MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Intex Resources' environmental clearance suspended, thanks to hunger strike

Published by MAC on 2009-11-23

A hunger strike, initiated against a Norwegian mining firm by 25 citizens from the island of Mindoro, including 16 indigenous Mangyan people, is continuing. See:

Their action is now being backed by a lone, hunger striker outside the World Summit on Food Security in Rome.

The strike has led directly to the suspension for 90 days of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC), granted by the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

However, the suspension is generally viewed as a political trick - allowing enough time for Lito Atienza, current Secretary for the Department, to leave office to fight the forthcoming elections, having dodged the problem he created.

The project's EIA review, classed as "advisory", was also leaked. It had proposed denying issuance of the ECC to the mine, but this was over-ruled. Atienza is coming under increasing pressure to justify his decision, given these circumstances.

Intex's trading was halted on the Oslo stock exchange, as shares tumbled in reaction to all the bad publicity and uncertainty.

Mindoro residents to push hunger strike vs mining

By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Philippine Daily Inquirer

19 November 2009

MANILA, Philippines - Mindoro residents have decided not to lift their hunger strike even after the Department of Environment and Nature Resources (DENR) suspended for 90 days the controversial environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for large-scale mining in a watershed and ancestral domain area.

Some 25 Mangyans and anti-mining advocates have been protesting the proposed nickel mining project of a Norwegian company that would cover 11,218 hectares and span four towns in Mindoro Oriental and Occidental.

In 2005 Mindoro Oriental's Provincial Board passed an ordinance declaring a 25-year moratorium on mining activities.

The ECC was issued last October 14 by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza despite strong and valid opposition from the community, the local government and the church.

The hunger strikers who were camped in front of DENR rejoiced when they first learned of the suspension order on Wednesday.

But the protestors did not consider the ECC suspension as a complete triumph. As of Thursday, many of the hunger strikers remained in front of DENR offices to demand a complete withdrawal of the ECC.

Mangyan representatives, anti-mining advocates and Bishop Warlito Cajandig of the apostolic vicariate of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, earlier met with Atienza. They questioned the ECC that, they said, was granted the Norwegian mining company Intex Resources without the required hearings and consultations.

A Mass of thanksgiving on the sidewalk was immediately held on Wednesday, officiated by Cajandig and auxiliary bishop of Manila and hunger striker Broderick Pabillo and more than 25 priests.

Arnan Panaligan and Josephine Sato, governors of Mindoro Oriental and Occidental respectively, as well as congressman Diogenes Osabel of Alagad Party, nuns and anti-mining advocates were present.

In his homily, Cajandig said : "We should not be triumphalistic. We must find out where the mistake is." Sovereignty resided in the people, he stressed. "Our leaders are supposed to be stewards," he added.

Pabillo, who joined the hunger strike told the crowd, "The hunger strike itself is not difficult. What is difficult is making the decision to go on a hunger strike." The bishop said they did not know something would come out of their efforts after only two days.

Alangan and Tadyawan Mangyans, both men and women, wore T-shirts on which their message was written. "We fight for the ancestral domains of the Mangyan tribe, 9,720 hectares of critical watershed, 25 years mining moratorium. "

Mindoro island, home of the Mangyans, their T-shirts say, is the fourth largest rice producing area with P12 billion worth of annual agricultural income.

Intex must prove the social acceptability of the mining project, Governor Panaligan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. "We realize that this is not the end. DENR will start the process again. We have to refocus and fight to show this project has no social acceptability."

Social acceptability is one of the requirements for the issuance of an ECC.

Alangan Mangyan leader Librada Isidro expressed the same sentiments when she spoke before the crowd.

The mining project will span four towns-Victoria, Pola and Socorro in Oriental Mindoro and Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro. It is expected to produce 100 to 120 million tons of ore over a period of 15 to 20 years. Mindoro's nickel laterite deposit is believed to be one of the biggest in the world.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez of Alyansa Laban Sa Mina (Alamin) and Mangyan Mission said of the 90-day suspension, "DENR is merely asking Intex to complete their papers. We want an investigation."

Former environment secretary Heherson Alvarez was said to have opposed the Mindoro mining project and refused to issue an ECC after seeing for himself the watershed area where the project would operate.

Inquirer sources showed documents to prove that the issuance of the ECC for Intex had been "fast-tracked", allegedly by a fiat "from above," in order "to ensure optimum economic growth without delay," and that the required number of days to get an ECC had been reduced and the process "streamlined." The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) system has also been simplified.

This was the reason Intex got an ECC without wide consultations with communities, the sources said.

The national anti-mining network Alyansa Tigil Mina-Alliance to Stop Mining earlier called for Atienza's ouster, saying the former Manila mayor committed "dreadful acts" when he approved the project. Intex, on the other hand, said the protestors failed to present their arguments during the public hearings.

Cajandig issued a call through the Diocesan Commission on Service, asking for the support of priests, religious, seminarians, students, lay and all people of goodwill "to pray and join in the campaign against mining in Mindoro."

In his privileged speech in Congress last Monday, Osabel stressed the importance of social acceptability. "There should be a credible and acceptable consultation and local government-stakeholder's consent, requirements which the EMB, DENR and Intex have failed to fulfill."

Speaking in Filipino, Osabel also called for a "congressional investigation of DENR, MGB, EMB and NCIP and other agencies involved" in the ECC issuance.

According to the Ateneo-based Simbahang Lingkod Bayan (SLB, Church Service for the Nation) "the large scale mining operations of Intex Resources, a Norwegian-based mining company, may bring about the destruction of a contiguous watershed and that can lead to the displacement of several indigenous Mangyan communities in Oriental Mindoro."

Mindoro is tackled in a comprehensive and detailed study on mining in Mindoro, Sibuyan Island and Mindanao, "Philippines: Mining or Food" (2008) commissioned by several international development agencies including Misereor of the Catholic Bishops of Germany.

The study was done by Robert Goodland, an environmental scientist specializing economic development, and Clive Wicks, engineering, agriculture and environmental specialist, with the UK-based Working Group on Mining in the Philippines.

The study concluded: "Intex and all mining companies should comply with the mining moratoria...The Intex Mindoro Mining Project, and the other 91 mining applications being considered for the tropical island, would damage most of the water catchment area and the possibility of sustainable food production in the foreseeable future of Mindoro."

Arroyo wants Atienza to explain Mindoro mining clearance

Katherine Evangelista, 

18 November 2009

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wants an explanation from Environment Secretary Lito Atienza why he allowed a Norwegian firm to mine nickel in Mindoro despite mining bans issued by the island’s local governments.

Atienza needs to justify the issuance of an environmental compliance certificate to Oslo-based Intex Resources to mine 11,216.6 hectares of land in Mindoro, said Press Secretary Cerge Remonde.

This comes as 25 Mangyans, priests and environmental activists stage a hunger strike in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources head office in Quezon City to protest the “patently illegal” and “railroaded” issuance of the mining clearance.

“Government officials of Mindoro have complained that the project would displace around 20,000 residents mostly Mangyans. The officials claimed the mining project would affect agriculture and threaten forest conservation areas, where tamaraws roam and in nearby Puerto Galera, a favorite tourist destination,” said Remonde.

“The officials are also asking DENR to respect the 25-year mining moratorium in the province,” he said.

Oriental Mindoro has ordered a 25-year ban on large-scale mining in the province, while the municipality of Sablayan and 22 of its villages issued resolutions opposing the project.

When asked if Atienza’s decision violates the president’s policy on environment conservation and protection, Remonde said the government needs to strike a balance between development and protection of environment.

When asked if Atienza’s action goes against Arroyo’s policy on environment conservation and protection, Remonde said the “government needs to strike a balance between development and the protection of environment.”

“That’s why,” he added, “the Palace would ask Atienza to explain himself.”

As of this posting, the protesters agreed to meet with Atienza for a dialogue.

But Fr. Edwin Gariguez, one of the 25 hunger strikers and spokesman of the Alyansa Laban sa Mina (Alamin, Alliance Against Mining) said they would meet with the former Manila mayor only to press their non-negotiable demand to revoke the mining clearance.

“We will dialogue only to make our non-negotiable demand that Atienza revoke the environmental compliance certificate illegally issued to Intex Resources,” he said.

Anti-Mindoro mining farmer stages hunger strike in Rome

17 October 2009

MANILA, Philippines—At the opening of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s World Summit on Food Security in Rome, young farmer from Mindoro island went on a hunger strike to protest a mining project in his province.

The Mindoro Nickel Project, to be operated by Intex Resources, a giant mining company in Norway and located at Victoria, Oriental Mindoro, will cover 9,720 hectares of critical watershed areas and affect the rice farmers in the nearby towns, since the watershed area is the farmers’ main source for irrigation.

Together with Jonjon Sarmiento, a participant to the Civil Society Organization Forum Parallel to the World Summit on Food Security, 25 Mangyans and priests also started a hunger strike and fasting outside the offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Quezon City.

“I am from this town. I am a farmer. I am a youth leader. I am here in Rome. So, I will join my town mates in their hunger strike while I am here in Rome,” Sarmiento said.

Sarmiento farms a .044-hectare land, using integrated, diversified, organic farming. In his farm, he has some plots for organic rice, vegetables, and fruits. He also raises some goats and pigs. He is a youth organizer of the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (Pakisama or National Confederation of Peasant Movement), a member organization of Asian Farmers’ Association or AFA, one of the International Steering Committee members of the CSO Forum.

The Mindoro Nickel Project has been opposed by the people and the local authorities for the past 15 years. But last October 14, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

The ECC allows for the extraction of nickel ore covering 11,216 hectares of mining tenement, a big part of which is identified as critical watershed catchment of Mag-asawang Tubig and Bucayao River systems, as affirmed by the recently concluded Norwegian Agency Development Corporation (Norad) study.

House Resolution 25 states that the mining site encroaches on the largest source of irrigation water for the 40,000 hectares of rice lands in Calapan City, and the towns of Naujan, Baco, and Victoria, Oriental Mindoro.

“Today, governments all over the world will be in Rome to discuss for the World Food Summit. We urge FAO and the governments to stop all activities that threaten the food security of the local people of a developing country and to respect the rights of indigenous peoples. We ask the Norwegian government to investigate the operations of Intex Resources,” said Sarmiento.

The province of Oriental Mindoro, which is ranked third as the province that produces the most food in the country, and known as the food basket of the southern Luzon region is threatened by Intex Resources’s attempt to open up a nickel mine despite local opposition. The proposed mine site is located within a critical watershed area that provides the irrigation for 70 percent of the provinces vital rice fields and fruit plantations.

“Thus, the Intex ECC should be revoked by the government!” said Sarmiento.

In Occidental Mindoro, the town of Sablayan is one of the major rice- and corn-producing areas in the province and any major mining operations would greatly affect the agriculture production and endanger social economic conditions in the area. Sablayan’s 22 barangays (villages) and its Sangguniang Bayan (town council) are opposed to mining operations expressed through their respective resolutions and through a municipal mining moratorium ordinance.

Ermita says mining firms in watersheds risk ECC cancellation


18 November 2009

The Environment Compliance Certificates (ECC) issued to mining companies will be revoked if they violate mining laws, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said today.

In a media briefing in Malacañang this afternoon, Ermita said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is looking into claims by certain quarters that three nickel mining companies in Mindoro are putting up processing plants in watersheds.

Under the Philippine mining laws, watersheds and forests are protected areas, and therefore off-limits to such destructive operation.

The foreign mining firms – Intex Resources, Agusan Petroleum and Pitkin Ltd. -- were issued ECCs and allowed to mine nickel in 208,561 hectares or almost 20 percent of the total land area of Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro.

But local governments, along with the affected communities, oppose the ECCs, saying the presence of the mining companies violates their anti-mining ordinances and resolutions.

But Ermita said DENR Secretary Lito Atienza had assured him that “the ECCs passed through the correct process,” Ermita said.

He added that Atienza knows of no plans about conducting mining operations in the watersheds. “However, if any of the companies operates in areas off-limits to them, then I will revoke its ECC but not until then,” Ermita said quoting Atienza.

The Executive Secretary pointed out that the three mining companies are expected to generate 3,000 jobs. Still, he said, the government will not hesitate to close down their operations if they prove destructive to the environment.

He added the companies are putting up a processing plant that will be among the largest in the world, and so it is to their interest to respect the laws governing their operations.


Manila freezes Intex's permit for $2.4 bln nickel project


18 November 2009

MANILA - The Philippine government on Wednesday suspended a mining permit given last month to the $2.4 billion nickel project of Norwegian firm Intex Resources ASA (ITXX.OL) following opposition from local communities.

"I have directed the Environmental Management Bureau to immediately suspend the environmental compliance certificate of Mindoro Nickel Project until such time that a genuine public consultation shall have been undertaken involving the concerned local government units, the Church and other interested groups," Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza said in a statement.

The provincial government of Mindoro, an island in the central Philippines, said there was no consultation between the government, Intex and the local communities on the mining project, which residents say sits on a watershed.

About two dozen people, including members of a tribal community, priests, local officials and some residents began a hunger strike in front of the environment ministry from Tuesday to force the government to revoke the mining permit.

The mine has estimated reserves of more than 2 million tonnes of nickel. Intex secured its mining permit on Oct. 14.

The Philippine government had scrapped a permit for the same nickel project in 2001 after finding out that the mine site was located on a watershed.

The Southeast Asian country is targeting its mining sector, one of the world's largest and most lucrative in the early 1970s, to attract up to $14.5 billion in investments by 2013.

But only around $2.4 billion has flowed in since 2004 due to communist insurgencies, disputes with communities and local partners and opposition from the Catholic Church. (Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Intex shares, mining permit frozen


18 November 2009

Share trading in Norwegian firm Intex Resources ASA is halted by the Oslo Stock Exchange after a 8.2 percent fall to a 10-week low for the stock following the suspension of a mining permit in the Philippines.

"A politician says the environmental certificate has been withdrawn, and we interpret this as an obvious setback that will lead to delays," one trader says.

Support Statement with Hunger Strikers over Intex Resources’ project

Working Group on Mining in the Philippines

18 November 2009

The UK-based Working Group on Mining in the Philippines wish to express our solidarity with you on your hunger strike to protest the issuance to the Norwegian Company, Intex Resources, of an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Joselito Atienza in October 2009.

In our 2008 report Philippines: Mining or Food? we noted that Intex Resources claim that the “benefits of the project are endless”. This was not the opinion of the authors, who found that the project would seriously damage food production, human rights and the environment of Mindoro.

The 2008 report also noted how the majority of sectors including the Provincial Governments and Churches in Mindoro are strongly opposed to Intex and have not given their consent as required by Philippine law. Your hunger strike outside the DENR is an action of last resort to unmask the collusion of the national government against the stated policy for sustainability of the Provinces of Mindoro. It rightly challenges the legitimacy of the decision of the Secretary of the DENR to grant Intex an ECC. This decision flies in the face of the constant and consistent opposition of the people of Mindoro, including the impacted indigenous peoples, and their local government officials, most notably the Provincial Governors of both Mindoro Occidental and Oriental.  It is also in breach of the law as it violates the 25-year Mining Moratorium that has been put in place by the Provincial Government in Mindoro Oriental.

We note with concern that the mining project is still the subject of an on-going complaint to the Norwegian National Contact Point (NCP), under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The ECC has been issued before the Norwegian Ambassador has had a chance to engage in a fact-finding engagement as requested by the Norwegian NCP.  We regard this as a deliberate attempt to obstruct the people of Mindoro’s access to remedies under international processes.

We understand and agree with your clearly stated concerns, and – as noted in our report – we still believe the project would damage one of the most important water catchment areas and the possibility of sustainable food production in the foreseeable future for Mindoro. We therefore hope your action will lead to the DENR Secretary reconsidering his decision by cancelling the ECC, as well as the original mining permits, and adopting a more rational and just overall approach to mining in the Philippines that respects the environment, human rights and the rule of law'.

Fr Frank Nally,
On behalf of the Working Group on Mining in the Philippines


Which part of the sentence, “NO!” do you not get?

Open letter by LRC-KsK to Lito Atienza: No means no!

19 November 2009

In front of your office at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are 25 women and men, mostly Mangyan people, from Mindoro, who are on hunger strike. They are calling for the cancellation of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) you have issued to the Norwegian mining company, Intex for its Mindoro Nickel Project. They are the people who will be experiencing the direct impacts of the mining operations, and they have not been consulted, not by DENR, nor by INTEX. Most probably because you and INTEX would not want to hear what they have to say. Thus, they are bringing their position to your doorstep – they don’t want INTEX, they don’t want mining in the Alangan Mangyan’s ancestral domain, not in their watershed and anywhere in Mindoro.

A 25-year moratorium on mining was passed in 2002 in Oriental Mindoro. Similar ordinances were passed by different municipal governments of Occidental Mindoro, with 8 out of 11 municipalities passing a resolution against mining.

Governors, vice-governors, mayors and congressmen repeatedly stated in strong terms, and strong voices, that they do not want mining in their provinces. They said this in various public hearings in the provinces, they repeated this in DENR last Monday as the hunger strike began, and yesterday during the dialogue with you.

The Bishops, priests and nuns have called for the respect of the peoples’ strong position against mining, and one of them, Fr. Edwin Gariguez, a Mindoreno himself, is one of the hunger strikers. They made this statement in the pulpits, they made this on the streets of Mindoro, they repeated this during the dialogue with you, and they are reiterating this position in the hunger strike now.

You have issued the ECC to INTEX on October 14 even without the necessary requirements from INTEX - no documentation of public consultation, no documentation proving that they are not within the watershed areas. In fact, you have issued the ECC without waiting for the recommendation of the EIA-Review Committee. And that would not be surprising now that the Review Committee report has been released, with their final recommendation – DENIAL of the ECC. One of their findings is that no public consultation with the stakeholders directly affected was held; 4 of the 6 components of the mining project have no baseline data, particularly on terrestrial flora and fauna; and that there was no proper project area delineation.

With all of these, all you have to show for is a mere suspension of the ECC for 90 days. You are in effect giving INTEX and yourself the opportunity to cover up the inherent defects of the ECC . The 25 year moratorium was not recognized in the suspension order, and most certainly not the ancestral domain of the Mangyans.

What does it have to take for you to hear the message of the people of Mindoro? The LGUs and the religious of Mindoro are now more angered by the inadequacy of the suspension order, and the deceit with which this was issued. The 25 people who are on hunger strike are now more determined to pursue their cause.

The message of the Mindoro people is loud and clear –NO to INTEX. NO to mining in their provinces. The final recommendation of the EIA Review Committee –NO ECC for INTEX.

Why can’t you take NO for an answer, Mr. Lito Atienza? For someone who has been said NO to by the Commission on Appointment for 8 times, it might be really difficult for you to understand that NO is the opposite of yes. That NO is a negative response. That NO is a NO.

So before you leave your office to run for Mayor again, clean up your mess. REVOKE THE ECC of INTEX.

In solidarity with the people of Mindoro,

Judy A.Pasimio
Executive Director
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK/Friends of the Earth-Phils.)

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