishermen. The oil spills resulted in a massive fish kill, which robbed the villagers of their livelihood.

Aside from suspending RPP's operations, all that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources imposed on Lafayette by way of penalty was a measly P10.7-million fine.

The incident drew howls of protest from various quarters-including Church leaders and Rep. Joey Salceda of Albay, one of President Arroyo's economic advisers. Interestingly, other lawmakers from Bicol kept quiet.

Lafayette may have thought itself lucky after it got away with a veritable slap on the wrist from Philippine authorities. But it soon suffered a far more severe punishment at the hands of foreign investors who quickly shied away from the Rapu-Rapu project.

Last weekend a ranking Lafayette executive acknowledged that the backlash overseas was what hurt the company most.

A report by Vincent Cabrera of the Inquirer news service quoted Manuel Agcaoili, president of Rapu-Rapu Processing Inc. and a board director of LPI, saying: "The bad news [got reported] and foreign investment interest trickled to a halt.

Investors adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Nobody knew how events would unfold." Speaking at the 53rd Mine Safety and Environment Conference in Baguio City last Friday, Agcaoili reportedly said Lafayette must carry "the burden of helping reverse the industry's negative reputation."

He reportedly admitted that the accidents at Rapu-Rapu "were caused by bad managerial decisions and flawed engineering design."

According to Cabrera's report, as posted Monday on the INQ7.net website, Agcaoili said Lafayette and DENR experts had concluded that deficiencies in the design of a discharge pond caused it to expel 20 cubic meters of mine waste effluents into Albay's waters on October 11 last year.

He reportedly added that the company was forced to discharge mine tailings again 20 days later when heavy rains caused water levels to exceed the height of the tailings dam.

Agcaoili said the Rapu-Rapu spills could have been prevented had not company officials overlooked engineering data about the environment and climate in Albay province.

He said the Rapu-Rapu operations were managed via remote control from Australia. Local company officials relied on these decisions and had lost the initiative to troubleshoot the island mine's problems, Agcaoili was quoted saying.

In what sounded like an admission of corporate liability, Agcaoili reportedly said a new management team was installed at Rapu-Rapu last January to "work for the survival of Philippine mining."

Now, confession is good for the soul. However, Lafayette sounded like it was more sorry for failing to cash in on its Rapu-Rapu project than for the environmental destruction its mining operations have caused.

Instead of heeding widespread calls to shut down the Rapu-Rapu mining operations, the government ordered the project's suspension. In July the order was lifted, and RPP was allowed to go on a 30-day test run.

The test run was supposed to determine if Lafayette had corrected its toxic waste handling facilities, prior to the resumption of normal operations.

After evaluating the results of the test-run, however, the DENR pollution adjudication board decided to extend the trial period by 60 more days. The second test run is due to end December 8.

While the second test run is being closely monitored by the government and Rapu-Rapu residents, what apparently worries Lafayette most is the reaction of its prospective investors overseas.

Rapu-Rapu has become a make or break case, not just for Lafayette, but also for the entire mining industry in the Philippines.


Government seeks to raise share in mines

By Likha C. Cuevas, Reporter, Manila Times

20th November 2006

THE House of Representatives is set to draft a bill amending the Philippine Mining Act to ensure the government is getting a fair share of the revenues generated by the mining industry.

This developed after the congressional oversight committee, chaired by Rep. Danilo Suarez, reviewed the contents of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 99-56 on the Mining Act (R.A. 7942).

The DENR AO establishes the fiscal regime that governs the financial and technical assistance agreements for the exploration, development and commercial use of the Philippines' mineral resources. Its provisions were discussed during the committee hearing, which concluded that the government should collect a "royalty" from the mining sector.

The oversight committee has also tasked the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue to come up with a formula for computing the royalty in the mining industry. This royalty, which represents the government's share from the right to use the state's natural resource, is apart from the usual taxes and duties that the government collects from the industry.

In the draft bill, the payment of the royalty starts the moment the company registers any sales.

The mining industry, unlike the energy sector, barely pays the government any royalty. BIR data showed that mining/mineral products generated only about P293.726 million in excise taxes from January to September 2006. On the other hand, BIR data showed that a total of P11.20 billion in corporate income and branch profit taxes were remitted by the energy sector from 2002 to 2005, while DOF projects the total government royalties from the Malampaya project could reach $8 billion to $13 billion.

The finance department said that as a sovereign taxing power, the Philippine government has responsibility to ensure that the natural resource owner makes its contribution to public revenues. On the other hand, the government as a resource owner should also determine when to "exploit" its natural resources and make sure it gets an appropriate price for these resources.

Since minerals are non renewable resource, the DOF said, therefore, there is a user cost associated with its extraction and the state should be justly compensated for the exhaustible resource.


Bishop, priest sued for after exposing transnational mining practices

28th November 2006

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org) http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=22142

MANILA, Philippines (Catholic Online) - Philippine Catholic bishops and clergy denounced the filing of a string of defamation suits by a Canadian mining company against a bishop and a priest, saying that such action is meant to maliciously muzzle the exposes of environment advocates.

The prelates and priests of the Archdiocese of Ozamis criticized criminal libel charges against Dipolog Bishop Jose Maguiran and Father Albert Bael after exposing alleged anomalies and irregularities committed by the TVI Resource Development Philippines.

The archdiocese covers the suffragan dioceses of Dipolog, Pagadian and Iligan and the Prelature of Marawi (DOPIM) located in the northwest and central part of Mindanao.

Supporters of the defendants charge that the complaint is the beginning of an orchestrated effort to harass and intimidate opposition to mining operations.

As a result of the libel suit, the DOPIM bishops and priests released a statement of support for those charged, whom they described as "defenders of the environment and rights of the oppressed."

Also charged for libel were some lay workers of the DOPIM Committee on Mining Issues.

"This situation is not far from the experiences of our fellow countrymen who are subjected to different harassments just to silence them while advancing their aggressive, destructive and exploitative mining operation of transnational companies," the statement read.

"We condemn the curtailment of freedom to express what we believe to be the truth," the statement said.

They also called on Philippine President Gloria Arroyo to "listen to the cries" of the marginalized and to "stop curtailments" of the rights of the people to speak for the truth.

Many of our people would come to us instead, they said, to seek redress for their grievances as a result of the destructive effects of the mining activities operating in their localities.

"In coming to their aid, we brought their grievances to the limelight of public opinion and for this we are accused to have spread lies to the public," the statement said.

TVI is currently operating a gold mine inside a 500-hectare area in Canatuan Mountain in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte province.

The company is also set to expand its current operation in the southern Philippines and has begun exploration projects in Bayog town, in Zamboanga del Sur.


Reyes asks mining investors to reach out to communities

By Norman Bordadora, Inquirer

19th November 2006

ENVIRONMENT Secretary Angelo Reyes yesterday asked mining investors to reach out to the communities around their respective mining sites to help boost the image of the industry seen by the administration as a ticket out of the Third World.

In a statement, Reyes said mining firms should engage the communities in their mining sites to minimize conflict with various stakeholders and convince them of mining's benefits even after the operations have already ended in the locations.

False or mismatched expectations can potentially lead to conflict. Thus managing expectations, through constant communication with stakeholders, is the most critical challenge of community relations during the exploration phase. More so, given the odds of finding an economically viable deposit, most exploration projects will fail," he said.

During the operational phase, mining companies need to ensure that the promised benefits of mining really do accrue to the local communities.

"The key is to identify socioeconomic opportunities that are genuinely desired by the host communities," Reyes said.

"Through the promotion of self-supporting communities through the provision of entrepreneurial, livelihood and other skills to serve as an economic base, mining players can create sustainable communities even after the closure of mine sites," he added.

Reyes said that the regulations and standards ensuring that mining operations do not harm the environment will get more stringent as the government has to delicately balance the protection of the environment with the need to boost the economy through the promotion of mining.

"Right from the start, mining has had problems in finding a place in the vision of sustainable development, given the reality of nonrenewable resources. The general perception is, once extracted, minerals are gone and therefore, mining is in conflict with sustainable development," Reyes said.

"Add to the equation that mining has a poor public image and is facing social opposition. The image of abandoned mines, tailings dams, waste dumps and ghost communities is imprinted in the minds of many Filipinos," he said.

Reyes said principles of sustainable mining have long been enshrined into the National Policy Agenda on Revitalizing Mining in the Philippines, and it is just a matter of "all mining players from the private and public sector facing the challenges together."

Reyes admitted in a mining conference in Baguio City that mining has a poor public image, necessitating the need for mining investors to reach out to their host communities.

In his speech before the 53rd Annual Mine Safety and Environment Conference, Reyes said responsible mining can benefit not only a select few but the entire country if undertaken under a sustainable development paradigm.


Bad mining image traced to spills

By Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer

20th November 2006

BAGUIO CITY -- The president of the firm operating the Rapu Rapu mine in Albay province took the blame for the bad publicity and investment crisis haunting the mining industry.

During the 53rd Mine Safety and Environment Conference here on Friday, Manuel Agcaoili, president of the Rapu Rapu Processing Inc. and board director of Lafayette Philippines Inc., said the two tailings dam spills that occurred in October 2005 at the island's polymetallic mine site was the reason for the anti-mining backlash.

The most immediate reaction came from foreign investors, he said. "The bad news [got reported] and foreign investment interest trickled to a halt. Investors adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Nobody knew how events would unfold," Agcaoili said.

He said his firm now has the burden of helping reverse the industry's negative reputation. The Lafayette Mining Limited of Australia owns the Rapu Rapu island mine.

Agcaoili said the accidents were caused by bad managerial decisions and flawed engineering design.

He said company and government experts had concluded that deficiencies in the design of a discharge pond caused it to expel 20 cubic meters of mine waste effluents into Albay's waters on Oct. 11, 2005.

He said the firm was forced to discharge mine tailings again 20 days later when heavy rains caused water levels to exceed the tailings dam height.

"It was a case of damn-if-you-do, damn-if-you don't," Agcaoili said, because floods would have destroyed the dam had the firm not eased the pressure on the facility.

In a prepared speech on Friday, Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes said "mining has had problems in finding a place in the vision of sustainable development, given the reality of non-renewable resources."

"The general perception is, once extracted, minerals are gone... Add to the equation that mining has a poor public image and is facing social opposition," he said.

"The image of abandoned mines, tailings dams, waste dumps and ghost communities is imprinted on the minds of many," he said.

Agcaoili said the Rapu Rapu incidents were preventable because some company officials had overlooked valuable engineering data about the Albay environment and climate.

He said the Rapu Rapu operations were managed remotely from Australia. Local company officials relied on these decisions and had lost the initiative to troubleshoot the island mine's problems, he said.

The accidents forced the firm to shut down. "However, to be honest about it, [more things] went wrong. A fish kill [episode] followed and [fishing communities] took a beating. Rapu Rapu became media fodder... and [anti-mining] advocates found new ammunition [against us]," Agcaoili said.

He said the old managers aggravated the situation by keeping silent at the height of the controversy.

He said a new management team appointed to Rapu Rapu in January is now in place to "work for the survival of Philippine mining."


Manila says 27 mining firms eyeing Diwalwal gold

Reuters

22nd November 2006

MANILA - The Philippines said on Wednesday at least 27 firms have expressed interest in participating in a February auction to run a gold mine in Mount Diwalwal, a famous gold-rush area in the south.

Competitive bidding for the project would boost Philippine government efforts to attract around $6.5 billion in foreign investment to revive its once lucrative minerals sector.

Despite record high commodity prices, Manila has secured only $500 million in largely foreign funding for the mining industry since last year due to investor concern about regulatory issues and local anti-mining sentiment.

About 40 to 50 percent of the Diwalwal project would be auctioned off to investors depending on the price, Artemio Disini, president of the state-run Natural Resources Mining Development Corp. told reporters.

"We're now going to accept applications from bidding participants," Disini said.

"We're expecting big companies to submit their intention to apply for the project once we begin the process."

Among the companies which expressed interest in the project, which requires an investment of $70 million, were U.S.-based Newmont Mining Corporation and Harmony Gold Mining Company Ltd , the world's second and fifth biggest gold producers.

Sylvania Resources Limited and QNI -- both from Australia, Japan's Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd , and Philippine firm Philex Mining Corp were also planning to bid for the project, Disini said.

Short List

The government is expected to narrow down the list of bidders in January before final bids are submitted on Feb. 16.

The winning bidder, to be announced in March, would develop the Diwalwal project in southern Compostela Valley under a joint venture deal with the government.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's administration has said the Philippines has around $1 trillion worth of unexplored copper, gold and nickel. The cash-strapped government would like to revive the mining industry to help cut its debts.

The project was estimated to have a gold resource of about 2.9 million metric tonnes at six grams per metric tonne and 5.8 million metric tonnes at 9.6 grams per metric tonne in two mineral reserves.

Diwalwal was a mining town with more than 30,000 people operating illegal small-scale mines in the 1980s. In 2002, the government designated the town and its surrounding area as a mineral reservation area.

Production at Diwalwal after a two-year development was earlier estimated at 1,000 metric tonnes per day, which could expand to 2,000 metric tonnes a day over its 15-year mine life.

Disini said the government also wants to list the Diwalwal project at the stock exchange later to raise more funding and allow more Filipino investors into the project.


Foreign mining firms to operate in Diwalwal

Sun Star Davao.

24th November 2006

STARTING next year, thousands of small-scale miners may be displaced due to the entry of foreign mining companies in the area.

In a report, at least 27 firms are said to have expressed interest in participating in next year's auction to operate in Mt. Diwalwal.

Artemio Disini, president of the Natural Resources and Mining Development Corporation, was quoted as saying that "about 40 to 50 percent of their Diwalwal project would be auctioned off to investors depending on the price."

It is expected that the competitive bidding would boost Philippine government efforts to attract around $6.5B in foreign investment.

Among the companies that reportedly expressed interest in the project were US-based Newmont Mining Corporation and Harmony Gold Mining Company Ltd, the world's second and fifth biggest gold producers.

Also, Sylvania Resources Limited and QNI -- both from Australia, Japan's Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd, and Philippine firm Philex Mining Corp were also said to be planning to bid for the project.

An investment of at least $70 million is said to be required from interested buyers.

The government is expected to narrow down the list of bidders in January before final bids are submitted on February 16.

The winning bidder, to be announced in March, would develop the Diwalwal project in Compostela Valley under a joint venture deal with the government.

Production at Diwalwal after a two-year development was earlier estimated at 1,000 metric tons per day and this could expand to 2,000 metric tons a day over its 15-year mine life.

The Arroyo administration claimed that the Philippines has around $1 trillion worth of unexplored copper, gold, and nickel.

The government is also planning to list the Diwalwal project at the stock exchange later to raise more funding and allow more Filipino investors into the project.

In a telephone interview, Mt. Diwata barangay captain Franco Tito said they will oppose any entry of foreign mining companies in their area.

Violent incidents in the past occurred whenever thousands of small-scale miners make their move to show to the government their opposition to some of its policies in Diwalwal.

"Diwalwal is now peaceful but if they will force entry in our area then there might be violence again. Many lives were lost because of Diwalwal. This number might be raised if they will force what they want," Tito warned. (BOT)


Mayor refutes landslide, soil erosion reports in Sipalay

By Erwin Ambo S. Delilan, Sun Star Bacolod

22nd November 2006

SIPALAY - City Mayor Oscar "Nonoy" Montilla Jr. yesterday belied reports of landslide and soil erosion in several sitios in Barangay Manlocahoc, Sipalay City.

These have been attributed to the ongoing mining exploration of the Colet Mining.

"Those (claims) are baseless, unfounded and manufactured," Montilla told Sun.Star in a phone interview.

Montilla was reacting to Greg Ratin's statement aired to the media people at the Capitol Tuesday morning.

Ratin, secretary general of Defend Patrimony, an anti-mining group in Negros island, said in his statement that "since September last year up to present, about 10 hectares of farmlands in Sitios Mantaboy and Caiwanan were enveloped by a series of landslides due to the Colet exploration."

Ratin also claimed that the water from Sipalay river, the biggest water source in the City, including some of its tributaries, has been silted and polluted.

He also accused Montilla of being a pro-mining citizen, "for obvious reason -- income."

Montilla, however, said that Ratin's statement is detrimental to thousands of people in Sipalay who are now waiting to get a job as soon as Colet Mining starts its operations in 2008.

Ratin disagreed though as he claimed that the Sipalaynons are only reserved for the rank and file.

"Colet is just fooling Sipalaynons because most of the experts that they will employ are foreign and not the local ones. Sipalaynons are only reserved for rank and file positions," he alleged.

"That's why we are now asking the Provincial Government to suspend Colet's plan of mining in Negros because it will only ruin our forest, marine resources, crop lands and the Province's thrust of an all out eco-tourism promotion," he added.

Ratin said that they will also seek the help of Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra for this matter.

Earlier, the Manlocahoc residents claimed that about a hundred hectares of rice farms, including the underground potable water, will be affected in case Colet Mining starts its full operation.

The residents aired these concerns during the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Colet Mining, Municipal Board and City Government of Sipalay last September 11.

Provincial Board Member Reynaldo Depasucat, environment committee chairman, said that based on their assessment, 19 families, who own rice farms at the upper Manlocahoc area, will be displaced in case the copper mining operations start.

But not contented with the EIA, the Manlocahoc folks, together with some militant groups, also held picket in front of the Capitol Building in Bacolod denouncing Colet and asking the Provincial Government to suspend its permit.

"Enough is enough!" Ratin said during his power point presentation at the SP Session Hall during the emergency hearing on the issue.

Ratin said that like Maricalum Mining and Philex Gold Philippines, Colet is also expected to harm not only the environment of Sipalay but of the entire Negros island.

Asked for comment, Depasucat maintained that he will bring the issue during the regular session of the Provincial Council Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier, Depasucat said he will propose to his colleagues the passage of a resolution for the creation of a local mining monitoring board that will serve as a back-up of the mining monitoring board of the MGB.

Depasucat said that this board will be composed of the local stakeholders, people from the province, City of Sipalay and Barangay Council of Manlocahoc.

"Its task is to ensure that Colet will follow all guidelines for responsible mining and that no environmental damage will occur during their operations," he added.

As to reports that hundreds of farm will be affected, Depasucat said that Sipalay City Mayor Oscar Montilla assured those who will be affected with new rice farms in the lowland. These farms will reportedly come with an irrigation system.

As for potable water, Depasucat said that Colet officials vowed to do all mitigating measures to keep from contaminating the safe water source. "Engineer Muyco of Colet also assured the residents that they will stop mining in case they failed to act on their promises stipulated in their Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), which is still being process at the DENR Regional Office in Iloilo City," Depasucat said.


Bishops' help to be sought versus Colet

By Erwin Ambo S. Delilan, Sun Star Bacolod

23rd November 2006

DETERMINED to stop Colet Mining from its ongoing exploration and from operating in their area in 2008, farmers from Barangay Manlocahoc, Sipalay City have decided to ask the help of the Roman Catholic bishops in Negros.

Greg Ratin, secretary general of Defend Patrimony, an anti-mining group in Negros, said that they will seek audience with Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra, Kabankalan Bishop Patricio Buzon, San Carlos Bishop Jose Advincula and Dumaguete Bishop John Du.

"We will lay down everything to these good bishops, including the possibilities that may happen in Sipalay City and in nearby places should Colet start its operations," Ratin said.

The group will also inform the four bishops of the "disastrous effects" reportedly brought about by the previous mining operation of the Maricalum Mining Corp. and the Philex Gold Philippines to the environment.

"Some may tag us as a voice in the wilderness but that won't stop us from standing by our cause against Colet. Not until they stop their exploration and proposed operation. That's why we are hopeful that our four bishops will help us in our noble crusade," he added.

Sun.Star Bacolod called but failed to contact any of the four bishops yesterday. A staff from the Bishop's Palace in Bacolod said that they are still in a retreat seminar as of press time.

At the Provincial Board, Environment Committee Chairman Reynaldo Depasucat said he will echo the sentiments of the Manlocahoc farmers to his colleagues. Depasucat led the special hearing regarding this matter Tuesday morning.

The farmers told Depasucat that more than 10 hectares of farmland planted with rice, bananas, camote and coconut trees, were buried by landslides since Colet started its exploration in the upper Manlocahoc area in the middle of last year.

Farmer Miguel Villaplaza said that the biggest landslide occured in Sitio Lipanto, about five kilometers from the upper Manlocahoc, during the onslaught of typhoon "Milenyo" last month.

Villaplaza also claimed that the landslide caused heavy siltation in the Sipalay river.

Asked for his reaction on Mayor Oscar Montilla's statement denying their claims of landslide and soil erosion, Villaplaza dared the mayor to visit the place to see the extent of damage caused by the landslide.

"He (Montilla) doesn't know about the landslide because he has not visited us there," Villaplaza said.

Expected damage

Depasucat said that based on the Environmental Impact Assessment (IAE) conducted in Manlocahoc last Nov.11, about a hundred hectares of riceland, including the underground potable water, maybe affected by the Colet mining operations. Also projected to be affected are sitios Lipanto, Dun-i, Binikawan and Caiwanan in Manlocahoc.

The board member, however, said that since the Province has already given Colet the necessary permits, he can only propose for the creation of a local mining monitoring board in the province.

Depasucat said that this board will be composed of the local stakeholders and the representatives of the Province, the City of Sipalay and the Barangay Manlocahoc Council.

Its main task is to ensure that Colet will follow all the rules and regulations for a responsible mining.

On the other hand, Bayan Muna Spokesman Felipe Gelle, said that the Provincial Council still has the vital role in the issuance of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for Colet.

"If the (Provincial Board) won't endorse Colet, then it could become a basis for the DENR to refuse the application for an ECC," Gelle said. Employment

Mayor Montilla however said that stopping Colet will mean depriving thousands of unemployed Sipalaynons of job opportunities.

He added that if the government and the church will listen to the "baseless and unfounded allegations of some people whose interest is against mining, then nothing will happen in our desire to improve people's lives in Negros."

Montilla belied reports that Colet will cause damage to their environment and hinder their quest of promoting Sipalay as the next Boracay in the country. "Colet is not stupid not to abide by the rules and regulations for responsible mining else they will be stopped in the middle of their operations," the mayor stressed.


Strive for 'infra success,' Duke of York prods RP

The Philippine Star

November 2006

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, urged the Philippines to strive for "infrastructure success" as soon as possible in order to attract more investors.

Meeting with President Arroyo and other Philippine officials, Prince Andrew said he was impressed with the country's economic growth but the "Philippines needs an infrastructure success."

Mrs. Arroyo said the government is "working on that now. We could now afford large infrastructure (projects), unlike in the past because we now have the funds."

The Duke of York also told the President that many European businessmen had signified their interest in the Philippines' mining sector.

Mrs. Arroyo welcomed this but admitted the government had just opened up the sector and that "there's still a lot of mistrust about mining because of past unpleasant experiences."

Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla, who was in the meeting, asked Prince Andrew to advocate for increased British investments in the renewable and alternative energy markets in the Philippines during his visit here for the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Philippine-British diplomatic relations.

Lotilla said the Duke of York showed keen interest in coco-biodiesel fuel and the cultivation of jatropha, sugarcane and cassava plantations to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

The Prince had asked Lotilla to brief him on Philippine initiatives to address climate change.

Acknowledging the need for an urgent global response to address risks posed by climate change, Prince Andrew, who is also the United Kingdom's Special Representative for Trade and Investment, said there were many areas for British-Philippine partnership in the development, marketing and utilization of clean fuels and energy technology as well as in the exchange of information, expertise and best practices.

Aside from discussing power and renewable energy sources, Mrs. Arroyo and Prince Andrew also talked about trade.

The two leaders expressed their hope for enduring and continuing good relations between the Philippines and the United Kingdom over dinner Friday night at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Makati City with members of the diplomatic corps and some friends.

The Prince arrived on Thursday for a one-day private visit.

Mrs. Arroyo and the Duke of York met during her official visit to London last September. They had tea together at Buckingham Palace and discussed the possible enhancement of trade and investments between their countries.

Lotilla said the Duke of York also "got in touch with British investors in the Philippines."

Asked if there were new investment prospects, Lotilla said "they just want to build on existing investments."

The United Kingdom is one of the largest foreign investors in the Philippines. British investments in the country are concentrated in power, energy, agri-business, transportation, water and financial services.

Bilateral trade between the two countries is worth $12 billion annually, with the balance in favor of the Philippines. - Aurea Calica

 

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