MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines update

Published by MAC on 2007-12-12


Philippines update

12th December 2007

Large-scale mining ventures have not reduced poverty in host municipalities, according to a Philippines economist. This follows similar assertions. made at the recent Manila-based conference on mining in which several editors of this website participated. No doubt this is one of the reasons local governments are now vociferously rejecting mining in the Philippines - as recently in Samar and Palawan.

The army is still driving out local indigenous peoples in Surigao del Sur, Mindanao from land coveted by mining companies, and another anti-mining activist has been slaughtered.


Mining never reduced poverty: UP economist

GMA News.tv

10th December 2007

KORONADAL CITY--Large-scale mining ventures have not reduced poverty incidence in host municipalities, an economic expert said here.

Speaking at a forum dubbed as "Cost Benefit Analysis of Mining" last Tuesday, Arturo Boquiren, assistant professor of economics at the University of Philippines-Baguio, stressed such point using the Benguet experience as model, where large scale mining activities have been ongoing for nearly 100 years.

The corporate or large-scale mining companies operating in the Benguet towns of Mangkayan, Itogon and Tuba are Lepanto Mining, Benguet Consolidated and Philex Mines. They are exploiting copper and gold deposits.

Boquiren said that large-scale mining projects need not be an option for municipalities and cities to have a higher growth path.

"Non-mining areas perform just as "good" as mining areas and, thus, communities or local government units that want their cities or municipalities to take-off and take a higher growth path need not embrace large-scale mining," he said.

He noted that there are environment-friendly alternatives that local government units rich in mineral deposits can explore, such as farming, to have a higher growth path.

Stressing that the objective of his study is to value Benguet's biodiversity and execute a benefit-cost analysis of mining, Boquiren said the net benefits flowing from Benguet biodiversity on an annual basis are at least $591.6 million.

The total value of net benefits over 25 years amount to $14.8 billion with a net present value of $5.9 billion using a discount rate of 12 percent and P51.785 to a dollar, he added.

"On the other hand, large scale mining can result to a very large net or social economic loss. Given an annual revenue of P6.9 billion, the net social or economic loss can be as much as P92.7 billion per annum, or as much as P1.16 trillion if all the Benguet metals are extracted in one scoop," Boquiren said.

Comparing mining and non-mining communities in Benguet, Mr. Boquiren said poverty incidence for the former was pegged at 35.87 percent involving a population of 119,573 (2000 census) while for the latter was 22.11 percent involving a population of 462,942 population.

"If corporate or large-scale mining is indeed good for Benguet municipalities, then poverty incidence should be very low in the corporate mining towns of Mankayan, Tuba and Itogon. After all, large scale mining has been in Mankayan for at least 71 years, 49 years in Tuba and around 91 years in Itogon," Boquiren said.

He also claimed that mortality due to cancer in the three large-scale mining areas is high at 38.97 percent although the towns are only 32.63 percent of the Benguet population.

"Jointly, the three municipalities where large-scale mining is present have a mortality rate due to cancer of 44.29 percent per 100,000 population. In contrast the rest of the 10 towns in Benguet have a combined mortality rate due to cancer of only 33.59 percent per 100,000 population," Boquiren explained.

But the economic expert clarified that a conclusive study is still needed to validate if mining activities indeed caused higher cancer rates to the three towns. - Sun.Star


Palawan slows down on mining investments

By Redempto Anda, Inquirer

12th December 2007

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines -- The Palawan government indicated this week that it is veering away from encouraging more mining investments in the province.

We won’t really need them anymore if we can get the Malampaya money,” Governor Joel T. Reyes told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) following the mining summit held here last week.

He was referring to at least P6 billion the province is assured of, its share from natural gas royalties over the next three years, and potentially double that if it wins its case in the Supreme Court over ownership of the Camago Malampaya oil and gas reserves.

Reyes said the provincial government is studying the positions taken and expressed during the summit by various groups and would come up with a new policy statement in January.

He hinted, however, that the provincial government would go easy on allowing more mining investments in the province.

We will come up with the official policy statement on this in January, after we have consolidated the issues raised in the mining summit,” Reyes said. Last week, he announced they were expecting the allocation of at least P3 billion for development projects in Palawan that would come from the escrowed Malampaya share, following an agreement with the national government to jointly utilize the funds while awaiting the ruling of the Supreme Court on its ownership.

In addition, the agreement allows the provincial government to securitize the future income of Palawan from Malampaya, a plan that is expected to bring in cash revenue for the province estimated to run up to another P3 billion. Service Contract 38 led by Shell Spex, which operates the gas project off El Nido, Palawan, has paid some P12 billion in royalties to the national government.

Palawan sued the national government after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared in 2005 that the gas reserves were located outside Palawan’s jurisdiction.

Setting the tone of the emerging provincial policy, Reyes announced during the meeting that the province would impose a mining moratorium in the nickel and manganese-rich area of Mt. Mantalingahan, which is in the final stage of being declared a protected landscape.

Reyes also indicated the province would scrutinize small-scale mining operations in Southern Palawan that had come under fire from environmental groups for violations of environmental laws.

Ano ba ang nakukuha talaga ng probinsya mula sa kanila [What would the province really get from them]?” Reyes said, referring to the tax exemptions allowed by mining laws to small-scale operations.

The provincial government has come under criticisms from anti-mining groups and non-government organizations for encouraging mining projects that impact negatively on the environment.

Asked to comment on the impending policy shift against mining in Palawan, some companies already operating mining projects expressed disappointment.

The Berong Nickel Corp. (BNC), which operates a large-scale nickel mining project in Quezon, Southern Palawan, said it had complied with international standards in operating the mining project but was still being criticized.

In the short term that we have been in Berong [Quezon], we have provided more social services there than government or anybody else,” BNC chief executive officer George Bujtor told the Inquirer.

It doesn’t make sense to just say stop mining. It makes sense to allow sustainable mining. There is no reason why companies like us that comply with world standards should be discouraged,” he added.


Mining stirs hornets’ nest in Samar

By Vicente Labro, Inquirer

8th December 2007

TACLOBAN CITY – To mine or not to mine has remained an unresolved issue in Samar.

But the Mines and Geosciences Bureau is optimistic that the conflict between the provincial board and the mining company exploring for minerals in Samar will soon be settled.

Officials of Pacifica Alumina Mining (Philippines) Corp. (PAMC), which is exploring the country’s biggest reserve of bauxite (aluminum ore) in the province, have asked the board in a series of communications for the lifting of a work stoppage order it imposed on the firm about three months ago. The board, however, has begged for more time, saying it was still consulting with stakeholders.

Samar is known to have an estimated value of $21 billion in bauxite deposits. A large portion of the reserve area, however, is within the 333,300-hectare Samar Island Natural Park, a protected area.

Bauxite is the main source of aluminum, which is being used in packaging, transportation and building.

In a phone interview at his office in Catbalogan City on Tuesday, Vice Gov. Jesus Redaja confirmed the PAMC appeal, saying it had already suffered financial losses and schedule delay.

PAMC has also reminded the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that actual mining would provide more job opportunities and income from taxes, aside from the construction of mining roads and the establishment of an agro-forestry. 15,000-ton sample

The vice governor explained that the officials could not easily allow the mineral exploration to continue because of many environmental issues that have to be discussed first with concerned residents.

The board, he said, only learned of the project when it was informed of the presence in a Catbalogan village of a huge stockpile of earth dug by the mining company from different sites in at least three towns.

Redaja said he later learned from the engineers of PAMC, who were invited to the regular SP session on Sept. 14 to shed light on their operation, that the volume of earth samples was already about 5,000 tons and that a total of 15,000 tons must be sent to China for laboratory testing to determine the bauxite deposits in the areas.

Also called to explain were representatives of the MGB and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Samar.

PAMC was required to submit all pertinent documents about the exploration. The mining company and the MGB later complied with the request.

Redaja said the officials wanted all aspects of the mining operation transparent and “in black and white,” meaning they should be furnished copies of the mining development plan and other papers.

Board Member Jimmy Dy said he was against mining because it might lead to environmental degradation that would cause floods and landslides as what occurred in the past.

More importantly, a mining ban exists in Samar, Dy stressed. Ordinance No. 541, which was approved by the provincial board in October 2003, imposes a 50-year moratorium on large-scale mining in Samar.

In its Sept. 10 session, the board passed a resolution directing PAMC “to immediately stop all ongoing exploration work program and mining activities” in the towns of Motiong, Jiabong and Paranas, all in Samar, “until all to be submitted pertinent documents relative thereto are found in order.”

The SP members believed that irregularities were committed “in the compliance of mining permit requirements.” They also questioned the huge volume of earth samples taken.

MGB regional director Loreto Alburo said he was hopeful that the documents had “enlightened” the SP members on the legality and procedures of undertaking mineral exploration.

Green light

In an earlier interview, Alburo said the huge volume of samples taken from the field was not unusual. “This is actually the request of the (Chinese) plant, and our central office endorsed this request to us for approval,” he said.

This relates to technical feasibility study in the plant site. It’s more on the metallurgical side,” he added.

If a sizable mineral deposit was discovered, this would lead to a declaration of a mining feasibility. But the firm would have to first obtain an environmental compliance certificate and other permits and documents.

When the feasibility study is approved, that’s the time they (miners) will have the green light to start (actual mining operations),” he added.

Loreto also explained that PAMC was authorized to explore by Alumina Mining Philippines Inc. and Bauxite Resources Inc., which were awarded the mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) by the DENR.

They have an operating agreement. This is allowed under the law,” he said. The DENR approved the MPSA for Alumina Mining Philippines Inc. on Dec. 5, 2002, with a contract area of 6,694 ha in Motiong, San Jose de Buan, and Paranas.

It also approved on the same date the MPSA of Bauxite Resources Inc., covering 5,519 ha in Gandara, San Jorge and San Jose de Buan towns, also in Samar.

The issuance of the agreements, however, stirred a controversy as local environmentalists, Church, academe, professional groups and other concerned Samareños strongly oppose mining and logging in the province.

They fear that these activities would result to irreparable environmental degradation.


As Military Operations Vs NPA Rages, Manobos to spend Christmas at evacuation centre

By Chris V. Panganiban, Mindanao Bureau, Inquirer

2nd December 2007

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur--Displaced Manobo villagers may have to spend their Christmas holidays in a cramped and overcrowded evacuation centre in Surigao del Sur as the hostilities between government soldiers and communist New People's Army rebels continue to escalate.

Local and military officials offered to help 1,500 evacuees seeking refuge at the barangay (village) hall of Diatagon in Lianga town return home with military escorts, on Saturday afternoon, but the refugees turned down the offer as the military was keeping up its offensives in their abandoned villages.

The negotiation for the villagers’ safe return came a day after a soldier was killed while 12 others were wounded when patrolling members of the 58th Infantry Battalion led by a certain 2nd Lt. Sison triggered a landmine believed to be planted by NPA rebels in Sitio Kaguisokan, a forested area about 12 kilometres from the evacuation site.

Maj. Rodrigo Sosmeña, spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City , in a reply to a text message query, identified the fatality as a certain "Pfc. (Private First Class) Pigaret." The soldiers were hit by simultaneous explosions of four landmines. The 12 wounded soldiers were evacuated to a hospital in Butuan City .Sosmeña said around 20 comunist guerrillas belonging to the Front 19-A of the NPA's North-eastern Mindanao Regional Command engaged the soldiers in a brief fire fight after the landmine explosion.

He said the military wanted the evacuees to return home since the operations were being conducted outside their communities and the presence of residents back in their villages may push the rebels farther outside into the woods.

But the Army spokesman said there was yet no certainty as to when the military operations would end since the soldiers would have to flush out the NPA rebels in the hinterlands of Lianga town.

Rev. Modesta Villasanta Jr., chair of human rights group Karapatan-Surigao del Sur, said the displaced lumad (indigenous communities) would not return home until the end of the military operations, citing the disappearance of five Manobo villagers during a similar military operation in 2005.

Analyn Lumawag, deputy secretary general of Karapatan-Caraga region, said residents declined the offer of the military and local officials for them to return home for fear of their lives.

The displaced residents have been living at the evacuation centre since Nov. 1 as non-government organizations, the local governments and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been extending food and medical assistance to them.

Villasanta said the Manobos, sensing "there is really no assurance of their safety" refused the offer.

Classes in seven lumad literacy facilities and high schools were disrupted when soldiers rounded up teachers, students and schoolchildren and asked them if they were supporters of the NPA, Villasanta said.

Lumawag said they have been fearing an outbreak of diseases in evacuation centres, with at least 69 children reported sick with fever, cough, sore-eyes and diarrhoea.

Lumawag said the evacuees were constantly exposed to the weather, with no sufficient food to eat. Five children have been brought to the hospital.

Reynaldo Campos, a teacher of the Alternative Learning Centre for Agricutural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), said most of the lumad already wanted to go home.

Campos , who was among the Manobo teachers and lumad families taking shelter inside the Diatagon gym, said Lianga Mayor Vicente Pedroso earlier called for a dialogue among the affected residents but ongoing military operations dissuaded them from returning to their villages.

Lianga, a three-hour ride from the capital town of Tandag , is only one of the five towns surrounding Andap Valley , a target for exploration activities by big mining firms because of its concentrated presence of coal, gold and chromites. Lumawag said indigenous communities were opposed to the entry of mining in the area and would continue to oppose it.

One of the high school students of Alcadev, Jona Merza, 16, said she was relieved to see her family flee unscathed from the recent bombardment by the military. She said that in 2005, at the height of military operations in their area, one of her relatives was shot while hauling their things into a truck.

"Now, I'm relieved that we are already out of there, but it doesn't mean I'm happy," she said. "I want to go home."

Lumawag said her group appealed to local government authorities to stop the military operations and allow the residents to go home.

Students Felicito Ugking and Robert Calilpay said they wanted to go back to school.

With reports from Germelina Lacorte and Jeffrey M. Tupas, Mindanao Bureau


Anti-Mining Advocate Slain in Surigao del Sur

LRC Press Release

7th December 2007

In a small nipa house located in the middle of a pineapple plantation owned Dodong Ledesma in Sitio Magroyong, Brgy. Tina, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur where Dodong, Deodato Pame and another 8 individuals were seated in a semi-circle discussing the plans of the ancestral domain last Dec. 2, 2007 around 2:00 in the afternoon.

An hour after, while some of the group members were about to leave the place, a gun shot hit Deodato Pame on the back part of his right arm while still exchanging discussion with his seatmate and friend Dodong.

Dodong and the rest of the group carried him to the nearest highway but he didn't survived. No one saw the triggerman, but based on the initial investigation report the triggerman was about 60-80 meters away.

Dodong Pame has been struggling against illegal logging, mining and corruption in Surigao del Sur for the last 30 years. He has been on the front line of some of the community and church led advocacies. He has been known for his anti-large scale mining stand in the province. He is also one of the complainants of the case filed against SUDECOR in relation to Indigenous Peoples' rights. He also filed recently ombudsman cases against influential officials in the province for facilitating development projects that are detrimental to Indigenous Peoples and settler communities.

For a time, he even placed a streamer in front of his house saying "Ang nagpuyo dinhi sa Balay, Supak sa Mina" ("Residing in this house is an anti-mining advocate"). His untimely death is a big loss to the struggle of communities in Surigao del sur to stop large-scale mining and logging in the province.

Diosdado Pame will be buried on human rights day, Dec. 10, 2007, 2:00 pm at Tina cemetery, Brgy. Tina, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur.

For your help or inquiries, you may contact:
Sister Lydia Lascano
SAC-Tandag, chairperson
0919-341-6023
or
Carl Cesar Rebuta
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Inc. Cagayan de Oro Office
0905-927-2676

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