MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Victory for hunger strikers against Norwegian miner

Published by MAC on 2009-11-30
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer (2009-11-27)

The hunger strike against Intex resources, by 25 citizens from the island of Mindoro, ended on Friday 27th November, as the environmental clearance (ECC) given to the company was temporarily revoked.

An investigation will now take place into alleged irregularities in the issuance of the ECC. For previous information, see: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9670

The news was welcomed by leading provincial officials. However, Manila's Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, joined by environmentalists, voiced their concerns that the ECC had been granted in the first place, given the overwhelming evidence of its illegality.

Atienza revokes ECC for nickel project; protesters end hunger strike

By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Philippine Daily Inquirer

27 November 2009

MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE 3) After 11 days of protest fast, the Mindoreños finally ended their hunger strike Friday when Environment Secretary Lito Atienza announced the temporary revocation of the controversial environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for large-scale mining issued to a Norwegian company that would be located in watershed areas and Mangyan ancestral domain.

Atienza made the announcement after the Mass of thanksgiving on the sidewalk fronting the offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Friday morning. Two bishops and about a dozen priests concelebrated the Mass which was attended by Mangyan hunger strikers, nuns, anti-mining advocates and local government officials of Mindoro.

The DENR Special Order signed Friday by Atienza temporarily revoked the ECC issued to Intex Resources last October 14.

"In the interest of the service and in view of the seriousness or the allegations attendant to ECC-CO-094-007-2721 dated October 14, 2009 issued by this Department in favor of Intex Resources for the Nickel Mining Project in the Provinces of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, the ECC is hereby temporarily revoked pending completion of a thorough and impartial investigation that will validate all allegations," the order said.

Last week, the hunger strikers that included priests briefly ended their fast and rejoiced when they thought the ECC had been indefinitely suspended. They later found out that Atienza merely issued a 90-day suspension order. Thus the hunger strikers resumed their protest.

On Friday, Atienza admitted to anti-mining advocates, bishops, the clergy and religious present that there was a lapse in the process of issuing the said ECC.

"May pagkukulang," (There was a lapse), he said, adding that he wanted to know why the ECC was issued despite the fact that the proposed mining project was in a watershed area.

"They told a lie," Atienza said without naming who misled him into signing the ECC. "There must be punishment."

But Atienza also stressed that due process must be followed, hence the "temporary revocation."

"We have to investigate, we have to prove that this is in a watershed area. It is not enough to cancel," he said. The temporary revocation, Atienza assured, meant that "nothing should move."

He added, "But please join me, so that due process would be done. Otherwise, this could go to court and you lose. The victory must be complete. I want a permanent solution."

Atienza called for the creation of an "independent, impartial investigating" group which will include civil society groups and representatives of the indigenous communities of Mindoro to examine the serious allegations of the protestors.

The report and conclusion of the investigation shall be submitted to Atienza 15 days after the completion of the task and will be "the basis of resolving the issues surrounding the ECC."

On Friday, the Mangyans and other Mindoreño protesters went to a religious house in Tagaytay City to cool off before heading home.

The Mindoreños, together with the local governments of the island, have been protesting Intex Resources' proposed nickel mining project that would cover 11,218 hectares and span four towns in Mindoro Oriental and Occidental including the ancestral domain of Alangan and Tadyawan Mangyans.

It is expected to produce 100-120 million tons of ore over a period of 15-20 years. Mindoro's nickel laterite deposit is believed to be one of the biggest in the world.

In 2005, Oriental Mindoro ordered a 25-year moratorium on mining activities in the province. In Sablayan town, in Occidental Mindoro, numerous village and municipal ordinances have been passed prohibiting the nickel mine.



Top Mindoro execs hail mining clearance revocation

Philippine Daily Inquirer

27 November 2009

MANILA, Philippines-The top officials of Oriental Mindoro welcomed the "tactical victory" achieved by Mindoreños following Environment Secretary Lito Atienza's temporary revocation of Intex Resources' clearance to mine on the island on Friday.

"The temporary revocation of the environmental compliance certificate pending the resolution of all issues relating to our opposition to the nickel project is a significant development as it will enable us to prove the basis for our objections," Governor Arnan Panaligan said.

Atienza issued the special revocation order as the protest fast of Mangyans and religious people from Mindoro demanding the revocation of the ECC that Atienza issued to the Mindoro Nickel Project of Intex entered its 11th day Friday.

"The fight against mining is not yet over," Panaligan said. "But we have gained a tactical victory."

Atienza, who personally handed a copy of his order to the hunger strikers camped outside his office, also directed the formation of an independent technical team that would look into the issues raised by the protesters and the local governments of Mindoro, said Jaybee Garganera, coordinator of the national network Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance to Stop Mining).

Panaligan maintained that the mine site, which covers about 11,200 hectares, should be off limits to mining.

"The mining area is a watershed area and part of the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples that are off limits to mining under the law," he said.

Vice-Governor Estela Aceron thanked Atienza for issuing the order even as she vowed never to let their guard down.

"We will never stop protecting our critical watershed and the rights of our indigenous peoples. We will bring back to our province the experiences and the lessons learned from this 11-day hunger strike," said Aceron.

Oriental Mindoro has ordered a 25-year ban on large-scale mining in the province, while the local governments of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro have issued numerous ordinances prohibiting the nickel mine.



An Open Letter to DENR Secretary Jose L. Atienza from Bishop Pabillo

Hon. Jose L. Atienza
Secretary
Department of Environment and Natural Resources

23 November 2009

It was with great joy that we ended our meeting last Wednesday, November 18, 2009, when, after finding out that the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the mining company, Intex Resources, in Mindoro was acquired with grave irregularity -- that it was given without the required genuine consultations and endorsements of the affected local government units, as attested by the mayors of the two directly affected towns and the governors and congressmen of the two provinces of Mindoro -- you promised to suspend the ECC.

We admired then your sense of justice and your commitment to stand by the truth. All the hunger strikers and their supporters happily celebrated a thanksgiving mass outside the DENR compound. But alas, the rejoicing was short-lived when your order came out a couple of hours later! It was just a mere 90-day suspension order. Your letter did not reflect accurately the discussions and agreements of the meeting, among which (1) the recognition of the LGU's moratorium on mining; (2) the failure of the Intex Resources to conduct a genuine consultation in the communities ; (3) the steadfast refusal of LGUs to allow the entry of the Intex Resources in the area, and (4) the sustained rejection and withholding of consent of the legitimate indigenous people to be affected by the mining operation.

We all felt betrayed. If the ECC was acquired with irregularity, why should it be just suspended for 90 days? Is it not invalid, and being so, must be revoked? Other thoughts then came to my mind. In the said dialogue, in front of two provincial governors, several mayors, congressmen, priests, two bishops, DENR officials and several Mangyan leaders, you were emphatic about your allegiance to the law and your assurance to punish anyone in your office who do not abide by the law. In our spontaneous joy at your declaration of withdrawal of the ECC, we were not able to follow up the name of the person who recommended to you its issuance without the proper procedure. Who had been at fault in issuing the ECC? Is anyone accountable for it?

We also discussed about the area covered being a watershed. You were once again emphatic that no mining company will ever be allowed to operate in a watershed area. Despite DENR's failure to formally declare part of the contested location a watershed, all of the representatives from Mindoro present in the dialogue confirmed that some 11,000 hectares covered by the ECC definitely includes the watershed that feeds the two Mindoro provinces.

The fact that the area is a watershed has long been established and explains why former DENR Secretary Alvarez cancelled the company's mining permit in July 2001. Even the technical descriptions of the place bear this out. Why then was the ECC merely suspended, and not cancelled as logic demands? Will a mere suspension order correct this mistake?

Take note that the mining concession is not only a catchment for the critical watershed of the island, but the area also overlaps with the ancestral domains of the indigenous peoples -- Alangan and Tadyawan Mangyans, whose leaders and representatives are continually holding the hunger strike in front of your DENR office. They categorically declare that a genuine Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) was never granted and that the Intex Resources resorted to deception and indirect bribery to get a pseudo-support from a number of indigenous leaders.

I do not know what manner of advice you received to issue this suspension. But it is not too late to correct the error -- and soon! The 25 hunger strikers, most of them Mangyans, are now in the 7th day of their hunger strike. Don't you care at all for their situation? Is this not part of your pro-life stance? We hear that in a matter of days you will submit your resignation from office to run for elections. Is the delay a tactic to wash your hands from your responsibility? You issued the defective ECC; have the courage to revoke it! Allow me to remind you that your responsibility is more towards the care of the Philippine environment and the Filipinos who mostly depend on a well-balanced ecosystem than towards foreign investors who are here not to help our country -- in spite of all their protestations -- but to exploit us and our natural resources. If you would have to make a mistake, better err defending the lives of the Filipino people, than err defending money and foreigners! Better to lose your face in front of foreigners than to lose it in front of your countrymen and women!

Mindoro, blessed by God with rich natural resources, is a food basket of the southern Tagalog provinces, including Metro Manila. Thousands of small farmers depend on the rivers flowing from the mountains for their irrigation. All these would be lost due to mining operation. It is because of this delicate balance of nature in the island that the provinces of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro and the Municipality of Sablayan, where the mining site is located, have issued a moratorium of mining for 25 years.

In our dialogue, you have repeatedly challenged the local officials of the island to stand their ground not to allow mining operation in the two provinces. And indeed, they have stood their ground! They have issued the moratorium. But why is this not being respected by your national office? The ECC you issued is for mining. The provinces have clearly stated that they do not want mining. Why have you even entertained the application for its issuance, and much more, issued it?

You have always insisted on the observance of the law. But the way you disregarded the decision of the local government units in Mindoro is a gross violation of Section 70 of the Mining Act of 1995, which clearly requires the conduct of a genuine consultation, approval and endorsement through ordinance from the affected municipalities and the provincial government.

Moreover, the basis for issuing the ECC is utterly baseless since you also disregarded the decision of the independent scientists who conducted the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The EIA Review Committee for the Mindoro Nickel Project voted on September 23, 2009 to recommend the denial of the ECC. However, on October 14, 2009, you unilaterally reversed the experts' decision and issued the ECC, thereby endangering the environmental safety of the island province.

I appeal to you, Mr. Secretary, to revoke the ECC. Do not blame the people for going into hunger strike. They would not have done it if the ECC was not issued in the first place. They want to have their voices heard, and now, many people even out of Mindoro -- bishops, priests, religious, lawmakers, students, parishioners and many NGO supporters are hearing it. Now is the chance for you to prove your pro-life stand and the respect you hold out for the primacy of local government. Otherwise, please do not campaign on pro-life issues in the coming election and do not claim that you are for the good of the local government in which you would be running.

"If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard." (Proverbs 21,13) I pray that you would have courage, humility and compassion.

Yours truly,

BRODERICK S. PABILLO, D.D
Auxiliary Bishop of Manila
Chairman of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Social Action -- Justice and Peace


Green groups express solidarity with protesters vs. large scale mining in Mindoro island

Kalikasan-PNE Letter to the Editor

25 November 2009

We are one with the Mangyans and Mindorenos who are campaigning for the protection of Mindoro Island from the exploitative mining project of Intex Mining Resources and are currently on a hunger strike at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Their fight is legitimate, just and noble - we are hopeful that their sacrifices will be fruitful in spite the Arroyo administration's record for ignoring people's calls and upholding foreign mining companies' interests.

Mindoro is known for pristine environment and rich natural resources. Located in the island are several biodiversity-rich, environmentally critical, and conservation priority areas like the Lubang Island, Mt. Calavite, Puerto Galera, Mt. Halcon, Naujan Lake, Sablayan island, Iglit and Baco Mountains, Malpalon, Bogbog, Bongabong, Mt. Hitding, and Mt. Hinunduan. It also has one of the best eco-tourist spots in the country such as the Puerto Gallera and Apo Reef. It is also known to be the rice granary of Southern Luzon, accounting for more than forty percent of rice produced in Southern Tagalog region.

The Intex mining concession, which covers 11,217 hectares and includes several municipalities in Mindoro Oriental and Mindoro Occidental is projected to produce hundreds of millions of tons of mine waste. This multi-billion dollar mining project will destroy the rich biodiversity in the area and will also greatly impact the tourism industry, agriculture, and fishery in the in the island. The water and marine resources in the island will definitely be affected and will lead to aggravation of poverty, more pollution, deaths and tragedies.

President Arroyo and DENR Secretary Lito Atienza, the people who are primarily tasked to protect the environment and manage our natural resources, have permitted Intex's large-scale mining operation on the island in spite an existing moratorium on large-scale mining in the provinces and a previous decision of DENR itself to cancel the said mining project.

Allowing large-scale mining in spite of the known negative effects and widespread and vocal opposition from the baranggay level to provincial governments is a direct proof of subservience to the foreign transnational mining corporation and blatant disrespect and disregard for the welfare of the community and environment of Mindoro.

Now, the strikers are risking their lives to awaken the Norwegian mining company Intex Resources and the Philippine government, particularly President Gloria Arroyo and DENR Sec. Lito Atienza, and heed the calls and be accountable to the sacrifices of the hunger strikers.

The 90-day suspension of Intex's Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued by DENR Sec. Atienza is an old trick by an old dog and a ploy to pacify the opposition. In the past, the DENR Secretary has ordered ‘investigations' or suspended environmental permits on controversial environmental projects just to deflect the public attention and deceive the groups resisting the said projects.

We are urging the residents of Mindoro to continue their fight and struggle. As with other communities and provinces with the same issue, we express our solidarity and oneness in defending our patrimony against foreign corporations and their accomplices in Malacanang.

For the people and the environment,

Clemente Bautista Jr.
National Coordinator, Kalikasan-PNE
26 Matulungin St. Central Dist., Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel./Fax; +63 (2) 924-8756; E-mail: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com, Website: www.kalikasan.org

KALIKASAN People's Network for the Environment is a network of people's organizations (POs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and environmental advocates. It believes that the struggle for the environment is a struggle of the people, thus all environmental action shall have the interest of the majority at their core.


Mangyans, mining and betrayal

By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Philippine Daily Inquirer

25 November 2009

COURAGE, HUMILITY AND COMPASSION. These, Bishop Broderick Pabillo prayed, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Lito Atienza would have so that he would correct his mistake.

Pabillo is chair of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace and auxiliary bishop of Manila. He was one of the hunger strikers who joined the Mangyans and priests of Mindoro to oppose large-scale mining in watershed and ancestral domain areas.

Two days into the hunger strike, the anti-mining protestors thought they had triumphed. They had earlier met with Atienza to urge him to cancel the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) that his office had issued to Intex Resources, a Norwegian mining company, last Oct. 14 despite strong and valid opposition from the community, the local government and the Catholic Church.

After the meeting with Atienza, a Mass of thanksgiving was held. Bishops Warlito Cajandig and Pabillo concelebrated with some 25 priests on the sidewalk fronting DENR. Arnan Panaligan and Josephine Sato, governors of Mindoro Oriental and Occidental respectively, as well as Alagad Party-list Rep. Diogenes Osabel, nuns and anti-mining advocates were present.

Moments later, they found out that they had been had. Atienza only suspended the ECC for 90 days. This meant that Intex could work a little harder to fulfill the supposed requirements and it would soon be back in the field.

Two days ago, a whole-page open letter to Atienza signed by Pabillo came out in the Inquirer. The bishop's statement, with the backing of several Church institutions, questioned Atienza's decision.

"We all felt betrayed," Pabillo said. "If the ECC was acquired with irregularity, why should it be just suspended for 90 days? Is it not invalid, and being so, must be revoked? [I]n front of two provincial governors, several mayors, congressmen, priests, two bishops, DENR officials and several Mangyan leaders, you were emphatic about your allegiance to the law and your assurance to punish anyone in your office who does not abide by the law."

What happened here? Only Atienza knows. And so the hunger strikers are still camped out in front of the DENR.

The Mangyans and anti-mining advocates have been protesting the proposed nickel mining project that would cover 11,218 hectares and span four towns in Mindoro Oriental and Occidental, including the ancestral domain of Alangan and Tadyawan Mangyans.

In 2005, Mindoro Oriental's Sangguniang Panlalawigan passed an ordinance declaring a 25-year moratorium on mining activities. 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.

Mindoro Island, home of the Mangyans, is the country's fourth largest rice-producing area with P12 billion worth of annual agricultural income.

Panaligan told the Inquirer, "We realize that this is not the end. 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.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez of Alyansa Laban Sa Mina 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 fiat "from above," in order "to ensure optimum economic growth without delay."

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) system had also been simplified. This was the reason Intex got an ECC without wide consultations with communities, the sources said.

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

I dread a Marinduque-like mining disaster that would wreak havoc on the mountains, the seas and countless human and wild life.

Mindoro is included in a 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, environmental scientist specializing in 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."

I have been to Mangyan territories a number of times. The hardy and gentle Mangyans are close to my heart. They still adhere to their age-old traditions, but they are no longer the push-overs that lowlanders thought them to be. They are now proudly reviving the use of their syllabic script. A Mangyan college student taught me how to write my name in Mangyan syllabic script.

 

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