MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Mindoro execs threaten to sue Atienza over ‘patently illegal’ mining clearance

Published by MAC on 2009-11-09

Following protests against the highly questionable granting of mining rights to Intex (see http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9599), the governors of the provinces affected have come out fighting.

Mindoro execs threaten to sue Atienza over ‘patently illegal' mining clearance

By Maila Ager, Philippine Daily Inquirer

6 November 2009

MANILA, Philippines - The two governors of Mindoro island have threatened to sue Environment Secretary Lito Atienza for a "patently illegal" issuance of an environmental clearance to a Norway-based mining firm.

Governor Arnan Panaligan on Friday said Atienza issued the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to Intex Resources Philippines even as "the proposed mining area is encompassed in a critical watershed area that the Mining Act itself declares as off limits to any mining activity."

The project, which covers 11,216.6 hectares, will also encroach on the ancestral domain of the Mangyan, which is another violation of the country's mining laws, Panaligan said in a press conference in Quezon City.

Occidental Mindoro Governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato said however they needed to exhaust other legal remedies before going to court.

"We are still studying what we can do because we can't go to court without exhausting other available legal remedies," said Sato.

"We are now gathering (pieces of) evidence so we could launch our legal action," she said.

Panaligan said they were looking into the possible administrative and criminal liabilities of Atienza in doing the "unjust action."

Initially, he said the local executives of Mindoro might file a motion for reconsideration before the DENR or make a direct appeal to Malacañang to take back the mining clearance.

Atienza issued the ECC on October 14 allowing Intex to exploit Mindoro's laterite deposit, which is believed to be one of the biggest in the world. The project is expected to produce 100 to 120 million tons of ore over a period of 15 to 20 years.

Panaligan said the opposition of the Mindoreños to the nickel project was not based on "capricious" grounds.

"The destruction of our watershed areas will deprive our people of sources of water for drinking and irrigation purposes. More seriously, the destruction of critical watershed will lead to disastrous flooding that will kill our people and destroy our communities," he said.

The go-ahead signal given by Atienza to Intex was also an affront to the local governments of Mindoro, Pangilinan said.

Oriental Mindoro has ordered a 25-year ban on large-scale mining in the province while 22 villages and the Sangguniang Bayan of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro have issued resolutions opposing the project.

The project will cover the towns of Victoria, Pola and Socorro in Oriental Mindoro and Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro.

Other Mindoro officials present at Friday's press conference were Oriental Mindoro Representative Alfonso Umali and Oriental Mindoro Vice Governor Estela Aceron.

Umali said a series of protest actions, including a hunger strike by Catholic priests on November 17, would be held to stop the entry of the mining firm into the island.

Last Friday, about 5,000 demonstrators carrying mock coffins marched through downtown Calapan City to protest the "railroaded" issuance of the ECC to Intex.

The national anti-mining network Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM, Alliance to Stop Mining) has called for Atienza's ouster, saying the former Manila mayor committed "dreadful acts" in issuing the ECC.

"The approval and issuance of the ECC is premature and short of procedural and substantial requirements particularly on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, considering that the Review Committee has not come up with its recommendation when Secretary Atienza issued the ECC," said ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera.

"Secretary Atienza should be ousted for his dreadful acts. It is horrific and ironic for a DENR secretary to consistently favor big mining companies over the conservation and preservation of environment, which provides benefits the Filipino people more rather than mining," said Garganera.


Mindoro officials threaten to sue environment chief on mining ECC

Press release on http://mindorocybermovement.wordpress.com

7 November 2009

MANILA, Philippines-Local government officials in Mindoro denounced Environment Secretary Lito Atienza for the "irregular" and "patently illegal" issuance of a mining clearance to the Norwegian-based Intex Resources.

In a press conference held in Quezon City November 6, the officials, led by the governors of the island's two provinces, threatened to file appropriate charges against Atienza for granting an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to the Mindoro Nickel Project of Intex.

Oriental Mindoro Governor Arnan Panaligan said Atienza might be held liable for violating the Mining Act when he issued the ECC, saying: "The mining site is within the critical area of the watershed and it is also an ancestral domain area."

"That's one option, because in our view the Mining Act has been violated in the issuance of the ECC. There's a provision in the Mining Act banning mining activities in watershed and ancestral domain areas," Panaligan said.

Panaligan said the Mindoro officials would look into the possible administrative and criminal liabilities of Atienza in giving the go-ahead signal to the widely-opposed nickel mine project, which covers 11,216.6 hectares.

"We are opposed to this project because the ECC is irregular. It seems that the process for this ECC was done summarily," Panaligan said.

Occidental Mindoro Governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato said the action of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was an affront to the authority of local officials to protect the environment and general welfare of their constituents as enshrined in the Local Government Code.

Sato stressed that based on DENR Administration Order 9640 series of 1996, the environment department should study first the impact of the mining project on the environment before giving its green light.

The ECC was issued despite the project's lack of "legitimate social acceptability," a provision contained in the Philippine mining and local government laws.

"We oppose this project not because we are against the national government's thrust on large-scale mining. We oppose this project because its ECC is irregular. It would seem that the process for this ECC was done summarily," said Panaligan.

"If they have the authority on mining, we have the authority in the local government. We would stand by our strong opposition to mining," Sato said.

"If they file cases against us on this, we will continue to fight for the interest of our constituents and the environment," Sato said.

"We are now gathering (pieces of) evidence so we can firm up our legal action," she said.

"The destruction of our watershed areas will deprive our people of sources of water for drinking and irrigation purposes. More seriously, the destruction of critical watershed will lead to disastrous flooding that will kill our people and destroy our communities," he said.

But Panaligan said the local officials and civil society groups in Mindoro would first exhaust all available legal remedies to reverse the "patently illegal" and "unjust action" of the DENR before bringing the issue before the court.

The local governments of Mindoro might file a motion for reconsideration before the DENR or make a direct appeal to the Office of the President, Panaligan said.

Sato said the project would also imperil the country's food security as Mindoro is considered as a food basket in the Philippines.

The project covers around 3,000 hectares in the municipalities of Victoria, Pola and Socorro in Oriental Mindoro and about 9,000 hectares in Sablayan town in Occidental Mindoro. The project is expected to produce 100 to 120 million tons of ore over a period of 15 to 20 years.

Abra de Ilog Mayor Eric Constantino said about 20,000 Mangyan, the indigenous people of Mindoro, would be affected by the project as it would encroach on their ancestral land.

At the same time, he said the project will disturb the habitat of the already endangered Tamaraw, which is endemic on Mindoro island. The Tamaraw has been on the list of endangered species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Switzerland.

Panaligan said the mining project had been cancelled by former Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez because it failed to pass the DENR's study done by the technical review committee. But Michael "Mike" Defensor, who replaced Alvarez, reinstated the mining application in 2005.

Oriental Mindoro Representative Alfonso Umali said a series of protest actions would be launched to stop the entry of Intex into the already ecologically-fragile island.

On November 30, around 5,000 indignant Mindorenos held a mock funeral in Calapan City to protest the "railroaded" issuance of the ECC to Intex.

"Kapag tinatanong ako ng media kung ano ang dahilan kung bakit binigyan ng ECC (ang Intex Resources ), ang sinasabi ko, ‘Magkano ang dahilan?'," Umali said but refused to elaborate.

For more information:
Governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato
Mobile number: 0918-9068254

Governor Arnan Panaligan
Provincial Capitol: (63)43 2867118; (63)43 288-4789

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