Archive for the ‘mining’ Category

NCIP receives Bakun folk opposition vs. Royalco

March 5, 2009

BAKUN, Benguet — Residents of Bakun, Benguet submitted last Friday to the regional and provincial offices of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) a resolution for the permanent suspension of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and the rejection of any exploration in their area by Royalco, Philippines.


COMMUNITY UNITY. Gambang residents renew their opposition against proposed explorations as the mine activities allegedly will destroy their agriculture-based livelihood and environment. Photo courtesy of Mariz Guinyawan

Their position was handed by Chairman Ernesto Soriben of Bakun – Aywanan and Bakun Mayor Marcelo Contada.

Denominated as Bakun-Aywanan Resolution No. 002, series of 2009.

It was endorsed by the Barangay Council of Gambang, the Bakun Municipal government, and Benguet Provincial Governor Nestor Fongwan.

The residents of Gambang, Bakun headed by the Bantay ken Kinabaknang ti Umili a Nagtaudan-Aywanan (Bakun-Aywanan) are vigilantly guarding against the possible approval of the exploration applications of the Royalco, Philippines for Phase 3 and other areas in Bakun.

It was reported by the residents that a MOA was about to be signed by few land owners last November 18, 2008 without legal and proper consultation with the majority residents of the target areas. It was stopped. The MOA signing was indefinitely suspended due to the organized appeal made last November 17 and 18, 2008 at the Regional and Provincial NCIP offices.

Meanwhile, to strengthen unity and hone their leadership skills, the Bakun-Aywanan’ council of elders held their first Leadership Training Seminar last January 16 and on February 09, 2009.

The seven community organizations and some individuals affiliated to Bakun-Aywanan on February 22 where they conferred the Basis of Unity presented by the Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network (BMAAN) Spokesperson Vergel Aniceto as embodied under the Constitution and By-Laws of the Bakun-Aywanan. They reaffirmed the opposition against large scale mining and destructive industries.

Witnessed by almost 180 residents and officials, Mayor Contada inducted the new officials and representatives of Bakun-Aywanan.


Photo courtesy of Mariz Guinyawan

Javier Akien, vice chairman of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, challenges the leaders where he recalled the historical struggles by the Bakun people against several attempts of mining operations. “I urged you to stay on guard for the protection of their ancestral domain as their source of life and the preservation of the indigenous history.”

Elder Fausto Labinio, Bakun ex-councilor, called the people to strengthen their fight against the mining corporation and give his full support to the organization while elder Marcelino Dati pledged his support and guidance on their struggle.

In closing their February 22 activity, they paid tribute to elder Mundo Taguda, a respected council of elder and officer of the Bakun-Aywanan, who passed away last November 27 after he led the community oppositions. His family was given the highest appreciation and recognition for his contribution to the earlier struggle against Royalco, Philippines, Incorporation. # Sonia S. Bullong

AFP ops disrupt Abra economy

March 5, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — On-going military operations between government troops and revolutionaries has greatly disrupted production and further impoverished the communities in Abra.

The 41st Infantry Battalion under the 503rd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operations are continuously in pursuit of the revolutionary forces of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the province of Abra.

Basically dependent on farm produce and their small-scale mines for food and cash, people of the barrios of Talampak, Pacoc, Buneg and Guinabang in Lacub raised concern about the prolonged government operations that reportedly destroyed farm crops and disrupted continuing farm production activities.

In February last year, there were aerial bombings in the area of Tubtuba, Tubo where 191 bombshells were reportedly dropped. The bombings have frightened the people in the affected and surrounding communities that many of them have preferred to stay away from their farms, reducing harvest in the first cropping season.

Again, sometime in June to July last year, battalion troop movements through the farms of the above mentioned barrios have trampled and destroyed a substantial area of newly planted rice fields with young seedlings for the second cropping further causing reduction in farm produce.

This year’s beginning of the cropping season has again recently been disrupted by an ensuing firefight between these two contending forces.

Stifling local livelihood

Initial interviews and reports made by the Abra Human Rights Alliance (AHRA) indicate that military war initiative in the area has greatly limited the daily economic activities in the communities.

The soldiers has enforced curfew hours to limit movements and facilitate monitoring of the villagers, preventing them from completing farm production schedules.

They have also prevented and limited the community from traveling out of an imposed perimeter, preventing them from checking on the irrigation water flow and from going to their mine areas.

It is an age-old farm practice to go out at dawn and work till mid-morning then go home for brunch to avoid the tropical mid-day heat, and return to work again when it is cooler at mid afternoon until late night.

Under the military impositions the people just move around the village housing area as their fields and mines are further out of the perimeters imposed.

Under these circumstances and for lack of something to do the people tend to deviate to anti-social activities like drinking and gambling.

In the same initial report, war shock was apparent as was indicated that villagers, especially children, have complained of deafness, hysteria and trauma from the loud and prolonged period of gunfire exchange and shelling. # Kathleen T. Okubo

ADB Chico, Agno forest aid futile as Mine applications blanket Cordillera

March 5, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — Community elders and environmental groups in the region branded the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded reforestation projects of the Agno and Chico Rivers’ watersheds as an exercise in futility.

Cordillera Elders’ Alliance (CEA) and Benguet Mining Action Alert Network (BMAAN) hit the project that is supposed to protect the watersheds as useless, because the government also allows mining applications that threaten to destroy these watersheds.

The watersheds for the Chico and Agno Rivers were among the forest areas in the country which would be financed by the $80 million loan from the ADB under the Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management (INREM) to be implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Johnny Sawadan, an elder from the upper stream of the Chico River in Kalinga and CEA deputy secretary-general said the government reforestation program is a manifestation of its inconsistent policies.

Useless reforestation with large mines

“While it mouthed to reforest the critical watershed areas of the Agno and Chico Rivers, it also accepted large mine applications from both local and foreign corporations in these watershed areas,” added Sawadan,

An elder from the brave and fierce Tulgao sub-tribe of Kalinga, Sawadan added that these watershed areas were covered by mine applications due to the revitalization of the mining program by the present administration of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He claimed that in the considered watershed areas of the Chico River in the boundaries of Ifugao-Mountain Province and Mountain Province-Kalinga, there are at least six applications for financial and technical assistance agreement (AFTA) mostly by foreign corporations, two applications for production and sharing agreements (PSA), and five exploration permit agreements (EXPA) which is almost 49.92 percent of the total mine applications covering 1,111,995.4351 hectares listed at the records of the MGB-DENR-CAR.

The region’s total land area is 1.8 million hectares.

Forest reserves, national park

The watershed areas of the Chico and Agno rivers are part of the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve declared during the time of the American colonial period.

In the case of Agno River where Ambuclao and Binga dams are found, while a part of the Cordillera Forest Reserve, the upper areas of the dams were also declared watershed reservations after they were built in the 1950s.

In 1987, former Pres. Corazon Aquino also declared Mount Pulag as a National Park. It is the second highest peak in the country and hosts major tributaries to major rivers that flow into the Ambuclao and Binga dams in Benguet, and the Magat dam in Ifugao. The three dams are now under the management of the SN-Aboitiz Power.

As watershed or protected areas, indigenous peoples are prohibited to engage in any economic activities – even their traditional practices, said Sawadan by enumerating various state laws like the Revised Forestry Code and the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS). He wonders however how these applications had been accepted yet allegedly covering critical forest and watersheds.

Community reforestation

Another Ibaloi leader downstream the Agno River in Benguet said that the reforestation project could be better implemented by the community.

Virgilio Aniceto, BMAAN spokesperson, said that the reforestation project could be better given to the communities.

“There might be non-realization of these projects with the extent of anomalies, including of rigging of contracts, by the present administration of GMA,” added Aniceto, a former miner and now a pastor, in an interview.

Sawadan added these projects will not succeed if the community is not involved monitoring and management.

Jaime Dugao, a Sangguniang Bayan of Sagada, also a water source of Chico River said that communities are the appropriate partners for reforestation as they have their indigenous systems of forest management like the pirahwa system among the Tulgao of Kalinga, batangan in upper Mountain Province, muyong in Ifugao, and also in Benguet.

It is actually these systems that maintained the region’s forests added Dugao, a Kankanaey. These systems are not being utilized, supported, and appreciated by the government, he said adding, “this would be our contribution to climate change – the adoption, institutionalization, and operationalization of these indigenous forest management systems.”

Aniceto pointed out that reforestation is useless if the government allows large scale mining in the water sources in the region. He cited that the Abra River was polluted by mining in the upstream and the government should learn from this experience.

The bottom line is to repeal RA 7942, the mining act of 1995, which institutionalized large scale mining over the conservation of the environment. # Arthur L. Allad-iw

Unrestrained mining may cause rice shortage, foreign environment experts warn

January 30, 2009

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/27 January) – A moratorium on mining is needed if the Philippines is to avoid a rice shortage in the long term, foreign environment experts today said in a presentation of a study done in six mining sites across the country. The study was conducted in Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur; Libay, Zamboanga del Norte, Tampakan, South Cotabato; Pujada Bay, Davao Oriental; Victoria, Mindoro and Sibuyan Island, Romblon.

The results of the study conducted by Working Group on Mining in the Philippines echoed the sentiment earlier raised by the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

“Mining in these locations would cause massive environment problems jeopardizing food security and supplies by damaging agriculture and fisheries,” the book “Philippines: Mining or Food”, authored by Clive Wicks and Robert Goodland, said.

The book is set to be launched on February 4 in Manila.

Goodland, a former World Bank environment scientist for 25 years, warned that mining will adversely affect rice production in the country in the long term if the government continues its pro-mining stance.

“[To avert this rice crisis] the government should promote rice production and demote mining in its economic agenda,” he told the plenary.

He noted that the Philippines was once self-sufficient in rice “but is now the world’s biggest importer,” which was rooted in the failure of the government to maintain the health of its agricultural sector.

Goodland cited the threats posed by the venture of Sagittarius Mines Inc. to food security in the area.

“Open pit mining is terrifying, especially that the mining area sits in an earthquake fault. The oceans surrounding the mining area will be in danger of contamination (once the project pushes through),” he said.

Representatives from the local Catholic Church, academe, non-government organizations, farmers and local government officials attended the group’s presentation.

Sagittarius, which is owned by global mining player Xstrata Copper and Australian firm Indophil Resources NL, is currently undertaking an exploration.

Sagittarius officials have repeatedly assured that environment protection is one of the company’s key thrusts once they go into commercial production.

Goodland noted the mines development site straddles vital watershed areas that flow towards Lake Buluan, an important source of livelihood for the Moro-dominated town of Buluan in Maguindanao province.

“Forget Lake Buluan [in the long-term] once the mining goes into production,” Dave E. de Vera, executive director of the non-government Philippine Association of Inter-Cultural Development, said in a separate interview.

De Vera presented a map showing the watershed areas within and outside the mines development site of Sagittarius and other prospective mining investors.

The map showed that Lake Buluan serves as the catchment of water coming from the mountains of Tampakan, where 70% of the land area is prospective mine site, he said.

Last month, the CBCP, through its president, Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, asked the government to impose a moratorium on mining across the country for the sake of the environment, livelihood and food security in the country.

“No material gain can equate the value of life. Every Filipino depends on the environment. Because of the threats against these fragile resources, our lives and livelihood are likewise threatened,” Archbishop Lagdameo said in the pastoral letter titled “Upholding the Sanctity of Life.”

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said the CBCP statement was “out of touch” with the sentiment of a million or more Filipinos who rely on the “responsible” segment of the industry. (MindaNews)

Anti-Mining Activist Gunned Down in ComVal

January 6, 2009

An anti-large scale mining activist was killed by unidentified men yesterday, 23 December 2008, at New Bataan, Compostela Valley Province, environmental activist group Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) today reported.

At around 7:00 in the evening, an unidentified men brutally killed 39-year old environmental activist leader Fernando “Dodong” Sarmiento, Secretary General of Panalipdan-New Bataan, at Purok 1, Barangay Cabinuangan, New Bataan, Compostela Valley Province, said Panalipdan-SMR spokesperson Francis Morales, citing reports from the field.

“Dodong Sarmiento sustained 5 gun-shot wounds that resulted to his death”, Morales said.

“We condemn in the strongest term the brutal killing of Dodong Sarmiento, who is known for leading the rural folks of New Bataan in calling for the stoppage of the operations of PhilCo Mining Corporation, the planned exploration of other mining corporations and mining-instigated militarization under the command of 10th Infantry Division, citing as reasons for their resistance on the destruction that large-scale mining operations brought on people’s livelihoods and local ecosystems”, Morales stressed.

“The environmental group believes that Sarmiento was killed by military elements due to his advocacies. Last 16 July 2008, Sarmiento was interrogated by the elements of 28th Infantry Batallion, Philippine Army (IBPA) under Lt. Wendel Ariola for his active involvement in environmental campaigns and was accused as rebel supporter. Then on 22 July 2008, the military posted on its website falsely claiming that Sarmiento was a rebel surrenderee”, Morales divulged.

“This is a typical mode of operation of the military in implementing the Oplan Bantay Laya 2 in the rural areas of Compostela Valley wherein activist leaders were maligned and demonized first before being killed”, Morales furthered.

The Panalipdan-SMR leader said that Sarmiento is the first environmental activist in Southern Mindanao killed after the Arroyo administration formed the Investment Defense Force (IDF) and when the 10th ID chief Major General Leo Jogy Fojas declared that New Bataan is the rebel’s center operations which is actually meant to wipe-out all types of opposition against mining aggression.

Under the Arroyo regime, 24 environmental activists have been killed which indicate the rise on human rights violations in relation to opposition to mining projects, based on the documentation of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

The Arroyo administration and the 10th ID should be held accountable the killing of Sarmiento. This is an administration which aggressively promotes plunder of mineral resources and sell-out of our national patrimony to foreign firms at the expense of people’s welfare and fragile ecosystems, Morales said.(PinoyPress)

Anti large-scale mining battle of Nueva Vizcaya gets ardent back-up

December 22, 2008

International and national and delegates from church, health, youth, peasant, scientists, indigenous peoples (IP) and environmental groups showed support to the anti-large-scale mining campaign of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya through a three-day International Solidarity Mission (ISM). The delegates of the ISM avow to gather strong support from other sectors and organizations, both here and abroad.  “We were surprised at the solid campaign of the people to defend their lands and rights by opposing large-scale mining in their communities. Then again, the people of Nueva Vizcaya have much to lose, given their rich natural resources and long-established cultural community, if large-scale mining operations continue in their area,” observed one of the international delegates, Edith Raseil of United Church of Christ, USA.

On December 7-8, the ISM team visited the targeted expansion areas of Didipio gold-copper mining project of Australian-owned OceanaGold, which are Barangay Alimit and Malabing, of the Municipality of Kasibu. The team found out that the destruction of major agricultural and forest lands through the mine expansion would have grave economic and environmental consequences, not only to the said communities but to the whole province as well.

“The IP communities in Brgy. Alimit and Malabing are at risk of experiencing the same fate as those communities where multi-national mining corporations were allowed to enter. They are in danger of losing the resources most precious to us IPs, which is our land and right to self- determination,” said Himpad Mangumalas, leader of national IP organization, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamayan sa Pilipinas.

Himpad added that, “It is very disheartening to find how the resources and the very rights we have been fighting for since time immemorial are easily given to foreign companies. One instance is how OceanaGold was permitted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cut 17,000 trees and to destroy critical watershed areas.  IPs, on the other hand, are deprived of our claim to the land and resources that have so long been with us.”

The ISM was joined also by local participants who shared their own struggle in their own communities, particularly those who have experienced mining firsthand in neighboring towns Didipio and Runruno, and adjacent province of Apayao.

“We do not want the people of Alimit and Malabing Valley to experience the human rights violations and environmental destruction we have suffered under OceanaGold. We are working towards stronger and more solid collaboration with these areas so we will be able to defeat our common enemies, the large-scale mining corporations and the national government who fervently favors their interests  over ours,” expressed Peter Duyapat of Didipio Earth Saver’s Movement Association (DESAMA).

On the third day of the ISM, the delegates conducted a dialogue with local leaders of other church groups, people’s organizations and tribes to urge them to intensify their campaign and establish a unified position against large-scale mining in the province.

“We are calling for the church, local government leaders, organizations, at the local and national levels, to join us in our struggle for our patrimony and to commit to more concrete means of support to our plight,” appealed Pastor Joseph Agpaoa, member of region-wide alliance opposing plunder of natural resource, Save the Valley, Serve the People: Nueva Vizcaya.

The dialogue coincided with the opening of the Lower Magat Eco-Tourism Park(LMETP)Lower Magat Eco-Tourism Park(LMETP), headed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and is to be attended by top government officials.

“It is ironic how President Arroyo claim to be a champion of the environment and the people, as illustrated by her eco-tourism park and yet her national and economic policies show otherwise. Even though the local communities are opposed to mining and have exhausted means to stop the mining in the area, Arroyo with her agencies still push for the liberalization of mining in the country,” said Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of progressive environmental groups Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

The ISM team arrived at specific recommendations on how to step up the campaign against large-scale mining in the Kasibu, based on the data they have collated and the local situation presented by the mining-affected communities.

First, with the recent declaration of OceanaGold of its care and maintenance stage, there is a need to systematically assess the damage the mining activities have incurred to the communities and to the local environment. This would serve as the basis for eventual rehabilitation of the area and compensation to the affected communities where OceanaGold is accountable for.

Second, the provincial government is urged to take a stronger stance and pass a resolution declaring a moratorium on large-scale mining, as it was already proven that this does not bring economic benefits to the community and instead brings hardships and disunity among the tribes.

Third, the communities should develop a more concrete plan to adopt a policy geared towards genuine development through a strong sustainable agricultural base.

Ultimately, there should be a change in policy of the national government with the scrapping of Mining Act of 1995 and its mining revitalization program that would include complete stoppage of Didipio Gold-copper mining project of OceanaGold in Nueva Vizcaya.

“The local communities, with their supporters, will show mining TNCs and the Arroyo administration that there is no place for foreign large-scale mining in the province of Nueva Vizcaya. The assertion of the rights to utilize the national patrimony, for the genuine development of the majority of the Filipino people, will not stop until this has been achieved,” said in the statement of the ISM participants.

The ISM was organized by Defend Patrimony Aliiance, Kalikasan-PNE, Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines and Peace for Life, with local regional alliance Save the Valley, Serve the People Nueva Vizcaya Chapter. It was participated by 29 representatives from local and international organizations, Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), KODAO Productions, Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamayan ng Pilipinas, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Save the Valley Serve the People, Didipio Earthsavers Movement Association (DESAMA), Save Apayao People’s Organizations (SAPO), Advocates for Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) and AGHAM Youth, Ecumenical Mission for Peace and Development and international delegates from United Church of Christ USA, United Church of Canada and KAIROS Canada.

Green groups hail 25-year mining ban in Palawan, urge other LGUs to do the same

December 22, 2008

Environmental activists group commend the 25-year moratorium passed by Palawan Provincial government, saying that the provincial resolution shows that local government units (LGUs) now recognize how environmentally irresponsible and economically unsustainable the mining policy and program of the Arroyo administration.

“The Palawan Provincial government is another addition to the growing list of LGUs opposing the priority mining projects of the national government. Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and the provincial board have clear and justifiable bases in banning large-scale mining in Palawan,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network Environment.

Bautista added that, “Aside from protecting Palawan’s pristine environment from the impacts of mining, Palawan LGUs have realized that the priority mining projects of the government like Rio Tuba Nickel and Coral Bay Nickel mining projects have insignificant contribution to the local economy and worse, they only result to community displacements, environmental pollution and health problems.”

Based on the monitoring of anti-mining liberalization alliance Defend Patrimony, there are already 8 provincial governments that have declared moratorium on large-scale mining. These are Capiz, Western Samar, Northern Samar, Samar, Marinduque, Mindoro Oriental, North Cotabato and Palawan. Several municipal governments have likewise issued similar moratoria. More and more LGUs are also withdrawing their support as with the case of Nueva Vizcaya from OceanaGold’s Didipio mining project, another priority large-scale mining project of the Arroyo administration.

“The growing resistance of the communities and the increasing number of LGUs rejecting the large-scale mining show the failure of the Mining Revitalization Program and the bankruptcy of the mining liberalization policy of the Arroyo government. It’s becoming clearer that even the LGUs do not benefit from these said mining projects and are now directly confronting the national government,” said in the statement of Defend Patrimony! Alliance.

“Even President Arroyo’s closest party allies like Albay Governor Joey Salceda and North Cotabato Vice Governor Manny Pinol came up with position opposing large-scale mining in their areas. In addition to these positive developments, the pressure from environmental organizations and sectoral organizations, will convince more provincial governments to openly go against the mining projects and policies of the Arroyo administration,” Bautista pointed out.

Regional, local and national environmental groups, along with other sectoral organizations and several international delegates will conduct an International Solidarity Mission (ISM) on December 6-10 in mining affected areas in Rapu-Rapu, Albay and Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. Located in these areas are two of the flagship mining projects of the Arroyo administration where the supposed benefits of mining will be demonstrated but instead have resulted to deep economic hardships and grave environmental effects in the communities.

Bautista explained that, “The ISM will focus on documenting and validating the economic, social and cultural violations of the mining companies and the environmental and mining-related issues in the target communities. At the same time, the ISM aims to provide concrete support to the local struggle of the communities. At the last day of the ISM, the delegates will conduct a dialogue with the local leaders and head of other sectors like the Church people and local government officials to urge them to also pass a similar resolution and ban on large-scale mining in the area.”

“The courageous and sensible move of the provincial government of Palawan, as with the similar moves of other local government leaders, the intensifying struggle of mining affected communities and the growing support of different sectors and concerned individuals will only result to more closure and suspension of mining projects in the country,” Mr. Bautista ended.

Cordi mine areas militarized, multiple human rights violations documented

December 21, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Heightened militarization in the boundaries of Kalinga, Mountain Province, Abra and Ilocos Sur led to various human rights violations of the collective rights of the residents in these areas, reported a human rights watchdog in the Cordillera region.

Exactly 49.92% or 55,140 hectares of the total 1,111,995 hectares mining applications registered at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is in the tri-boundaries of the said provinces. The Cordillera’s total land area is 1.8 million hectares.

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) claimed in its 2008 report that government troops’ bombings and shelling, cannons stationed and fired within communities, illegal searches of houses, and the military use of schools, medical, religious and other public places and private residences are the notable violations committed in the said areas.

Nineteen cases of illegal search and seizures affecting at least 108 persons were documented by the CHRA while three cases of bombing and shelling were documented with the same number of persons affected.

CHRA reported there are eight cases where military used of schools, medical, religious and other public places and private residences where at least 9,102 persons were affected.

It identified the 50th Infantry Batallion of the 503rd Brigade as involved in the said cases.

CHRA said that the headquarters of the 503rd Brigade was transferred from Narvacan, Ilocos Sur to Lagangilang, Abra “marking shift of military attention from Ilocos Region to the Cordillera.

Mine protector?

Some residents of villages in the boundaries of the four provinces claimed earlier that the military deployment is due to mining applications.

In the MGB mining tenement statistic report to MGB National Director Horacio Ramos, there were six applications for Financial or Technical Agreement in the boundaries of the four provinces which total to 480,492.775 hectares; five Exploration Permit Application (EXPA) which cover 65,657 hectares; and two Applications for Production Sharing Agreement (APSA) which cover 8,991 hectares.

All of these applications total to 555,140.775 hectares where 15 % of the area is found in Ilocos Sur while 85 % in Kalinga, Abra and Mountain province.

However, AFTA 3 by Newcrest Explorations that covers Abra and Kalinga, which was converted to EXPA, has no indicated area in hectares in the MGB document. Also AFTA 25 by Shipside, alleged subsidiary of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (Lepanto) covers 80,684.8712 hectares in the provinces of Ifugao, Mountain Province and Nueva Vizcaya.

Violating right to life

CHRA also reported four cases of extra-judicial killings which involved four persons.

The victims were all farmer/hunters from Abra and Kalinga and the incidents took place one quarter apart from its other, stated the CHRA report which was released on December 10, the 60th commemoration of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

CHRA also reported a sole case of enforced disappearance. Its report stated that Cordillera Peoples Alliance founding member James Moy Balao was forcibly taken by alleged military intelligence forces on September 17 near Camp Bado Dangwa in Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet. The family and the CPA filed a petition for a Writ of Amparo in a Benguet Court but no decision has been issued by the court yet.

CHRA also reported that four cases of restriction or violent dispersal of mass action had happened in the city which covered at least 1,495 persons.

CHRA report pointed out that people worldwide are commemorating the 60th adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, human rights situation in the Philippines remains deplorable as the rights to life, liberty, security, self-determination and development are far from being fully realized.

It also demanded the demilitarization of the country sides. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

OceanaGold gives up Didipio project

December 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — A mining company is temporarily giving up its operations in Didipio, Kasibu town in Nueva Vizcaya, saying the global financial meltdown has affected its business decisions.

OceanaGold, in a media advisory, announced Monday it has “placed the Didipio Gold-copper project in Nueva Vizcaya on care and maintenance following the completion of the strategic review that began in July.”

Admitting it has been affected by the deteriorating global financial crisis, OceanaGold’s CEO Stephen Orr said the global economic conditions require prudent measures to secure and preserve its assets in the Philippines.

“We recognize the inherent value that the Didipio project and our exploration portfolio in the Philippines represent for shareholders but the uncertainty around current financial markets dictates that we affect this strategy,” Orr said.

The company will focus on its New Zealand gold operations it expects to increase production in the fourth quarter of 2008, where the production is predicted between 280,000 to 300,000 ounces priced at US$475 per ounce.

“In these uncertain times, we are focused on maximizing revenue and reducing expenditures to further strengthen the Company’s financial position for the near-term,” Orr said.

Meanwhile, Kalikasan-PNE said OceanaGold’s admission of poor economic condition is “proof that their operations were not economically feasible as the company had projected in the past.”

But the group said the greater factor that led to the company’s failure is the growing resistance and opposition against OceanaGold by the local communities.

“Since the early stage, the indigenous peoples in Nueva Vizcaya have been opposing the project of OceanaGold. The community resistance further escalated due to the human rights violations, landgrabbing, economic displacement and environmental destruction done by OceanaGold in the process of developing its project,” Kalikasan-PNE’s Clemente Bautista said.

In fact, he said, the failure of OceanaGold and of other mining projects such as the Rapu-rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay province are “just a couple of illustrations of how mining corporations and activities are bound to collapse due to the fervent opposition of the people, backed up by the present global situation.”

“This should serve as a warning to other companies and investors, how they should think twice before planning to loot our country’s mineral wealth,” Bautista said.

OceanaGold is just one step shy from totally closing down. In the past, OceanaGold has loaned millions of dollars that have now become insurmountable for the company to repay. During its ‘care and maintenance’ stage, the company will only continue to incur and accumulate losses,”

OceanaGold currently operates in the South Island of New Zealand and in the Philippines. Company assets encompass New Zealand’s largest gold mine at Macraes, which includes the recently commissioned Frasers Underground operation, Reefton Gold Mine also in New Zealand and the Didipio Gold-Copper Project in north Luzon.

OceanaGold is listed on the Toronto, Australian and New Zealand stock exchanges under the symbol “OGC,” according to its media statement. # Northern Dispatch

Benguet mayor yields to people power on mines

December 20, 2008

BAKUN, Benguet — Residents of Barangay Gambang here prove there is power in numbers as their concerted action led the town mayor to act in their favor affirming their stand against the Royalco Philippines mineral exploration project.


AGAINST MINING. Exploration activities going on in Barangay Gambang pushed its residents to move against further mining operation in the upper villages. Mobilizations are at its height with locals trooping to government offices for support. Photo by Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS

The same group, organized into Bantay ken kinabaknang ti Umili a Nagtaudan Aywanan (BaKUN Aywanan, earlier aired the popular clamor that pushed for the indefinite suspension of the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between “validated” community elders and Royalco Philippines as a precondition to the issuance of a free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for the said mining venture covering some 5,400 hectares.

Representing sitios grouped into the Phase III of the proposed mineral exploration, residents aboard 24 vehicles, mostly vegetable delivery trucks, started early Monday for the set dialog with Mayor Marcelo B. Contada and the town council at the Alibacong Elementary school here.

“Gaputa sigaan yo, tumulongak ta adi matuloy din exploration tan nay sya et di mailak ay panlalabanan yo.” (Because you oppose it, I will help so that the exploration will not push through because as I see it causes disunity) Contada said after Gambang residents took turns speaking their minds out for almost six hours.

Affirming the people’s position

Residents who braved the very cold Alibacong weather exchanged views in front of their barangay and town officials, each with an argument to defend, but in the end, Cuntada just affirmed their respective positions.

The MOA and eventual mining permit for Phase III has to be set aside in the face of people’s opposition, according to Cuntada. The Phase I and Phase II MOAs have to be reviewed to see how to deal with these inasmuch as some elders have signed it. “Kintaen yo no kasano a maresolba daytoy,” (See how these could be resolved) the mayor told Gambang folk who agreed in the end not to allow any mining operations in the area.

Phase III, in the new clustering made since Royalco started its social acceptability bid in Gambang, includes sitios Basig, Nametbet, Lebeng, Dosdos-dicay, Le-in, Inga-an, and Cagam-is, according to Royalco in an earlier interview. Takayan, Bagtangan, Liwan and Bolbolo are also included, according to residents, although the ground relocation survey has not been conducted.

The company and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) did not include the small scale mining communities of Mabuhay, Batanes, Pulag, Dangkigan, Gold Star and Mogao.

“These have been excised from the application for mineral exploration because a Minahang Bayan is allegedly being applied for the area,” Royalco’s Ruben Quitoriano told Nordis.

Firming up

A woman elder from Nametbet Dominga Gaspar said residents in Upper Gambang could not allow any mining operation in the area because it has been disuniting families and the neighborhood. “Uray exploration ket unggay,” (Not even exploration) as she recalled how NCIP and Royalco deceived community elders into accepting the clustering of the barangay, dividing its elders into pro-mining and anti-mining.

Benny Alingdan of sitio Cagam-is added that his neighbors stand for the children. “Itakderanmi ti kaaduan ta adu ti annak mi,” (We stand for the majority because we have so many children) he said.

Exploration, first stage of mining operation

In earlier fora, this town’s indigenous peoples said they were made to believe that exploration is not a part of a mining operation, contrary to what leaders of the Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network (BMAAN) has asserted.

BMAAN Spokesperson Vergel Aniceto, a former mine worker at Benguet Corporation’s Acupan Mines in Itogon explained that, a mining operation starts with a mineral exploration.

Phase I has been issued an exploration permit in May 2008. Phase II has been issued a MOA and awaits a mining permit.

Those opposing any mining operation in Gambang, however, claimed that the processes have been deceitful and done fraudulently.

Meanwhile, the Gambang Indigenous Peoples Association and Community Organization (GIPACO) elected its new set of officers on November 28, also in Alibacong. BMAAN Convener Fausto Maliones, a resident of Proper Gambang, is its new chairperson.

During the dialog, Maliones enlightened Bakun officials and residents that exploration permits may be converted into a mineral production sharing agreement or financial and technical assistance agreement when the holder opts to do so, quoting Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2007-15. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Miners hit by global crisis

December 20, 2008

MANKAYAN, Benguet — Mine workers here start to feel the effects of the global financial crisis as Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company implements its work rotation scheme.

All departments would be subjected to the new work program which cuts down workers’ working days from 26 to 10, President Manuel B. Binhaon Jr. of the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) told delegates to the 4th General Assembly of Mankayan, Quirino, Tadian, Cervantes Dangayan a Gunglo (Maquitacdg) in Barangay Bulalacao, here on November 30.

The mine department will be on a 10-day work, surface workers are to work for 15 days, while those in the mill are allowed to work for 20 days.

“If the rest day and holiday fall within the 15-day work period, a worker has only 13 days to work,” Tony Sulang, union treasurer disclosed.

Binhaon said the reduced work scheme started in November and is expected to be enforced until July.

For Sulang and other union officers, the no-work days give them enough time to look into union affairs. They see the new work scheme as a union-busting technique employed by the company to rid itself of the militant genuine trade unionism.

Ordinary mine workers, however, find the time out from the mines to look for odd jobs elsewhere, especially in lowland rice farms to earn for their family’s needs.

“Once they get more stable and better-paying jobs, workers do not return to work until they are considered absent without leave and eventually terminated,” Sulang clarified.

Binhaon observed that many college students from Mankayan did not enroll this semester because of the lack of income of workers and their families.

Besides the new scheme, Lepanto workers get their pay in two to three installments, usually receiving only P1,000 to P1,500 on the first installment. They could not avail of social security systems loans because Lepanto has not remitted some P60 million in SSS premiums collected from workers since 2000.

They could notavail of rice loans either, because similarly, the company has not remitted P2 million in rice loan payments it has collected from workers.

“Uray coop, awan ti mautang,” (We could not avail of cooperative loans), due to the company’s failure to remit coop payments totaling some P8 million, according to Binhaon.

The union is presently gathering evidence for the immediate filing of charges.

Meanwhile, in another interview, Atty. Sixto Rodriguez, assistant regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said it is management prerogative to implement the work rotation scheme. He said, however, it has to be approved by the labor department before it could be imposed.

“It should not be used to terminate or force workers to resign,” Rodriguez said. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Katutubong minero pinalakas ang hanay

December 20, 2008

ITOGON, Benguet — Muling pinasigla ng mga mamamayan ng Ampucao dito ang kanilang pagkakaisa laban sa pananalasang mapanira ng mga higanteng operasyon ng mina sa pamamagitan ng isang asembliya.

Idinaos ang asembliya ng Lolita Ampucao Youth and Adults’ Organization (LAYAO) noong Nobyembre 22 sa barangay Ampucao, kung saan ipinagdiwang ang mahigit 13 taong pagkakaisa ng mga residente sa nasabing purok.

Ang asembliya ng mga katutubong minero at magbubukid ay naitaon sa pambansang paggunita ng Mining Safety Week nitong nakaraang Linggo.

Magugunitang ang organisasyon ay nabuo noong 1995 sa kasagsagan ng pakikibaka ng mamamayang katutubong minero laban sa mapanirang open pit at bulk mining na noon ay isinasagawa sa Itogon ng Benguet Corporation (BC).

Nagsilbing mitsa ng pagkamulat ng mga katutubong miero ang pagkakabuo ng LAYAO 13 taon na ang nakararaa, Naging aktibong miyembro ang LAYAO ng Itogon Inter-barangay Alliance (IIBA) na noon pa man ay nanguna sa pagbubuo ng nagkakaisang pagtingin sa nasabing mapanirang operasyon.

“Sa pamamagitan ng pagbubuo ng isang organisasyon, maipaparating sa kinauukulan ang hinaing ng mga tao,” ungkat ni Juanita de Guzman, bagong halal na president ng LAYAO. Aniya, muling pinatunayan na sa kasaysayan ng mga katutubong minero na kaya nilang pangalagaan ang kapaligiran at kabuhayan bilang mga minero.

Kabilang ang mga taga-Ampucao sa pagbabarikada para itaboy ang mga minero mula sa Level 1500 sa Acupan Mines ng BC noong 2002 at sa sitio Station at sitio Tangki, laban naman sa pagpasok ng Itogon Suyoc Resources (ISRI) nitong nakaraang mga taon.

Sa kasalukuyan, nanguna rin ang LAYAO sa pagkondena sa pagpasok ng exploration ng Anvil Mining Company sa barangay Ampucao. Kabilang ang mga miyembro nito sa pagpapaikot ng petisyon ng oposisyon sa nasabing kumpanya ng mina.

Nagresulta ang nasabing petisyon sa naantalang pagpasok ng Anvil sa mga lugar na ninais nitong magbukas ng mga bagong istruktura ng mina.

Nagbigay ng mensahe sa nasabing asembliya sina Kagawad Doming Laita, Joey Martes, at Joseph Sacda, pawang mga opisyal ng barangay Ampucao.

Nahirang na presidente si Juanita de Guzman; bise-presidente: Josue Canduyas; sekretarya: Christine Alcido; mga ingat-yaman: Marilou Oquias at Mary Canduyas; PRO: Rolan Nabat; auditor: Fernan Alwit at mga business manager: Samuel Pacio at Josephine Nabat. # Johnny Fialen

Sagada elder urges ecological conservation amid mining applications

December 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Communal watershed forests in Mountain Province, which serve as the water sources of main rivers, are threatened by various mine applications allegedly due to the government’s active campaign to revitalize the mining industry.

A member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Sagada, Mountain Province, Jaime Dugao revealed there are at least three exploration applications (EXPA), four applications for production sharing agreement (APSA), and five applications for financial and technical assistance agreement (AFTA).

Now pending at the regional office of the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR-CAR), the applications cover the communal forests in Mount Sispisitan, which is sharing the provincial boundaries with Abra and Kalinga.

“These applications threaten our communal forests, rivers and the sustainable environment in the province which we had nurtured through their indigenous systems,” added Dugao.

Popularly known as Tigan-o, Dugao attended a Manila forum last week with a theme: “Church leaders-indigenous people’s dialog on traditional knowledge, food security and indigenous people’s rights.”

The forum participated by mostly church personalities was held at the Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines in Quezon City and was sponsored by the Task Force on Indigenous People’s Rights, a national network of non-government organizations, church-based and academic institutions advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights.

Based on MGB-CAR documents, the three EXPA cover 8,745 hectares; four APSA cover 11,376 hectares; while the five AFTA cover 222,482 hectares.

One EXPA and APSA applications included areas in Kalinga and Ilocos Sur, respectively. The two provinces are neighbors of Mountain province.

The AFTA applications also cover areas not only in Mountain Province but included areas in the neighboring provinces of Ilocos Sur, Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya, MGB documents revealed.

Dugao said the applications are part of mine applications in the region which totals to nearly 70% of the Cordillera’s 1.8 million hectares land area.

“Watershed and forest reservations”

Dugao claimed Sagada and the neighboring towns in Mountain Province and Abra are actually nourishing the headwaters of main rivers flowing down the lowlands.

“Sagada is the watershed of the Chico River which flows down to Kalinga and Cagayan. It irrigates thousands of agricultural lands,” Dugao pointed out. The “Bumud-ok Falls” in Fidelisan of Northern Sagada flows down to Amlusong creek to join the Chico River, he added.

Dugao pointed out the same case with Sagada’s Lake Danum where fresh water flows down the Balas-iyan River – with headwaters in nearby Besao town, also in Mountain Province, which feeds thousand of hectares of rice fields in Quirino, Ilocos Sur.

Water from the Balas-iyan River is so fresh until it reaches the Abra River in Quirino, now polluted by corporate mine wastes from Mankayan, Benguet, he added.

Dugao said the sustainable agricultural practices since time immemorial were the people’s secret in environmental conservation.

Indigenous resource use

“Our sustainable practices in the communities of Sagada are exercised through the dap-ay, an indigenous socio-political institution where elders, like me, play an important role,” said Dugao pointing that such indigenous practices for resource utilization and conservation are passed from generation to generation through the dap-ay.

Dugao shared among their sustainable practice that is notable up to the present is forest conservation.

“The Batangan or Saguday system is an inter-generational task where our forest conservation or utilizations are collective obligation of community members,” he said adding, any violation by a community member means a sanction from the elders after a careful deliberation.

This is the main reason on why forests in the province are abundant especially in Sagada.

Government data show that Mountain Province is among the Cordillera provinces with higher forest cover and 13 rivers flowing to the nearby regions traced the Cordillera as their water sources.

Opposing large scale-mining

The nature of the province, and the entire region, as forest and watershed areas even without the state laws would be destroyed if mining would be allowed, he said.

Dugao pointed out these mine applications are lopsided more for the benefit of corporate interests.

“We might be giving up our resources in exchange of these mining companies’ small taxes that they give to the government,” said Dugao.

Citing a research, Dugao added, Sagada folk are not against development.

“An eye opener for us however is the experience of our brothers in Benguet, where large-scale mining has been destroying the environment since the third quarter of the 19th century when corporate mining supplanted traditional copper mining sites in Mankayan and logged the forests of northern Benguet for mine timber and smelter fuel.”

He also cited the causes of forest denudation as large-scale mining, like the open pit mining in Itogon that had stripped the mountains of their forest covers.

He appealed to the participants to support Cordillera people’s struggle against large scale mining in Sagada in the Cordillera and for the repeal of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 or RA 7942. # Arthur L. Allad-iw

Asbestos dump hit anew as Lepanto fails to haul out its waste

December 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY—Residents of Sapid, Mankayan, Benguet filed a second petition that pushed town officials to act on the asbestos wastes earlier dumped by the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo), after the company failed to fulfill its promise to haul out the toxic materials.

Acting on an earlier petition, town officials contemplated on filing charges against the company. This prompted the said mining firm to haul out said wastes, which turned out to have come from its Makati office.

Community vigilance

Some 115 residents of the said barangay in a petition, asked Mankayan Mayor Manalo B. Galuten and the town council to look into the asbestos wastes left by LCMCo despite the mining company’s commitment to haul out all the said wastes. The petition was dated October 29.

In a report, Sapid barangay council quoted witnesses as saying the wastes were dumped by Shipside Trucking, an LCMCo subsidiary, on April 10 and in 2007 in Sitio Tagumbao, Upper Tram in Barangay Sapid.

Alleging then that the wastes were asbestos materials illegally dumped by the mining company, the Sapid council through Barangay Resolution No. 34-2008 dated April 12, requested LCMCo to “cease unloading or dumping of the waste (asbestos)” in their barangay and to relocate the said wastes to other sites.

Informed about the alleged dumping of asbestos wastes, the Sanguniang Bayan (SB) of Mankayan led by Vice-mayor Paterno Dacanay invited representatives of the mining company to its regular session to shed light on the concern.

Denial

Based on the minutes of the Mankayan SB session on May 6, LCMCo environmentalist Rolando C. Reyes, denied that the wastes dumped were asbestos but materials used for acidic pads and cushions. Reyes assured the members of the SB the wastes are not hazardous in nature. He appeared with Vice-president and resident Manager Magellan G. Bagayao and a certain Edgar Ebiong at the council session.

The pads and cushions came from the company’s Makati City office that was renovated, according to Reyes.

Company representatives also assured the council they complied with policies set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), adding these are properly covered , thus making it safe for the environment.

In a May 7 letter submitted to the SB, the company committed not to repeat the said dumping and should an area be considered as future waste dump, LCMCo would coordinate with town officials concerned before it would begin operating.

Hazardous

Meanwhile, samples taken from the dumpsite were tested by the Environmental and Urban Planning Laboratory of the Saint Louis University Engineering and Architecture department, which later found out that the wastes had an asbestos content of 50.385%.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral usually used for fire proofing and insulation in buildings, pipes, walls, ceilings, floors and others. It is a serious health hazard if inhaled that could cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, which is a rare type of cancer that most often occur in the thin membrane lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen and heart, according to Dr. Ana Leung of the Community Health Education Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore).

Asbestos has been internationally banned because of its toxicity.

Charges

Upon learning of the result of the tests, the Mankayan SB through Resolution No. 289-2008, authorized Galuten to file appropriate charges against the mining firm for illegally dumping toxic waste materials in Upper Tram.

Through a series of meetings with the barangay officials and residents, town officials and representatives from the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR, LCMCo volunteered to haul out the asbestos waste materials and to relocate outside the municipality. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

Catholic Bishop Calls on IPs to Use Bayanihan to Counter Mining, Globalization

November 26, 2008

Comparing mining companies and globalization to Goliath and to sharks, Bishop Jose R. Manguiran of Dipolog enjoined indigenous peoples, who he said are like David and dolphins, to practice bayanihan to fight for their rights.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S WATCH
Bulatlat

“Six years ago, GMA [Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] publicly announced during Independence Day in Zamboanga that the Subanen [tribe] will receive a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT)…[and yet] the Arroyo government allows mining in CADT areas.”

Bishop Jose R. Manguiran of Dipolog said this during a forum titled Tongtongan organized by the EED Philippine Partners’ Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (EEDTFIP), Nov. 14 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

Manguiran said he has been attending to two tribes, the Subanen and the Muslims in Mindanao.

The bishop cited the logging activities of the Consunji clan on lands that form part of the ancestral domain of the Sirawai Kalibugan indigenous peoples of Zamboanga del Norte. “For 25 years, they have been fighting for their ancestral domain,” said Manguiran.

Manguiran said that Lumad complainants are always in hiding. “More than 30 people have been killed in that area without justice,” he added.

The bishop also deplored the government for exploiting the Lumads and their culture for the entertainment of foreign visitors. Manguiran said, “Government officials wear tribal attire, [at the same time], indigenous peoples are kicked out of their ancestral domain.”

Present dangers

Leaders of indigenous peoples shared the present dangers confronting them.

Jaime Tigan-o Dugao, a Kankana-ey elder from the Mountain Province and chairman of the Movement for Inter-tribal Unity and Development (MAITUD), said large-scale mining threatens their province and the whole region of Cordillera.

He said three exploration permits (EP) cover 8,745 hectares, the Asean Petroleum Security Agreement (APSA) covers 11, 976 hectares and other applications for mining cover 122, 482 hectares in Mountain province, Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya.

Dugao said, “We are not against development but we have learned from the experiences of our brothers in Benguet.” He revealed that large-scale mining covers 20,000 hectares of agricultural land in Benguet.

Dugao said that mining has been destroying environment since the 19th century. “In Itogon, open-pit mining stripped the mountain of forest covers… Mining nearly wiped out the watershed of Southern Benguet. The forest denudation rate has increased.” Dugao related.

He added that the country’s food security is being threatened by mining activities. While the government gets very small amounts in taxes from mining companies, Dugao said, the cost to the lives of indigenous peoples are immeasurable and could not be compensated by any amount.

“Sustaining our land and resources is our only legacy to our children and grandchildren,” Dugao said.

Meanwhile, Carlito Domulot Sr., president of an Aeta association in Zambales, said mining caused division among the indigenous peoples’ community.

Danilo Salonga, an Aeta from Bataan, condemned the laws that hinder them from utilizing their ancestral domain. He said the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) drove them out of the forest, compelling them to farm in the plains.

Salonga said that when the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act was enacted, they applied for a CADT. But the local government opposed it claiming that the municipality has the right over the forest. Negotiations are still ongoing.

Tony Calbayog, a Mangyan from Oriental Mindoro said there are seven tribes inhabiting the Mindoro islands. As of the 2004 census, their population is around 264,000.

Calbayog criticized the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for declaring that there are no indigenous peoples in Victoria, Mindoro Oriental. The Crew Mineral Corporation is implementing the Mindoro Nickel Project in Victoria, Mindoro Oriental covering 9,720 hectares.

Calbayog said another company, the Agusan Petroleum Mining Corporation is operating in Mindoro Occidental, extracting gold and cobalt in an area covering 46,000 hectares.

The Mangyan leader said foreign mining corporations use bribery and deception to get the approval of some of their leaders.

Leaders of indigenous peoples also raised concern over the intensified military operations in mining areas.

Kankana-ey elder Dugao decried the cases of harassment of indigenous peoples. He cited the enforced disappearance of James Balao, a member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance.

Norma Capuyan, a Tagabawa-Bagobo from North Cotabato said the Arroyo government created the Investment Defense Force (IDF) to protect mining companies operating in Mindanao. Capuyan dismissed the claims of government troops that they are after the New People’s Army. In truth, she said, the soldiers only want to provide security for foreign mining companies.

She cited the intensifying human rights violations in Compostela Valley. She said that the BHP Billiton, one of the largest mining companies in the world, is interested in the mineral wealth of Mindanao.

Images

After hearing the sentiments of indigenous peoples, Manguiran shared three images to convey his message.

Manguiran said, “We are David, we are Mayas, we are Asian and we are dolphins…”

He recalled the great fight of Goliath and David, as described in the Old Testament. “David was very young, he was in a G-string and Goliath, a giant, was clothed with iron. God told David to bring a sling and a stone. Through his faith in God, David defeated Goliath.”

Manguiran also said that where there are dolphins, there are no sharks. “Dolphins go in one community. The shark, because it is very strong, does not need support. The dolphins tickle the side of the shark to drive it away”

In the sky, Manguiran said, there is the eagle and there are also Maya birds and doves. “Is there a law that protects a Maya bird? None, but the Maya has increased.”

Manguiran also cited the Vietnamese, the barefoot soldiers of Asia, who defeated the mighty Americans during the Vietnam war of 1955 to 1975. He said that the Vietnamese won even as the Americans used weapons of mass destruction such as the Agent Orange, a dioxin that is still being used by the company Monsanto in producing parathion.

Manguiran said, “In what way can we exist? Since time immemorial until now, there are two contending forces: the violent versus the humble and simple. The violent does not make a final judgment. The final judgment is guaranteed by Jesus Christ alone. He said ‘I have come to overcome the world, the evil forces.’ When I am weak then I am strong.”

Manguiran said, “In world economics, the strong are also weak. Globalization is much like Goliath; and being Goliath is also their weakness.”

The bishop further said, “The strength of globalization is money. How do you destroy or encounter that? Money is their strength; profit is their objective; competition is their game. We play our own game and do our own roles.”

Manguiran said that people must use bayanihan, networking. “Travel with many people. If there are sharks, we can tickle them,” he said.(Bulatlat.com)

Bantay Puerto to conduct IEC in barangays

November 20, 2008

THE BANTAY Puerto program is conducting information and education campaign (IEC) on caring for the environment and promotion of programs leaned towards protecting them in schools lying north of the city, led by Antonio F. Reyes in the following weeks.

The IEC will be particularly done in barangays where there remains continued destruction of the environment.

The activity aims to awaken responsibility among 4th year high school students in conserving the environment and to encourage them to be responsible in sustainable development to prolong the benefits of their natural resources.

Ten elementary schools are going to be visited by Bantay Puerto: Bacungan National High School, Bahile National High School, Inagawan National High School, San Rafael National High School, Maruyugon National High School, Napsan National High School, Bagumbayan National High School, Irawan National High School, Luzviminda National High School and Langogan National High School.

Bantay Puerto is expecting that the IEC will gain positive results as it strongly believe that the youth are easier influenced with good things concerning the environment.

The team will be joined in the IEC by the City Legal Office, City Information Officer Alroben J. Goh, and city councilors Miguel T. Cuaderno IV, Kagawad Erwin Edualino at Kagawad Benny Resuma. (PR-CIO)(ThePalawanTimes)

Macroasia lodges complaints in Ombudsman vs Brooke’s Pt. barangay officials

November 20, 2008

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

MACROASIA CORPORATION (MC) has recently filed administrative charges in the Office of the Ombudsman for the preventive suspension of Brooke’s Point barangay Ipilan chairman Jonathan Lagrada and three others for allegedly causing “undue injury to the government and grave abuse of authority.”

A statement obtained by the Palawan Times said MacroAsia filed administrative cases against Lagrada, Jane Araullo, Wilfredo Rodriguez and Cresencio Ura – all officials of barangay Ipilan on grounds that they are “stopping a mining firm from pursuing its legal exploration activities, as covered by a Minerals Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) granted by the national government, and which was duly concurred by the municipal government.”

The cases were filed at the office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon in Manila by MacroAsia Corporation representative and complainant Marivic T. Moya, the statement said.

The MC beseeched the Ombudsman to preventively suspend the respondents for vehemently violating Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; and appealed that it be allowed to pursue its legitimate mining activities pursuant to the MPSA.

Moya’s complaint cited that in September 2008, upon orders by Lagrada, the barangay chairman of Ipilan, blocked scheduled survey activities of the company that were supposedly carried out by its contractor JCP Geo-Ex Services, Inc.

“The firm was accredited by the Mines Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to provide exploration services for mining companies,” the statement said.

MacroAsia believes that the move of Lagrada and the others was a “wanton disregard of barangay resolutions no. 05 and no. 27, dated April 2 and November 19, 2007 respectively, which authorized and endorsed the company to pursue its mining activities.”

Both resolutions, which were approved before his term, are being questioned by Lagrada, a staunch supporter of the “no to mining” fight of non-government organizations (NGOs) and some religious sects.

“The continuous refusal of the respondent Jonathan Lagrada to allow the conduct of survey by MacroAsia, without valid and justifiable reason or court order, and obviously attended with evident bad faith, and with grave abuse of authority, causes undue injury to the operation of MacroAsia which is now suffering financial and capital losses due to the unjust actions of the respondents preventing the enforcement of a legitimate contract signed by the MacroAsia and the Republic of the Philippines, as well as of the barangay resolutions created by duly constituted authorities,” Moya said.

“We have long kept silent and tried to endure all these unfair acts against us, hoping our detractors will eventually become reasonable enough to appreciate our company’s legitimate goals. But it has already reached a point where the sense and logic of our purpose is fast becoming unworthy to pursue, if we do not assert our legal and legitimate rights now,” she added.

Lagrada, in a phone interview with the Palawan Times, shrugged off the administrative cases filed against them as “pure harassment’ by MacroAsia.

“It’s pure harassment because MacroAsia will really do everything to make us stop our fight against mining,” he said, adding that he has not received any copy of the filed cases, neither has he received any other document as of press time.

“I am ready to face them,” Lagrada said firmly.

Brooke’s Point has become a favorite hub of anti and pro-responsible mining rallies and other campaign efforts due to the impending operation of three large-scale mining companies in the town, namely Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC), Leebach and MacroAsia Corporation.

MacroAsia, a publicly-listed corporation, is part of the Lucio Tran group of companies which is the lead organization for the group’s mining activities, apart from its core aviation industry services business.

MacroAsia was granted with a MPSA by the government on December 2005 to pursue its mining activities in Brooke’s Point after the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) issued the firm, on June 2005, with a clearance that its target of operations conform to the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) of the province.(ThePalawanTimes)

Narra nickel cuts 469 mining employees

November 20, 2008

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

A GLOOMY Christmas awaits 469 employees of the Narra Nickel Mining and Development Corporation (NNMDC) who lost their jobs following uninterrupted slides in nickel prices in the world market, absence of buyers and financial loses.

On October 13, separation notices were sent to the first batch of 290 contractual and job order status employees by the management of the NNMDC; followed by 179 more probationary and regular workers on November 16, a news release sent to media stations disclosed.

The NNMDC informed the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that the employees who were retrenched received separation benefits: salary for the month of October, payment for unused sick and vacation leaves, 15-day compensation for every year of service in the company and 13th month pay.

In the press statement, Engr. Roland F. Rodriguez, chief operating officer of NNMDC, said they “sympathize” with the employees, especially because it happened with Christmas time just about a month away.

He implied that the NNMDC might also be suspending operations in their mining activities that would incur more expenses considering the crisis that world economies are experiencing.

The anti-mining activities that are being done by “militant NGOs” are also discouraging foreign investors to contemplate positioning more funds in mining in Palawan.

“Although the company is considering the return of employees with good records and performances when the prices of nickel go back to normal, foreign investors are adamant too, to put in additional capitals allegedly due to the non-stop anti-mining activities that militant non-government organizations (NGOs) are putting up against the mining industry,” the news release claimed.

From a US$50.00 per pound of laterite and garnerite nickel last year, the current price drastically dropped to US$3.80 last week, said Bimbo Fernandez, the NNMDC’s community relations officer.

“The company will focus on surviving the crisis, reviewing lessons, monitoring prices and planning ahead when the market stabilizes,” he said.

In related news, the multipartite monitoring team (MMT) for the NNMDC has been created on October 23 following an orientation-seminar held at Maydavian Resort in Barangay Caguisan, Narra.

The orientation-seminar was attended by representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region IV Environmental Management Board, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Mining Regulatory Board (MRB), Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board (PMRB), Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), local government unit officials of Narra municipality, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of Narra, Palawan NGO Network, Inc. (PNNI), Calategas Irrigators Systems Association (CISA), barangay officials of Calatuigas and San Isidro and the management staff of the small scale mining company.

The MMT was created to monitor the activities of the NNMDC and to make sure that the environment within its areas of operations, as well as the residents in the direct impact area are safe from irresponsible mining.

Within the days of the activity, the attendees conducted an ocular inspection of the mitigating measures in the environment that the NNMDC has set up, such as its dams, beaver dams, siltation ponds and slope stabilization that are stated in the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) it was issued.

A strict inspection of the NNMDC’s laboratory, motorpool, mine site, stockyard and pier, including the examination of the sound, and quality of air and water, to make sure that pollution is avoided was also done. Additionally inspected too, are the community projects funded by the mining company: the fish pens provided for coastal fishermen, vegetable farms for the indigenous peoples, tilapia project and roads that were rehabilitated and improved.

Engineer Percival Ladub of the MGB-Region IV and the team leader of the MMT, said all members have roles to play to better give the practice of responsible mining an edge in the province.(ThePalawanTimes)

Miners protest work rotation scheme

November 18, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Miners, their wives and other community members Thursday assailed Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company’s (LCMCo) new policy of reduced working days, which calls for a work rotation scheme in a a protest rally in front of the company’s general office in Mankayan.

Spearheaded by the Lepanto Employees’ Union-NAFLU-Kilusang Mayo Uno (LEU-NAFLU-KMU) the protest action demanded the mining firm to retract its order for a reduction of working days for its employees.

Lepanto management released a notice to its workers on October 27 announcing its plan to reduce the working days to 20 per month with the implementation of the work rotation scheme for all its surface employees and about 119 underground employees supposed effective November 1.

The company’s reason for the reduction of work days is its low production and eventual losses it may incur.

Atty. Ana C. Dione, regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Cordillera said during the weekly Kapihan sa Baguio, she has received an informal report from the mining company about its plans for the reduced workdays.

“Lepanto would be undergoing reduced workdays because according to them the price of copper in the global market went down,” said Dione. She added some workers hoped the said scheme would only last for three months to prevent a massive financial effect on them.

According to Dione, this could be an effect of the global financial crisis.

Aside from Lepanto, DoLE also reported one occasion of termination in one of the sub-contractors of Texas Instrument (TI) in the export processing zone in Loakan, due to the financial crisis.

“Other than that, we have not received any other report, but our office is now undergoing a heightened monitoring on possible effects of the global crisis to the local industries specifically here in the region,” added Dione.

Meanwhile, Lepanto employees who were frustrated in having a dialog with the company’s management, are planning to stage a series of protest actions against the said scheme and other unfair labor practices of the company.

The reduced workday scheme prompted LEU to hold a general membership assembly on October 31.

“This is a gross violation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and comprises an unfair labor practice,” said LEU Chairperson Manuel Binhaon during the rally.

Lepanto reportedly failed to remit some P52.2 million social security contributions and loan payments and another P3.2 million employees premiums in a government housing fund. It has also neglected the payment of backwages since November last year.

“The company uses diversionary tactics to evade its financial obligations to workers,” Bihaon said. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

Government neglect pushed Bakun folk into allowing mining exploration

November 18, 2008

BAKUN, Benguet — The longing for proper access roads to and from their farms and vegetable gardens pushed some residents of barangay Gambang here to give their consent to the mine exploration project by Royalco Philippines.

During the turn-over ceremonies at the Tingbaoen-Galisen Elementary School where Royalco donated some 450 bags of portland cement for the concreting of the basketball court pavement, Yugo elder Willie Calixto said they had made several requests for the improvement of their dirt roads. “The provincial government has not prioritized the road funds for the said barangay,” he said.

In his speech, Paul Bagano, representing Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan, said barangay officials keep hounding the governor’s office for support to improve their road but there are no funds so that they keep returning to Gambang in vain.

The community aspires to open a new farm-to-market road from sitio Sookan to Balite and Liwang, which was reportedly programmed as a provincial road at the time of the exploration by Trans-Asia Mining Corporation in the early 1970’s.

Calixto said the road project was abandoned when the company left in 1978. “Adu a complain ti tao idi,” (People complained of many things) he said, citing the requests for piped water from the source to the residential homes and gardens, among others.

No new road in MOA

The Memorandum of Agreement the community entered into with Royalco in January cited only road maintenance of the existing road from sitio Sookan to sitio Gambang Proper, and Kil-ingan in sitio Taneg. It also included the rehabilitation of the road connecting sitio Liwang and Nasungyoan and the rehabilitation of two existing footbridges in sitios Gaddang and Labilab.

No construction of any new road was mentioned in the said MOA, however.

Another elder from Yugo Alex Soriano said the diamond drilling done in his farm paved the construction of a dirt road. Drilling equipment had to be brought down to the drilling site that required the opening of an access road.

The approved exploration work involves diamond drilling in several sampling sites in four sitios of Gambang, namely Gambang Proper, Yugo, Tuwa-ok and Tood. It also includes the gathering of rock samples along the river or on the road.

River stones, rocks and drilling core samples are then tested for mineral content in the core house in Sinipsip. Assay is done in Metro Manila, according to Engr. Ruben Quitoriano, Royalco senior mining engineer. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Lepanto unions oppose work suspension

November 18, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Three labor unions in a giant mining firm and its subsidiaries are opposing the implementation of a planned work suspension and work stoppage.

According to the unions, this measure will mean wage cuts and a threat to the workers’ security of tenure. The workers also demanded for the immediate payment of their unpaid earned wages. The management had been delaying release of wages for months now.

The Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) planned to implement on November 1, 2008 a work rotation scheme for all surface workers and some 119 underground workers belonging to the Lepanto Employees Union-NAFLU-KMU.

On the other hand, work operations of the Shipside, Incorporated, the Paramina and the Diamond Drilling Company of the Philippines have been suspended causing the indefinite work leave-without pay of hundreds of workers. These companies are owned largely by the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company.

Leading the workforce, the Lepanto Employees Union-NAFLU-KMU submitted to the company a letter demanding the non-implementation the work rotation scheme; the company’s labor cost program guidelines and implementation.

Earlier, the labor unions complained of several violations of their labor rights which included: non-remittance of their social benefit contributions to the Social Security System, the Philhealth and Pag-Ibig that amounts to millions of pesos since 2006, this preventing the workers to avail of loans and other benefits due them; partial releases of already delayed wages; non-compliance of the management to some provisions of their collective bargaining agreement; and illegal dismissal of officers and members of the Shipside Employees Union-NAFLU-KMU.

The labor center, Kilusang Mayo Uno-Cordillera expressed strong criticism to this schemes by management.

They also said that the company did not comply to the agreement signed between them and the unions. The company agreed to pay at least P10 million monthly for unremitted SSS contributions that shall start on July 2008. They also agreed to pay the workers their back wages from the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement starting November 2007. But none of these were complied with.

“This scheme being implemented by the Lepanto company is a trend towards the contractualization of labor and eventually busting the labor unions. This is an outright attack against the growing number of genuine trade unions in the region,” said Manuel Binhaon, president of the LEU-NAFLU-KMU.

“We are no longer in a slave-master society. The Lepanto company should recognize the employer-employee relationship that has requisites, terms and conditions they have agreed on,” said Binhaon. # Leonida E. Tundagi (NorDis)

Save Tañon group wants GMA to stop oil drilling

November 15, 2008

LEADERS of the Save Tañon Strait Citizens Movement (STSCM) celebrated their first anniversary as a group yesterday and urged President Arroyo to stop oil drilling in the waters of the Visayas.

Lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos said that as an early Christmas gift to Arroyo, they will send her a book entitled “Go Easy on the Sea” with confidence that once the President reads it, she will realize that preserving the sea is more important than oil drilling.

“Why would government insist on an oil drilling project when it pollutes the environment and adds to the greenhouse gas, which causes climate change? Let us do our share as member of the global community in reducing carbon emission” Estenzo-Ramos said.

She hopes the government will listen to them, considering that the country is a signatory to different international conventions affirming our mission and help to attain sustainable development.

Committed

Estenzo-Ramos said the Philippines is also a member of a group of nations that is committed to support the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty by 50 percent by the year 2015.

“We have only seven years to go but we are contributing to the displacements of fisherfolk. So how can we possibly attain this goal of reducing poverty and promoting ecological sustainability? That is why government officials must listen to the grievances of the people”, Estenzo-Ramos said.

Seismic survey

As this developed, the fisherfolk of Argao and Sibonga towns, who are supported by STSCM, have vowed to fight against oil drilling in the Cebu-Bohol Strait. The seismic survey was recently conducted by Nor-Asian Energy Limited.

Lawyer Benjamin Cabrido said the govern-ment’s oil drilling encroaches on the livelihood of the fishermen. This violates their first Bill of Rights, which is the right to life.
“That cannot be bargained away. They are taking away the livelihood of the fisherfolk in Argao and Sibonga,” he said.

He said that there are two conflicting interests in the Argao-Sibonga project. Whether the life and livelihood of the fisherfolk take precedence over national projects—the so-called independent energy development program of the government—is now a legal issue.

“Enough is enough for protests. It is now high time to elevate this issue to the court, especially the Supreme Court, to resolve whether a government project will prevail over the right to life,” Cabrido said. (EOB) (Sunstar)

Solons back Guimaras vs mining

October 26, 2008

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:43:00 10/26/2008

ILOILO CITY, Philippines—Five Congressmen have urged the House of Representatives to support the stand of officials and residents of Guimaras against mining operations on the island-province.

House Resolution 841, filed on Oct. 10, calls on the chamber to support the opposition of Guimarasnons against the entry and operations of mining companies.

The resolution was sponsored by Guimaras Rep. JC Rahman Nava, Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño, Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan and Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano.

In the resolution, the congressmen described the island as rich in natural resources and one of the pristine popular tourist destinations in the country.

Environmental nightmare

It said the island is well known for its export quality mangoes with around 250,000 mango trees planted all over the island.

“The varieties of mango produced on the island are among the sweetest in the world and are best for making dried mangoes, jam and other delicacies,” according to the resolution.

The congressmen said the island’s tourism potential lies on its pristine beaches and environment, which is still recovering from the devastation of a massive oil spill two years ago.

Over 2 million liters of bunker fuel was spilled into the waters of Guimaras after MT Solar I sank off the coast of the island on Aug. 11, 2006, amid rough seas. The spill contaminated marine resources and dislocated thousands of residents dependent on fishing.

The congressmen said the island’s tourism potential, rich biodiversity and livelihood of the people are in danger because of pending mining applications.

Mining expanse

Guimaras Gov. Felipe Nava earlier said that 65 percent of the island, or around 37,000 hectares, are covered by three applications for mining. These cover 22 villages in Nueva Valencia town, 13 in Sibunag, 12 in San Lorenzo, six in Buenavista and five in the capital town of Jordan.

The coverage of mining applications ranged from 2,000 to 30,000 hectares.

Years back, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had approved the application for a mineral production sharing agreement of Dorilag Cement Corp., which covered 1,794.60 hectares in the towns of Jordan and Buenavista. But this has failed to operate because of the opposition of the local government.

One mining company alone, the Fil-Asian Strategic Resources and Properties Corp., a subsidiary of the Australia-based Rusina Mining NL, plans to explore for gold and copper deposits in a 2,400-hectare area covering nine of the 20 villages of Nueva Valencia.

Dambuhalang kompanya ng mina, mas tuso na ngayon

October 21, 2008

Kenneth Roland A. Guda

Operasyon ng pagmimina sa Rapu-rapu, Albay

ABALANG abala si Mike Defensor ngayon.

Sa kabila ng nakakahiyang pagkatalo niya sa eleksiyong pagkasendor noong 2007, hindi tumigil ang pakikipag-ugnayan niya sa pamahalaang Arroyo. Hindi pa lumipas ang isang taong ban sa kanya na humawak ng posisyon sa gobyerno, naging abala siya sa tangkang pagharang sa testimonya ni Jun Lozada sa Senado noong Pebrero 2008. Nitong Hunyo, agad siyang itinalaga bilang pinuno ng task force para sa pagbubukas ng Terminal 3 ng Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Pagkatapos, naging abala rin siya sa pangangasiwa sa implementasyon ng proyektong Northrail.

Kamakailan, napapadalas ang bisita ni Defensor sa Zambales. Dalawang kompanyang nagsasagawa ng pagmimina ang pinamumunuan ng dating sekretaryo ng Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR): Chairman si Defensor ng NiHAO Mineral Resources Inc. at direktor naman ng Geograce Resources Philippines.

Pareho itong naaprubahang magsagawa ng ekplorasyon sa Zambales – matapos iutos ni Zambales Gov. Amor Deloso ang kanselasyon ng “regulatory approvals” sa lahat ng pagmimina roon. Kasosyo ni Defensor sa dalawang proyektong ito ang kompanyang Jiangxi Rare Earth and Rare Metals Tungsten Group ng Tsina sa halagang US$150 Milyon. Si Arroyo pa mismo ang nangasiwa sa lagdaan ng dalawang kampo sa Chengdu, probinsiya ng Sichuan sa Tsina.

Dahil malaking banta ito sa kanyang komunidad, sinaliksik ni Nelson Mallari, lider-Aeta ng PROJECT Zambales, isang probinsiyal na alyansa kontra sa mapanirang pagmimina, kung anong klaseng mga kompanya ang NiHAO at Geograce. Ikinagulat niya ang kanyang napag-alaman.

“Kamangha-mangha kung paano naka-akses sa napakalalaking lupain sa maiksing panahon ang mga kompanyang ito na walang track record sa industriya ng pagmimina!” buladas ni Mallari.

Ito kasi ang napag-alaman ni Mallari: noong unang kuwarto ng 2008, umabot sa P17.18-M ang ikinalugi ng Geograce sa mga negosyo nito. Wala namang rekord ang NiHAO ng anumang proyektong pagmimina bago ang nalagdaang mga kasunduan nito ngayong taon.

Naintindihan lamang niya kung bakit ito nangyari nang malaman niyang pinamumunuan ang dalawang kompanya ni Defensor. Kasosyo rin daw dito ni Defensor ang ilang kamag-anak ng matataas na opisyal ng gobyerno.

Labag sa Saligang Batas

Noong Hunyo, nabalitang nakipagtambalan ang Geograce sa kompanyang Brazilian na Vale do Rio Doce, ang pangalawang pinakamalaking kompanya ng pagmimina sa mundo. Pinayagan silang magsagawa ng eksplorasyon para sa copper at gold sa isla ng Masbate.

Sa kabuuan, ayon sa Kalikasan – People’s Network for the Environment, aabot sa 240,000 ektarya ang inaareglo ng Geograce na eksklusibong mapagminahan ng nickel, gold, copper at chromite, sa buong Pilipinas.

Noong Agosto, dinepensahan ng Malakanyang ang pag-apruba sa pagmimina ng mga kompanyang pinamumunuan ng dating miyembro ng gabinete. “Hindi ba dapat tingnan natin ang kabilang bahagi ng larawan? Negatibong pagtingin iyan (pagtingin ng Kalikasan) na nagbubukas ng ispekulasyon na pinaboran si Defensor. Pero pribadong pamumuhunan ito, at pag-aari man ito ni Mike Defensor o ni Jesus Dureza, dapat tanggapin ito,” ayon kay Jesus Dureza, tagapagsalita ng Pangulo.

Ang hindi nabanggit ni Dureza, maaaring labag sa Saligang Batas ang proyektong pagmiminang ito. Samantalang lokal na kompanya diumano ang NiHAO at Geograce, masasabing dayuhang proyekto na rin ang isasagawa nito sa Zambales matapos makipagkasundo sa Tsinong kompanyang Jiangxi. Sa mga proyektong ito, kinakailangan ng isang Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) na inaprubahan ng Pangulo.

Sa suri ng Kalikasan, lumalabas na lantarang ginagamit na umano ng malalaking dayuhang korporasyon ng mina ang lokal at mas maliliit na kompanya para makapagmina sa Pilipinas. Ayon sa grupo, kabilang sa malalaking kompanya ng mina na gumagamit ng maliliit, pati ­­small-scalle mining companies, para maiwasan ang kasunduang FTAA ang: Platinum Group of Metals Corp. (PGMC); Citinickel Mines and Development Corp.; Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporations (SNPDC); A3 UNA; Mindoro Resources Ltd.; at marami pang iba.

Ayon kay Rene Pineda ng Concerned Citizens Against Pollution (Cocap), marami sa mga kompanyang ito ang pag-aari ng mga dayuhan. Binigay niyang halimbawa ang MBMI Resources Inc., isang kompanyang Canadian at nag-oopereyt sa likod ng maraming kompanyang Pilipino, kabilang ang ilang small-scale mines sa Palawan.

“Kinumpirma ng aming pananaliksik na major stakeholder nga ng small-scale mining permits tulad ng sa Narra Nickel Mining & Development Inc., Patricia Louise Mining & Development Corp., Sara Marie Mining Inc., at Madridejos Mining Corporation, ang MBMI Presources Inc.,” paliwanag ni Pineda.

Ang masama pa, matagal na umanong isinumbong ito sa DENR, pero hindi pa rin ito iniimbestigahan ng ahensiya.

Inilulusot sa maliliit na proyekto

Marami sa mga mayor na proyektong pagmimina sa bansa – iyong itinuring ni Pangulong Arroyo bilang priority projects – ay nakaranas ng matinding paglaban ng taumbayang apektado ng kanilang mga proyekto.

Halimbawa na nito ang pagmimina sa Rapu-rapu, Albay ng Lafayette Mining Corp., kompanyang Australyano, na nagdeklara ng pagkabangkarote noong Disyembre 2007 matapos ang matinding pagtutol ng taumbayang Albayano. Napuwersa ang Lafayette na ibenta ang pagmimina nito sa Rapu-rapu sa mga kompanyang Koreano at Malaysian nitong Abril 2008.

Isa pang halimbawa ang suspensiyon sa pagmimina ng OceanaGold ng New Zealand, sa Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya noong Abril 2008, matapos kuwestiyunin ni Nueva Vizcaya Gov. Luisa Cuaresma ang hindi pagbayad ng kompanya ng lokal na mga buwis.

Kahit ang pagmimina ng Swiss na kompanyang Xstrata sa Tampakan, South Cotabato, ay nakatanggap ng matinding pagtutol. Sa pagkakataong ito, mga rebeldeng NPA (New People’s Army) naman ang nag-atake. Ayon sa NPA, pinarusahan umano nila ang kompanya dahil sa pang-aagaw nito ng lupa sa mga magsasaka at katutubo, gayundin ang banta ng pagkasira ng kalikasan.

Sa totoo lang, sa lagay na ito’y maluwag na ang gobyernong Arroyo sa mga dayuhang kompanya ng mina. Sa bilang ng Kalikasan noong Enero 2008, aabot na sa 294 kasunduan sa pagmimina ang inaprubahan ng Pangulo, kabilang ang dalawang FTAA, 262 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA), mas maliit na kasunduan kumpara sa FTAA), at 30 Exploration Permits (EP).

Aabot na sa 600,000 ektarya ng Pilipinas ang pinagmiminahan ng dayuhang mga korporasyong ito at ng mga kasabuwat nilang lokal na kompanya.

Pero dahil marahil sa matitinding pagtutol sa mga komunidad, napuwersa ang mga kompanyang ito na gumawa ng paraan para mas madulas na makapagsamantala ng mga yamang-lupa ng Pilipinas. Kabilang na nga rito ang paggamit sa small-scale mining na dating ginagawa ng maliliit na kompanya at ordinaryong minero na walang malalaking kagamitang pangmina.

Inamin ng DENR

Inamin maging ng Marine and Geosciences Bureau ng DENR na dumarami ang inaaprubahang small-scale mining permits sa bansa. Imbes na pambansang gobyerno kasi ang mag-aapruba, mga lokal na pamahalaan lamang ang kailangang sumang-ayon sa proyekto. Sa tala ng MGB, noong 2004 ay may 70 small-scale mining permits lamang. Pero nitong 2007, umabot na sa 173.

“Sa mga nakaraang taon, small-scale mining ang paraan ng mga dayuhan at lokal na junior mining companies para mapabilis ang pagpasok ng kanilang mga operasyon sa mga komunidad,” ayon sa Kalikasan. “Mayorya sa mga komunidad ay nagugulat sa mabilis na pagproseso ng mga aplikasyon. Nakakapagprotesta lang sila kapag nandiyan na ang kompanya ng mina o nasa operasyon na.”

“Lumalabas na dummy o prente lamang ang mga korporasyong (tulad ng kay Defensor) ng mga dayuhang kompanya,” sabi ni Clemente Bautista ng Kalikasan.

Pero lumalaban pa rin ang mga komunidad. Lantad na sa mga lider ng komunidad tulad ni Mallari ang pakikipagsabuwatan umano ni Defensor at ng gobyerno sa pagsasamantala ng dayuhang mga kompanya sa yamang-lupa ng bansa. Sa ngayon, iniikot umano nila ang mga komunidad na apektado ng mga proyekto ni Defensor.

Abalang-abala na rin sila sa paglaban.(PinoyWeekly)

New investors pledge $30M for Lafayette

October 11, 2008

Rogelio Corpus, president, Rapu-Rapu Minerals Inc. (RRMI), made this statement during a presentation of the company’s plans and programs before the members of the Provincial Board of Albay last Oct. 7.

Corpuz said that last April 21, 2008, Philco Resources Ltd. acquired LPI from Lafayette Mining Ltd. of Australia. Philco Resources is composed of LG International and the Korean Resources Inc. (Koreso. Philco Resources owns 70 percent of the company while the Malaysian Smelting Corp. Later acquired 30 percent of the company.

The project arms are the Rapu-rapu Minirals Inc. (RRMI) and the Rapu-Rapu Processing Inc. (RRPI), which is headed by Marcial Campos, its president.

According to Corpus, the company has a total workforce of 789 56 percent or 400 of whom come from the island town and about 16 percent come from outside the Bicol region mostly technical personnel.

The new owners of Lafayette have committed to comply with all the laws and regulations of the Mining Act of 1996 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Corpus said. Furthermore, he said that the island town has a total land area of 5,500.00 hectares but only 180 hectares have been set aside as a mining area. A total of 17 hectares have been set aside as the site for the open pit mining operation. The mine site is localed in the Barangays of Pagcolbon, Malabago and Binsawan as the direct impact area and the barangays of Linao, Tinupan and Sta. Barbara as the indirect impact area.

Corpus said that the target during normal operations next year would be the production of 10,000 metric tons of copper,14,000 metric tons of zinc, 50, 000 ounces of gold and 600,000 ounces of silver.

The company has set aside P167 million for the rehabilitation and decommissioning of the mine, “Corpus said.

“Recently, we deposited P20 million in the bank and we committed to deposit P5 million every month thereafter until such time that the document on the mine rehabilitation has been approved by the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB), “ Corpus said.

Board Members Celso Aytons, chairman, committee on environment, and BM Ostiano Calleja, Ramon Alsua, and Engr. Jose Flores, provincial mining consultant, asked the speaker questions about the safety of the mine and the benefits to be derived from the mining operation.

Also present but did not participate in the discussion were Marcial Campis, president of RRPI, Won of Kores and Lo of Malaysia Smelting Corporation.(BicolMail)

Bakun elders reject Royalco exploration

October 5, 2008

BAKUN, Benguet — Elders of at least nine more sitios in Barangay Gambang here rejected the mineral exploration project of Royalco, Philippines.

In a resolution, the barangay council of Gambang endorsed the Certificate of Rejection by the council of elders of sitios Mabuhay, Pulag, Gold Star, Mogao, Batanes/Paasin,Nametbet/Lebeng/Bagtangan, Takayan, Liwang and Bolbolo, covering Phase III of the said mining exploration venture.

Barangay Captain Alvaro Paquito signed Resolution No. 51-2008, which defined the council endorsement for the said rejection.

Upon learning of the approved exploration permit application, elders questioned the processes and altercations of legal interpretations ensued between NCIP representatives and individuals. The heated exchange dismayed the Council of Leaders and Elders of their understanding of “customary laws” and “indigenous rights” as embodied under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).

Among the arguments the Certificate of Rejection forwarded include the predominantly agricultural character of the livelihood sources of the people and their preference to develop farming rather than mining; the apprehension that mining would divide the community and alter the harmonious community relationships; and the apprehension that the company’s interest in the area does not end in the exploration stage and that they fear losing their water to the mining operations.

“We are preserving the land for the future generation and the generations to come. We are not ready to allow these lands for large scale mining,” the elders’ certification of rejection reads.

The Council of Leaders and Elders, also added that Sitio Liin is the source of water for both domestic and irrigation.

“In case any exploration will happen at Phase III, this will affect all the sitios sourcing water here. It would be disastrous to the residents and their livelihood,” one of the signatories said.

The leaders and elders also maintained they did not receive any prior notice for such consultation. They said they were informed two days before, which they said is not enough for them to prepare. They assert that this is violation of their right to Free prior Informed Consent as community. Some of them were not able to attend due to lack of access to information in their sitios.

Some of the landowners opposing the said mineral exploration were not in the list. They tried  to include participate so that they could question such anomalous approval but they were not given chance by the NCIP team.

More elders of affected sitios are also preparing for their Certificate of Rejections, according to another resident.

Royalco’s exploration involves an area of 986 hectares in Barangay Gambang. Its free, prior and informed consent has been approved for Phase I, while those of phases II and III are undergoing consultations. Phase III met strong community opposition, according to Paquito. # Sonia Bullong (NorDis)

Davids vs Goliaths: Face off in Mindanao mines

October 3, 2008

By Edwin G. Espejo

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FILIPINO partners of foreign mining firms are slowly beginning to realize that inviting prospective offshore investors is proving to be more than they could handle than all shades of activists opposed to mining operations in the country.

These differences are taking deep roots in the boardrooms where giants in the global mining industry are slowly building up their interests and investments in Philippine mining companies.

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

Asiaticus Management Corporation (Amcor) president Vicente Jayme Jr. said the difference goes beyond clashes over management style and cultural sensitivities.

“We have altogether different objectives which resulted into the delay of our exploration activities,” Jayme said, referring to Australian mining giant BHP Billiton with which he and his Filipino group have a joint venture agreement to explore ore deposits at the Pujada Nickel Project in Davao Oriental.

Trouble began when Filipino partners of Amcor questioned the priorities of BHP Billiton, which owns 40 per cent of the company.

“We have been waiting for them (BHP Billiton) over the last seven years to make good of their commitment to pour in investment for the project exploration,” he said in an interview at the break of the first Mindanao Mining Forum held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City two days ago.

His fellow company official, Amcor Vice President Lauriano Barrios, said he is getting the impression that big foreign mining companies are only engaged in “mine banking.”

By claiming stakes in Philippine mining projects, he said these mining giants are already amassing huge profits in the stock markets. “They are building up their capital at our expense,” Barrios said.

While acknowledging that their case is mere microcosm of clashing interests between Filipino and foreign investors, Jayme said each and every mining corporation has its own peculiarities.

He has a point.

At the Sagittarius Mines Incorporated (SMI) in Tampakan, South Cotabato, an internecine corporate war is also brewing.

Xstrata Copper, a subsidiary of Xstrata Plc, is engaged in a bitter and costly war to hold off a bid of investors from taking control over the 34 per cent stake held by its partner, another Australian mining firm Indophil Resources Ltd., after it foiled an attempt by Hongkong-based Stanhill Consortium to get into the corporate picture.

Filipino corporate conglomerate Alsons Group is now trying to buy Indophil’s stake at Tampakan Copper and Gold Project.

With ore deposits of over 12.8 million tons of 0.6 per cent copper and 15.2 million ounces of 0.2 grams per ton of gold, The Tampakan Copper and Gold Project is reportedly the biggest of its kind in Asia. This potential find has sent the share prices of Indophil Resources Ltd., at the Australian Stock Exchange from AUS$0.35 per share to 1.32 per share at the time Stanhill made its offer in June this year.

The corporate war in SMI has spilled over to the corporation itself. The ensuing corporate shakedown following the takeover of Xstrata people in the management of SMI has heightened the opposition to the mining operations of the company.

A former consultant of SMI said, since Xstrata gained control over the project, nothing good has come out for the company in the local media.

Filipino partners of Philex Gold in Surigao are likewise moving to buy out the 50 per cent interest of Anglo American Plc following divergent views with the foreign mining firm “on a number of assumption and conclusions made in (its) feasibility studies such as metal prices, treatment and refining charges, engineering and owner’s costs and capital contingency.”

Jayme, whose father is former public works and finance secretary Vicente Jayme Sr. during the Aquino administration, said some global mining companies are using their “proprietary rights” over mining technologies and stacks off cash to hold Filipino mining interest hostage.

He said they finally decided to rescind their contract with BHP Billiton “because of our commitment to the communities.”

If need be, they will do it on their own sans BHP Billiton, he pointed out.
Technologies, he revealed, are no longer the private domains of these foreign mining firms.

“We have made several consultations with Chinese and Japanese mining firms and they are willing to help us out,” Jayme said.

BHP Billiton is the world’s biggest diversified mining company and holds varying amount of stakes over scores of mining claims all over the world. Xstrata Plc, on the other hand, is the world’s fourth largest mining firm while Anglo American Plc is among the world’s leading mining giants.

Barrios said with BHP Billiton having so much and so many interests in mining all over the world, exploring nickel at the Pujada project has become the least of its priorities.

“What about us? We cannot wait for them forever. Ginugutom nila ang mga (They are starving the Filipino) investors,” he rued.

Jayme refused to characterize the ongoing boardroom wars in many local mining firms with foreign partners as a product of birthing pains following the passage of Republic Act (RA) 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

RA 7942 was crafted to ostensibly resuscitate the mining industry in the country which, during the pre Martial Law era, was Asia’s biggest and most developed.

Until recently, Mindanao has been largely untapped as past mining operations were heavily concentrated in Luzon and Visayas. Since the passage of the law, there are already over 64 mining applications from 26 mining firms in the South Cotabato-Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat-Saragani-General Santos City (Soccsksargen or Central Mindanao Region) area alone.

With the Supreme Court (SC) in 2004 upholding the constitutionality of the RA 7942, which allows foreign corporations to wholly own mining firms and claims in the country, there is no telling where these intra-corporate wars are headed to.

Jayme is not straightforwardly asking the government to intervene and review its policy on the development of the mining industry in the country. But he has these parting words: “Support what is Filipino that belongs to the Filipinos.” (SunStar)

Barricades down in mining firm compound but…

October 1, 2008

MindaNews
Tuesday, 30 September 2008 09:14
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GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/29 September) –The barricades put up by tribal residents of Tampakan, South Cotabato seeking employment in a mining firm may have been gone, but the possibility that it will happen again is not remote because the solution offered by the management was “short term,” a municipal official said on Monday.

The protesters had given Sagittarius Mines Inc. until September 25 to heed their demand. They warned they would reinstall barricades on the road leading to the base camp of the company in Barangay Tablu if the company did not give in.

Dismayed tribal residents seeking employment at the company lifted the road blockade on September 8, which they set up several days earlier, forcing the company to suspend exploration activities then.

“It’s a temporary, short-term solution…to accommodate the residents’ demand for work, some were even hired for road maintenance, using sticks and shovels,” acting Tampakan Vice Mayor Relly A. Leysa said in an interview.

“The residents did not reinstall the road blocks, as they warned earlier, because they were given employment. The company now even has operations during night time,” he added.

The official feared the road blockade will recur and other problems will arise once the temporary jobs end.

Leysa said the local government unit will consider the solution offered by the company on the residents’ demand for work in the ongoing review of the principal agreement.

The mining project is controlled by Swiss miner Xstrata Copper with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as junior partner.

The local government unit targets to finish the review of the principal agreement with the company before the end of the year.

John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius corporate communications manager, defended the company by claiming that “it is doing its best to foster good relationship with the communities.”

“We’re trying to find short, medium and long-term solutions [to the problems grappling us],” Arnaldo said.

He confirmed that they have employed the disgruntled residents but failed to identify what kind of work was given.

He said all is “normal” and that the firm has resumed its 24-hour operation.

Some of those who took part in the recent barricades were alleged illegal sluice mining workers arrested by the police last month.

Sluice mining, or banlas in the vernacular, requires the pouring of large amounts of water on a mountain’s surface to extract the rocks containing the gold ore.

They participated in the road blockade to demand work in the company since they have been deprived of their source of income following their arrest, although they were later on freed.

In October last year, Christian residents also set up road blockades and padlocked the facilities of the company in Tampakan town. They demanded regular positions at the company.

Last New Year’s Day, New People’s Army rebels stormed the firm’s base camp and burned facilities worth at least P12 million. (MindaNews)

Alsons buying out Indophil stakes at SMI

October 1, 2008

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/30 September) — Filipino business conglomerate Alsons Group is reportedly close to sealing a deal that would allow it to buy the minority block of shares being held by Indophil Resources NL at the Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), holder of the Tampakan Copper and Gold Project.


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In a news item posted at www.tradingmarkets.com, Indophil Resources NL chair Richard Laufmann said he is confident the ongoing buyout talks with Alsons will lead to the “completion” of the deal ahead of the November shareholders meeting of the Australia-based mining firm.

Indophil owns 34.23 per cent of SMI, whose copper and gold project site cuts across several villages in the provinces of South Cotabato, Davao del Sur and Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao.

Swiss mining giant Xstrata Plc, through its Australia-based subsidiary Xstrata Copper, is controlling partner of SMI having owned 62.5 per cent of Philippine-based mining company.

Alsons still holds 3.27 per cent of SMI which was subsumed in Indophil last year, bringing the latter’s total stake at SMI at 37.5 per cent.

Indophil earlier signed a memorandum of intent to progress talks for a possible sale of its stakes at SMI after Alsons offered to buy the former’s interests at the company for AUS$1.28 per share.

“Alsons is pleased at the prospect of becoming Xstrata’s local Philippine partner in the Tampakan project.  Alsons’ strong roots and major projects in Mindanao will be an asset to the Tampakan project moving forward,” Alsons Group chair Tomas Alcantara, a former Trade Undersecretary, said.

Alsons Group is a leading Filipino conglomerate with diversified interests in agriculture, real estate, banking, energy, manufacturing and mining.

The Filipino company holds minority shares at Indophil Resources after it agreed to a milestone-tied sale of its five-percent share at SMI following Xstrata’s formal takeover of the Tampakan project in April last year.

In June this year, a consortium of investors led by Stanhill Resources of Hongkong offered to buy Indophil for AUS$1.28 per share on the condition that Indophil deliver at least 90 per cent of its shares in the mining firm.

But Lions Selection sold 17.76 per cent of its 25 per cent stakes at Indophil to Xstrata, which automatically voided the bid offer of Stanhill.

Alsons Corp. is one of the companies that joined Stanhill in the consortium which failed to buy out Indophil.

On September 11, Alsons Corp. was reported to have submitted another bid for the same price per share, this time for only the shares held by Indophil at SMI.

Indophil has several other mineral exploration projects outside of the Tampakan Copper and Gold Project.

The mining firm has been locked in a long-drawn corporate war with its SMI majority partner Xstrata.

Laufmann earlier accused Xstrata of being “unrealistically opportunistic” after it offered to buy the shares of Lions Selection at AUS$1 per share, saying Xstata’s offer did not reflect the true value of Indophil.

When Stanhill offered to buy at AUS$1.28 per share, Xstrata said it will not match the offer only to submit the same price bid 48 hours later.

The price of Indophil’s shares zoomed to AUS$1.32 immediately after Stanhill submitted its bidder’s statement.

With the Stanhill offer carrying the 90-percent delivery colatilla, Xstrata succeeded in buying out majority of Lions Selection’s stake at Indophil effectively voiding the former’s bid offer.

As soon as Xstrata completed its deal with Lions, Indophil shares plummeted to less than 0.80 Aus cents.

At Monday’s stock trading at the Australian Stock Exchange, Indophil’s share rose slightly at 0.90 per share but it slid to 0.865 per share today.

Indophil is a publicly listed company in Australia.

With ore deposits of over 12.8 million tons of 0.6 per cent copper and 15.2 million ounces of 0.2 grams per ton of gold, the Tampakan Copper and Gold Project is reportedly the biggest of its kind in Asia. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews contributor)

4 more miners rescued from flooded tunnel

October 1, 2008

By DEXTER SEE, MIKE GUIMBATAN JR., and MAR T. SUPNAD

ITOGON, Benguet – A strong faith in God, prayers, and drinking the murky water that trapped them deep in an abandoned mineshaft helped keep the six rescued miners alive for more than a week as rescuers raced to reach them.

Four more miners were rescued at Shaft 115 on Level 7 of the mines as of 10:30 a.m. yesterday, raising the number of the survivors to six and hopes among rescuers of finding more survivors.

Engr. Felizardo Gacad, spokesman of Mines and Geosciences Bureau Cordillera office, said Gerry Monyudna, 23, was brought out of the tunnel at 11:23 pm. of Monday, Jason Himmayod, 23, at 8:05 a.m. yesterday, Robert Buhway, 21, at 9:20 a.m., and Garry Gano at around 10:15 am.

Earlier, rescuers found Antonio Pagulayan, 23, and Jose Panio Jr. in Shaft 114. The two were found floating at one end of level 700, the lowest level of the mine tunnels.

Rescuers and relatives applauded as three survivors were brought out Monday and three others Tuesday on stretchers. They were extremely hungry but in apparent good health.

Before the discovery of the survivors, the bodies of Vincent Himmayod and Joel Bulga were first retrieved last Sept. 26 or five days after they were last seen entering the abandoned Antamok Goldfield mines.

The trapped miners said they took refuge in air pockets at Level 700 after water from rains brought Typhoon Nina swamped the old tunnels last Sept. 21. They were forced to drink flood water after their food and water ran out.

The Antamok Goldfield mine is owned by Benguet Mining Corp. at Purok 7, Gold Field , Poblacion, Itogon, Benguet.

“Nang lumabas ang pang-apat na survivor, may narinig na nagre-respond sa loob sa signals. Binalikan at nailabas ang fifth and sixth survivors (Shortly after rescue workers pulled out the fourth survivor, rescue workers heard voices responding to their signals. They went back and got the fifth and sixth survivors out),” said Chief Supt. Eugene Martin, Cordillera regional police chief, in an interview.

All survivors were rushed to the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) where doctors said they were weak, in shock, but in relatively good condition after trapped inside the flooded mine for a week.

Rescuers managed to reach deeper into Level 700 after relatively good weather saw water levels inside the tunnels go down.

Teams of rescuers, comprised of miners and divers from the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard, are conducting round the clock searches inside the abandoned mines of the Benguet Mining Corporation.

Engr. Neoman dela Cruz, MGB-CAR regional director, said the survivors and rescuers indicated there may be more survivors and rescue operations are continuing non-stop despite difficulties.

Pagulayan and Panio said they were able to find areas with higher elevation so that the water will not reach them and that the area had a good ventilation so they were able to breathe humid air.

They prayed hard for the rescuers to reach them in time.

Nearly 100 rescuers have been battling heavy rains and floodwaters to find the miners who went into the shafts on Sept. 21 during a typhoon that rapidly flooded the tunnels.

With eight of miners already accounted for, eight more remain missing, with hopes lifted among rescuers to find more survivors, said George Baywong of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

An Ifugao ritual was performed last Sunday by relatives of the trapped miners calling the help of “Maknongan,” the supreme being, and Ifugao ancestors to guide rescuers to the missing miners.

Tears of joy rolled down the cheeks of Hilda Monyubda, a third year student of Benguet State University, when she learned of her husband’s rescue midnight of Monday.

Jaylord Panio, older brother of survivor, Jose Panio said they are very grateful to God for listening to their prayers.

The younger Panio said he and Pagulayan tried to swim out of the tunnel but were forced back. They shared the three liters of water they had until it ran out.

Meanwhile, divers were trying to reach two other men seen inside the shaft, but it was not clear if they were still alive, said Baywong, who is supervising rescue efforts.

“We don’t know if they are survivors,” Baywong said. “We are hoping against hope that they are still alive.’’

“This is some sort of a miracle,’’ Neoman de la Cruz, another Mines and Geosciences Bureau officer, told The Associated Press by telephone. “Our hardships have been compensated and we won’t give up our search for more survivors.’’

The first two miners rescued Monday managed to survive by standing on a ledge in a tunnel about 400-700 feet below ground where there was enough oxygen to keep them alive.

They drank the water that flooded the tunnel but had nothing else, Baywong said.

The four others rescued late Monday and Tuesday morning were found in separate elevated portions of the shaft.

Dela Cruz said rescuers heard what appeared to be faint human voices in some of the tunnels and the search would focus in that area.

The tunnels, dug decades ago in mountainous Benguet province, were abandoned in the 1990s by a gold mining company, which posted guards at two entrances to prevent accidents.

The trapped miners, who were working on their own with no permit, dug a narrow passageway to gain access to the tunnels, Baywong said. (With a report from AP) (ManilaBulletin)

Environment groups demand probe on Crew Minerals for Masara tragedy

September 28, 2008

BY DAISY C. GONZALES
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY–Southern Mindanao environment groups demand a probe on the Canadian mining firm Crew Minerals for the September 6 landslide in Masara that killed 24 and displaced thousands.

Francis Morales, spokesperson of the environment group Panalipdan, said that along with the rescue missions, government should also investigate the Masara mines of Apex Mining Corp (Apex), which Crew Gold Corp, known here as Crew Minerals, took over in 2005 after it bought the Filipino company’s majority shares.

“Monsoon rains ordinarily happen but landslides are easily triggered in areas where man-made intervention or aggression occurs,” Morales said in a statement.

Panalipdan said Crew Minerals has been “extensively aggressive” in its mining operations since it bought majority shares from Apex Mining.

Reports from the mining firm’s website (www.apexmining.com) said Crew Minerals upgraded Apex’s processing plant, targeting to process 2,400 metric tons of ore daily, from its present daily full capacity of only 500 metric tons (MT). The plant, according to Apex, is geared towards hitting its target.

The company’s drilling operations have also reached 32 kilometers below ground. “Its operation is in high gear as it wants increased target production by the end of this year,” Panalipdan said.

“Portals and ramp systems are continuously being opened as the company gears for increased production,” Morales said, hinting that it might have triggered the collapse.

“Large-scale mining corporations should not be left off the hook too quickly,” Morales said.

The Davao city chapter of the anti-mining alliance Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alyansa) also echoed similar call. Alyansa wants the government to investigate mining companies “for possible environmental safeguards that may have been violated.”

Last week’s landslides that instantly hit Masara village, a mining enclave in Maco town, claimed 24 lives, countless injured, and at least 5,000 residents homeless, creating two ghost communities in Maco, Compostela Valley Province, some four-hour drive northeast from this city.

Crew Minerals targets 85,000 to 180,000 ounces of gold and 500,000 to 600,000 ounces of silver this year, according to reports gathered by Panalipdan. At the minimum, 85,000 ounces of gold (2,409.665 kilograms of gold) is as heavy as the combined 48 sacks of a 50-kilo sack of milled staple rice.

Crew Minerals’ mining operations cover the landslide-prone Masara village in Maco town in Southern Mindanao. It is considered “principal asset” of the Canadian firm in the country, as stated in the company website.

The Canadian company took over the Filipino-owned Apex Mining Company after buying the majority shares. Crew Minerals and its Philippine partner Mapula Creek Gold Corp now holds 72.8 percent of Apex that operated in Maco since the 70s.

Maco mines, formerly called Masara Mines, was purchased from Apex at 6.6 million dollars in 2005 and has since been one of the 24 priority mining projects being pushed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The government’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) approved the company’s MPSAs in 2005 and 2007 which cover 2,237 hectares previously occupied by Apex.

“Extensive drilling” operations early last year proved to be more positive compared to 2006, the company reported on its website.

According to http://www.apexmining.com, estimated gold on site as of last year was 1.462 million MT at 6.5 grams per MT. ”Inferred” mineral resources or positive estimates based on Maco mines geology samples were higher at 9.066 million MT at six grams per metric tons. In 2004, MGB has valued Apex mines at 33.2 million dollars.

The anti-mining group Alyansa said the mining operations and expansion of Crew Minerals in the Maco mines have already cost the company 36.58 million dollars in the period of three years since 2004.

As the Crew Minerals ore production goes full swing this year, Panalipdan’s Morales dismissed MGB’s pronouncements that immediately exonerated mining firms and their operations from the Masara tragedy.

Panalipdan, an umbrella of 25-member organizations in Southern Mindanao, said that killer landslides are most frequent in areas where there are mining operations. The group cited the mining operations in King-King in Pantukan and the infamous Diwalwal mines in Monkayo, all in Compostela Valley Province. Both are also listed as priority mining projects of the President.

“Civilian lives are at stake due to the relentless issuance of mining permits to foreign mining companies amidst the sinful leniency and negligence of environmental safeguards, and dogged obeisance to mining capitalists,” said Morales.

Panalipdan reiterates its call to scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 that gives license to foreign big mining companies to own, operate and mine the country’s resources “at the expense of patrimony and national sovereignty.” (Daisy C. Gonzales/davaotoday.com)

Drive launched vs mining in Guimaras

September 28, 2008

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 19:25:00 09/27/2008

ILOILO CITY — GUIMARAS RESIDENTS AND OFFICIALS have launched a signature campaign against applications for large-scale mining on the island-province.

Led by Church groups and officials, the campaign coupled with an education drive in villages seeks to pressure government agencies to disapprove mining operations on the island that still has to recover from the massive oil spill two years ago.

Guimaras Gov. Felipe Nava said they would continue their campaign against mining applications even though the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had already said it would consider the stand and sentiments of the residents when they evaluate the mining applications.

“There is still no guarantee that mining applications will not be approved and that efforts of mining companies to come in and operate will stop. We will never rest until this is clear,” Nava told the Inquirer at the sidelines of a multi-sectoral assembly on large-scale mining held in Jordan, Guimaras, on Friday.

The assembly was attended by leaders of local governments, religious groups, nongovernment groups and people’s organizations.

Nava said three applications for mining covered 65 percent of the island or around 37,000 hectares. The mining applications were for areas located in 22 villages in Nueva Valencia town, 13 in Sibunag, 12 in San Lorenzo, six in Buenavista and five in the capital town of Jordan.

The Fil-Asian Strategic Resources and Properties Corp., a subsidiary of the Australia-based Rusina Mining NL, has exploration plans for gold and copper deposits in a 2,400-hectare area covering nine of the 20 villages of Nueva Valencia.

Its application included the villages of Napandong, Sto. Domingo, Lucmayan, San Roque, Salvacion, La Paz, Cabalagnan, Canhawan and Igdarapdap.

Nava said they would step up their advocacy against mining operations even if the DENR does not approve the applications.

“We cannot let our guard down. We have to be vigilant,” he said.

Fr. Jose Manuel Escanlar, parish priest of Jordan, said they were standing by the pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines against mining.

“These will destroy the whole island,” said Escanlar who was among the Church leaders who attended the assembly.

Fr. Remy Barredo, of the Sibunag parish of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, said he also opposed the mining applications because these will threaten communities.

“We do not oppose development but these should not be at the cost of losing our resources,” said Pepito Jose Cerrillo, a director of the Jordan Motorboat association.

Fr. Maloney Gotera, parish priest of Nueva Valencia, said lessons should be learned from communities that were destroyed by mining operations.

Provincial environment officer Gualberto Galia and health officer Dr. Felicito Lozarita also warned that mining operations could pollute water sources and lead to mercury poisoning.

Part of Diwalwal’s 8,100 hectare mining reserve up for bidding

September 28, 2008

DAVAO CITY—Oliver Butalid, the president of the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) announced the upcoming public bidding for the Upper Ulip Paraiso in Diwalwal for large-scale mining investors.

Butalid said the government corporation has set the deadline for the submission of prequalification bidding requirements on October 14 this year. “We want to draw as many participants as possible,” he said.

He said the bidding is expected to draw large-scale foreign firms because the mining site of Upper Ulip and Paraiso are “very attractive mining investments” in Diwalwal with the highest value at present.

But Butalid, in a mining summit here, continued to deny earlier reports on the secret deal allegedly signed between the government and the Chinese firm ZTE, a subsidiary of the NBN-ZTE company that figured in the alleged bribery scandal of the present administration.

“I have denied it for the nth time,” Butalid said. “I assure you all our deals are transparent. I don’t know why it keeps coming back on the papers.”

He said PMDC could not open the area for bidding if the reported MOU with the ZTE were already a done deal.

Upper Ulip and Paraiso is located directly above the gold rush area of Diwalwal, which the government has opened to big mining firms because drilling in the area is already beyond the capacity of small scale miners.

He said that the government offer can be very attractive because the mining firm that will win the bid can already start exploration as soon as it is awarded the contract. “They can start as soon as they’re awarded the contract because the environment clearance certificate in the area has already been secured,” he said.

Once operation starts, the mining company will pay a royalty of five per cent minimum content fee of US$5.5 million.

“We open the bidding to foreign companies and local companies who will qualify,” Butalid said, “We hope to draw as many bidders as possible because the area at its highest value at present, a very attractive property.”

PMDC, a government owned and controlled corporation took over the operation of Diwalwal mines.

Butalid said that the corporation is also talking with tunnel owners outside the gold rush area to make their operations legal. “We want them to make their operations more viable, we want them to reduce cost, by convincing them to become contractual partners of PMDC,” he said.

Government has declared the 8,100 hectares, which included the gold rush site of Diwalwal, as a mineral reserve, taking over full control of its operation. Government has divided the area into three zones, the 729 hectare gold rush site operated by the small miners, another zone open for large scale investors and the tribal section, where indigenous peoples who formerly owned the land are allowed to operate. (Germelina Lacorte/davaotoday.com)

Environmentalists increasingly anxious over the effects of mining in Davao Gulf

September 28, 2008

DAVAO CITY—A top official of the island garden city of Samal cracked a joke about the fish of Davao Gulf before a recent mining conference here to raise a point on the need to protect the environment amidst the flurry of activities in mining.

“The fish that we’re going to eat for lunch already contains an intolerable level of cyanide,” Samal vice mayor Orly Amit said in jest, as he presented the environment group results after a workshop at the Waterfront Hotel here. “We’re going to eat it all, even those of us involved in mining.”

Participants composed of foreign and local mining executives and government officials burst out laughing but Amit said everything in Davao Gulf will be affected once mining go full blast without strong regard for the environment.

“Even if we don’t have mines on Samal island, we are all affected so we have to join hands together,” he said. “The fish in Davao Gulf doesn’t stay in one place, you know, it can also reach Governor Malanyaon’s city of Mati and other parts of the ocean.”

He defined responsible mining as “borrowing the land from future generation,” that’s why those who are involved have to make sure to safeguard the environment to “eventually return it safe and sound” in the future. He earned applause from the pro-mining participants, who vowed to only allow responsible mining in Davao Gulf.

Environment groups, however, are not easily convinced.

Jo Villanueva, member of the nationwide group Alyansa Tigil Mina, said that without sufficient safeguards put in place, there is always a danger of government restrictions being ignored. “How can DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), for instance, monitor all of 300 mining permit holders in the country?” Villanueva said in another forum joined in by anti-mining groups.

Villanueva said that groups opposed to the entry of foreign mining in the country is now circulating a draft proposal for an alternative mining bill that will not threaten the environment and safeguard food security in the country. “It will address issues which were missed out in the 1995 Philippine Mining Act, that allowed the entry of big foreign mining firms in the country,” she said.

Among others, the draft bill will require stringent implementation of environment and land use laws to ensure that mining companies will not leave a tail of disasters in areas where they operate, she said. It will also call for actual, and not just token, participation of the communities in the mining projects.

“Most of all, we will no longer allow the entry of foreign mining firms,” Villanueva said.

Although there seems to be a hype in the mining activities in the country, Villanueva said that most of the companies applying mining permits are mere prospectors who do not really plan to embark in actual mining projects but are only waiting for a chance to sell their mining permits to big mining firms.

She also said that most foreign mining firms are also using these prospectors to clear the area and only decide to come in later after these “social issues” are ironed out.

Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III, a member of the committee on the environment in the House of Representatives agreed. “There seems to be a lot of selling here and there, no matter whether there is an actual deposit or not in the area,” Tanada said in the anti-mining forum at the Grand Menseng Hotel.

He said that government only tried to assuage the fear of civic organizations about the adverse impact of mining in the environment. “Even the so-called community participation and community consultations are nothing but lip service,” he said, “In cases where communities are strongly against mining, they’re actually being ignored.”

Victor Agustin, the regional director of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) earlier complained that the mining industry has been attracting only a few “real” investors despite the opening of the country to foreign mining firms.

Agustin said that most of those who applied for mining permits were only speculators who were not really planning to go into actual mining projects.

He said that the jobs targeted for mining in the Davao region failed to meet their midterm targets because the actual activities in mining were not really as good as their projections.

“A lot of speculators who don’t know anything about the technical implications are selling mining areas to global corporations whose only interest is to rake profits,” said Villanueva.

She said that the mergers and acquisitions frequently happening among global mining companies these days aggravate these threats, considering the loose implementation of environment laws in the country.

“It’s becoming such a very risky business,” said Villanueva, “We’re becoming subject to the whims of the global market. In the communities, mining is not just about profit,” she said. “It’s about the survival.” (Germelina Lacorte/.davaotoday.com)

Pagmimina at militarisasyon sa Masinloc

September 24, 2008

Lala Bautista/Mitch Santos

Minahan ng GGHI sa Brgy. Sta. Rita, Masinloc, Zambales

BUNSOD ng matinding pagtutol ng mamamayan ng Masinloc, Zambales sa operasyon ng pagmimina ng Golden Global Harvest Inc. o GGHI, pormal na itinatag ang alyansang Sagip Masinloc noong Setyembre 10, na binubuo ng mahigit 100 estudyante, magsasaka, residente, at makakalikasan.

Noong Hulyo 2, ibinaba ng Sangguniang Bayan ang Temporary Restraining Order laban sa GGHI, sa udyok ng nagrereklamong mga residente.

Ayon sa Sagip Masinloc, matagal na hinayaan ng lokal na pamahalaan ang operasyon ng kompanya kahit na hindi kinonsulta ang mga residente ng apektadong mga barangay.

Sa panayam noong Hunyo, sinabi ni Roberto Emilao, bise-alkalde ng Masinloc, na nagkasundo ang Sangguniang Bayan at Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Zambales na hayaan ang pagmimina ng nikel ng GGHI. Aniya, “’Wag nating isara ang ating pag-iisip sa makabagong progreso gaya ng minahan na ito dahil magbibigay ito ng trabaho sa mga tao at tulong pinansiyal sa bayan.”

Gamit sa pagmimina ng GGHI

Pagkasira sa kabuhayan at kalikasan

Ngunit ayon sa pagsusuri ng Siera Tapulao Adventure Group o STAG, isang grupo ng mountaineers na nangangalaga sa watershed ng Masinloc, P6 Milyon ang mawawala sa kita ng mga magsasaka sa Sitio Paglana, Brgy. Sta. Rita pa lamang. Higit na mas malaki raw ito kumpara sa P1-M buwis na ibinabayad ng minahan sa isang taon sa lokal na pamahalaan.

Nais ng mga residente sa mga sasakuping barangay na itigil ang operasyon ng pagmimina ng nikel at pagbayarin ang GGHI sa mga pinsalang idinulot nito gaya ng pagkasira ng lupang taniman.

Umano’y patuloy ang pag-agos mula sa kabundukan patungo sa ilog, na siyang nagsisilbing patubig para sa palayan, ng hindi maipagkakailang mga katas ng nakalalasong kemikal gaya ng mercury, cyanide, at oribe (ores) mula sa minahan. Kumakapit sa bato at lupa ang kulay nito na kung dati-rati ay malayang pinaliliguan, iniinuman o pinaglalabahan ng mga residente, ngayon ay hindi na. Maging sa mga hayop gaya ng kalabaw ay delikado na itong ipainom.

Sampung ektarya ng palayan na ang natabunan ng putik mula sa pagguho ng lupa sa bundok sa loob lamang ng pitong buwang operasyon ng GGHI. Hanggang sa ngayon, hindi pa rin nakapagpupunla ng palay ang mga magsasaka. Nagdulot din ang pagmimina ng pagkasira ng watershed, ayon sa STAG.

Bilang tugon sa pag-aalala ng mga mamamayan sa negatibong mga epekto ng pagmimina, iminungkahi ang lokal na pamahalaan na magbuo ng kanal sa perimetro ng minahan.

Bukirin na natabunan ng pagguho ng putik na dulot ng pagmimina

Pero ayon sa Sagip Masinloc, hindi ito solusyon. Sa karagatan pa rin umano tiyak na dadaloy ang nakalalasong basura mula sa minahan na tiyak na papatay sa mga isda at iba pang organismo na pinagmumulan ng kabuhayan ng mamamayan na Masinloc.

Presensiyang militar

Bukod dito, malakas ang presensiya ng militar sa mga lugar na saklaw ng minahan—banta umano ito sa karapatang pantao at kalayaang sibil ng mga mamamayan.

Binugbog kamakailan ng mga sundalo sa kanyang bukirin si Martin Ilago, isang magsasaka sa Brgy. Sta. Rita. Sa karatig-bayan naman ng Sta. Cruz, dinukot at tinortyur ang apat na sibilyan na kasalukuyang inaalipin sa kampong militar, ayon sa ulat ng mga residente.

Ayon kay Vic Delara, presidente ng STAG, inaasahan na niya na at ng kanilang grupo ang mga atake ng mga nagmamay-ari ng minahan, katuwang ng ilang awtoridad.

Hindi na sila malayang nakakaakyat sa mga kabundukan lalo na sa lugar na malalapit sa minahan dahil mahigpit umano ang pagbabantay ng pribadong mga security guard at sundalong militar.

Sinabi rin ni Nelson Mallari ng Central Luzon Aeta Association na lubos na apektado ang mga katutubo sa magkatambal na problemang pagmimina at militarisasyon.

Zambales: Mining capital

Mistulang mining capital ang Zambales. Noong panahon ng panunungkulan ni Governor Vic Magsaysay, malalaking minahan lamang ang namamayagpag. Pero sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang lokal na pamunuan ni Governor Amor Deloso, mas pinaigting ang kampanya para sa pagsusuporta hindi lamang sa malalaking minahan kundi maging sa small-scale mining o SSM.

Hinihikayat ng lokal na pamahalaan na mamuhunan kahit ang pangkaraniwang mamamayan, maging ang magsasaka, sa pamamagitan ng pagbebenta ng lupain nitong may potensiyal sa mina.

Kaiba sa malalaking minahan, walang malalaking makinarya at traktora ang mga operasyon ng SSM. Manu-mano ang operasyon. Kulang o kundi man ay walang safety measures para sa mga manggagawa na pulos kontraktuwal lamang. Ibinabase sa metro-kuwadrado na lalim at tinatamaang bato ang sistema ng pagbabayad sa manggagawa nito.

Kamakailan pumutok sa balita na ang ilang SSM ay pag-aari din ng mga ilang dambuhalang lokal at dayuhang mamumuhunan kabilang na si dating presidential spokesperson Mike Defensor.

Ayon sa Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, mahigit kalahating milyong ektarya ng lupain sa Pilipinas na ang nakalaan ngayon para sa 200 proyekto ng dayuhang pagmimina.

“Sa kabuuan, mas maraming kabuhayan ang mapipinsala ng pagmimina kumpara sa lilikhain nitong kabuhayan para sa mga mamamayan. Ang maliliit na kilos-protesta na isinasagawa ng Sagip Masinloc ay panimula lamang patungo sa tuluy-tuloy na mas malawak at organisadong pagbabantay para sa mas matagumpay na pagkilos kontra sa pananamantala,” ayon sa STAG. (PinoyWeekly)

Lepanto faces probe for polluting rivers

September 13, 2008

MANKAYAN, Benguet — Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) is facing a government probe for allegedly polluting rivers in Mankayan, Benguet, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur and communities along Abra River, one of the five biggest rivers in the country.

Though plainly dismissed by Lepanto environment manager Roland Reyes, government engineer Alex Luis of the Environment and Management Bureau of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (EMB-DENR) here had confirmed that results of tests by them are just being awaited by the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB).

The tests last June are to reconfirm initial tests made in April that indicted Lepanto to have allegedly been polluting these rivers as the lead content of its tailings dam 5A had reportedly exceeded normal levels.

Luis told reporters that the PAB had earlier ordered the EMB to reconfirm its April tests, thus last June the agency conducted another lead content analysis of the tailings dam5A of the mining firm.

The April test earlier showed that said dam exceeded the normal lead content.  Such findings led to the elevation of the findings to the PAB.

The EMB is the agency providing PAB with evidence needed in the prosecution of a mining firm.

Luis explained that after an initial sampling from a company that shows a non-passing mark, it goes through a technical conference which recommends remedies.  Compliance is strictly monitored for 90 days, and if there are no observed significant changes, the issue is brought to the PAB where fines may be imposed or a cease or desist order may be issued.

Luis however said the June sampling result has not yet been released.

Lepanto faced another pollution issue in 2004 when PAB penalized it for failing the effluent standards required on rivers.  It got away with the sanction when it paid minimal fees that same year.

In 1989, the firm was also imposed a major fine by the PAB for water pollution.

Downstream effect

In three separate scientific studies documenting the effects of Lepanto’s operations along the Abra River presented at the Saint Louis University (SLU) in August 2005, the same findings of alleged river pollution surfaced.

Engr. Josephine Dulay, officer-in-charge of the SLU chemical engineering laboratory, who did water quality monitoring in almost 20 sampling sites from Mankayan, Benguet down to the mouth of the Abra River in Vigan and Santa, Ilocos Sur, found acidic discharges at an outlet at the back of Lepanto’s carbon-in-pulp mill and that these allegedly came from the underground tunnels.

Extremely large amounts of suspended solids—indicating a high chemical content—were also found by Dulay from samples taken at the mill outlet.  The concentration of cyanide, which is the primary chemical used by Lepanto in gold processing, was found to be high from the mill outlet all the way down to the Baguyos River, the border between Benguet and Ilocos Sur.

The amount of chromium, lead and mercury were also found to be high at some sampling points, she added. The samples were taken in October 2004 and February 2005.

Professors Jocelyn Rafanan and Aldwin Almo of the biology department of the University of the Philippines Baguio determined the effects of water samples from the Abra River on the root growth of the native onion or Allium fistuolosum.

Onion root growth was inhibited by water samples taken from the Lepanto mill outlet and the Baguyos River. This was attributed to the high cyanide content and low dissolved oxygen documented in both sites.

Dr. Ana Marie Leung of SLU’s Department of Preventive and Community Medicine has previously reported more physical symptoms among residents of Paalaban, a community just behind Lepanto’s Mill exposed to mine drainage. Leung is also the executive director of the Community Health Education Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore).

In her final report, Leung noted blood samples of Paalaban residents were compared with a control group where it showed that Paalaban residents had higher levels of cyanide, copper and lead in their blood.

The 2005 Abra river studies sounded the alarm about the harmful effects of Lepanto’s mining on the health and environment of surrounding communities, but Lepanto simply shrugged the studies and tagged it as propaganda against the company by groups opposed to large scale mining. # Ace Alegre(NorDis)

Green Group Denounces ANZ for OceanaGold Denial

September 7, 2008

“ANZ is lying through their teeth by saying they have no involvement in the OceanGold Didipio Gold-Copper mining project. The bank is listed as one of the top shareholders in the latest OceanaGold Corporation annual report,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of militant environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE).

Kalikasan PNE was among those who picketed in front of the ANZ’s Makati office, Friday, last week. Indigenous Peoples groups, local and national organizations were also there to launch their petition for ANZ and HSBC to withdraw their contribution to the mining project.

“It is incredible how ANZ could attempt to evade responsibility when it is listed as second in the top twenty shareholders in the mining company’s report, holding 16.65% of the shares. ANZ is even followed by several HSBC custody nominee accounts. Moreover, it is the largest holder of listed options with 13.80% of the total fully paid shares.” declared Bautista.

According to Bautista, it is to remembered that ANZ was also the financier of the Lafayette Polymetallic Project in Rapurapu, Albay. Lafayette, operator of Rapurapu flagship mining project of the Arroyo government, have entered into voluntary administration and filed for bankruptcy. The mining operation faced intense opposition from local residents and their supporters after it caused several fishkills, mine spills, massive environmental destruction and other negative impacts to the health and livelihood of the residents.

“This is not the first time the bank has been involved in disputed mining operations. ANZ should have learned its lesson not to invest in contentious mining projects. Corporations like Lafayette and OceanaGold have charges of human rights violations and environmentally destructive mining practices. Investing in them are not impracticable, but also against responsible banking norms which ANZ professes it adheres to,” Bautista expressed.

Numerable individuals and groups have already demonstrated opposition to the Didipio project. The local Kasibu Municipal Council and the Provincial Board of Nueva Vizcaya already voted to oppose the mine development and several inquiries were also initiated in response to the clamor of the residents. Opposition against the mine is due to accounts of community displacement, human rights violations, economic dislocation, and risks of environmental devastation.

Bautista indicated that, “ANZ should not undermine the increasing calls of organizations and individuals. Even international groups are paying attention as confirmed by the vigil to be held in front of ANZ Bank in Sydney, today at 5:30-6:30 pm, headed by Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines (APDP). This is in solidarity with the residents of the mining-affected communities who are calling for the bank to face accountability and not participate in irresponsible mining projects, as in the case in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya.”

“ANZ’s denial of their involvement in the Didipio Gold-Copper mining project attests that they are now feeling the pressure of the dissent and resistance of the people. If ANZ is really for ethical and respectable projects, they should pull out now before they incur serious loses, in terms of financial and social reputation.” challenged Bautista.

Lepanto Mines Facing Probe for Allegedly Polluting Rivers

September 2, 2008

Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) is facing a government probe for allegedly polluting rivers in Mankayan, Benguet, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur and communities along Abra River, one of the five biggest rivers in the country.

BY ACE ALEGRE
Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 30, August 31-September 6, 2008

MANKAYAN, Benguet—Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) is facing a government probe for allegedly polluting rivers in Mankayan, Benguet, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur and communities along Abra River, one of the five biggest rivers in the country.

Though Lepanto environment manager Roland Reyes dismisses this investigation, government engineer Alex Luis of the Environment and Management Bureau of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (EMB-DENR) here confirmed that the results of tests that were conducted by them are just being awaited by the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB).

The tests last June were conducted to reconfirm the results of initial tests made in April that indicted Lepanto for allegedly polluting these rivers as the lead content of its tailings dam 5A had reportedly exceeded normal levels.

Luis told reporters that the PAB had earlier ordered the EMB to reconfirm its April tests, thus last June the agency conducted another lead content analysis of the tailings dam5A of the mining firm.

The April test earlier showed that the said dam exceeded the normal lead content. Such findings led to the elevation of the findings to the PAB.

The EMB is the agency providing PAB with evidence needed in the prosecution of a mining firm.

Luis explained that after an initial sampling from a company shows a non-passing mark, it goes through a technical conference which recommends remedies. Compliance is strictly monitored for 90 days, and if there are no observed significant changes, the issue is brought to the PAB where fines may be imposed or a cease or desist order may be issued.

Luis however said the June sampling result has not yet been released.

Lepanto faced another pollution issue in 2004, when PAB penalized it for failing the effluent standards required on rivers. It got away with the sanction when it paid minimal fees that same year.

In 1989, the firm was also imposed a major fine by the PAB for water pollution.

Downstream effect

In three separate scientific studies documenting the effects of Lepanto’s operations along the Abra River presented at the Saint Louis University (SLU) in August 2005, the same findings of alleged river pollution surfaced.

Engr. Josephine Dulay, officer-in-charge of the SLU chemical engineering laboratory, who did water quality monitoring in almost 20 sampling sites from Mankayan, Benguet down to the mouth of the Abra River in Vigan and Santa, Ilocos Sur, found acidic discharges at an outlet at the back of Lepanto’s carbon-in-pulp mill and that these allegedly came from underground tunnels.

Extremely large amounts of suspended solids—indicating a high chemical content—were also found by Dulay from samples taken at the mill outlet. The concentration of cyanide, which is the primary chemical used by Lepanto in gold processing, was found to be high from the mill outlet all the way down to the Baguyos River, the border between Benguet and Ilocos Sur.

The amount of chromium, lead and mercury were also found to be high at some sampling points, she added. The samples were taken in October 2004 and February 2005.

Professors Jocelyn Rafanan and Aldwin Almo of the Biology Department at the University of the Philippines (UP)-Baguio determined the effects of water samples from the Abra River on the root growth of the native onion or Allium fistuolosum.

Onion root growth was inhibited by water samples taken from the Lepanto mill outlet and the Baguyos River. This was attributed to the high cyanide content and low dissolved oxygen documented in both sites.

Dr. Ana Marie Leung of SLU’s Department of Preventive and Community Medicine has previously reported more physical symptoms among residents of Paalaban, a community just behind Lepanto’s Mill exposed to mine drainage.

Leung is also the executive director of the Community Health Education Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore).

In her final report, Leung noted that when blood samples of Paalaban residents were compared with a control group, it showed that Paalaban residents had higher levels of cyanide, copper and lead in their blood.

The 2005 Abra river studies sounded the alarm about the harmful effects of Lepanto’s mining on the health and environment of surrounding communities, but Lepanto simply shrugged the studies and tagged it as propaganda against the company by groups opposed to large scale mining. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat

Groups Urge Int’l Banks: Stop Funding Destructive Mining Projects

September 2, 2008

“The OceanaGold Corporation and Lafayette mining projects are both anti-people and anti-environment. These are the main reasons why OGC will not prosper and will fail.”

BY BULATLAT
Volume VIII, Number 30, August 31 – September 6, 2008

Environmentalists, indigenous peoples, and Church people picketed the Australian New Zealand (ANZ) Bank office in Makati City demanding that the bank withdraw its funding from what they call a destructive mining project.

The ANZ, the fourth largest bank in Australia, and HSBC, one of the largest banking and financial services organizations, are the major funders of the OceanaGold Corporation (OGC) Didipio Gold-Copper mining project in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.

Both banks also hold nominee accounts as OGC’s major stockholders.

The protesters symbolically launched their international campaign against the said project by submitting to the bank a petition supported by various organizations from the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

The petition http://www.kalikasan.org/kalikasan-cms-new/ is demanding for ANZ and HSBC to pull out from the Didipio mining project.

Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said, “It would not be agreeable for ANZ and HSBC to be known as supporters of projects which have caused massive environmental degradation and human rights violations. These offenses run contrary to their claims of socially and environmentally responsible banking norms.”

The group said that they have already gathered 495 signatures in a week’s time, mostly from the Philippines and Australia.

Himpad Mangumalas, spokesperson of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP, Federation of Indigneous People’s Organizations in the Philippines), said, “They should withdraw support to Oceana Gold as a gesture of adherence to international humanitarian laws. Their continued financial backing to the mining company reflects tolerance to rights abuses.”

Warning

“We believe that the Didipio mining project of OGC is becoming more financially and economically unviable every day. Until now, there are no fresh investments and loans that are coming to the project. This should serve as a warning to new investors not to risk their money in a project which is financially unstable, environmentally destructive and socially unacceptable,” Bautista added.

Last June 24, Australian-New Zealand owned OGC Philippines Inc. announced the suspension of its $117-million gold-copper project due to controversies hounding its operations and financial difficulties. Based on the annual reports of OGC, it lost US$23.43 million in 2006 and US$69.04 million in 2007.

Indigenous peoples

In addition to OGC’s financial instability, Clemente said that the project is getting much negative publicity because of the wrongs it has committed to the local and national minority residents. Even the provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya passed a resolution withdrawing their support for the project last June 25.

Peter Duyapat, Ifugao leader of Didipio Earth Savers Movement (DESAMA), said that majority of the Ifugao and indigenous peoples in Nueva Vizcaya are strongly opposed to the OGC project. “OGC violated our rights as indigenous people when they entered our communities without our consent. They have demolished our houses and are now forcefully seizing our natural resources and lands, where we get our food and subsistence,” Duyapat said.

Didipio is ancestral domain of indigenous Igorot tribes.

Mangumalas said, “This is a virtual pillage of ancestral domain.”

Lafayette

Defend Patrimony! Alliance, a national multi-sectoral alliance opposing the government’s mining policy and programs, said “OceanaGold will suffer the same fate as the Australian-owned Lafayette Mining Philippines Inc. which went bankrupt last December 2007. The support given to Lafayette by the Arroyo government and international banks were not enough to salvage it from financial losses and wide national and international opposition. The OGC and Lafayette mining projects are both anti-people and anti-environment. These are the main reasons why OGC will not prosper and will fail.”

KAMP decried the upsurge of ‘priority mining areas’ from 23 to 64 in Arroyo’s term.

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a National Policy Agenda on ‘revitalizing the mining industry’ in January 2004. Bulatlat

Fisherfolk Sail Cebu-Bohol Strait to Oppose Aussie Offshore Mining Firm

September 2, 2008

The offshore mining in Cebu-Bohol Strait and other parts of the Visayan basin will affect the livelihood of more than 100,000 small fishermen and 500,000 dependents, and will further exacerbate the problem of food security of 87 million Filipinos.

BY GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 30, August 31 – September 6, 2008

ARGAO, CEBU- Cebu-based fisherfolk activists belonging to Pamana-Sugbo, an affiliate of the leftwing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) staged a fluvial protest, Aug. 28, against offshore mining.

NorAsia Energy Limited, an Australian offshore mining company, plans to conduct oil and gas exploration at the Cebu-Bohol Strait.

Pamalakaya National Chair Fernando Hicap said that some 50 small fishing boats with 200 fishermen on board sailed from Sibonga town to Argao town in Cebu province to dramatize their opposition against what his group called the “Australian economic colonialization of Cebu-Bohol Strait.”

The Pamalakaya leader said that Bokkana-Bohol, its provincial chapter in Bohol province, is also planning to stage another fluvial protest in towns affected by the ambitious offshore mining project.

“This is just a dress rehearsal. The Australian mining firm should expect more daring sea-based protest actions in the near future against their anti-fisherfolk and anti-environment mining escapade in Cebu-Bohol Strait,” Hicap warned.

In Cebu City, Pamana-Sugbo spokesperson Wilbert Dimol confirmed Hicap’s statement that there would be more protests to pressure Malacañang, the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to scrap the government contract with NorAsia and stop the Office of the President from selling the Cebu-Bohol Strait and other parts of the Visayan Sea to international oil and gas explorers.

“We hope to double the number of fishing boats and the number of small fishermen in the next fluvial protest. The fisherfolk and the coastal village people want NorAsia out of Cebu-Bohol Strait,” Dimol added.

Letter to Australian PM

Last month, Pamalakaya emailed a three-page open letter to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of the Australian Labor Party urging the Australian premier to order NorAsia to leave Cebu-Bohol Strait.

The group, in their letter to Rudd, asserted that the offshore mining in Cebu-Bohol Strait and the entire East Visayan basin would pave way for the systematic and gross destruction of the marine environment.

Pamalakaya told the Australian PM that the ‘far-reaching effects of oil and gas exploration even during its exploratory or prospecting stage prior to production and extraction are very certain based on the country’s previous experience with other offshore mining activities staged by foreign oil and gas groups.’

The letter was sent to the House of Representatives of the Parliament House of Australia based in Canberra.

The letter was sent last July 10 after the group learned that NorAsia Energy Limited was able to secure Area 8 Service Contract 69 that would allow the Australian oil and gas group to explore 7,400 square kilometers of marine waters encompassing the Cebu-Bohol Strait, a narrow sea strait separating the island provinces of Cebu and Bohol, and parts of Leyte in the East Visayan basin.

“It is over a month now, still there’s no response from Rudd and his labor party in Australia. This is a matter of life and death to the struggling fisherfolk of Cebu, Bohol and across the Visayas. The silence of Australian Prime Minister is puzzling us. Is he, as well as his colleagues in their labor party, a stockholder of Otto Energy, the mother firm of NorAsia?” Pamalakaya asked.

The group said the entire offshore mining activity will cover 445,000 hectares of marine waters over a seven-year period based on the agreement signed by NorAsia and its Filipino partner-the TransAsia Oil and Energy Development Corporation. The agreement was sanctioned by the DoE.

In 2007, NorAsia acquired 146 square kilometers of 3D seismic data over two prospects in Service Contract 51. It said Area 8 of Service Contract 69 offers significant follow-up potential in additional structures if initial drilling in Service Contract 512 is successful.

NorAsia said Service Contract 69 has approximately 3,000 kilometers of existing 2D seismic and an active petroleum system as shown by the abundant onshore oil seeps and seismic supported direct hydrocarbon indicators on prospects in the area.

214,000 air pollutants

In their letter to Rudd, Pamalakaya asserted that many studies revealed that offshore mining causes a significant amount of air pollution. Each offshore oil platform generates approximately 214,000 pounds of air pollutants each year. An average exploration well for natural gas could generate 50 tons of nitrogen oxides, 13 tons of carbon monoxide, six tons of sulfur dioxide and five tons of volatile organic hydrocarbons.

“Recent findings also revealed that oil and gas exploration activities could lead to massive production of other toxic waste materials such as cadmium which causes lung cancer; lead which causes gastrointestinal diseases, blood and kidney disorders,
mental retardation and affects the nervous system; chromium which causes lung and liver cancers, kidney and other respiratory illness,” the militant group added.

Pamalakaya said if Nor Asia will push its offshore mining, a severe fish crisis will happen. It could lead to a dramatic decrease of 600,000 metric tons in the yearly production of fish in the country or approximately 20 percent annually.

The offshore mining in Cebu-Bohol Strait and other parts of the Visayan basin will affect the livelihood of more than 100,000 small fishermen and 500,000 dependents, and will further exacerbate the problem of food security of 87 million Filipinos.

The offshore mining all over the Visayan Sea will have a devastating impact on fish production in Region VI composed of provinces Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras,
Iloilo and Negros Occidental which account for an average for 350,000 metric tons of fish harvest per year, while Region VII composed of Negros Oriental, Bohol, Cebu and Siquijor account for 205,000 metric tons of fish produced.

Region VIII is made up of Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Western Samar and Southern Leyte yield and average of 100,000 metric tons of fish per year.

Moreover, oil and gas drilling operations produce huge amounts of water waste ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 metric tons of highly toxic water waste materials per drilling. The seismic tests, which are part of the exploration stage, damage the hearing organs of marine species, cause hemorrhage in body tissues, and damage their reproductive organs.

Pamalakaya said seismic blasting could cause behavioral modifications and reduce or eliminate available habitat for breeding, spawning, foraging and migration. Seismic noises can alter fish distribution by tens of kilometers and can elicit physiological
stress on neural-immune responses in marine organisms.

The group also said seismic tests damage plankton eggs and larvae found in the immediate vicinity of airgun, and reduce catches in commercial fishers. It also
damages swim bladders of fishes and lungs of marine mammals.

“We believe stopping NorAsia from destroying our marine resources in the name of corporate super profits is a tough act, but this is the politically, morally and legally correct way to address the concern of our fisherfolk and the Filipino public in general,” Pamalakaya said. Bulatlat

Brooke’s Point vice mayor disappointed over endorsement of Lebach Mining Corp.

August 27, 2008

By Cheryl A. Galili

STAUNCH ANTI-MINING advocate Vice Mayor Jean Feleciano is frustrated that majority of the members of the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Brooke’s Point has endorsed Lebach Mining Corporation (LMC), a small scale mining company, allegedly despite many violations.

In a recent interview with the media, Feleciano related that Lebach’s endorsement was approved on July 24 by the SB led by Councilor Lanie Trinidad. Of all members, only one voted against.

Lebach is a small scale mining company applying for mining exploration and operation in Brooke’s Point, particularly in barangays Ipilan, Aribungos, Mambalot and Barong-Barong.

Feleciano cited a couple of reasons why Lebach’s application for endorsement shouldn’t be approved. The first was illegal drilling because it has not been given a permit for exploration; and failure to conduct public consultation, particularly in areas that will be directly affected by its proposed mining operation like Aribungos.

Recently, three mining employees of Lebach were apprehended by the Kilusan Sagip Kalikasan (KSK) for conducting an illegal drilling in the tenement claim it is applying for.

“Lebach’s employees were caught drilling in the absence of an exploration permit. That was the second time they were caught. Why would we endorse them when they’ve been violating the law?” she asked.

Consultation with residents in impact areas is part of the process in applying for an endorsement, she said. But Lebach failed to do it in Aribungos, particularly because its barangay leaders are against the small scale mining company.

If a consultation was done, Feleciano said Lebach only implemented it in barangay Ipilan. But most residents there are allegedly against its proposed mining project.

“The barangays that will be directly affected can tell that they were not consulted. There was a barangay that was consulted but residents do not want it. Why would we still approve its endorsement,” she asked further.

Feliciano explained too that base on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) there are no identified mineral zones in Brooke’s Point – reason enough for the SB not to endorse Lebach. She disclosed that in a validation made by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), the area Lebach wants to mine is planted with coconut trees and palay.

The Brooke’s Point vice mayor said she doesn’t understand why the SB sped up the approval of the motion of Trinidad, who is chairman of the Committee on Environment. She said they have already agreed that on mining matters, the SB should not urgently any mining endorsement.

She said Trinidad’s reason for pushing for the approval of the endorsement was that all the documents they require have been complied.

“It’s as if somebody is going to die if Lebach is not endorsed. Why, is there an emergency why their endorsement should be approved immediately,” she asked.(PalawanTimes)

The IP night to remember in Mankayan

August 27, 2008

Mankayan, Benguet — “Continuing Commitment in the defense of Cultural Heritage” the theme to commemorate the 14th International Day of Indigenous Peoples 2008 draws a crowd of more than 1000 to the “Ballangbang” Concert-Jam on August 16 at the Open Gym, Poblacion, Mankayan, Benguet.

The International Day of IPs was declared on August 9, 1994 by the United Nations.

According to Rima Mangili, Anakbayan spokesperson, the Ballangbang concert hoped to gather the youth of Benguet especially Mankayan for the celebration and to unite them behind their role to protect and promote the positive aspects of their cultural heritage; for their rights and welfare; and most of all to divert the youth’s attention to more productive activities.

The concert was co – sponsored by the Samahan ng mga Kabataang Episcopalian ng Pilipinas of Mankayan (SKEP-Mankayan), Mankayan National High School – MAPEH Department, Mankayan, National High School – Cultural Group, Lepanto National High School – Student Body Organization (LNHS – SBO).

The performers included: the internationally aclaimed IP-rights activist, Salidummay-Dap-ayan ti Kultura ti Kordilyera (SALIDUMAY-DKK) belted out their popular native compositions to the beat of traditional gongs and various bamboo instruments depicting historical and current social and political issues confronting indigenous people not only in the Cordillera but in the country as well.

The Dessert Band and Nashville Vaga Band rendered their best of alternative folk and rock songs. Chester Mark Tuazon and Ransky Balacdao respectively in behalf of their bands expressed their statement of unity with the organizers and supporters of the concert.

Jhun Utleg sang his heart out great songs from his album “Sa Kanyang Panahon.” Anakbayan performer Efren Tuacan along with the many country and folk singers of Mankayan gave their best to make The IP Night 2008 a real night to Remember at Mankayan, the first localized celebration of IP Day in the Province.

The president of the LEU-NAFLU-KMU Manuel Binhaon, in solidarity gave a brief worker’s situation of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company. According to Mr. Binhaon almost 85% of the 1,477 mine workers of LCMCo are from indigenous communities of the Cordillera. He added “dakami nga mangmangged nga minero iti daytoy nga pagtrabahuan ket agsagsagrap iti nakaro nga kinarigat nababa nga sweldo, nakurang a benepisyo, saan a natalged a pagtrabuan ken panangliplipit iti unyon”.

With our low wages and high cost of basic commodities we can’t really afford to provide the basic needs of our children like education, health and the like. He further challenged and encouraged the youth to actively participate in such venue and activities and be a member of ANAKBAYAN that will help them realize their role as the future leader to the next generation.

Kagawad Mathew Bataneg of Bry. Poblacion, in his welcome address that night said that Ballangbang means unity “nu ti panagtukar ti gangsa ket saan nga agkakatunos, ti kayat na laeng a saoen dayta ket awan ti panagkayakaysa” (translation here).

Encouraged by the broad public response, the sponsors through spokes Rima Mangili said “ This is the starting point for us to continue gathering the broadest reach to indigenous youth and students to support and look forward to the next celebration in the year 2009 as well as for other activities that will enrich the youth awareness”.

The celebration called it a night end with a community pattong and closing remarks delivered by Ms. Rima Mangili that challenged the youth to continue and also the Local Government Unit of Mankayan to look into the welfare of the indigenous youth, provide venue for their full-development. She stressed the role of the LGU in the protection of the environment. “Our government officials here in Benguet should not allow projects that are detrimental to the indigenous people of Benguet and to the environment, she added.

The celebration also served as a venue to popularize the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Solidarity messages from the different sectors were read out to the audience.# Elma R. Awingan(NorthernDispatch)

Group slams alleged military ‘harassment’ of lumad leader

August 21, 2008

By Abigail Kwok
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:33:00 08/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines — A coalition of indigenous people’s groups condemned the harassment of a tribal leader in Mindanao lumad, whose face and name have appeared on posters branding him a rebel leader who is “wanted dead or alive,” which have allegedly been circulated by government troops.

In a statement on Thursday, the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP, Federation of Indigenous People of the Philippines), said the posters that have appeared in villages, bus terminals and business establishments brand Kerlan Fanagel, a leader of the B’laan tribe in Davao del Sur, a commander of the New People’s Army who supposedly uses the alias Commander Lala.

“This kind of harassment is done [against] the indigenous leader and organization that stood against the destructive economic policy of this regime [of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] and their rampant disregard [for] human rights,” Himpad Mangumalas, KAMP spokesperson, said in the statement.

Mangumalas said the harassment Fanagel is going through is similar to what is allegedly happening in other regions where there are strong protests against mining and ecotourism, which many indigenous people see as a threat to the environment and their way of life.

==================

My Take:

He’s right.

This item brings back my memories of Iloilo’s struggle against the coal-fired power plant.  The group RISE was tagged then by a local military spokesperson (Lowen Gil Marquez) as terrorists

Until now, they are mouthing the red-baiting remarks everytime they are unable to parry the scientific explanations of the anti-coal groups with their own scientific explanation.

Hope the military should reprimand this spokesperson of theirs.

A Call to Senators: Review and Investigate Mining Projects Approved by Mike Defensor

August 21, 2008

BY ORLANDO A. MALIWANAG
Alyansa Laban sa Mina
DEMOCRATIC SPACE
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

Our worst fear has been confirmed: that Mike Defensor all along had been the defender not of the environment but of mining interests when he was still Environment Secretary.

His current involvement with Geograce Resources and Nihao Mineral Resources International, securing juicy mining contracts, leaves a bitter taste in the mouth for mine-affected communities who are suffering because of mining projects he approved. Being a senior manager to two mining companies now, while not illegal, shows the height of callousness and betrays his supposedly impartial stance when he decided on mining conflicts when he was DENR Secretary.

Mindoreños can never forgive Defensor. He unceremoniously reinstated in 2005 the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) for Mindoro Nickel Project owned by Intex Resources, which was previously cancelled by former Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez in July 2001. Following an uproar from both civil society and local government officials, Alvarez ordered an investigation and later cancelled the project based on the following findings: 1) the area is an important watershed, 2) strong opposition by the Local Government Units and the people, 3) lack of valid written agreements with all groups of indigenous peoples, 4) not economically feasible, 5) there are two earthquake fault lines within the concession area, and 6) substantial breach of MPSA terms. In November 2001, President Gloria Arroyo upheld the MPSA cancellation.

But on March 16, 2004, following an appeal by Intex (formerly Crew Mineral Resources), at the height of the presidential election campaign, the Office of the President reversed itself and reinstated the cancelled MPSA, recommending “that the case be remanded to the DENR for the proper hearing and investigation, if appropriate.”

Secretary Defensor never conducted investigation and hearing, and never bothered to inform the various stakeholders of the decision despite widespread opposition to the project. Mindoreños only learned about the reinstatement after Intex/Crew released a press statement in London. And on Nov. 10, 2005, Defensor issued Intex/Crew a clearance to proceed citing alleged resolutions of endorsement by the municipal councils of three directly affected municipalities in Oriental Mindoro. The municipal councils of Victoria, Pola, and Socorro immediately passed respective resolutions denying Defensor’s claim that they issued such endorsement, and reiterated their strong opposition against the mining project. The protestation was never heard.

Unfortunately, Defensor’s successors in the DENR were no better than him. The call of civil society and the local government officials for a DENR investigation on the irregularity of the reinstatement of Mindoro Nickel Project remains unheeded.

We are therefore calling on the Senate, a more independent and credible government institution, to conduct an investigation on the irregularities in the granting and reinstatement of mining permits in this country. We, the mine-affected communities have nowhere else to go to ventilate our plight. We are now resigned that our predicament will never be heard by the Arroyo administration, which is gung-ho in selling our communities to mining companies including those with close ties to Malacañang. This administration has been bending rules to accommodate the interest of mining companies, and we the communities become the unwilling collateral victims of this impunity.

We ask the Senate to conduct an impartial investigation and provide necessary legislative intervention to put a stop on this blatant insensitivity to mine-affected communities. Mining permits issued by Defensor and other DENR Secretaries that are being held suspect of irregularities should be thoroughly investigated.

As the national government’s callousness and indifference persist, everyday our human rights are continuously being violated. All in the name of so-called “national interest”—the much abused phrase which for the Arroyo administration seems to simply mean “patronage and greed.”

Posted by Bulatlat

Benguet folk unite against large, destructive mining

August 19, 2008

La Trinidad, Benguet — Some 156 representatives from the 13 municipalities of Benguet province gathered on August 7 in a conference to discuss community issues and concerns on large and destructive mining and share experiences and lessons from successful struggles, which resulted to the formation of the Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network or BMAAN.

The conference resulted from an urgent need for collective action for the people of Benguet to respond to the mining issues of the province, being primarily affected by these. It is also timely, as an expression of celebrating the International Indigenous Peoples Day which falls on August 9.

The was organized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Itogon-Inter Barangay Alliance (IIB-A) and the Danggayan dagiti Maidadanes nga Umili ti Mankayan (DAMAYAN).

As collectively decided by its members, the BMAAN will serve as a venue for “sharing knowledge and skills for monitoring and documentation; planning and coordinating common activities and learning from our shared experiences and using the lessons to plan and conduct further actions.”

Mining Liberalization in the Cordillera

CPA Deputy Secretary General Santos Mero discussed the Cordillera mining situation while focusing on current mining applications, exploration and operations in Benguet after sharing the history of large mining in the province.

Mero explained that 66% of the region’s total land area is covered by various mining applications on top of the existing large mining operations, such as Lepanto Consolidated in Mankayan and Philex Mines in Itogon. Mero added that five of the 23 priority mining projects of the GMA administration is located in the Cordillera, namely: Teresa Gold Project, Far Southeast Project and Victoria Project all by Lepanto in Mankayan; Project 3000 of Itogon Suyoc Mines, Pacdal Copper Expansion Project by Philex Mines, and the Batong Buhay Project by the Philippine Mining Development Corporation. Except for the Pacdal Expansion Project and Far Southeast, the other projects are already in operation. Except for Batong Buhay, the rest are located in Benguet.

Mero noted in his discussion the presence and operations of transnational mining corporations in Benguet such as UK-based Anglo-American (with Philex Mines, Lepanto, Cordillera Exploration, and Northern Luzon Exploration Company); Australia-based Oxiana/Royalco whose FPIC acquisition in Bakun is under question; Anvil Mining Company (Australian), which now owns the Itogon Suyoc Mines in Sangilo, Itogon; Ivanhoe Mines from Canada which has a 12% share from Lepanto; Bezant Resources (UK) with an ongoing exploration at Guinaoang and Bulalacao in Mankayan. Bezant also owns 60% of Crescent Mining also in Mankayan; Metals Exploration PLC or MTL Philippines (UK) with applications in Atok, Tublay, and Bokod, and Columbus/Magellan Metals, also with applications in Bokod.

Foreign mining companies in other provinces include Terra Nova Exploration/Wolfland (Canadian), which has exploration activities in Tabuk, Kalinga. The US-based Phelps Dodge has partnered locally with Makilala Mining; Olympus mining company (Canada), which violated the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Binongan communities in Baay Licuan, Abra; Golden Valley Exploration (Australia) also in Abra and Oceana Gold/Climax Arimco (Australia) which has partnered with Copper Fields for operations in Apayao.

Municipal representatives shared updates on ground developments, such as in Brgy. Gambang in Bakun on their opposition to Royalco’s mining interests and question to its FPIC acquisition. Representatives of Mankayan and Itogon shared the lessons and gains from their successful struggles against Lepanto Mining, Benguet Corporation and Philex Mines.

In another important discussion, CPA Secretary General Windel Bolinget discussed the FPIC and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as an added instrument for the assertion of the FPIC.

“The FPIC is not merely a process but a basic inherent right of indigenous peoples that entails genuine participation and decision making of the IPs—that is, right to accept or deny their consent to any project in their territories,” Bolinget stressed. He added that “Free, Prior, and Informed translates to nawaya, kasakbayan/umuna, naipakaammo a pammalubos.”

The conference ended with greater commitment for coordination, communication and concerted action towards strengthening the new formation. # AT Bengwayan(NorthernDispatch)

Benguet town remains a target for mining exploits

August 19, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Old mine sites in Kibungan are still targets for mineral exploration by various foreign and local mining companies, according to the town’s local elective officials.

Kibungan Vice-mayor Susan Saley-Atuyoc, who was attending a mining conference here Aug. 7 said staff and employees of mining firms frequent the Boneng mine site of the Western Minolco. The site has been closed since 1980 due to company problems.

Earlier Lubo Barangay Captain Arturo Collado, also Association of Barangay Captains president of Kibungan, said his constituents started to lose patience with the insistence of Al Magan Mining Exploration Company (AMMEC) to mine a 132-hectare area at the Benguet-Ilocos Sur boundary, which includes barangays Lubo and Madaymen.

Atlas Mining Corporation is reportedly showing some interest to re-open the old mines, according to Atuyoc.

The town’s residents, however, prefer planting the place with sayote, the vice-mayor disclosed. Some even take pains carrying rich topsoil to rehabilitate the open pit site abandoned for at least 28 years, to grow crops.

“Nakitan ti tattao ti madi nga inyeg ti minas isu a madi dan,” (People have seen the adverse effects of mining so they are apprehensive.) Atuyoc told the media.

Besides Boneng in Lubo, another mining exploration also took place in Tabbak in Barangay Palina, Sakarang in Barangay Madaymen, and Kolokol in Barangay Poblacion. According to Atuyoc, this open exploration was also in the ’70s and ’80s, almost simultaneously with the operations of the Boneng mines.

Atuyoc welcomes information and education efforts of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) to raise people’s consciousness on mining.

She confirmed reports that Kibungan folk have continuously petitioned government agencies Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to spare their communities and stop issuing mining permits.

“Nakukulitan na sila,” (They are pestered) Atuyoc said of the people’s indifference to visiting mining engineers.

Atlas reportedly presented its five-year exploration plan with the local town council but Atuyoc said, the result of the field-based investigation as part of the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) would prevail.

Atuyoc assured the people that the council would study each proposal and lead the people in their legal pursuits and research efforts regarding mining. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorthernDispatch)

Economics and Society 101: If mining is not the choice, what is?

August 19, 2008

By ARTHUR BOQUIREN

This column welcomes the formation of the Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network or BMAAN. Nordis reported that 156 representatives from the 13 municipalities of Benguet gathered August 7 and agreed to unite against large-scale destructive mining.

There is silence with regard to small scale mining but that is alright because what is more important is to unite against a principal enemy. Indeed Benguet ought to organize itself as a strong lobby group against large-scale mining. The lobby and advocacy group must go further and enlist local officials and the citizenry in the fight.

It is easy to argue that other Philippine provinces have developed far better than Benguet even without mining in their communities. Municipalities without mining have performed just as good (for precision: rephrase “just as good” to “just as bad”) if not better compared to the municipalities with mining.

Large-scale mining only creates a situation that profits are extracted from the communities for multinational companies and big Filipino capitalists to enjoy. The wastes, mine tailings, and environmental damage are left behind. Communities suffer in the long run for short-term and extremely minuscule gains.

Mined-out municipalities become less flexible to various development options and the long-term negative impact of mining on development persists even after the mining companies have already left for several years.

If you know that a certain area has been mined out, would you want to locate your residence, schools, factories, and offices there? Would agriculture remain profitable as mining disturbs also the water tables? Of course not.

Mining actually reduces the development alternatives open to communities. Land becomes inflexible for multiple uses and mining limits the development of the municipalities in the long run.

We are not even including the “intangibles” in our equation. What about our rivers? Surely even if mine wastes are not toxic, the wastes excreted through the waterways have a negative impact on biodiversity. Many of the waste, however, are toxic and this fact exacerbates the environmental damage.

The mine tailings can turn our waterways murky and even this alone has a negative impact on biodiversity in our waterways. Instead of being a source of food like fish, our waterways become a source of poison. In certain instances, fish that are known to be highly tolerant to heavy metals survive, but the heavy metals in the fish accumulate in the bodies of humans who eat them. Thus, do not trust too much the fishponds that are put up by mining companies in their mining areas. There is even no evidence that the fishponds are commercially viable.

Benguet has large-scale mining for close to a hundred years now. Are we even close to the development level of the municipalities in the first world given that multinational companies have profit from Benguet gold? Do we see many Ibalois and Kankanaeys enjoying themselves first class ala the rich people of Makati? There may be a handful but they are not in droves.

Further, do we see mining communities that have really developed over time? None.

Mining is like rape. It extracts out the beauty of the land, leaving the victim haggard, desecrated, and violated. Depending on the severity of the violence of the rape or the violence committed during the rape, the victim can become ugly.

Thus, the people of Benguet must look for development alternatives other than mining. The long-term solution to the development ills of our country probably lies in the elimination of semi-feudal and multinational oppression. In the interim, however, there can be real development as long as we are able and willing to think outside the box.

Several alternatives to mining have already been offered: sustainable low-input agriculture or vegetable production, agroforestry, maintenance of the Cordillera forest and advancements of payments for environmental services, and the like. These are even the traditional options. The technologies available in the 20th century should imply more options and alternatives. #

(The writer maintains a blog at http://www.geocities.com/arturoboquiren. Comments can be coursed through http://www.nordis.net, artboquiren2040@yahoo.com, and +63927-536-8431)(NorthernDispatch)

Editorial Cartoon: On Mining in Guimaras

August 16, 2008

Pest!

Gov’t execs back campaign to keep mining off Guimaras

August 16, 2008

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:28:00 08/16/2008

JORDAN, GUIMARAS – Stickers and streamers emblazoned with “Spare Guimaras” have appeared in this province marking the start of a campaign against mining on the island.

Guimaras Gov. Felipe Nava said the province would launch the campaign against approved and pending applications for mining in the province because of its environmental and health effects.

The applications covered 70-80 percent of the 60,000-hectare island, with areas ranging from 2,000 to 30,000 ha, Nava said.

“This will destroy the island,” Nava told reporters here on Monday at the sidelines of the briefing on rehabilitation efforts on areas devastated by the August 2006 oil spill.

Guimaras is known for its pristine beaches, export-quality mangoes and rich natural resources.

Nava, a physician, said the province has seen the devastating effects of mining in Sipalay City in Negros Occidental and other areas that were ravaged by years of mining operations.

“We can recover from an oil spill but damage from mining operations would be permanent,” he said.

Nava said the province does not oppose all forms of mining but only large-scale mining and extraction of minerals like gold and copper, which would require deep and massive excavations.

The people of Guimaras earlier voiced their opposition to the mining exploration application of Fil-Asian Strategic Resources and Properties Corp. (FASRPC).

FASRPC, a subsidiary of the Australia-based Rusina Mining NL, plans to explore for gold and copper deposits in a 2,400-ha area covering nine of 20 villages of Nueva Valencia.

The villages covered by the application include Napandong, Sto. Domingo, Lucmayan, San Roque, Salvacion, La Paz, Cabalagnan, Canhawan and Igdarapdap.

The firm also applied for a permit for mining exploration on a 621-ha area on Pan De Azucar Island in Concepcion, Iloilo.

Nava said the people must be vigilant against mining because mining applications no longer require the approval of local government units.

The province plans to join the Partnership for Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (Pemsea) to strengthen its antimining campaign.

The Pemsea currently includes the provinces of Batangas, Cavite and Bataan.

(PALAWAN News) Target: Small Scale Mining

August 12, 2008

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Busy.

That will be the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board’s (PMRB) mode from now on as it will be turning down and cancelling 315 small scale mining applications for exploration and operation, as a response to Governor Joel T. Reyes’ declaration to regulate mining in the island.

The governor also declared support to the 25-year mining moratorium proposal being pushed by Board Members Modesto Rodriguez II, Vicky de Guzman, and Joselito Cadlao at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

When asked about the fate of the large-scale mining currently operating in the province, Reyes said that such will be under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau’s (DENR-MGB) turf and responsibility.

(Barangay RP News Team)


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