31st January 2008
Following the New Year's Day attack by the Communist New Peoples Army (NPA) on Xstrata's Tampakan mine, there have been various knee-jerk reactions from both the government and the mining companies.
The government is to set up 'militias' (i.e. the much maligned, and constitutionally illegal CAFGUs), while the companies will seek more private security (although the supposed presence of an ex-SAS serviceman coordinating security at Tampakan didn't seem to do them much good).
The result, as predicted many times on this website, is increased militarisation, and almost certainly conflict, around current and proposed mine sites. The real losers will no doubt be the local communities who will bear the brunt.
One community that has resisted this form of militarisation for many years is that in Canatuan, where the Subanon have taken their struggle to Atlas Consolidated, which is considering investing in TVI Pacific's mine.
There are plenty of examples of this type of deteriorating human rights situation in Nueva Vizcaya, where more barricades have gone up against mining companies.
Meanwhile, the Provincial Governor in Palawan looks to extend the number of provinces with mining moratoriums.
South Cotabato mining firm beefs up security
By RAMIL BAJO, The Philippine Star
28th January 2008
Koronadal City – A copper mining firm in South Cotabato is set to hire more than 100 civilian guards to secure its base camp and exploration areas at the boundaries of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur from future New People’s Army (NPA) attacks.
In a statement, the Sagitarrius Mines Inc. (SMI), an Australian-backed mining firm exploring the vast copper and gold deposits in the three provinces, said it has tapped Catene Security Inc. (CSI) for its security requirements.
CSI, reportedly part of Group Four Securicor, one of the world’s leading security firms, will carry out its contract beginning March.
Under the contract, all guards currently providing security services to SMI will be offered new positions with enhanced benefits and conditions.
Gerardo Laviste, SMI resident manager, said the new guards will be hired from the tribal villages, mostly populated by the B’laans, that are affected by their operations.
Laviste said the CSI will also supervise the setting up of eight new security posts in its tenement in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.
"The safety and security of our staff, contractors and visitors is our number one priority. Bringing on board such a high-caliber firm as (CSI) reflects our commitment to promoting peace and security," Laviste said.
Laviste said they don’t want a repeat of the Jan. 1 dawn attack by about 50 heavily armed NPA guerrillas on its base camp, where buildings and other structures were torched.
SMI-Xstrata hires world's leading security provider
26th January 2008
DAVAO CITY – Sagittarius Mines, Incorporated (SMI) announced Friday that it has hired the services of Catena Security, part of a network of leading provider of security guards. In its statement sent to news organizations, SMI said it awarded the security contract to Catena Security, Inc. and said that the firm was part of the Group Four Securicor, or G4S, "one of the world's leading security firms".
The statement said that Cartena Security "will take up the contract from the beginning of March [this year]". "SMI began the extensive tender process for the new contract last year as part of a regular review," the statement said.
The statement quoted SMI Resident Manager, Gerardo Laviste, as saying that "the company was delighted to award the key contract to a security firm with such a world-class reputation".
"The safety and security of our staff, contractors and visitors is our number one priority. Bringing on board such a high calibre firm as Catena reflects our commitment to promoting peace and security in the region," Laviste said.
He said that the SMI assured that " our security guards will also benefit from the change enjoying enhanced benefits with Catena". The company statement said that "all guards currently providing security services to SMI will be offered new positions with Catena with enhanced benefits and conditions".
SMI said that "more than 100 guards, most from the local community, will benefit from this employment opportunity". "In addition, up to eight new security guard posts will be created at SMI's tenement in Kiblawan as part of the change-over". It was unclear, however, if the move was prompted by the New Year's Day guerrilla raid of its base camp in Barangay Tablu in Tampakan, South Cotabato and burned its administration and dormitory buildings.
The military said that about 40 communist-led New People's Army guerrillas also disarmed security personnel manning the camp and harassed a Philippine Army detachment some 500 meters away from the mining firm compound apparently to prevent reinforcements from soldiers and militiamen. The NPAs took away two service revolvers and a shotgun from three security personnel on duty during the raid.
No one was hurt in the attack but a former militiaman was reportedly abducted by the rebels in the nearby village of Datal Biao in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat when the armed group retreated.
A highly-placed source contacted earlier by a MindaNews contributor claimed that the company had been hiring a former member of a British elite security force as its security consultant up to the time of the guerrilla raid. The alleged security consultant was working for an Australia-based security firm, when he was hired.
The SMI has neither confirmed nor denied the claim of the Mindanews source and a message sent by Mindanews to SMI inquiring into it was not answered as of Friday. (MindaNews)
Green group slams 'guns for hire' by mining firms - Calls on Church, legislators to probe hiring and use of AFP's military troops to protect mining operations
Kalikasan PNE Press Release
31st January 2008
An environment group today slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by acting as 'guns for hire' by mining firms, after media reports today disclosed that the AFP's 7th Infantry Division has signed a Memorandum of Agreement to secure and guard 3,700 hectares controlled by DMCI Mining Corp. (DMCIMC) in Sta. Cruz, Zambales following reassurances by the AFP's Chief of Staff that the Army would help provide security for mining firms.
"The AFP's employment as 'guns for hire' for mining firms is a dangerous precedent. This should be immediately probed by Congress and stopped right in its tracks," said Clemente Bautista Jr., National Coordinator of Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
"The Army should not be acting as a mercenary guard for mining firms, which have all the capacities to hire private security personnel to guard their premises. AFP Chief-of-Staff Hermogenes Esperon should be subjected to an investigation regarding his statement last week offering to subsidize the security needs of mining firms," Bautista said.
"Take note that many of these mining projects nationwide lack community consent and are forcing their operations despite grassroots opposition such as barricades and protest actions. It is dangerous to bring in the Army to guard mining projects being opposed by the people. The use of AFP troops as guards will only result in more human rights violations against communities, civilians, and organizations opposed to mining operations," Bautista explained.
Bautista warned that this would encourage more units of the AFP to enter in MOAs with other foreign and local mining firms. The presence of military detachments and police checkpoints has been noted by Kalikasan PNE in mining-affected areas, including Lafayette in Rapu-Rapu island, Albay, Filminera in Masbate island, Marcopper in Marinduque island, TVI in Zamboanga del Norte, Xstrata in South Cotabato, NMRDC in Mt. Diwalwal, Rio Tuba in Palawan, Crew Minerals in Mindoro Oriental, Climax Arimco/Oxiana in Nueva Vizcaya, Abra, Batangas, Zambales, Surigao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur.
"Nearly half a million hectares of land have been approved for large scale mining operations since the implementation of the Mining Act of 1995 (RA 7942) and the passage of the Minerals Action Plan (MAP) under Pres. Arroyo's Executive Order 270. Does this mean that it is perfectly alright for the military to enter these lands at the beck and call of mining firms?" Bautista asked.
Bautista urged the Catholic Church and human rights advocates to speak out against the employment of army troops by mining firms.
"We call on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the official organization of the Filipino Catholic episcopacy, to take action and concern against the use of military troops to protect ecolocigally-destructive mining operations. This use of military troops to protect mining firms must not be tolerated by all stewards of creation," Bautista said. On 29 January 2006, the CBCP released an official Statement on Mining Concerns recognizing that an "increasing number of mining affected communities, Christians and non-Christians alike, are subjected to human rights violations and economic deprivations".
"We plan to ask the Senate and Congress to launch a formal inquiry in aid of legislation on the issue of the AFP's promotion of 'guns for hire' for mining firms," Bautista said.
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) is a Philippine-based network of non-government organizations (NGOs), grassroots organizations, and environmental advocates.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Clemente Bautista
Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Militias to protect Philippine mines
The Peninsula online
30th January 2008
Manila (AFP) - Philippine troops will train private militias to protect foreign mining firms and other companies operating in rural areas from communist rebel attacks, the armed forces chief said.
A soldier would be assigned to each of the local militia groups that would be mainly deployed to mining companies under threat from the New People's Army (NPA).
The communist rebels have vowed to attack multinational firms given mining concessions when the sector was opened up to foreign investors in 2005.
General Hermogenes Esperon said the armed forces, which are already fighting Islamic and communist rebel groups, simply could not spare regular troops to provide 24-hour security to firms that come under attack.
"Instead of us physically contributing our men to the companies, it's them coming up with their guards and getting training, assistance from us," Esperon told foreign correspondents at a briefing late on Monday night.
Mining companies would provide the recruits to be screened, trained over three months and eventually armed by the military.
Militiamen are usually recruited from among the local unemployed men and school leavers in the area of a mining concession. To ensure discipline, an army "cadre" would live among them in the mining compounds with the companies paying their daily allowance of 90 pesos (about two dollars).
The Philippine armed forces are spread out over large areas fighting Islamic militants in the south and NPA guerrillas in the central and northern areas. Earlier this month, the government advised mining companies to beef up security after the NPA sabotaged a major copper project of global mining outfit Xstrata on the southern island of Mindanao.
The NPA set fire to the Xstrata base camp at its Tampakan exploration project and vowed to launch similar attacks against other foreign-run mines. The attack was not an isolated incident. NPA rebels are known to burn down telecommunication and transmission lines or abduct and harm workers of firms who refuse to pay what they call "revolutionary taxes."
Esperon on Monday vowed to significantly diminish the NPA ranks by the time he steps down in May. He said the NPA ranks have dropped to only about 5,700 regular fighters in 2007 from a high of 12,000 between 2002 and 2006.
Mining row in Nueva Vizcaya rises on all fronts
25th January 2008
KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya - Foreign mining companies Oceana Gold (Australia), Royalco (Australia) and Base Metals PLC (United Kingdom) are facing stiff resistance from communities in Nueva Vizcaya.
This January, battle of the nerves raged in three fronts – in Didipio, in Pao and in Malabing Valley, all of Kasibu town. The fight transcended from barricades on the ground to fresh petitions to the Supreme Court and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban, together with the Legal Rights Center (LRC), raised the mining issue in a higher plane, this time, to invoke Republic Act 7160’s provision on local government autonomy. In a press statement, LRC said, Tayaban petitioned the Supreme Court for a preliminary injunction against the operation of Oceana Gold mining company.
In the petition, Kasibu, represented by Tayaban, asks the high court to act on the company’s failure to get the local’s consent; and to prevent any further damage to the community. It also reminded Oceana Gold to respect and comply with clear demands and to prevent any clear violation of the local autonomy of local governments as guaranteed under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
The mayor also asked SC to avert the illegal implementation of the Oceana Gold’s FTAA that resulted in the displacement of indigenous peoples residents in Didipio and other communities, affecting livelihood and way of life.
In Didipio, Oceana Gold failed to hide its attempt to demolish houses during the Christmas and New Year break. Pilar Dulnuan and Mary Yogyog raised a howl when the company’s Surface Rights Acquisition (SRA) program miserably failed to settle unpaid balances contained in contracts granting full easement rights.
Dulnuan and Yogyog’s houses were the ones demolished second week of January. Didipio Councilors Lorenzo Pulido and Roldan Cut-ing reported a total of 16 houses in Bacbacan and Dinaoyan were dismantled by a contractor hired by Oceana Gold while two households voluntarily dismantled theirs. It is also feared that the move to transfer existing power lines away from Sitio Dinaoyan is a maneuver to get rid of houses in the proposed tailings dam area.
Peter Duyapat of Didipio Earthsavers Multi-Purpose Association (Desama) warned that what happened to those who sold their rights is a bad sign. “How could they convince us to sell our rights when they cannot even settle their balances right away? That practice is not new, they have not settled their obligations when they disturbed people during the exploration period,” Duyapat said.
In Malabing Valley, hundreds of residents led by Ifugao elder Raymundo Bolhayon repelled Oceana Gold’s latest bid to bring in equipment in Mt. Ubon, a watershed located between barangays Papaya and Malabing. “We made sure the heavy equipment are out of the valley so we escorted them out,” said Priscilla Guillao, leader of the Papaya Farmer’s Association.
The citrus growers of Malabing Valley have strongly resolved to block Oceana Gold because mining threatens their industry, which is now producing 4,500 metric tons of fresh orange fruits annually.
In Pao, an ongoing standoff remains tense as drilling equipment commissioned by Royalco were brought in via a newly constructed road. Mariano Maddela and Renato Enggo led the setting up of a barricade to prevent Royalco from using the southern gate to Digyan, a mineralized hill eyed for exploration. Maddela is questioning Royalco’s use of NCIP’s Certificate of Precondition acquired by Oxiana. Royalco acquired Oxiana on June 20, 2006.
Maddela filed a “Petition for Revocation of Consent” to the NCIP Regional Office 02 but it was dismissed. His lawyer filed a motion for reconsideration because the petition was dismissed without the benefit of a hearing. Maddela also raised a technical question because the matter at hand is a statement of commitment. “Simple, Oxiana ang binigyan ng permit, hindi Royalco,” Maddela asserted.
Meanwhile, the UK-based Metals PLC’s Philippine subsidiary is changing its skin while it prepares for a new episode in its bid to mine in Runruno, Quezon town. The company now projects itself as FCF Mining Company, after its exploration arm MTL Philippines is nearing the completion of its exploration project.
While Mayor Tayaban of Kasibu stood resolutely against mining, Quezon Mayor Aurelio Salun-at chose the opposite path. He publicly admitted his support to the mining company because it is the only option the municipality has to increase its revenues.
Rice farmers depending on irrigation water from Runruno have grown wary. Irrigators tied up with the Roman Catholic church to undertake information dissemination on the impact of mining. # Abe Almirol for NORDIS
Town’s fight vs Australian mining project goes to SC
By Melvin Gascon, Northern Luzon Bureau, Inquirer
28th January 2008
BAYOMBONG, NUEVA VIZCAYA -- Officials of upland Kasibu town have elevated to the Supreme Court their appeal to stop an Australian mining company from pushing its project there for its supposed failure to get the consent of local communities.
Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban and members of the municipal council on Thursday took their petition to the high court, as the company, now named OceanaGold Philippines Inc., continued what the officials called the “illegal implementation” of its mining permit.
The officials sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the demolition of villagers’ houses in Barangay Didipio, site of OceanaGold’s planned gold-copper mining project.
OceanaGold, formerly the Australasian Philippines Mining Inc. (APMI), is the transferee of a financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) originally granted by the government to Climax Mining Limited, also an Australian company, in 1994.
The 1987 Constitution prohibits foreign companies from exploring, developing and exploiting the country’s mineral resources. This, however, was allowed by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, through a number of means, including the FTAA.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday sought Ramoncito Gozar, OceanaGold vice president for external affairs and communications, for comment, but he did not take calls to his mobile phone.
Lawyers from the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center Inc., a non-government organization, said they were asking the high court for a TRO or preliminary injunction to prevent the implementation of the FTAA, including the demolition of houses, until the case had been resolved.
“Despite non-consent, the FTAA is still being implemented. Permits are being issued in favor of [OceanaGold]. Didipio residents’ lands are being acquired by the company,” said lawyer Mary Grace Ellen Villanueva.
The project was approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and has since begun its predevelopment stage despite failing to get approval from the village council of Didipio and the municipal council of Kasibu.
It started to buy access rights to more than 400 hectares of farmlands and private lots in Didipio to accommodate its proposed production site. Many villagers have agreed to sell their lands while others have rejected the company’s offers.
OceanaGold demolished 14 houses from December 2007 to Jan. 12, even though many of the owners have not yet been fully paid.
Kasibu officials were invoking the Constitution and the Local Government Code of 1991 on the autonomy of local governments, and the need for national agencies to conduct consultations and obtain prior approval from local communities before any project or program could proceed.
Palawan gov to issue mining moratorium on Mt. Mantalingahan
By Celeste Anna R. Formoso, PNA
29th January 2008
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY - Palawan Governor Joel T. Reyes is set to issue a moratorium against mining exploration and operation on Mt. Mantalingahan, "a mountain range south of the province that forms the highest part of Mt. Beaufort Ultrafamics geological region and forms the centre of the Mantalingahan Protected Area."
Reyes said he was issuing the mining moratorium, being the chairman of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), because he has given his word to Task Force Mantalingahan that he would support its call to protect the range considered to be holding the Philippine equivalent of a national park.
He gave the assurance in a dialogue during the recently held mining summit with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mines and Geosciences Board (MGB).
"In the presence of the government organizations, I made a pronouncement that we are going to support that call for a mining moratorium," Reyes said.
The government also appealed to the MGB to impose as well a moratorium on entertaining and approving tenement claims on Mantalingahan.
"For the meantime, we will have a moratorium pending the issuance of the president on Mt. Mantalingahan reservation area."
The Mantalingahan range encompasses the municipalities of Bataraza, Brooke's Point, Quezon and others in southern Palawan .
Last year, new species of flora and fauna were discovered on Mantalingahan by a team of biologists organized by Conservation International (CI), which conducted a biodiversity survey. These include the Palawan soft-furred mountain rat that has not been seen since 1962, the colourful fin-tailed parrot finch and the pouch bat. (PNA)
Back off from our lands! Subanon Leaders Troop to Atlas Mining Office to Drive Home the Message
LRC-KsK Press Release
1st February 2008
Two Subanon leaders from Zamboanga del Norte are trooping to the Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation (ACMDC) Mandaluyong office to meet and urge the mining company's officials to withdraw from the Subanons' ancestral domains in Canatuan and other areas.
Timuay Jose Anoy and Timuay Fernando Mudai, representing the Apu Manglang Glupa Pusaka (AMGP), the tribe's highest leadership body, warn that ACMDC's plans for a joint venture project with the TVI Resource Development Philippines (TVIRD Phils.) and the mining activities in the tribal community's ancestral domains and sacred site, "would be a costly mistake".
In a letter earlier sent to ACMDC Chairman, President and CEO Alfredo C. Ramos, Timuay Jose Boy Anoy, on behalf of the Apu Manglang Glupa Pusaka (AMGP) , calls on ACMDC against "joining the TVIRD in further destroying" the Subanons' sacred mountain, culture and people otherwise "the risks and losses that the ACMDC will incur will not only be financial," as the TVIRD is reportedly experiencing.
Timuays Anoy and Mudai decided to show up at the ACMDC office today, in a last-ditch effort to explain the Subanons' case and convince the Atlas management to rethink their investment plans and thus, help avert legal confrontation and possible direct resistance by affected communities in Canatuan.
The Subanons earlier sent copies of various reports exposing the human rights violations, environmental impacts and other harm wrought by TVIRD's mining activities, to help inform the ACMDC management.
TVI Resource Development Philippines is an affiliate of the Canadian mining company TVI Pacific, Inc. It was allowed by the government to mine 500 hectares in sitio Canatuan, Zamboanga del Norte, which was resisted by the Subanon tribes. The TVI's entire mining areas are within the Subanons' ancestral domains of about 8,000 hectares.
"We have resisted the entry of large-scale mining in our ancestral domains..we have not given our consent to TVIRD..and we have lodged several complaints..against its (TVIRD's) destructive operations as well as the abuses and violations suffered by my tribe…" Anoy writes the ACMDC.
The tribal leader mentions that both the Philippine government and TVIRD are facing a pending human rights case filed last year by the Subanons before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN-CERD).
The human rights complaint is set to be taken up by the UN-CERD Committee this February.
The TVI Pacific Inc., announced on January 16, 2008 its joint venture with Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. for the development of TVI's Canatuan sulphide project in Canatuan, amidst reports and speculations that the Canadian company was seriously facing financial crunch and struggling to stay afloat. The Subanons therefore, view ACMDC's planned partnership with TVIRD, as an act of complicity in the continued violation of their human rights and the pillage of their sacred lands.
Anoy points out that the Sulphide Dam for the Canatuan Copper and Zinc project offered to the ACMDC for venture partnership, continues to pose grave danger to the Canatuan watershed and the Siocon river. The dam has been the focus of several hearings conducted by the Provincial Legislative Council as it reportedly "twice collapsed during the heavy rains in April and July last year, leading to the inundation of the Siocon river", Anoy asserts.
The Subanon leader vows that his people will not "permit the expansion of TVIRD's and ACMDC's operations " in Subanons' ancestral domains.
"We are committed in our struggle to end large-scale mining in Mount Canatuan and seek retribution for all the destruction TVIRD has wrought upon us," Anoy warns.
For details, please contact: Mr. Romel de Vera, Campaigns-Para-Legal, LRC-KsK, Cagayan de Oro office. (Cell: 09063057097)