MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippine forum grapples with fundamental mining issues

Published by MAC on 2008-09-29

A conference in the Philippines has tried coming to grips with vital questions attached to the minerals industry, miners themselves confront critics in a two-day forum.

Responsible mining: Are we ready?

By Stella A. Estremera

Sun Star Davao Weekend

21st September 2008

"ARE we ready for responsible mining?" Conservation International country director Romy Trono asked the ballroom full of miners, mining executives, and those in allied industries toward the end of the two-day Mining Forum held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao last Friday.

Trono asked that question after presenting to the body, CI's overlays of maps of the world, the Philippines, the mining areas being applied for in the Philippines, and the remaining forests and areas where the country's rich biodiversity still survives.

In his presentation, Trono cited studies that showed that the Philippines is not just "in the center" of the world's biodiversity map, but "is the center" of the world's biodiversity -- inland, but most especially under the sea.

Trono's presentation of overlaid maps also showed that all the areas that are being mined or are waiting to be mined are in or within the vicinity of the country's remaining foreststands and biodiverse environments.

"Are we ready for responsible mining?" he asked as a challenge to the group that for the past two days have been whining about the long processes it takes to get their permits, and nothing else.

Over at the Grand Men Seng Hotel where the Alternative Forum for Research in Mindanao Inc. (Afrim) held a one-day parallel forum on mining, Fr. Jonathan Tianero, program coordinator of the Social Action Center Ecology desk of the Diocese of Malaybalay, also showed overlaid maps that showed the areas being applied for mining in the Bukidnon province are also the province's remaining forests, except for two areas, the Kitanglad Mountain Range and the Kalatungan Mountain Range, which are both national parks. Mining is not allowed in national parks, Fr. Tianero pointed out.

Meaning, these two remaining forest ranges have been saved from being up-ended and cut up only because it has been classified as a national park, and nothing else. The other remaining forests, that the uniquely environment-conscious governance of Bukidnon is open for mining applications, specifically because national government is thumping on mining as an industry that will bring massive development to the countryside.

It is interesting to know, however, that the pro-environment local government units of Bukidnon are busy classifying vast areas in their provinces as tree parks because under Republic Act 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995, tree parks are excluded from mining operations.

"No local government can make local legislations to stop mining," Fr. Tianero said, but they can make other legislations that can block mining.

As a footnote, Afrim is against mining, although it concedes that in areas where there is already mining operations, the focus should be on sustainable development and tri-people benefits, and equitability of the sharing of resources for the present and future generations.

A craving for 'short-cuts'

In one of the breakout rooms back in Waterfront Insular during the mining forum, which tackled the policies and regulations, most of the participants -- miners all, including representatives of indigenous people who have their mining companies -- were ruing the long and tedious process of getting the free prior informed consent of IPs through the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

What can be gleaned from the discussion was that they were one is demanding that the FCIP should not be necessary when a company is yet asking for an exploration permit (Expa).

The tedious process of getting the FPIC should only be undergone if the investors are already applying for mining operations or the mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA). There wasn't much representation there for the IPs except those who were urging that the easiest way is to go into a joint venture with IP companies, which they are incorporators of.

Then there is the seeming lack of knowledge on how the Mines and Geosciences Bureau works, all of them whining about the decades-long wait for a permit to be issued and the overlapping of claims and areas being applied for; a claim the MGB through its representative MGB Region 12 Regional Director Constancio Paje Jr. says is not true and that all tenements are properly identified, the ones with existing claims, even the small-scale ones, being carved out of available areas for claims.

This earned the approval of the participants, but it was obvious that that was the first time they heard about it.

A check of the website of the MGB showed that there tenement maps are only available for the Cordillera Administrative Region and Regions 1-8, and no such maps of Regions 9 to Armm, all Mindanao regions.

A further check of the available tenement maps showed that while there is indeed a map per region (as big as could fit your computer monitor, which means details of provinces, towns, and barangays and their territory lines, roads and landmarks are not shown), the details only contains the tenement number, tenement type (exploration permits or MPSA or FTAA), the minerals being mined, the general location (as general as "Leyte Geothermal Reservation Area, Leyte" or "Sison, Pangasinan"), the number of hectares, and the status of operations, as well as contact details of the one operating of having staked a claim there. There are no coordinates as to the specific location and how the hectares are actually laid out.

Responsible mining defined

Still in the same breakout room, the group was herded into approving the definition of responsible mining as that which fits the four criteria laid out, which is as follows:

* (abides by the) principles of sustainable development
* (has) built-in protection for the indigenous peoples
* (involves) sharing of the benefits of mining among the major stakeholders, and
* (has) strict environment and social provisions. A suggestion to include "uplift the condition" of the IPs instead of just "built-in protection for IPs" was brushed off as an implied part of the original statement and that protection will suffice.

A point raised on defining who the actors are, was also similarly brushed off, and considered covered by "major stakeholders", whoever they are.

The definition was passed as it was.

Over at the Grand Men Seng last Thursday, on the first day of the mining forum at Waterfront was a parallel forum on mining organized by the Alternative Forum for Research in Mindanao Inc. (Afrim), where it launched the Natural Resource Management Agenda (NMRA), its principles and guidelines for sound land resource management.

Under the principles of this are: Sustainablity, equitability, responsible stewardship, system orientation, just peace.

In detail, it reads:

Sustainability: The development, management and utilization of Mindanao's natural resources shall be within the carrying, regenerative, and absorptive capacity of the island's ecosystems.

Equitability: The resources of Mindanao are equally owned and should be equitably distributed to its tri-people, both in the current and the next generations.

Responsible Stewardship: All Mindanaoans have the responsibility to be caretakers of the island's natural resources.

System Orientation: The focus on upland natural resource management takes into consideration other vital ecosystems that affect and are affected by activities and management measures within the defined management unit.

Just peace (Social justice): The right of the tri-people of Mindanao to a sustained, secure and peaceful existence shall be respected and fulfill by government.

Browsing through these, and what the definition of "responsible mining" was to the forum of miners, it could be deduced that they are talking almost of the same thing except the major players, the stakeholders. In Afrim's agenda, the stakeholders are clear: everybody, Mindanao's tri-people.

Who are the stakeholders?

In the Waterfront mining forum "major stakeholders" is left as a mass of still to be identified groups of people, but between which will be the miners, the government, and the indigenous peoples should the area covered be classified as ancestral domain. There was no indication that those in agricultural endeavors, and much less small farmers, are among the "major stakeholders".

At the Afrim parallel forum, however, were tales of woes of farmer communities in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur, whose irrigation systems and irrigated farmlands, which has been there since the 1970s are threatened to be dried up because of mining operations in their watersheds.

"Bisan naay rehabilitation sa among irigation, bisan naay pagsemento sa mga canal, irrigation dam, og ECC (environmental clearance certificate), pero unsay nahitabo? Gitagaan og MPSA ang mining company bisan kung sa RA 7952 supak gyud ni (Even though the Cantilan Irrigation System has already been rehabilitated, even though it has cemented irrigation canals, an irrigation dam, and an ECC, the mining company was still given an MPSA even if such is a violation of RA 7942)," said farmer Alberto Ortega of the Cantilan Irrigation Systems Federation of Irrigators Association (Cisfia).

"Ang among basakan, silted, kanang among gi-rehab na irrigation canal dili na namo mapuslan (Our ricelands are now silted over and the irrigation canals we rehabilitated cannot be used)," he said. Worse, when accosted about the damage to irrigation systems, the MGB allegedly only toldthem it was not aware there was such an irrigation system downstream.

Vicente Iriberri of Baywatch, another farmer organization from Cantilan, noted that the total number of farmers who will be affected if the irrigation system dries up is 3,355. These are just heads of families, he said.

"Dili mi mutuo na kung mahitabo ang mina naay kaayuhan ihatag sa amoa (We do not believe that the mining operation will benefit us)," Iriberri said.

Conflict areas

In the presentation made by lawyer James L. Kho of the Ateneo de Manila University School of Government at the Waterfront Insular mining forum on the study their center made on conflicts in mining areas, major gaps have been identified in economics, local governance, indigenous peoples' rights, and the environment.

Under economics, among the major gaps are in cost vs. benefits of mining where there is lack of complete and credible information on relative values of natural resources, absence of government-established standard for natural resource valuation, lack of stakeholder buy-in for data generated, and outdated environmental guarantee fund system.

This already puts to naught one of the criteria in responsible mining being pushed by government, the "strict environment and social provisions."

There is also a gap in translating benefits into genuine development. At the macro level, lawyer Kho pointed out, there is absence of framework for strategic utilization of mining revenues and absence of data on whether the government itself is receiving the appropriate share in revenues.

On the micro level, there is a lack of parameters for utilization of community development dunds, lack of transparency and accountability mechanisms on the part of the company in reporting the gross revenue and the local government and community organization in the utilization of development funds, and there is lack of financial management skills on the part of IP foundations.

This erases two of the criteria: built-in protection for the indigenous peoples and sharing of the benefits of mining among the major stakeholders.

There is also no clear policy on the powers of local governments in relation to national government with regards mining, and yet, local governments are saddled with the problems and conflicts that arise from it. This does not include the political pressure being exerted on local governance, especially because mining is a "flagship industry of the Arroyo administration".

Local governments, specifically the barangay, which is the only unit of local government that has direct say on mining operations, lack understanding of basic laws and policies and basic processes and roles, lack the capacity to evaluate requests for endorsement by a mining company, and lack effective transparency and accountability mechanisms in the endorsement process.

There are also gray areas in the law with regards getting the FPIC from indigenous peoples and irregularities in implementation of agreements hatched. Since most IPs are not well versed on contract making and give much weight on word of honor. In short, they end up being duped, as word of honor has no weight in the corporate and legal world, only contracts.

There is also inadequate social preparation on the socio-cultural impact of mining operations on the IPs.

Worse, there are gaps in the implementation of the Mining Act itself, specifically on old growth forests, there is lack of trust and confidence on government regulatory agencies and mining companies, and worse, there is lack of complete, accessible and reliable information on mining and practices.

All these erase criteria number 1: (abides by the) principles of sustainable development.

Are we ready for responsible mining? The answer is no.

Mining resources should be shared - Dureza

by JMD Abangan, PIA Press Release

25th September 2008

Davao City - Mining resources should be shared, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said.

Addressing a mining forum in Davao City, Dureza urged large-scale mining investors to observe "inclusiveness" and discouraged them from driving away small-scale miners who had been in the area before big miners were granted permits to do exploration.

He said standards in mining operations in other countries which granted exclusive rights for companies to operate in areas they had been given permits won't work in the Philippines.

"Hindi yan uubra dito sa Pilipinas," Dureza said. "Kung may naghuhukay dyan, to drive them out should be the last thing to do," he said.

Dureza said large scale miners could benefit from small-scale miners with whom they could forge a mutually beneficial working relationship.

"There must be inclusivity for everybody. The natural resource is not only for those who have the money." he said. "How to equitably share them is something that all the stakeholders must talk about, must agree on," he added.

Meanwhile, Compostela Valley Governor Arturo T. Uy was looking at the same mutually beneficial relationship that the large-scale and small-scale miners can work on.

He said there could be an agreement in which the small-scale miners could become service providers to the large-scale.

He bared fears of some small-scale miners who were looking at the entry of large-scale mining investors as threats to their mining livelihood.

"We assured them na di sila basta basta mapaalis because the local government unit, for me, I am a pro-scale-miner," he told the media in an interview.

Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon during the mining forum recommended that small-scale miners who had been in the area prior to the entry of a large-scale mining company, could be allowed to go on with their activity.

Malanyaon also noted that the provincial government got deprived of its right to regulate the use of areas which had been applied for mineral exploration permits at the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau in Manila.

"I don't have anything against the large-scale mining (companies) (but) the applications seem to be a bar for small-scale mining permits," she said.

She said applications for large-scale mining exploration should not be a bar to small-scale mining applicants. (PIA)

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