MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Not In Our Name: Why We Refuse to Participate in a Consultation on the draft National Mineral Plan t

Published by MAC on 2004-05-19

Not In Our Name: Why We Refuse to Participate in a Consultation on the draft National Mineral Plan that Ignores the Realities and Rights of Local Peoples

Joint Statement of the DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI) and the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Inc. – Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK) Dipolog City

19 May 2004

Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently sent out written invitations to a number of NGO’s to a consultation on the draft Mining Action Plan on 20 May 2004. Among the recipients of the invitation are the DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DMCI) and the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Inc., co-convenors of the “Dapitan Initiative”, a Mindanao-led national campaign urging the government to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and to heed the emerging solid people’s consensus for the government to prioritize food security, ecological health, and programs that are community-initiated and community–owned over large-scale commercial mining.

DCMI and LRC appreciate the gesture of the DENR in issuing the invitations to this consultation.

We cannot help but wonder, however, what the proponents of the consultation had in mind as the role of NGO’s and peoples’ movements in the activity. In the letter-invitation, the DENR says that the intention of the consultation is to “craft a set of action plans that reflect the needs of our people”.

Yet, we cannot help but note that the Action Plan

(1) centralizes critical decisions on the siting of commercial mining, not in the hands of local communities but in national and local government bodies;
(2) undercuts legal procedures for processing local community consent;
(3) defines” rapidly expanding NIPAS areas” and the concomitant “diminishing access for exploration and mining development” as an ISSUE or a CONCERN, rather than a positive development;
(4) revitalizes government plans to mobilize more funding for commercial mining and support services to commercial mining, other from public funds (national budget) and funds from foreign sources.

The Action Plan ignores the hundreds of actual conflict situations that are already causing much hardship and violence in various localities. It does not say, as an action point, that its Mines Adjudication Board, for instance, should immediately resolve community cases that have been languishing for years. It also does not say, as an action point, that the MGB will respect a community’s decision to withhold or withdraw its prior informed consent once it is given. Rather, the Action Plan’s contemplated action is to further shorten the period for registering local opposition and processing free and prior informed consent, thus further weakening not only the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples as an institution, but the hard-won substantive rights of local peoples.

We also note the following:

the Action Plan calls for the revision of the few existing government regulations that protect the right of the people to be heard and their right to free and prior informed consent. Under the Plan, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) will revamp the implementing rules of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act in order to make it easier and faster for mining companies to get the required Certification Precondition and local consent. In addition, the Plan calls for the DENR and the DILG to agree to set guidelines for the “endorsement of mining projects”.

the Plan calls for the amendment of procedures for identifying protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System in order to guarantee mining companies and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau a seat or several seats in all committees that will identify areas for inclusion in the NIPAS System;

the Plan will devote money for developing radio programs, radio plugs and information campaigns, including holding regular “kapihans” to promote the “economic and social benefits of mining” and “the environmental safeguards in mining”;

the Plan calls for the “third party audits” in monitoring mining activities and for this purpose, the DENR says it will establish “local and foreign linkages” relative to mine auditing. We fear that instead of forcing salaried employees and technical staff to build up their capacities for conducting reliable and credible audits, we may end up depending on outside consultants who cannot bemade accountable for their findings. Besides, maintaining consultants, especially foreign consultants, require a lot of money. The public ends up paying double for the compensation of government employees who should be doing credible, reliable audits and monitoring, and the compensation of consultants;

the Plan calls for the identification of “no go” areas for mining, citing as possibilities protected areas, old growth forests, civil reservations, proclaimed watersheds, geological and historical heritage areas. The strategy for “stabilizing” decisions in biodiversity-critical areas is to identify a rational and science-based valuation too to determine the best and alternative uses of the areas”. We recall that the complaints of host communities about mercury poisoning and mysterious mining-related diseases go largely ignored by government officials. Their information is generally not regarded as “scientific” enough to merit the serious attention of officials; even then, when evidence of pollution is strong, mining companies usually escape liability by presenting volumes of studies by their highly paid, “scientific” consultants who attribute diseases and environmental degradation to everything else but the mining activity, including attributions to “God” (the classic force majeure or “Act of God” rationalization). The use of science is critical, indeed, but decisions on what the “best and alternative land uses” must be based not simply on what people with academic degrees say. It is time to shatter the myth that local peoples’ understandings are not “scientific” and that they should be regarded as experts as well on determinations affecting their livelihood, health and economic well being.

The plan calls for the “development of incentive scheme/s for companies implementing mine/site rehabilitation projects. The reality is that mining companies do not rehabilitate or implement effective preemptive measures and the lack of government monitoring of health and environmental impacts. In short, why is the government providing more incentives for companies to rehabilitate when the problem is not a lack of incentives but a simple case of non-compliance with legal obligations? Why give more incentives when the solution should lie in strict enforcement of accountability mechanisms? When incentives are offered, a company may or may not avail of the incentive. Rehabilitation and compliance with environmental, health and social safeguards should be a matter of strict accountability and enforcement, not incentive-based.

We feel that the consultation will not yield any substantial or significant gains for local peoples who are still struggling to assert their basic human rights, including the land and resource rights of indigenous peoples and the people’s rights to a healthy environment and to healthy bodies. The Action Plan, upon which the consultation is based, does not “reflect the actual needs of our people.”

We express our profound disappointment with the output of the DENR. So many consultations have been participated in by local communities and advocacy groups such as DCMI and LRC-KSK. We had hoped that somehow, our impassioned pleas for a shift in frameworks should have made a dent in government thinking about commercial mining.

The Action Plan disappoints, frustrates, and sows fear of what’s ahead for people opposed to commercial mining.

Dipolog City, 19 May 2004.

Rev. Fr. Albert Anthony K. Bael Chairperson DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI) Diocese of Dipolog, Prelature of Ipil Kasama sa Kalikasan Archdiosese of Ozamiz, Diocese of Pagadian, Diocese of Iligan, Prelature of St. Mary’s of Marawi

Atty. Francelyn G. Begonia Executive Director Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Inc.- (LRC-KSK/Friends of the Earth-Philippines)

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