Archive for the ‘mining’ Category

Nearly 3,000 people join anti-mining rally in Brooke’s Point

August 4, 2008

By Cheryl A. Galili

“WE STRONGLY oppose mining operations in our municipality.” This is the united call of nearly 3,000 people in Brooke’s Point who attended a rally organized by anti-mining advocates, including representatives from the religious sector, on July 17.

Attended by mostly indigenous peoples (IPs), students, professionals, businessmen, women and farmers from different barangays, some even coming from as far as the municipalities of Sofronio Espanola and Rizal, the anti-mining rally was held to express indignation against three mining companies: Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC), MacroAsia Mining Corporation (MMC) and Lebach Mining Corporation (LMC) that are waiting to do mining operations in Brooke’s Point,

Indigenous peoples Panglima Quirino Tanugan, overall leader of all IP leaders in Brooke’s Point, warned of a “bloody confrontation” if the mining companies push through with their operation.

Brooke’s Point Vice-Mayor Jean, on the other hand, called on the residents “to remain vigilant and to continue opposing any mining activity that would threaten the environment. She believes that their town does not need mining to prove its economy because they are dependent on their rich agricultural and coastal resources.

Emphasizing that Brooke’s Point is relatively much developed than Bataraza, Feliciano said that she and all the anti-mining residents will do everything possible in their power to stop all mining operations.

Bataraza is where the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) has been operating for the last 30 years.

During the rally, barangay chairmen Federico Aguilar and Jonathan Lagrada of Mainit and Ipilan exposed that some representatives of mining companies allegedly attempted “to bribe them” and offered assistance just to get their endorsements.

Bishop Pedro D. Arigo, the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Palawan, also expressed his all-out support in the struggle of Brooke’s Point against mining.

The rally ended with the burning of an effigy which represents the “death of mining operations in Brooke’s Point,”(PalawanTimes)

Advisory Board orders BATA leaders to be audited on royalty share

August 4, 2008

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

PENDING LIQUIDATION of around P10 million from the Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC) representing their 1% royalty share from mining, the leaders of the Berong Aramaywan Tagbanua Association (BATA) in Quezon town was inhibited to further withdraw from their bank accounts by the Advisory Board (AB) that was given an authoritative order to assist and guide them in the management of their fund.

The AB also ordered them to be audited by a team of auditors that will be provided by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP); restrained from spending more funds on new projects until they have completed their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP); and advised to deposit their remaining money to a trust fund.

These recent developments happen following reports of an internal conflict among the leaders and members of the BATA due to complaints of alleged anomalous fund disbursements, illegal withdrawals, formation of their own mining corporation, discrimination against other Tagbanuas and failure to conduct consultation with the members regarding major decisions – grievances that have affected their credibility.

The association was given until July 31 to comply with the conditions. For this period, its leaders were consented to withdraw P100,000 that they can use as revolving fund.

The impositions on the leaders of the Tagbanua association, headed by Victorino Danglong, chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), were issued on Monday, July 21, during an AB meeting held at the El Nido Function Room of the Legend Hotel.

Vice Governor David A. Ponce de Leon, representing the provincial government; and Helen Saulon, executive director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), were present in the said meeting as co-chairmen of the AB.

Ponce de Leon started the meeting with an announcement that the BNC is ready to release the royalty share of the BATA for 2008 amounting to around P6 million. He cautioned however, that this will only be made available if the association has already accounted all the expenses it incurred from the 2007 release.

Memorandum of agreement

On imposing the conditions, Ponce de Leon reminded the leaders of the BATA that as per the memorandum of agreement (MOA) they signed, under Article VII-MOA Monitoring and Evaluation Schemes, it is stated that there will be “special and/or regular financial audits of all monies by the NCIP and submission of quarterly reports among others.” These stipulations were even strengthened by a supplemental MOA signed on March 25, 2008.

Since the credibility of the BATA leaders in handling the royalty share for their members is being questioned, the AB believes that the liquidation report they will submit will provide the answer.

“We will be very frank, very straightforward here. What is happening right now is not good and must be resolved,” Ponce de Leon said at the start of the meeting.

He informed Danglong, Efifanio Marcelo, Mike Marcelo, Samuel Pantod, and other BATA members who were also present that if the internal conflict is not resolved, the BNC will be obliged to seek legal means that would determine if the BATA is still credible to receive the royalty share.

In an earlier interview with George Bujtor, the chief executive officer of the BNC, he said that ultimately, their “desire is to fulfill their responsibility stated in the MOA, and hopes that the BATA would do the same through their leaders.”

Without the conflict being resolved, he said the BNC would have difficulty determining who has the right to receive the 2008 royalty share. “I sincerely hope for the BATA to resolve the conflict,” Bujtor said.

The Tagbanua association leaders are expected to liquidate P500,000 released two years ago by the BNC; P2 million turned over on December 13, 2007 and P1.5 million in February this year — equivalent to P4 million.

On February 29, 2008, in a regular meeting of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), the BNC again released P11.4 million to the BATA, received by Danglong, to complete P15.4 million or 1% royalty share from mining operations.

As per information from the BATA leaders, the amount of money they have at the Palawan Development Bank (PDB) is P3.6 million and P1.325 million deposited in a trust fund at the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), or a total of P4.925 million.

The amount to be accounted for totals to P10.475 million, according to Ponce de Leon.

BATA leaders tell the truth

In a meeting of the AB on July 11, Ponce de Leon discussed a letter he has received from Balinsay with the following complaints: “the practice of nepotism, specifically citing the Marcelo family who have five members benefiting from the royalty fund; BATA projects arbitrarily chosen without consultations with the members; approval of the utilization of dwarf coconuts that was never consulted to the IP communities and the deduction of P100 from the share that each family received from the Pamaskong Handog (Christmas Gift) last December.”

These complaints were aside from the BATA leaders forming their own mining corporation and why; anomalous fund disbursements and illegal fund withdrawals.

In the July 21 meeting, Ponce de Leon wasn’t able to hide his disappointment on the fact that the BATA leaders didn’t tell the truth when he and Berong barangay chairman Rodrigo Hablado asked in the July 11 meeting about the Westcoast of Palawan Mining Corporation (WPMC).

During then, Danglong denied the rumor, saying that “if it is true, its existence can’t be hidden from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) where applications are filed.” He said “all were baseless charges.”

Mike, the young Marcelo, who serves as the BATA’s project manager, confirmed Danglong’s reply. He said the rumors may have started when they went to Manila to follow up on their certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT).

But on Monday’s meeting, Danglong, the Marcelos and the other BATA leaders were no longer able to hide the truth. This was because copies of the certificate of incorporation (COI) of the WPMC were distributed to the members of the AB, including representatives of the media who were invited.

Westcoast of Palawan Mining Corporation

The COI from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revealed that the WPMC was incorporated on February 6, 2008. It will be engaging in “large scale mining, quarrying, milling, processing, smelting, producing nickel and all kinds of ores, metals and minerals, as well as the byproducts thereof, to purchase, lease, or otherwise acquire mining rights, mines, building plant, machinery, equipment and other properties necessary for its business.”

With principal office at Caimito Extension Road, Barangay San Jose, the BATA leaders who belong to the mining corporation are Rosino L. Bunan, Sr., Epifanio L. Marcelo (treasurer of the BATA); Sardin A. Gurian, Victorino V. Danglong (chairman of the BATA), Safdul B. Guinto, Sr., Melecio G. Pandeno, Eddie A. Seniaga, Onsino A. Alian, Pompilo D. Damalde, Danilo S. Virtudazo (not Virto Dazo as earlier written in this newspaper), Alexis R. Balayo, Samuel N. Pandod, Durmili S. Ninge, Motaleb M. Kemil and Mike Marcelo (the BATA project manager).

The seven directors of the WPMC are Bunan, Marcelo, Danglong, Damalde, Virtudazo, Balayo and Kemil.

Balayo was apparently elected as treasurer of the mining corporation, and it was in his name that a deposit of P2.5 million was made in trust on November 17,2007 under Saving Account No. 050-109248-070, per a certification issued by the HSBC Saving Bank (Philippines), Inc.-Makati Branch.

The formation of WPMC casted doubt on the credibility of the BATA leaders, who many believe do not have money to put into the corporation. Initially, Hablado had notions that they might have taken out the money from the royalty share.

But Epifanio, the older Marcelo, said they did not pay a single centavo as share to the mining corporation. “Sa katotohanan, wala kaming ibinayad (Honestly, we didn’t pay anything),” Epifanio said.

His son Mike, on the other hand, explained that the mining corporation was set up even before the BATA was formed. But the documents obtained by the AB proved that some of the developments that happened on their application only occurred in the early months of 2008. By this time, the BATA has already been formed.

Provincial NCIP Director Roldan Parangue believes that the Tagbanuas are just being used so local mining speculators can stake tenement mining claims. “There are no more to claim. Every claim has been applied for,” Parangue told them at the AB meeting.

“Why didn’t you tell the truth? The only answer we want was a yes or no,” Ponce de Leon, obviously disappointed, asked the BATA leaders. He said that the fact the BATA leaders lied about the existence of WPMC was reason enough for their members to really doubt them.

Expensive dwarf coconuts

The NCIP and the AB also want an explanation on why the BATA leaders struck an agreement with Virtudazo for the supply of 49,300 dwarf coconut seedlings with a total price of about P3.2 million. Each costs P65.

Ponce de Leon said the municipality of Quezon, under the leadership of Mayor Ronilo Caputilla, has a coconut project that sells them cheap and that the Philippine Coconut Authority is, in fact, giving them for free.

Mike said they didn’t know that the municipality has this project, and that their mistake was failing to inquire where they can get cheap coconut seedlings.

Virtudazo, who reportedly owns the Tree of Life farm in Barangay San Jose, will be delivering the seedlings from Zamboanga.

Ponce de Leon said the PCA currently bans coconut from other provinces to be brought to Palawan without passing quarantine and through them.

In Balinsay’s complaint, he said not all Tagbanuas are amenable to the project because some of them are already old and can no longer handle a coconut tree farm.

Ponoy said this is true, and that not all of them own lands where the coconut seedlings can be planted. Apparently, this is the reason why the project was in the first place, never consulted with the rest of the BATA members.

The AB required the BATA leaders to show a copy of the agreement with Virtudazo to determine if it can still be voided. This is despite the admission from the BATA leaders that they’ve already paid in advance even if the coconut seedlings have not been delivered yet.

Ponce de Leon said the NCIP has a legal counsel that can help them cancel the agreement and coordinate with the PCA or the municipality of Quezon regarding the coconut seedlings they require.

As of press time, Epifanio has already resigned as treasurer to avoid further criticisms that his family has no “delicadeza” engaging in nepotism. In the Marcelo family, Mike serves as project manager, his sister Lea the assistant secretary and another sister is apparently a scholar of the BATA.

Danglong, on the other hand, explained that although he is the chairman of the BATA Board of Trustees, his decision is not his to command. He said he is always outvoted on major decisions.

Ponce de Leon and Saulon said that as long as the BATA leaders have not liquidated funds from the royalty share that were already spent, their members will always doubt their honesty and integrity.(PalawanTimes)

OceanaGold facelifting image, seeks joint venture with rivals

August 3, 2008

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – In a bid to widen its chances of getting its much needed funds, OceanaGold is taking time to do some image boosting while its construction work in Didipio remains suspended.

Jamila Abassi, newly appointed director for Corporate Social Responsibility, has been seen going around having talks with local stakeholders here since Monday. Her itinerary included the offices of non-government organizations (NGOs) opposing the Didipio Project and the capitol where Gov. Luisa Lloren Curesma holds office.

Cuaresma turned hostile to the company after failing to collect the quarry taxes it demanded OceanaGold to pay. In turn, OceanaGold filed a grave coercion case against her at the Ombudsman after she used her power to stop the construction of the mine.

“We had a candid conversation with her and our unity as NGOs here is to present to her documented records of OceanaGold’s poor rating in terms of corporate social responsibility,” said Merlinda Calubaquib of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, one of the NGOs that met with Abassi on Wednesday.

The Save the Valley Serve the People Movement, a local alliance against the entry of large-scale mining in Cagayan Rivers watershed, are expectant that the inquiry on House Resolution 594 authored by Rep. Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna will bring out the defects of the Mining Act of 1995 which gave OceanaGold the right to own 100% of the Didipio Gold-Copper mining tenement.

NGOs also told Abassi that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) took cognizance of their fact-finding mission report. The report is a summary of the findings of a three-day NGO mission in Didipio on first week of April.

Earlier Commissioner Leila de Lima ordered a full investigation of the reported cases of human rights violations, mostly arising from illegal demolition of houses in communities within the OceanaGold operations.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported Wednesday that the troubled Melbourne-based company is seeking a joint venture with rival companies, including Sino Gold Mining Ltd and Gold Fields, to raise $185-million fund to start its operation in Didipio.

“These options include funding through debt and to a lesser extent equity, and also through possible joint venture arrangements, asset sales, or equity investments into the Filipino assets or OceanaGold Corp as a whole,” said Reuters quoting Darren Klinck, spokesman for the company.

OceanaGold stocks fell to an all time low $0.825 per sharesince bad news about the company’s performance in Didipio plagued the Philippines and Australian media since the black Saturday shooting that wounded a villager named Emilio Pumihic. A company guard named Wesley Dongiahon was positively identified by police investigators as the one who shot Pumihic.

Abassi and Pumihic met at the Saber Inn café lately when the latter came to inform NGOs about the status of his case at the prosecutor’s office. However, there was no chance that two spoke about the shooting incident. # Abe Almirol(NorDis)

Tension looms in Ambuklao-Binga dams as SN Aboitiz absorbs workforce

August 3, 2008

ITOGON, Benguet — Workers of the Binga hydro-electric power plant in Barangay Tinongdan, here, are facing a blank wall as the new owner of the power-generating facility placed all employees under a five-month probationary status.

The workers’ union in the power plant facility offered for privatization last year is even facing possible union-busting with the new management opting to hire all 90 employees as new workers.

“We were told we would be treated as new employees because there is a change in management,” Ramon Capsula, Binga Employees and Workers’ Union (BEWU) president told reporters on July 16. He said he would ask SN Aboitiz Power (SNAP) to reconsider the union.

Among the present workforce are two or three workers who are about to retire, according to Capsula. Besides, union-busting, he said, he fears losing employee benefits due the workers.

Capsula is now hired as a local community relations officer of the new company.

SNAP Corporate Social Responsibility Manager Rodolfo T. Azanza Jr. did not answer direct queries on the fate of local workers after the five-month probationary period.

“If a worker’s performance does not fit into the qualifications of the job, are you going to rehire him?” he asked throwing the question back to the community folk who were gathered in the village plaza on July 14 for a consultation.

Azanza clarified that SNAP absorbed all workers and employees of the National Power Corporation, as part of the agreement during the privatization process. He said his company is not obliged to absorb employees of the independent Itogon Power Generation Corporation (IPGC) but accommodated the same recognizing that they are indigenous peoples of the place and that they are competent in their respective fields.

In an interview, Azanza stressed that the five-month probationary period is a standard operating procedure, with the company treating all the employees as newly hired. He clarified that an evaluation would be done after the test period and those qualified would be hired as permanent employees of SNAP.

Azanza asserted that the new company operating Ambuklao-Binga Hydroelectric power plants has no union. “If the employees decide later to organize a new union, we will welcome it, but as of now, there is no employees union registered at SNAP-Benguet,” he said.

Earlier, even Itogon Vice-mayor Noel Ngolob said the workers could have been retained as permanent employees because they have been there for a long time.

Councilor Oscar Camantiles, in an earlier interview said it might be a violation of international labor laws to treat the power workers as newly hired when they have been working for the NPC for too long.

Azanza, however, maintained no law is being violated as he challenged both Camantiles and Ngolob to cite specific provisions of applicable laws.

Only around 50 belonged to the IPGC, which had a contract with NPC to maintain the Binga power plant. SNAP allegedly hired around 90 and is contemplating at deploying some of the workers in Ambuklao where a larger task to rehabilitate the facilities await them.

Azanza disclosed that former workers of other energy projects in north Luzon are also applying for applicable jobs but he prioritized former NPC and IPGC workers. # Lyn V. Ramo(Northern Dispatch)

Bakun folk dismayed over mining consultation

August 3, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Bakun folk who trooped to the provincial capitol here last July 21 were dismayed after the post-consultation meeting allegedly failed to tackle issues they were raising surrounding a January 25 agreement with the Royalco Philippines.

Speaking for Bakun residents, a resident of Upper Gambang in Bakun town said the consultation only tackled one of five issues left hanging after some elders representing the residents signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the company.

“The operations does not enjoy a favorable endorsement from the local government units (LGU) of Gambang and Bakun,” our informant who asked for anonymity told Nordis in an interview. He said the July 21 consultation did not even resolve the issue on local government endorsement, blaming Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan for asking Barangay Capt. Alvaro Paquito the wrong question.

The barangay captain said there was no favorable endorsement from the barangay, to which Fongwan queried if the barangay would ask for any favor from the company in exchange for an endorsement of the project.

The Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) representative, however, opined there is no need for such approval.

Besides the question on the absence of LGU endorsement, residents question the decision-making process, which the agreement and consent underwent. Because the community chose to undergo a referendum to get the community decision, they listed all legible voters, according to our informant.

The referendum, however, yielded only 779 out of the 2,899 voters as listed. “It is not even 50 percent plus one, or simple majority,” another Bakun resident said, questioning the representation obtained.

Residents also raised an issue over the process at the barangay-level consultative assembly where the MOA was supposed to have been discussed. It was in a hotel in Buguias town where it was allegedly signed by appointed elders, who could not represent the entire affected people and areas.

According to our informant, the elders came mostly from Sitio Gambang Proper, one of many sitios of Barangay Gambang.

Free prior and informed consent (FPIC) processes require that the community identify its elders and the community decision-making processes.

Royalco obtained an exploration permit (EP) over some 988 hectares of lands in Gambang following a Certification Precondition from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). The EP includes, among others, geological mapping; geochemical sampling; ground and aerial geophysical survey; diamond drilling and construction of living quarters, waterworks, drainage, waste disposal and electrification facilities.

Earlier, MGB Regional Director Neoman dela Cruz said the DENR might recall Royalco’s EP once the NCIP withdrew its certification.

Gambang residents, through Paquito, asked for another consultation to clarify the five issues. They went home empty-handed and dismayed, according to our informant.

The MOA signed January 25 this year covers only Phase 1 of the exploration project. It covers the four sitios Gambang Proper, Yugo, Tuwa-ok and Tood. Phase 2 covers areas at the boundary with Mankayan town; while Phase 3 is at Sitio Bagtangan. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Asia-Pacific women bear mining woes

August 3, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Participants to the Seminar on Women and Mining at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) at Camp John Hay, here, concluded that mining’s adverse impacts fall hardest on women among the world’s poorest populations.

Khushi Kabir of the Bantey Srei, a women’s organization in Bangladesh, said poor women bear the burden of a threatened food security due to mining operations.

“It is the poor women who have to scamper for food, face military atrocities and secure the whole family from environmental threats due to mining,” Khushi told the Baguio press, shortly after the seminar which gathered more than 30 women from seven countries.

In her native Bangladesh, mining for coal, oil and gas has left communities with large craters and damaged fertile agricultural lands, leaving Bengali farmers in extreme poverty and hunger.

In Thailand, where there is a potash mine, health authorities found cyanide in the blood of residents, and in the river system. Potash is a mineral used to manufacture glass and soap. The new Thai mining code, enacted some 10 years ago left landowners only 50 meters from the surface, the resources beyond which include minerals, belong to the Thai government. This is similar to the Regalian Doctrine, adopted in Philippine laws, which states that all minerals belonged to the state.

Suntaree, a participant from Thailand said, “People could not get anything from their own lands because the government owned the minerals 50 meters underground.”

Sponsored by an all-women development group Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), the four-day seminar on mining included tours to Benguet mine sites where participants interacted with local folk in mining communities.

Foreign interests in mining

Mines in all the countries represented are now foreign-owned and controlled, with their respective mining laws amended to accommodate foreign ownership.

In Indonesia, for instance, the 1965 mining law was amended to suit the interests of foreign investors.

One of the participants said she “did not expect the magnitude of environmental devastation after the minerals have been extracted from the bosom of the earth,” describing an abandoned minesite.

Similarly, in the Philippines, the Mining Act of 1995 provides for a financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) that allows foreign-owned corporations into mining ventures and grants foreign investors certain rights normally denied aliens.

Newmont, an international mining company with applications for FTAA in the Cordillera, is also in Indonesia. It is being accused of polluting the Indonesian Senunu Bay with heavy metals and other toxic wastes that might be detrimental to the ocean’s ecosystem.

Human rights, Asian women

With mining in their midst, Asian women face security problems due to military presence in their communities. As it turned out during the seminar, extra-judicial killings is a common occurrence in many mining communities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Bangladesh women saw the bitter realities of genocide with the mines at the Thai border displacing many communities before 1979.

“When people returned, there was massive landless-ness, conflict and poverty,” Kushi told the media Monday.

The gathering provided the women a forum to identify their common situations and came up with doable resolutions, according to Vernie Yocogan-Diano, chairperson of Innabuyog-Gabriela, among APLD conveners and host of the seminar.

“The workshops are important,” said Lindsay Francis of Cook Islands in the Pacific. She said, the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal to eradicate poverty by 2015 is far from being achieved.

APWLD’s programs and activities are focused in promoting women’s rights as human rights as an analytical and strategic framework of engaging with the legal system to empower women.

APWLD has engaged primarily in policy advocacy, education, training and other activities to address issues and concerns of poor and marginalized women in the region. It has lobbied at regional and international levels for the implementation of government commitments in international conventions and the integration of gender issues at regional and international fora.

APWLD has developed partnership with women’s groups, human rights groups and development NGOs in the Asia Pacific region to consolidate, expand and strengthen networks working on women, law and development.

In 1986, women lawyers and other activists in the region formally launched APWLD and set up a secretariat in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The secretariat relocated to Chiangmai, Thailand in October 1997. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Solon finds it hard to repeal mining law

July 26, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — As majority of congress representatives are in favor of mining, a few solons consider it to be an uphill battle for the repeal of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act 7942.

According to Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Representative Luz Ilagan in a recent visit to the city, only a few representatives understand the impact of extractive mining.

“These representatives either do not really understand the effects of mining or are actually associated with big mining companies,” said Ilagan adding that it is very unfortunate to be a minority in this fight.

The solon is adamant that the said law be repealed and strongly supports Bayan Muna’s (BM) House Bill 1793 for the repeal of the mining act.

Ilagan said despite the assurance of the government that the country would benefit from the development of the mining industry under this law, many provisions are questionable in terms of how the people of the Philippines would benefit from the mining program of the government.

She stressed the 100% repatriation of profit by the mining companies, a five-year tax holiday renewable for another five years and the access to the land for 25 years renewable for another 25 years as few of the dubious provisions of the said law.

She also pointed out the questionable consultations done by some mining companies, which according to her manipulate the results of the consultations with affected communities.

Under the law, the companies are required to acquire the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from the affected communities.

She also added that the government agencies that are supposed to ensure the proper conduct of these consultations like the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are siding with the companies and even act as their lawyers instead of siding with the affected communities.

“Despite all these, the Philippine government is aggressively luring big mining companies to mine our lands especially the ancestral domain of our indigenous peoples who are the most affected by this mining industry,” she said.

The bill to repeal, which is sponsored by BM and GWP and co-authored by Nueva Vizcaya Representative Carlos Padilla, is currently in the committee hearing level. The Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities is chaired by Benguet Representative Samuel Dangwa with Ifugao Representative Solomon Chongalao as vice-chair.

Ilagan attended the study session of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) held here that started Thursday and ends today. The participants met to discuss the current international trends in mining in relation to food sovereignty, indigenous women, militarization and health issues. # Cye Reyes

Firm to explore gold, copper in 4 towns

July 25, 2008

By Edmund B. Sestoso

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A PRIVATE firm was recently given the go signal for exploration activities in at least four towns in Negros Island where a possible bulk deposits of gold and copper are detected.

The regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) announced that it approved the application of Epithermal Gold Corporation.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

MGB Legal Officer Gerardo Mahusay confirmed the approval in an interview with the members of the media. He said the mines bureau has signed the approval papers last July 18.

Mahusay attended the regular session of the Provincial Board when the company’s geologist presented to the Capitol legislators their intent and mechanism of doing exploratory activities in Negros Island.

Epithermal Gold Corporation targeted for exploratory activities in Jimalalud and Tayasan towns in Negros Oriental and Binalbagan and Himamaylan cities in Negros Occidental.

According to Mahusay, at least 4,000 hectares of the said towns are to be explored for possible volume deposits of gold and copper.

Epithermal Gold Corporation may search for mineral deposits through geological surveys and exploratory drilling.

Mahusay also said the two-year permit is renewable.

Jose Ramon Taningco, the firm’s president, assured the public that they will not engage in any mineral extraction or mining including mining development as the same will be covered by another application permit for such purpose.

The company’s exploration and development programs pose no environmental danger, as they will only be doing exploratory activities.

Mahusay said MGB will closely monitor the firm’s activities.

He also said the firm does not need an Environmental Compliance Certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) because it has not yet engage in any mineral extraction. (SunStarDumaguete)

Davao Oriental Folk: We Want Food, Not Mining

July 21, 2008

As the government is set to conduct a mining summit in Davao City this month, residents called on the government to prioritize solutions on the food crisis.

BY BULATLAT
Volume VIII, No. 24, July 20-26, 2008

DAVAO ORIENTAL – Various organizations here have called on the government to stop promoting its mining industry revitalization and instead resolve the food crisis.

The province of Davao Oriental will conduct a mining summit tentatively set on July 27 to 28 in Davao City aimed at addressing the row between two mining corporations – BHP Billiton and Asiaticus Mining Corporation (AMCOR). Both are involved in a billion-dollar  Pujada Nickel Mining project in the City of Mati.

In a statement, Macambol Multisectoral Alliance for Integral Development (MMSAID), said, “No amount of mining summit can resolve the food crisis that we are facing now. The government must prioritize the basic needs of the people.”

The MMSAID deemed that the Pujada Hallmark Nickel Mining Project ‘will not address the current food crisis but will only worsen the situation as the farmers, fisherfolks and lumads will be dispossessed of their own livelihoods.’

Barangay Macambol is situated between two protected areas namely Pujada Bay Protected Seascape and Mt. Hamiguitan Range, a proclaimed wildlife sanctuary.

Mt. Hamiguitan is home to more or less four hundred (400) hectares of “pygmy forests”, exotic plants and wild animals. Rattan, timber and non-timber products are the sources of community livelihood here.

Below the contract area is the Pujada Bay, a protected seascape and landscape by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 431. A biodiversity hotspot, it hosts endangered species such as dugongs or sea cows, sea turtles and sting rays. It is the major source of livelihood of the coastal community.

The group also said that the project will also bring with it additional problems like displacement or ejection of families living within the contract areas and the destruction of marine resources.

Conflict

The Pujada Hallmark Nickel Project is one of the top 23 priority mining projects of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and is expected to bring in more than $1.5 billion in investment for the country.
By virtue of transfer of rights, Hallmark and Austral-Asia purportedly got a permit to conduct exploration activities in Macambol. These companies are only derivative corporations from the original seven domestic mining corporations that previously secured Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) in the area. Later, they sold their rights to Asiaticus Mining Corporation (AMCOR). In 2002, AMCOR entered into a joint venture agreement with BHP-Billiton

In July 2007, AMCOR and BHP-Billiton were locked up in a legal battle after the former decided to rescind its contract with BHP-Billiton for failure to comply with their reciprocal obligations stated in their joint venture agreement.

In an Omnibus Order dated May 20, 2008, Judge Winlove Dumayas of the Makati regional trial court Branch 59 ordered BHP Billiton against “using, occupying, exploring, developing and exercising acts of ownership of mining right over the Pujada Properties.”

But according to MMSAID leaders, BHP-Billiton representatives are still actively campaigning for support from the residents of Barangay Macambol.  MMSAID said that even if the court has already barred BHP-Billiton from the area, AMCOR continue to push for the mining project.

Development

The group said they are opposed to a development framework that will only ‘inflict tremendous damage to our people and environment.’ “We’re strongly against the plunder of the country’s mineral wealth to satisfy the greed of foreign investors,” said MMSAID.

Dr. Cirilo Valles, chairperson of Luwas Kinaiyahan, an alliance of people’s organizations and individuals working for the protection of the environment, said in the vernacular, “I’ve witnessed what had happened in Marinduque, Siocon, and Surigao and in other areas in our country where there are mining operations.  I don’t want those disasters to happen here.  That’s why I’m strongly against any mining operations, small scale or large scale, because they have the same negative effects to the people and environment.”

Meanwhile, Jean Marie M. Ferraris of the Legal Rights Center (LRC) urged the government to stop issuing mining permits. She said, “Mining investments will not feed the people.  The country will only be thrown into deeper economic turmoil if the government will continue to disregard the legitimate sentiments of the communities.”

The MMSAID said, “We will continue to resist all mining companies that will conduct operations in our area.” Bulatlat

Energy Firm to Start Exploration in Mt. Kanlaon; Negrenses Face Great Risks

July 21, 2008

The approval by the provincial government of a memorandum allowing the entry of Energy Development Corporation, formerly PNOC-EDC, into the 169-hectare buffer zone of Mt. Kanlaon National Park, poses a danger to the people of Negros. If such activities are not stopped, Negros might experience the same kind of devastation as that of Iloilo and Aklan during typhoon Frank.

BY KARL G. OMBION
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 24, July 20-26, 2008

BACOLOD CITY – Negros Occidental Governor Isidro Zayco has recently signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) allowing the expansion of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) inside the Mt. Kanlaon National Park (MKNP).

Environment Secretary Lito Atienza earlier granted EDC a tree cutting permit within the 169-hectare buffer zone.

The MoA of EDC and the provincial government purportedly intends to address the Negros Occidental’s power needs but at the same time commits to preserve and protect the environment and the resources in MKNP. It also requires the EDC to sell power at a price lower than or equal to that of the alternative power projects and to give priority in the sale of its electricity to the electric cooperatives in Negros island.

The MoA also reiterated the conditions set in the governor’s Executive Order creating an Oversight, Monitoring and Compliance Committee, to which the EDC will have to submit a detailed work program and a stand and stock table covering its activities in the 169-hectare MKNP buffer zone.

The MoA also includes a stipulation that the EDC must confine its geothermal development activities within the perimeters duly delineated and established by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in coordination with the Park Board and the Oversight committee; that the EDC must ensure that the cutting of trees with a diameter of 100 centimeters and beyond shall be limited to only 34 trees, and that it should exert all efforts to minimize the cutting of trees to a number lower than 34.

The MoA further required the EDC to institute and implement a Comprehensive Environmental and Reforestation Program to mitigate the effects of the exploration inside the buffer zone, and states that its reforestation activity at the MKNP shall involve 160,000 trees planted and grown over a span of five years to cover an area of 400 hectares; and provided that the cutting of trees by the EDC shall be done in the presence of the Oversight, Monitoring and Compliance Committee, and the company should give preference to the people residing in the locality for its unskilled labor requirement in its exploration activities.

EDC President and CEO Paul Aquino told local media that he was grateful to Zayco and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Council), saying that they have stood up for what is right and legal.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, on the other hand, welcomed the decision by the provincial government, saying, “With the signing of the memorandum of agreement, EDC can now tap additional geothermal power to generate the province’s much needed power,” and added that “those who oppose the project should respect the decision of the local government and the desire of majority of Negrenses to support the project in answer to the power shortfall of the province.”

The decision, however, was scored by progressive organizations and various environmental groups in the region, who said that it will open the floodgate for further deforestation of MKNP and thus complete the process of destroying the remaining frontiers of the region.

Bayan Muna (People First) Provincial Chairperson Alejandro Deoma slammed the signing of the MoA allowing EDC to conduct exploration in MKNP, saying that it poses great risks to the people of Negros, considering the already critical state of the island’s forests.

“If such activities are not stopped,” Deoma said, “Negros will likely experience the same kind of devastation that struck Iloilo and Aklan recently.”

MKNP is a protected area

Mt. Kanlaon has been categorized by Republic Act No. 9154 as a natural park because it is an important watershed of Northern and Central Negros. It serves as headwater catchment of three major river systems in the island, namely: Bago, Nahatin and Binalbagan, which supply irrigation water to 158,500 hectares or one-fifth of the Negros Occidental’s entire land area.

Mt. Kanlaon is a protected area included in the Top Ten Priority Sites for Conservation of the Philippine government, which is why RA 9154 or the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park (MKNP) Act of 2001 was enacted to protect and conserve it.

Based on 1989 Swedish Space Agency satellite data, Negros has only 39,630 hectares (4.77 percent) forest cover left. Since then, incidence of deforestration and denudation continue unabated throughout the island, causing local environmental advocates to assert that the remaining forest cover of the island may now only be between 3.5 percent and four percent.

The current rate is already alarmingly below the 40-percent forest cover needed to maintain a balanced ecosystem on the island.

“The 169 hectares is a very a huge area, a home to diverse flora and fauna species. Cutting more trees in MKNP or elsewhere in Negros will certainly imperil the Negrense’s water supply, agriculture and will entail irreparable damage to whatever biodiversity,” Deoma said

Deoma also clarified that Section 5 of RA 9154 provides that “any geothermal exploration for or development of energy or mineral resources within the MNKP shall not be allowed except by an Act of Congress. This provision shows clearly that any geothermal exploration can only be done only through an act of Congress. Gloria [Macapagal-Arroyo] and her environment chief Atienza should not jump the gun on the public as this is clearly illegal.”

He added that the government’s decision to pursue this project is illegal as it violates the many of our nation’s laws and international environment covenants that the Philippines is a party to.

No power shortage

EDC has sought entry into the buffer zone to tap more geothermal energy for its Northern Negros Geothermal Production Field in Mailum, Bago City, to meet a supposed projected power shortage in Negros Occidental.

But militant groups disputed the claims of EDC and even by the local governments that Negros is having a power shortage.

Felipe Gelle of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-Negros said that there is enough power supply for the entire Negros generated by the Palipinon geothermal power plant in Negros Oriental.

“The EDC’s plan to tap geothermal energy in Mt. Kanlaon is actually intended not for the poor power consumers of Negros but for the big businesses and multinational corporations coming in, including those putting up expansions in neighboring islands of Panay and Cebu,” Gelle said.

He added that even if there would be more power supply in Negros, the poor will not benefit from it because the EDC, like the big oil cartels, will just continue to hike the costs of their power to rake in super profits.

Class suit

The Save Mt. Kanlaon Coalition, a loose movement of various environmentalist groups, has recently sought the immediate stoppage to the entry of EDC into the buffer zone surrounding MKNP for geothermal development.

Lawyer Andrea Si, the group’s legal counsel and one of the pioneering members, said that they have filed a prohibitory injunction with temporary restraining order against the EDC’s operations in MKNP.

The group has asked the court to declare as unconstitutional sections of RA 9154 creating a 169-hectare MKNP buffer zone for development of geothermal energy resources, and Presidential Proclamation No. 1005 that declares a 1,475-hectare area in the MKNP as a geothermal block.

They also asked the court to declare a 1995 Environment Compliance Certificate granted EDC for geothermal development invalid, and to render void its DENR tree-cutting permit within the buffer zone.

Two hundred ninety-one complainants, including 87 children, joined the filing of a class suit against Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, the Energy Development Corp., and the Protected Area Management Board of the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park before the Bacolod City Regional Trial Court.

Bacolod City Councilor Celia Flor, who is also a member of the Save Mt. Kanlaon Coalition, has urged the public to support their opposition to the MOA, and appealed for various support to their campaign. Bulatlat

Provincial solons want nickel mining strictly monitored

July 21, 2008

By Cheryl A. Galili

SOME MEMBERS of the Provincial Board (PB) want to strictly keep an eye on the shipments of millions of tons of unprocessed nickel ores outside Palawan, not just to monitor the province’s income but to be vigilant about large scale mining operations.

This newest development came following a letter from Roland de Jesus, the officer-in-charge regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB), that reports about Ores Transport Permits (OTPs) issued to three large scale mining companies operating in southern Palawan: Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC), Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC) and Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC).

In the PB’s regular session last week, the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, chaired by Board Member Gil P. Acosta; and the Committee on Ways and Means, chaired by Board Member Leoncio Ola, according to Vice Governor David A. Ponce de Leon, should be part of the multi-partite monitoring team (MMT) for the provincial government to determine the accuracy of the volumes of nickel ores and their value before they are transported to China, Japan and other countries.

The RTNMC, CBNC and BNC located in the towns of Bataraza and Quezon are the only large scale mining companies operating in the province.

Keeping tabs on every shipment of raw nickel ores also came about due to a proposal from board members Vicky de Guzman, Modesto Rodriguez III and Joselito Cadlaon to impose a 25-year mining moratorium in the province to avoid the possibility of destruction of the environment.

“We should be vigilant, not only because of the income aspect, but also to be cognizant of the frequency of their transport of nickel ores outside Palawan,” De Guzman said.(PalawanTimes)

Conflict among Tagbanuas in Berong rises due to royalty share

July 21, 2008

By Cheryl A. Galili

INTERNAL DISPUTE due to alleged misappropriation of around P15 million turned over to them by Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC) as 1% royalty share from its large scale mining operation in barangay Berong, Quezon is threatening to break the relationship among members of the Berong Aramaywan Tagbanua Association (BATA).

The information was disclosed by Vice Governor David A. Ponce de Leon during the session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last week. He said leaders and members of the BATA are quarreling with one another because of alleged illegal withdrawals and irregular disbursements of a large portion of the royalty fund released by the BNC from 2007.

The BATA is composed of Tagbanua families from barangays Berong and Aramaywan, recognized by the BNC as rightful IP communities living near the area it is mining.

Ponce de Leon said he has also obtained documents from reliable sources that can prove the leaders of the BATA have set up their own mining corporation, registered in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under the name West Coast of Palawan Mining Corporation (WCPMC) without consulting the general membership of the BATA.

The mining corporation, according to the documents, has an investment totaling to P2.5 million which might have allegedly come from the royalty fund.

Ponce de Leon told members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that complaints have reached him that the BATA leaders are slowly depleting the royalty fund deposited in the Palawan Development Bank (PDB).

One million pesos, he related, was withdrawn from PDB to pay Virto Daso for 14,000 pieces of coconut seedlings. Daso, according to sources by Palawan Times, is formerly connected with the Palawan Tropical Forestry Protection Program (PTFPP) and has a farm in barangay San Jose.

Ponce de Leon is baffled why the BATA would choose to pay such large amount to an individual who is not accredited to sell coconut seedlings by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) that is in fact, distributing them for free to encourage the sprout of more coconut tree farmers.

“The supplier is not accredited by the PCA and surprisingly, he is also an incorporator in this mining corporation that some of the BATA leaders have set up,” he said.

He is also curious, he said, by the fact that the personalities that set up the mining corporation is Efifanio Marcelo, a member of the board of BATA, and its manager is his son Mike Marcelo. Another daughter is reportedly holding an important position in the WSPMC.

“They must be able to explain why this (the mining corporation) happened without the members of the BATA being consulted,” he stated.

Ponce de Leon said that because of the current situation in the BATA, Governor Joel T. Reyes has already called on the Advisory Board (AB) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to intervene. He has also requested the leaders of the association to submit their liquidation, as well as receipts of their incurred expenses.

“Illegal withdrawal is like estafa,” Ponce de Leon, who is himself a lawyer, said.

During the last meeting of the Advisory Board (AB), a body that was created to guide and assist the BATA in its development decisions and management of their royalty fund, the leaders reportedly denied the establishment of the WCPMC which was contrary to the documents he obtained.

When inquired about how much money they still have in the bank, the leaders claimed they still have around P9 million in PDB. But unverified information reaching Palawan Times claimed that the BATA’s fund has been reduced to a mere P4.5 million.

On July 16, Quezon Mayor Ronilo Caputilla called a general assembly for the BATA members to hear their grievances. From this assembly, Ponce de Leon was allegedly informed that the members have signified intention to call for a new election to change the board members of the BATA.

Prior to the meeting, Caputilla, when interviewed by the media, said he called the meeting due to numerous complaints from members of the Tagbanua association who doubt the honesty and integrity of their leaders. He said his mediation was called to mend the conflict as all remain hopeful of future developments that can help them.

“The AB has ordered the leaders of the BATA to make a liquidation of their expenses,” Ponce de Leon furthered, saying that if they fail to do so, as per a supplemental memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed earlier, the BNC will not release their 2008 royalty fund.

Believed to be already amounting to P6 million, the royalty share from the current year can be instead deposited in a trust fund under the BATA.

Should intervention fail to repair the conflict within the Tagbanua association in Quezon town, the BNC, as a last resort, can initiate an action called “Interpleader” in order to compel two or more parties to litigate a dispute.

Interpleader is a form of action originally developed under equity jurisprudence. An interpleader action originates when the plaintiff holds property on behalf of another, but does not know to whom the property should be transferred.

In the case of BNC, if the conflict within the BATA takes long to resolve, it can choose to do this action so parties can fight over the royalty share in court.

“As a last resort, BNC can file a petition to the court, this is called interpleader, and deposit the money to a clerk of court so parties fighting over it can let the court resolve the issue,” he said.

“Illegal withdrawal is like estafa,” he said, claiming he is thoroughly disappointed about how the BATA has turned out following BNC’s release of their 1% share from 2007.

“The BATA could have been part of history because this is the first time in Palawan that an indigenous group of people has received shares that’s mandated under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act,” he said.(PalawanTimes)

Conner folk question anomalous mining consultations

July 19, 2008

CONNER, Apayao — Residents here found the consultations and strategies done by foreign mining companies in the locality as anomalous and dubious.

OceanaGold mining company with its local subsidiary Copperfields and Anglo American mining companyhave applications for mining exploration in the said municipality.

Barangay folk in Conner, Apayao raised serious questions during the first general assembly of Save Apayao Peoples Organization (SAPO) last July 4-5 on what they consider as anomalous consultations and dubious strategies done by the said mining companies.

Residents of the five affected barangays namely Ili, Guinaang, Katablangan, Manag and Talifugo seriously doubt the “strategies” of the mining company with some barangay and municipal officials and concerned government agencies. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) were named for their actions in getting the communities’ consent for the mining exploration.

In Barangay Manag, which already had two consultations in 2006 and 2007 both resulting to the denial of the application, the residents are confounded on how their barangay officials are aggressively campaigning for the approval of the mine application.

According to Manang Aket (not her real name) during the last consultation held on May 13, less than 50% of the residents mostly anti-mining were present thus no voting was done. It was then suggested by the NCIP representative to call the elders composed of five anti-mining and five pro-mining along with the barangay officials and to talk how the voting can be done.

The officials proposed to just conduct a house-to-house vote, where the ballot box would just be carried around. This proposal was rejected by many residents who doubt the officials would be able to convince or even threaten the residents to say yes.

The barangay officials along with the elders are said to meet again today. Some residents are afraid that this meeting would already be the official votation.

The whole of Barangay Manag is applied for the said mining exploration activity.

Meantime in Barangay Katablangan, only four officials voted yes for the exploration fearing their community would not receive any development projects from the government if they would reject the application.

Despite the barangay’s rejection, Manong Roger (not his real name) is still apprehensive after DENR is suddenly surveying their lands to check the release of land titles. Katablangan is declared ancestral but land titles have not yet been awarded to the residents.

“Mining seminar?”

Last March 10-12 OceanaGold invited the officials of the five barangays to a seminar on mining in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan. During the said seminar, the company presented the mining Memorandum of Agreements (MoA) for the different barangays and how “mining operations help in the development of a community” and gave as an example the exploration in Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, where the company is also conducting exploration. (The Didipio operations has recently been rejected and ordered stopped by provincial dads.)

A total of 89 attended the seminar. According to Manang Bugan (not her real name) none from Barangay Ili went because they were told by their constituents that if they would attend, they would never be voted into office again in 2010.

According to Manang Bugan, a resident of Barangay Ili, the officials who attended the seminar were given per diem each worth P500.00 and freebies like company t-shirts, caps and calendars aside from the free hotel accommodation with meals and the refund of their transportation expenses.

After the seminar in Tuguegarao, the officials of the different barangays conducted a house-to-house to “re-echo” what they learned in the seminar trying to convince the residents to approve the exploration application.

“Bribery?”

Meanwhile in Barangay Cupis, Conner affected by the mining exploration application by Anglo American, a British mining company with its local subsidiary Cordillera Exploration, Inc. (CEXI), gave an amount of P100,000 to the barangay captain and another official in mid-February. They did not know what it was for.

During a barangay assembly where two representatives from CEXI attended, some of the residents complained why the officials received the said amount from the company without the consensus of the whole barangay.

It was then decided to be used to build an irrigation system in their area. The construction started in March but was soon stopped because according to the officials the money was already spent and there is no more left to finish the project.

CEXI’s exploration application was approved by Barangays Cupis and Kalafug and a MoA was already signed. Barangay Karikitan which was included in the company’s original application was exempted by the NCIP because the whole barangay including its officials are firmly against mining in their community.

Drilling equipment are now in the area.

Death threats

Meanwhile, the newly re-elected SAPO chairperson Tina Moyaen and other leaders of the organization are continuously receiving death threats.

“The last time I received a death threat through a text message was the day before the SAPO assembly,” said Moyaen adding that it was actually written in a way that it was sent by a concerned friend who did not wish to be identified warning her to be careful because there is a plan to kill her.

“I have been receiving threats since 2006. Although I fear for my life, this would not stop me from doing what I think is right for the people of Apayao,” said Moyaen.

Army recruitment and militarization

Recently, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted massive army recruitment in the municipality, targeting the youth to join the armed forces.

According to Windel Bolinget the Secretary-General of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), “it is a way to entice the people and provide quick employment through joining the armed forces.”

“These threats and army recruitment are strategies of the government to pacify the opposition in the community and to quell the growing resistance like here in Conner,” said Bolinget adding that the deployment of military forces in areas where there are government “development projects” is also done to prevent the residents from opposing.

The SAPO is now affiliated to the CPA and its members reaffirmed their strong resolve to continue their struggle against large-scale mining not only in their area but in the whole of the Cordillera region. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

Partylist hails Vizcaya dads for withdrawing support to mining firm

July 19, 2008

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya — Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño today hailed the provincial board of Nueva Vizcaya as it withdrew its support to OceanaGold Philippines, which operates in Barangay Didipio, Kasibu town.

“They have just taken the another decisive step to protect its people and its fragile forests and watersheds,” Casiño said. He specified the Nueva Vizcaya Vice-governor Jose Gambito and Board Members Edu Balgos and Merlie Talingdan, proponents of the move to totally withdraw support and endorsement to OceanaGold to mine a significant part of Kasibu town.

He said Board Members Glenn Afan, Efren Quiben, Tony Dupiano, Evangeline Burton of the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation and Amado Mangaoang of the Liga ng Barangay Federation also deserve commendation as they have also sided with their constituents who value their biodiversity and their peaceful way of life.

“These local government officials, along with their good Gov. Luisa Cuaresma and Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban are making history with this move,” Casiño said.

The militant solon added,”This is an unprecedented milestone in our country’s history of local governance. This should set a shining example to all other local governments under siege by arrogant and environmentally-destructive foreign large-scale mining companies.”

The Provincial Board passed the resolution on with a vote of eight in favor; three against, and one abstention. It shall take effect amid the ongoing impasse between the province and OceanaGold over payment of local taxes.

“This will teach OceanaGold and power-drunk officials of the national government agencies like Environment Sec. Lito Atienza a lesson. They should heed the oppposition of the local people – indigenous peoples, small scale miners and farmers included – and local authorities who will directly suffer the long-term damage from large-scale mining operations. We also hope that other local government units take this historical move of the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government into consideration,” Casiño said.

In support the LGU move, Bayan Muna also shared the view that OceanaGold, with the help of certain national government line agencies, committed various social, civil, human rights and environmental violations.

“The provincial board was right in its decision to defend the people of Nueva Vizcaya, this will also help us in the ongoing probe into the operations and the alleged dirty tricks, bribery and human rights violations of OceanaGold at the House of Representatives,” Casiño said.

Casiño is the author of House Resolution 594 that mandated the Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities to probe OceanaGold’s entry into Nueva Vizcaya’s remaining forestlands and the critical watershed areas in the region. # Vincent Michael L. Borneo(NorDis)

Molintas sits in UN rights body

July 18, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — An Ibaloi lawyer and former city councilor was appointed as a mandate holder of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on its 8th session last June 18.


ATTY. JOSE MOLINTAS. Nordis Photo

Lawyer Jose Mencio Molintas will hold office with four more appointees to the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP). The UNHRC officially assigned the five members (one each from Africa, Western Europe and Latin America and two from Asia).

Tracing his roots to Bokod, Benguet, Molintas served as a city councilor here, and challenged incumbent Congress representative Mauricio Domogan in the 2007 elections.

Molintas, a member of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) is with the Cordillera Alternative Law Center or Dinteg. He used to chair the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and is a member of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA).

Besides Molintas (Philippines), Jannie Lasimbang (Malaysia), Odimba Kombe (Congo), Jose Carlos Morales (Costa Rica) and John Henriksen (Norway) were also appointed and as EMRIP will meet once a year and report directly to the UNHRC.

The new Expert Mechanism will “assist UNHRC in the implementation of its mandate” by providing thematic expertise and making proposals pertaining to the rights of indigenous peoples.

8th Session output

Meanwhile in a press release, the UNHRC 8thSession adopted 13 resolutions on a range of issues, including the optional protocol to the international covenant on economic, social, and cultural rights; the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; the promotion on the right of peoples to peace; and elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy.

It appointed 13 new mandate holders on freedom of expression, health, racial discrimination, trafficking in persons, people of African descent, arbitrary detention, Haiti, indigenous peoples and minority issues as well as Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression; the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination xenophobia and related intolerance; and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

Procedures and mandates

UNHRC extended the mandates of eight Special Procedures on extra-judicial executions, education, independence of judges, transnational corporations, torture, migrants, extreme poverty and trafficking in persons. The Council also adopted a resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

It extended for three years the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the Independent Expert on human rights and extreme poverty, and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

On extra-judicial killings and people’s right to peace

UNHRC specifically, requested the Special Rapporteur to continue to examine situations of extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions in all circumstances and for whatever reason and to submit her or his findings on an annual basis; to enhance further his dialog with governments, as well as to follow up on recommendations; to continue monitoring the implementation of existing international standards on safeguards and restrictions relating to the imposition of capital punishment; and to apply a gender perspective to his work.

UNHRC urged States to cooperate and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his task; and decides to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions for three years.

Concerning the promotion on the right of peoples to peace, the UN council stressed that peace is a vital requirement for the promotion and protection of all human rights.

It requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to convene, before April 2009, a three-day workshop on the right of peoples to peace, with the participation of two experts from countries of each of the five regional groups, in order to further clarify the content and scope of this right.

Over the past five years, UN Special Rapporteurs Rodolfo Stavenhagen for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Minority Issues, and Philip Alston for Extra-judicial killing, summary and arbitrary execution were in the Philippines to monitor cases of human rights violations and forwarded their findings and recommendations.

Both Stavenhagen and Alston were in the Cordillera during their respective visits. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Vizcaya mine suspended

July 18, 2008

KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya – Various people’s actions converged with a court decision and legislative initiatives that discontinued a foreign mining firm’s operations in Didipio, here. This coincided with a corporate decision to suspend contract work amid financial difficulties.

The Regional Trial Court issued a writ of preliminary injunction ordering OceanaGold and all other persons acting on its behalf to cease, desist and refrain from demolishing or dismantling [the complainants’] houses until further court orders.

Last June 24, Australian mining firm OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) said that it is suspending work at its $117-million gold-copper project amid the controversies hounding its operations over the past six months. In a company statement, OGPI said it is suspending a number of construction contracts as it tries to cut down on company expenses while looking for additional funding.

Environmental group Kalikasan-PNE, together with its partner non-government organization(NGO) in Northern Luzon, Katinnulong Daguiti Umili iti Amianan (RDC-Kaduami) said in their statements, “We want to congratulate the people and the local government units of Nueva Vizcaya for successfully halting the operations of OceanaGold.”

Tactical victory

“Though temporary, this is a big tactical victory for the communities,” says Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of militant environmental group Kalikasan-PNE.

Based on the annual reports of OceanaGold, it lost US$23.43 million and US$69.04 million in 2006 and 2007 respectively. This was despite company’s additional capital of Canadian $90.00 million in its initial public offering in Toronto Stock Exchange last July 2007.

“It is not under the good grace and consideration of OceanaGold why it suspended its mining operation. For two consecutive years, this company is losing tens of millions of dollars while the opposition to the project becomes broader and stronger at the local, regional and national levels. These reasons forced the company to halt their operation. OceanaGold’s Didipio gold project is becoming more unsustainable and bankcrupt everyday,” Mr. Bautista adds.

Congressional action and prov’l board’s withdrawal of support

At the national level, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino authored House Resolutions 594 and 211 mandating the Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities to probe Australian mining firms OceanaGold and Royalco Resources, respectively, wanting to extract the mineral wealth of Nueva Vizcaya to the detriment of the indigenous peoples, remaining forestlands and the critical watershed areas in the region. These resolutions have resulted to on-site investigations held in June 7-9, 2008 in Brgy. Didipio and Brgy. Kakidugen.

In a statement, Casino said, “Reports reveal that OceanaGold has ‘suspended’ its operations – meaning their timetable to get into full swing mineral extraction and production is thrown off course. I am further galvanized by this positive initial victory to work harder to protect the long-term interests of the indigenous peoples and the environment in Nueva Vizcaya.”

Meanwhile, the provincial board withdrew its support to OcaenaGold June 25 with a 7:4 vote. One abstained and another absent.

The provincial government earlier issued a cease and desist order against the company because of its failure to pay local taxes worth P28 million. Also, Atty. Edu Balgos, a senior board member proposed an ordinance outlawing open-pit mining in the province.

Peoples’ action

The move is welcomed by different organizations as about 200 people rallied to the provincial capitol carrying placards calling for the pullout of Oceana Gold’s operation.

“However, our call is not based on the failure of the company to pay local taxes but because of the adverse impact it will bring on the lives of the people here,” said Allan Barnacha.

According to local leader Lucas Buay of the Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response for Ecological Development (KIRED) the people’s struggle would continue against OceanaGold and other foreign mining companies encroaching at indigenous people’s territories.

“We have no recourse but to fight back. The Arroyo administration, the DENR and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) have all shown their indifference to our rights as indigenous peoples. They disrespected and ignored our local officials,” Buay said.

Buay added the national government and its agencies have forsaken IPs for its pursuit of selling out their mineral and ancestral lands. “They have the same interest with foreign mining companies to plunder our patrimony,” he said. # Sherry Mae Soledad(NorDis)

Kasibu mining struggle reaches Congress

July 18, 2008

BM rep urges investigation of foreign mines abuses

BAGUIO CITY — The struggle of indigenous peoples in the upland town of Nueva Vizcaya to defend their ancestral homeland against two giant Australian mining corporations has reached Congress, with the filing of two resolutions by partylist Bayan Muna.

These resolutions, the IP’s claimed, would test this landlord-dominated institution if they could work for the benefit of the marginalized indigenous peoples.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro A. Casiño filed two resolutions in the House of Representatives which aim to investigate, in aid of legislation, abuses committed by the OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) and the Oxiana Philippines Inc. (Royalco Ltd. of Australia) in the process of mineral exploration and operations in the villages of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.

House Resolution No. 594 urges the House of Representatives’ Committee on National Cultural Communities to conduct an inquiry on the reported abuses committed by OGPI against indigenous peoples in Didipio, Kasibu, Vizcaya where OGPI started to explore minerals for its proposed US 117-million gold and copper project.

On the other hand, House Resolution No. 211 urge the same committee to look into the alleged encroachment of the Australian-backed Oxiana Philippines Inc., a subsidiary of the Royalco Ltd. of Australia, into the tribal communities of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.

Both resolutions are pending at the said committee chaired by Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa with Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao as senior vice-chair.

Oceana project

Oceana project covers villages in Didipio, Kasibu inhabited by various tribes which include the Bugkalots and Ifugaos. Residents have been opposing the project as they believed that the project would destroy their lands which serve as the source of their livelihood, producing rice and other agricultural products.

“The residents have been raising complaints on the abuses that Australian-backed company OGPI committed against their communities due to mining exploration and operation projects in the area,” stated Resolution No. 594, wherein public hearings would be held and afterwards come up with Committee Report that would recommend action to the House of Representatives, a staff of Casino told this reporter.

The resolution cited that officials of Didipio fear for the shortage of locally grown rice and farm products as bulldozing of lands continues despite reported controversies that characterized the operation of Oceana.

Oceana allegedly started to clear lands and demolished houses and removed residents out of Didipio in December 2007 as it moved fast to meet its target production operations in February 2009. Violations in the area had been reportedly traced to the New Year’s eve demolition.

Oxiana project

The mining exploration of Oxiana Philippines covers the villages in Pao, Paquet, Dine, Kakidugen and Kataraoan, all of Kasibu town where its inhabitants are members of the Bugkalot, Ibaloi and Kalanguya tribes.

Residents claimed that the project threatens their welfare and livelihood particularly citrus fruits growing where 200 tons is harvested annually in the towns of Kasibu, Kayapa and Ambaguio, all upland owns of Nueva Vizcaya, stated House Resolution 211 where Gabriela Party List Representative Luzviminda C. Ilagan and Nueva Vizcaya Rep Carlos M. Padilla are co-authors.

Thousands of residents have been preventing the Oxiana from mining in the area since July 12, 2007. They sustained a barricade in Paquet village but were violently dispersed on August 29, 2007 “when armed Oxiana workers and elements of the CAFGU forcibly dismantled the protester’s barricades, resulting to injury among tribal men and women who refused to clear the muddy mountain road for a bulldozer, to be used in the mining firm’s exploration site in Pao village,” stated House Resolution No. 211.

“The violent incident on August 29, 2007 is a typical modus operandi of Australian mining firms which are notorious in Latin America and Asia in disrupting tribal communities and getting local partners to do the dirty work for them. Such mining firms usually employ military and police forces to suppress legitimate opposition to their activities,” added the Casiño-sponsored resolution.

No consent from residents

Defend Patrimony, an environmental group, discovered that Oxiana allegedly failed to obtain the consent of the majority of the affected indigenous peoples as mandated by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997.

The resolution also pointed out that the National Commission on Indigenous Population (NCIP) fast-tracked and was not transparent in conducting the process of the free, prior and informed consent citing claims of the Bugkalot tribe.

Mayor Romeo Tayaban of Kasibu led various groups in seeking the legislative inquiry for both mining projects that are located in his town.

Meanwhile, House representatives and local officials of Nueva Vizcaya were on their way to a public hearing in Kasibu on June 7 when the delegation was stopped at a checkpoint in Barangay Burgos, Cabarroguis, Quirino Province. The Philippine National Police (PNP) forces in the area held them.

Allegedly held for more than twenty minutes with Casiño were Reps. Padilla, Ilagan, and Chungalao and NV Gov. Luisa Loren Cuaresma. Some 21 vehicles made up the convoy.

Padilla condemned the act saying: “This is a direct affront on the House as well as on the duly elected officials of this province. If they can do this to members of Congress, if they can do this to the governor and other provincial officials Nueva Vizcaya, they can do this to anybody.”

A congressman’s staff, who was among the delegation, claimed that they were held by the police without giving any reason at all.

“That is why we believe that the PNP in the area have a cozy relationship with Oceana,” he said in an interview.

Police, however, maintained the convoy was just delayed, not held, for five minutes. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

Impact of Benguet mines alarms visiting leaders

July 18, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Fourteen community leaders, activists and development workers from Southern Tagalog, Bicol and Mindanao visiting mining towns Mankayan and Itogon Wednesday and Friday last week were alarmed at the impact of mining operations on Benguet folk.


BEYOND ENVIRONMENT CONCERNS. Leaders and activists from various mining communities in the country visited Benguet mine sites in Mankayan and Itogon during a two-day mine tour facilitated by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. Photo by Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS

“I did not realize that mining could destroy vast tracts of indigenous peoples’ territories,” Waway Rocafort, spokesperson of Bayan-Southern Tagalog told Nordis in an interview. He joined the team that went to Mankayan and saw the sinking communities surrounding Lepanto Consolidated Mining.

Besides the physical devastation inflicted on the environment, Rocafort saw the impact of mining on the people’s lives and traditional livelihood, as well as their culture and traditions.

“Kabaligtaran talaga sa mga nababasa, hindi ko akalaing ganito kalaki ang epekto,” (Contrary to what I have read, I did not expect that the effect is this big) Rocafort kept saying.

He said he could talk on the ill-effects of large scale mining now that he has seen the Lepanto mine site.

Working with Batangas communities, Rocafort said Mindoro Resources Ltd. has an ongoing exploration work in Lubo town. The said operations cover 24,000 hectares.

The community exposure program aimed to raise the participants’ awareness on the worsening mining situation in the country; expose the breadth and impact of mining on Benguet communities and take a glimpse at how communities are addressing the threats of mining. It also attempted to understand and learn from the Cordillera experience at leading people’s movements against imperialist mining.

Another exposure beneficiary, Natasha Jaro who works for the Southern Tagalog Environmental Action Movement based in Laguna, is mingling with the Mangyan-Iraya tribe in Occidental Mindoro. She said this indigenous Mindoro tribe in Abra de Ilog town would contend with the operations of the Agusan Petroleum and Mining, which is set to mine an area covering eight barangays (villages) in the said town.

Ka Boy of the SocSarGen Region in Mindanao said he is concerned with the extent of mineral extraction by large mines. He wished he was allowed entry into the tunnels to visualize the health hazards the workers face and the extent of ore extraction underground. He also worried about the cyanide exposure on people and its impact on plants and animals.

Another team visited Itogon where several mine sites have been abandoned.

The visiting team included leaders of communities affected by Lafayette Mines in Rapu-rapu town in the Bicol Region, Zamboanga del Norte, Negros Occidental, Panay, and Cagayan Valley.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) facilitated the visit, which was coordinated by the Manila-based Philippine Network for the Environment-Kalikasan and the Center for Environmental Concerns. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

N. Vizcaya Local Officials Rise vs Mining Firm

July 12, 2008

Local officials of the province of Nueva Vizcaya dare to fight a mining giant. This is a stark contrast to the national government pledging full support for transnational mining corporations.

BY BULATLAT
Vol. VIII, No. 22, July 6-12, 2008

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya (268 kms north of Manila) — Gov. Luisa Lloren Cuaresma and other provincial officials were slapped with a string of charges at the Office of Ombudsman by OceanaGold Phils., Inc., an Australian firm engaged in a multibillion-peso mining exploration project at Didipio, Kasibu town.

They were charged with grave coercion, graft and harassment. Recently, an administrative case was also filed against the governor allegedly for abuse of authority, misconduct and oppression.

Cuaresma has been a vocal critic of the Australian firm’s operations.

In a statement posted at www.nvizcayagov.ph, Cuaresma said, “If compassion is a transgression and if this is the reward of an upright move, I am ready to face the costs. As Governor, I have to defend my constituents who fall victims of abuses and until such atrocities ceased and tribal folks of Didipio will be bequeathed of the injustices OceanaGold had them suffered, I stood firm to my conviction.”

Gold site of greed

She said, “Didipio, the once tranquil hamlet of harmonious and peace loving people fall prey to pretenses of development. It is progress in exchange of dignity.  I am appealing to peace and human right advocates all over the world to help me redeem the self-esteem of displaced indigenous people of Didipio who were illegally extricated from their ancestral domain with thousand still facing ejection to pave the way to what I may describe as the gold site of greed.”

Cuaresma said that her office receives continuous reports from Didipio residents regarding cases of human rights violations, fears and intimidation. She said that the brutal killing of village chief Paulino Baguilat just recently was an aftermath of what OceanaGold calls as “development.”

Cuaresma said that her office still receives continuous reports from Didipio residents on cases of human rights violations, fears and intimidation. She said that the brutal killing of village chief Baguilat just recently was an aftermath of what OceanaGold calls as development.

Making history

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Teddy Casiño hailed the local government’s move. “This is an unprecedented milestone in our country’s history of local governance. This should set a shining example to all other local governments under siege by arrogant and environmentally-destructive foreign large-scale mining companies,” he said

The Provincial Board recently adopted a resolution to totally withdraw support and endorsement to OceanaGold. Eight voted in favor of the move; three against, and one abstention. It shall take effect amid the ongoing impasse between the province and OceanaGold over payment of local taxes.

“This will teach OceanaGold and power-drunk officials of the national government agencies like Environment Sec. Lito Atienza a lesson. They should heed the opposition of the local people – indigenous peoples, small-scale miners and farmers included – and local authorities who will directly suffer the long-term damage from large-scale mining operations. We also hope that other local government units take this historical move of the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government into consideration,” Casiño said.

Casiño is the author of House Resolution No. 594 that mandated the Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities to probe OceanaGold’s entry into Nueva Vizcaya’s remaining forestlands and the critical watershed areas in the region. Bulatlat

Ipilan nickel mining inaugurates satellite office in Brooke’s Point

July 8, 2008

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

Mayor Benedito (4th from left); Tim Ashworth, site manager of BNC and Jane Timbancaya-Urbanek, community relations manager of BNC, with other LGU officials and guests during the inauguration of the Ipilan mining satellite office and information center in Brooke’s Point, Palawan. (Photo by C.A.R Formoso)

IPILAN NICKEL Corporation (INC), the sister mining company of Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC) in Quezon municipality, inaugurated its satellite office and information center on July 1 in Poblacion II, Brooke’s Point, overlooking the glimmering waters of Sulu Sea.

From what used to be a little dump site, an area where hogs and other farm animals are slaughtered and a much loved pseudo-public comfort room, the INC is able to creatively turn an unkempt site at the side of the town’s marketplace into a nucleus of important information on responsible mining practice being pursued in Berong.

The satellite office has thatch-roofed sheds made of indigenous materials that hung tarpaulin-printed photos and texts showcasing about recent activities of both INC and BNC and sharing the Philippine Mining Law; a special map of the province detailing the difference in sizes of lands being mined and used in agriculture and others; and other educational mining materials.

Jovie M. Gonzales, the project manager of INC in barangay Ipilan, held it’s not just an office but a unique and transparent contribution to the public by collecting, preserving and interpreting all things about responsible mining practice in their sister mining company site in Quezon, which will also be adhered to by the INC.

“Whoever wants to be informed about how we do responsible mining in the communities where we operate and will operate can come here and view the information we have provided,” Gonzales stated in his speech during a simple inauguration program attended by municipal government officials, led by Mayor Cesario R. Benedito, Jr.; members of the Brooke’s Point Federation of Tribal Councils (Brofetricts); representatives of neighbor MacrosAsia Mining Corporation; Tim Ashworth, site manager of BNC; former town mayor Myrna Ordinario-Lacanilao and others.

Jane Timbancaya-Urbanek, the community relations manager of BNC, stated the venue was organized for the public and contains essentially educational material evidence of responsible mining practice that are not so much on its technical aspects but can be easily understood. Visits to the satellite office are free.

“This is where information that people need to know about mining can be found. We’d like to invite the people of Brooke’s Point to see this and understand that responsible mining practice is the guiding principle being followed by BNC and INC,” she said.

The facade of the satellite office greets visitors with a display of tarp-printed photos and information materials on responsible mining practice. (Photo by C.A.R. Formoso)

Ashworth, the new site manager of BNC, admired the satellite office, saying it’s a showcase of what are being done in Berong in terms of rehabilitating the areas that have already been mined, social responsibility, stakeholder engagement and more, which can be replicated by Ipilan mining when it begins to operate.

Benedito, on the other hand, congratulated the INC on the inauguration of its satellite office. He hopes that the mining issue in his town will come to a halt and all concerned stakeholders will begin to work together to make sure the mining companies will become responsible.

“The mining issue being lodged against me has been there for a long time. The people have proven that they want me to stay since last election. This time, I hope everybody will work together to keep Brooke’s Point safe from irresponsible mining,” he stated in an interview with Palawan Times.

Both pro-responsible and anti-mining advocates, he said, have already said their opinions regarding the issue, and it’s time to “let the people of Brooke’s Point decide.”

“As mayor of this town, I will be for the decision of the majority,” he commented on rumors he’s siding “too much” with the mining companies.

He reminded INC and other mining companies proposing to operate in his municipality to strictly adhere to the Philippine Mining Law. “I appeal to the mining companies to follow what the mining law demands. This is a program of the national government, not the municipality, not the province, that’s why I hope they will follow the principles of responsible mining,” he added.

“So far, the two mining companies here have not violated the mining law,” Benedito said.

Mining gets blamed for transfer of PCSD to DENR

July 8, 2008

By Cheryl A. Galili

HEARSAYS AND unconfirmed reports are blaming the province’s mining industry as the reason why President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 734 transferring the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Rumors have it that top executives of some mining companies have gone to the DENR and Malacañang to complain against the PCSD’s dawdling action over applications for endorsements.

Though indirectly admitting this, DENR Sec. Joselito Atienza confirmed in a local radio interview that indeed, personalities from a mining company investing in Palawan have gone to the President. He refused to disclose their names, claiming what is important now is the PCSD will be guided under the management of the DENR.

As of press time, Governor Joel T. Reyes, the chairman of the Council, has not given any statement regarding the matter. Calls made by the Palawan Times to his information officer, Rolando E. Bonoan, Jr., were unsuccessful to obtain any comment from him.

But Vice Governor David A. Ponce de Leon, the two House representatives, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn, representatives of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) do not sit well with the new development.

“I think it violates the legislative intent and the spirit of the law ,” Ponce de Leon told Philippine News Agency (PNA), referring to Republic Act 7611 or the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan, which he himself co-authored with former speaker Ramon V. Mitra, Jr. and toiled to pass in the House of Representatives on February 6, 1992 and by the Senate on February 7, 1992. Former president Corazon C. Aquino signed it into law on June 19, 1992.

The SEP is considered a landmark legislation that aims for the sustainable development of Palawan, which is known to be one of the most biologically and culturally diverse provinces in the county, as well as in the world, Ponce de Leon said.

In his newly-launched book on the SEP entitled “Caring for the Last Frontier: The SEP Story,” the vice governor described it as an “urgent measure for the protection of Palawan’s God-given bounties that merit the full support of Palaweños who are its principal and immediate beneficiaries.”

The President’s EO was received by the Council on June 27, during its regular meeting that was held in Manila. It was signed by Arroyo on June 18, a day before the SEP celebrated its 16th anniversary.

“The EO came out without prior notice to us,” he disclosed, stating that per the memorandum, the President is transferring PCSD under the DENR “in order to have a concerted and well-coordinated effort in formulating policies, as well as planning and implementing programs and projects of the PCSD).”

Second Palawan District Rep. Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra, on the other hand, said he doubts if the PCSD’s transfer is “legally feasible sans amendatory legislation to the SEP law.”

“We also cannot see the practical consideration for such move,” the young lawmaker told Palawan Times.

“I really have no idea,” he replied when asked what would President Arroyo’s real reason for ordering the transfer. “We will continue to function. We will oppose this and have already verbally relayed this to the legislative liaisons head,” Mitra added.

First Palawan District Rep. Antonio C. Alvarez also said the same thing when inquired by Palawan Times through a text message.

Obviously irritated by the news, his reply also included the Pinoy catchphrase “ewan” or to be interpreted, an exasperated “I don’t know.” But Mitra said Alvarez had already commented much earlier than them.

Many from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), the implementing arm of the Council, said the transfer “clearly defeats the purpose of the law” and obviously entails a lot more than just an EO. They ask what would happen to the PCSD budget and its staff.

Alex Marcaida, information officer to the PCSDS, said the employees do not know whether the transfer would merit for some of them to be assigned in other areas outside the province. Being under the DENR means it has sanctions over them administratively and operationally.

Ponce de Leon said that prior to enacting the SEP, they did not even consider the DENR because the intention is for it to become an independent policy-making body.

The “indifferences,” he said, were the primary reason why the PCSD signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at the onset, which defines their tasks and responsibilities.

Using mining as an example, the vice governor said the DENR has its own rules on exploration that do not require local permits, but the PCSD is very clear, the SEP clearances and endorsements must be secured by those who propose to operate.

He said that the issuance of the EO will “surely affect” the independence of the action and review processes of the PCSD, which he reiterated, is not consistent with the mandate of the SEP.

“The future erosion of the independence of the PCSD, to my mind, will be substantially affected by this executive order,” Ponce de Leon furthered.

In its next regular meeting, he said the EO issue will be taken up. At the moment, he has started preparing a position paper which he will submit to the Council.

From the NGOs, Cleofe P. Bernardino, executive director of the Palawan NGO Network, Inc., said the transfer is a “challenge to all Palaweños, especially to the leaders of the province to show that they can manage their own environment.”

She said that there is a need to focus on administrative concerns, particularly on the issue of mining. Bernardino urged local government officials to assert that the province should be left with the responsibility of managing its environment.(PalawanTimes)

Vizcaya dad outlaws open-pit mining

June 28, 2008

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya — A senior provincial board member proposed an ordinance to outlaw open-pit mining in the province in its June 18 regular session.

Lawyer Edu Balgos, a board member of the mineral-rich south district, titled his proposed legislation “The Anti-Open-Pit Mining Ordinance”.

The move came amid an intensifying conflict between the local folk, the provincial government here and the Australian firm OceanaGold over the lands tax issues.

“It is hereby declared that the Province of Nueva Vizcaya is an open-pit mining-free province” reads Section 3 of the proposed ordinance. The same seeks to jail violators for not more than one year. A fine of P5,000 is also being asked as penalty for erring persons or entities.

Reacting to public statements made by the provincial government earlier, OceanaGold big wigs doubted a sudden turn around in the stand of Governor Luisa Lloren Cuaresma. It may be recalled that it was during her term as vice-governor that Didipio-Gold Copper project was endorsed by the provincial board. The endorsement prompted the issuance of the project’s Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

Ramoncito Gozar, OceanaGold Philippines’ vice-president for communications and external affairs, expressed the prevailing sentiment of the Philippine Chamber of Mines over the conflict.

“Mining industry members are puzzled as to this recent turnaround in position of the local government to a project that has been long publicly discussed and presented to community for the past ten years and long in its development process,” reads a text message Gozar sent to members of the Nueva Vizcaya Press Club.

Peter Duyapat, leader of Didipio Earthsavers Multi-purpose Association or Desama, however, criticized OceanaGold’s use of it vast financial resources to overcome local opposition to the project.

“If they will not even listen to a governor, why would they listen to small people like us?” Duyapat said.

Desama challenged before the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the contractual instruments used by OceanaGold to legitimize its operation. Desama lost in that case, now widely known in jurisprudence as Desama vs. Gozun.

With the issue on local taxes now getting the spotlight, lobby groups led by Legal Rights Center and the Friends of the Earth Philippines believe there is a ground to reopen the debate before the Supreme Court, taking off from the Didipio-Gold Copper Project’s flawed fiscal record.

In another statement, Clemente Bautista, spokesperson of Kalikasan People’s Network for the environment, said the on-going inquiry of the House Committee on National Minorities will also weaken OceanaGold’s position after serious flaws were noted in the process of acquiring easement and land rights from indigenous peoples who are mostly from Ifugao. Rep.Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna authored House Resolution 594 which is now under deliberations at the House Committee on National Minorities. # Abe Almirol(NorDis)

Mining threatens Ilocos forests

June 28, 2008

LAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte — Ilocos Norte’s
last intact rain forests in Adams town are facing imminent danger with
prospects of mining feldspar, copper, tektite and pyrite by the same
company that left open pit sites in Benguet.

Benguet
Corporation (BC) is reportedly eying at Adams, an upland town in the
northernmost Cordillera, and some 21,000 hectares more in the famous
Pagudpud, upland Dumalneg, Carasi and Vintar, where pristine rain
forests are still found.

BC,
regarded the country’s oldest mining company, which started in 1903,
mines and processes gold, chromite, copper, and other minerals. It
operated and abandoned open pit mines and underground tunnels in
Itogon, Benguet.

Veronica Tina Tan, a trained and deputized
Wildlife Enforcement Officer (WEO) by the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources (DENR) Protected Areas and Wildlife Coastal Zone
sounded the alarm.

Tan is also head of biodiversity and
eco-tourism in the technical working group that helped draft the Ilocos
Norte Environmental Code of 2007.

“Having trekked to the
summits of Mt. Palemlem and Mt. Pao, the Linao Pond, 952 meters above
sea level, we can attest to the captivating and mysterious natural
beauty of Adams as important discoveries,” Tan said.

Biodiversity at stake

Tan
noted that Adams is a sanctuary to wild pigs and ducks, eleven
waterfalls, and the Sinidangan and Bolo Rivers and their tributaries.

A
portion of the Northern Ilocos Norte Forest Reserve, Adams is a
treasure trove with its old growth forests of narra, yakal, molave,
balakat, pahutan, almaciga, tanguile, guijo, apitong, white lauan, red
lauan, mayapis and palosapis, according to Tan.

It is also
home to vulnerable species like rufous hornbill or kalaw, Philippine
hawk or sawi, Philippine scops owl, brahminy kite, and other species
such as green imperial pigeons, woodpeckers, civet cats, wild pigs,
monkeys and some unidentified python and lizard species.

Also
found in Adams rain forests are some rare plants like the ventricosa
plant, giant ferns, mushrooms and truffles the size of large frying
pans and some orchid species.

The town also grows rambutan, lanzones, pineapple, strawberry, cabbage, coffee and many varieties of rice including brown rice.

Feldspatic clay, copper ore, tektite and pyrite have been spotted present in Adams by the DENR Reg. I office.

Notwithstanding
its rich biodiversity, Tan said, Adams boasts of abundant clean and
fresh water sources. At any given time, a fresh catch of crawfish, eel
and fish from the mountain streams is possible.

“Mining
operations will definitely destroy all these,” Tan told the media
covering the provincial board meeting in Laoag City Tuesday, where BC
failed to present its proposals.

Ilocanos to fight it out

But
Ilocanos in this northern tip may not be taking this sitting down,
especially among environmentalists in the province led by the Laoag
Eco–Adventure (Lead) Movement, a non-government organization (NGO)
promoting responsible adventure tourism and had been exploring
potential eco-tourism areas in the province.

Lead Movement
has been recognized as one of the partners of Adams town government in
establishing eco-tourism systems and programs.

“We fear they
might railroad this project,” Tan said, as a supposed Tuesday afternoon
project presentation by the BC to the Ilocos Norte provincial
government at the provincial capitol here was re-scheduled next week
“to give more time for the firm to prepare.”

Tan appeared
suspicious the company might have sensed, the presence of
environmentalists wanting to participate in the discussion.

Adams
is covered by the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA), which
recognizes the rights of indigenous communities to their lands,
culture, knowledge, customs and traditions.

It is also part
of the Proposed Northern Ilocos Norte Natural Park and the newly
proclaimed Kalbario-Patapat Natural Park (covered by the National
Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), or NIPAS Law of 1992 (R.A. 7586).

No FPIC, no consultation with residents

BC
did not conduct a direct consultation with the community before or
after it has applied for an exploration permit in Bulawan in sitio
Bokarot, Adams, according to Tan.

Bokarot is part of the ancestral lands of the indigenous peoples, thus, IPRA’s process of free prior and informed consent (FPIC) might have been violated, Tan feared.

Hearing
the ill-effects of unregulated mining exploration and extraction,
dumping of waste products, squatting or occupying environmentally
critical habitats, illegal quarrying, abandonment and failure to
reclaim excavated lands for recovery, unabated cutting of trees and
slash and burn farming—all these and more contribute to the bigger
picture, the environmentalist group leader said.

She cited
classic environmental catastrophes such as Infanta in Quezon, Ormoc in
Samar, and Aurora are still fresh memories which Ilocanos are afraid of
now.

No permit yet

Ilocos Norte
Provincial Environment Officer Juan delos Reyes however maintained that
BC should apply for special land use permit for mining exploration,
hinting the firm has not been given any permit yet.

But even
given government permits, said Ronaldo Tan, another Lead Movement
member, it alarms us that “wastes from the operations would eventually
pour into other areas” like Pagudpud, home of famous fine white beaches
likened to Boracay in Aklan.

“We oppose even prospecting or
exploration alone,” Tan said, “for whatever goals and future gains in
the interest of industry and commerce.” She insisted that the
environmental impact of man-made degradation of the forests is one big
scary picture. “Too many lives are intertwined that are unraveled
suddenly that they cannot recover even perhaps in a century.”

Lead Movement members vowed to help preserve the last intact forests of Ilocos Norte and the biodiversity they support.

“The
more man exploits nature, the more options are reduced until such time
that there is only one: to fight for survival,” Tan said, adding, “a
small patch of green is a more precious investment than a pot of gold.”
# Ace Alegre(NorDis)

Residente ng Rapu-Rapu tutol sa bagong operasyon ng Lafayette

June 22, 2008

Soliman A. Santos

NANAWAGAN ang mga residente ng Isla ng Rapu-Rapu sa pag-alis ng mga mamumuhunang Koreano mula sa kontrobersiyal na Lafayette Phils. na nagmimina sa kanilang lugar.

Napunta sa LG International at Korean Resources Corp. Ang pagmamay-ari at operasyon ng Lafayette noong Abril 2008.

Ayon sa mga residente, bangkarote at mapaminsala sa kalikasan ang Lafayette polymetallic mining project kaya wala na itong dahilang magpatuloy pa ng operasyon.

Noong 2005, napatunayang nakontamina ng cyanide ng Lafayette ang katubigan ng Rapu-Rapu at katabing ilog sa Albay. Pinagmulta ng P10 milyon ang kompanya

Bukod rito, nagkaroon rin ng pagtagas ng mina, pagguho ng lupa at pagkamatay ng isda sa operasyon ng Lafayette mula Hunyo 2005 hanggang Oktubre 2007.

Nais ng mga residente na tuluyan nang isara ang kompanya sa halip na ibenta sa iba pang mamumuhunan.

UNDRIP delegates visit Itogon mining areas

June 20, 2008

ITOGON, Benguet — The delegates of the recently concluded Asia Workshop for the Promotion of the United Nations Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) visited mining areas in this mining town Thursday to observe firsthand the conditions of mining and its effects on the environment and the community.


Photo by Myko Franco Chiong/NORDIS

The troop went to the mining areas in Ucab and Virac where the group participated in discussions on the history of mining in Itogon and how the community works to protest against large-scale imperialist mining.

The group also entered one of the small-scale mine tunnels in Ucab and interacted with the indigenous miners in the community where they also learned of the hazards miners face to earn a living.


Photo by Noel Godinez/NORDIS

“It is important that the delegates be informed of this because most of them are indigenous peoples who are currently facing, or are about to face, development aggression issues of their own.” said Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) Deputy Secretary-general Santos Mero, who led the trip. “This is a great opportunity for them to be critical about upcoming developmental projects in their own communities as well,” added Mero.

Prasenjit Chakma, a delegate from Bangladesh said, “It is a big pity because they would have been more fortunate if they were not endowed with these natural resources because then their livelihood would not have been disturbed by powers beyond their control.” # Myko Chiong(NorthernDispatch)

Food security of the people in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya being threatened

June 20, 2008

KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya — Food security of indigenous peoples in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya is threatened by large-scale mining operations of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI) and Oxiana-Royal Co.

At the same time, the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) brings disunity among the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) residing in the mining-affected areas.

Different organizations like the Philippine Network for the Environment (PNE)-Kalikasan, and the Regional Development Center-Katinnulong Daguiti Umili iti Amianan (RDC-Kaduami) which is a member of the EED TFIP or EED Philippine Partners for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, joined the Congressional hearing with their partner Save the Valley Environmental Alliance together with the local people organizations.

The Committee on National Cultural Communities of the House of Representatives conducted two on-site hearings and investigations in June 7-9, 2008 in Brgy. Kakidugen and Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya which are the sites of Oxiana-Royal co and Oceana Gold,respectively.

Indigenous peoples expressed their concern about the adverse impacts that these mining operations will bring to the environment and their sources of livelihood and subsistence.

“How do these mining operations address the food crisis of the people? We have been displaced from our ancestral lands in Ifugao and Benguet due to mining operations yet we are still facing the same problem here. We have witnessed the destructive impacts that these mining operations brought to the environment and we cannot allow this to happen again here. The people in these areas already have a sustainable source of livelihood than what these mining companies claim to provide upon entry of these operations,” said Lucas Buay of Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response for Ecological Development (KIRED).

The municipality of Kasibu has a wide forest area, making up about 30% of the total land area. It is proven that almost all crops except mango are suitable in this area.The primary agricultural products of the province are still rice and corn, but this gateway to the Cagayan Valley is envisioned to be the regional center for fruit and vegetable production and spice-based industries.

“We cannot let the entry of these mining companies destroy our lands as Kasibu is considered the citrus capital of the country, with an annual output of about 10 million kilograms of oranges from an estimated 20,000 hectares of citrus plantations. The citrus farmers stand by its position that agriculture is still the sustainable development for the people as our independent study on the success of citrus industry here would show. We do not want mining here,” Alfonso Namuhje II of the Mallabing Tribal Development Association (MTDP) said.

In Nueva Vizcaya, about 40% of its total population of 366,962 (based from the 2000 census) is comprised of IPs. It is home to the Bugkalots, Ifugaos, Ibalois, Gaddangs, Isinais, Ikalahans and Ilongots. Bugkalot, a group of IPs from Nueva Vizcaya, has entered into a peace covenant through a blood compact in 1950s with other IP groups who have migrated to this area after they had been driven away from their ancestral lands.

The areas stated in the mining permit granted to the mining companies are within an ancestral land claim by the Bugkalots who applied for Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claims (CADC), through the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

“We were not consulted by the NCIP during the process of securing the FPIC certificate because we are only migrant IPs in the areas and we are not holders of CADC. But there was no such thing in the provisions of the IPRA that migrant IPs could not be consulted, especially that we have been here for three decades now,” Fidel Opay of the Lower Muta Valley Farmers’ Federation (LMVFF) explained.

The FPIC process is being questioned because of the bribery and deception controversies in securing the certificate. “ Our peace pact with the Bugkalot tribe is also threatened to be negated because of this conflict that arises due to these controversies,” Opay added.

Mayor Romeo Tayaban of Kasibu, who was one of the resource speakers during the hearing said, “mining operations claim that they will bring development to the people in Kasibu. What kind of development is this if our people are disunited? We were once a peaceful community, but these issues have divided us because of these operations.” # Sherry Mae Soledad(NorthernDispatch)

As Korean firms gain control of gov’t flagship mining project :Closure of Rapu-Rapu Mine Sought Anew

June 19, 2008

“Pack up and out of Rapu-Rapu island for good,” Bicolanos told Korean firms who took over of the Lafayette mining project. After experiencing environmental destruction, loss of livelihood and deterioration of the people’s health, Bicolanos are determined to drive away the new investors in the government’s flagship mining project.

BY LISA ITO
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 19, June 15-21, 2008

Bicolanos and environmental advocates want the government’s flagship mining project in Rapu-Rapu terminated before it resumes operations under new Korean owners next month.

The mine in Rapu-Rapu island, off the coast of Albay province, has been estimated to generate $350 million a year from revenues from annual production of 11,000 tonnes of copper and 13,000 tonnes of zinc.

The open-pit mine was previously owned by Lafayette Mining Limited (LML), an Australian firm and had started operations in April 2005. The project caused two mine spills, a landslide and several fish kills from June 2005 to October 2007.

Mounting debts and community opposition from the local to the international levels forced Lafayette to go under voluntary administration in December last year.

Ownership of the mine is currently under the control of Philco Resources Limited (Philco), a joint venture company registered in Malaysia and owned by Korean firms LG International Corporation and state-owned minerals explorer Korea Resources Corporation (Kores). Philco bought Lafayette’s 74 percent stake in the mine last March.

Officials of Lafayette Philippines, Inc. (LPI), the Filipino management team running the Rapu-Rapu project since 2006, resigned this first week of June after negotiations with Philco fell through. The mine is expected to resume operations under its new Korean owners by July.

But Church groups, Bicolanos, and environmental groups now clamor for the Korean investors go the same way as Australian-owned Lafayette: pack up and out of Rapu-Rapu island for good.

Total closure sought

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes last Friday called on the Philippine government to impose the “total closure” of the Rapu-Rapu mine, in the wake of month-long protests from Rapu-Rapu residents, Bicolano groups, and environmental organizations.
.
In a statement posted at the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website, Bastes said that mining “ruined not only the environment but the economy” of Rapu-Rapu island. Bastes is the former head of a Presidential investigative commission which concluded in November 2006 that LPI engaged in irresponsible mining and recommended that the project be terminated.

The bishop said Rapu-Rapu mining is supposed to be the government’s “flagship” project in its revitalized mining industry program but it turned out to be a “fiasco.”

Korean Embassy picketed

Philippine environmental groups launched the first salvo of protests against the new mine owners, starting with a picket in front of the Korean Embassy in Makati City last June 11.

A crowd of around 50 fisherfolks and residents of Rapu-Rapu island, environmental advocates, and supportive Korean citizens protested in front of the Embassy Tuesday morning and called on South Korean Ambassador Hong Jong-ki to support the pullout of Kores and LG International’s investments in the Rapu-Rapu mine.

Clemente Bautista, national Coordinator of militant environmental group Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, said, “There is no reason to continue the Lafayette mining project. Its three-year operation in Rapu-rapu Island has brought so much environmental destruction, community displacements, human rights violations and livelihood loss to the local people.”

Bicol residents expressed their rejection of the mine’s new Korean owners. “We are now just trying to recuperate from the division and damages Lafayette brought to our people. The urgent action is the rehabilitation of the island and the compensation of mining-affected people not another mining operation,” said Antonio Casitas, spokeperson of Sagip Isla Sagip Kapwa, a local organization leading the mining opposition in the island.

“Large-scale mining is not technically, economically and socially feasible in the small-island ecosystem of Rapu-rapu. The Korean companies are not welcome in the island and they will suffer the same fate of Lafayette,” stressed Arieto Radores, spokeperson of Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagmimina at Kumbersyong Agraryo (UMALPAS Ka-Bikol or Unity of People Against Mining and Agricultural Conversion).

Protest song launched

An environmental NGO also expressed its opposition to the Rapu-Rapu project by releasing a CD of protest songs. The Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC-Phils), which promotes progressive and sustainable environmental advocacy, launched a music CD entitled Rapu-Rapu Atbp: Taghoy ng Kalikasan on the eve of World Environment Day on June 4.

Named after the controversial mining project, the album’s title and carrier single is “an indictment of the plunder, pain and destruction caused by the mining project in Rapu-Rapu”, said CEC-Phils Executive Director Frances Quimpo.

The mining operations will last for approximately seven years, but its negative impacts on the environment is expected to persist for decades after the mine closes, Quimpo said.

“We hope to help bring the issues faced by the environment and people of Rapu-Rapu to a wider audience through the song, to gather more popular support for the closure of the mine,” Quimpo added. Contributed to Bulatlat

Bukidnon legislators accept DENR offer tour minesite

June 16, 2008

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/15 June) — Bukidnon legislators will not hold their regular session on June 25 in favor of a “study tour” of a plant and quarry of a multinational cement company that supposedly showcases “responsible mining practices.”

The provincial board members agreed on June 11 to accept the invitation of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for an “educational plant tour” dubbed “Dalaw Aral sa Minahan.”

The tour’s only destination is the plant and quarry of the Holcim Philippines Manufacturing Corporation in Lugait town, Misamis, Oriental, according to the letter of invitation by Juanito Manzano, MGB OIC regional director for Northen Mindanao to Vice Governor Alex Calingasan on June 3.

Board member Glenn Peduche, chair of the provincial board committee on environment protection, declined to answer requests by telephone for him to explain the decision to go on tour.

Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr vowed to keep Bukidnon from large-scale mining based on resolutions passed by the Sagguniang Panlalawigan before to seal-off the province from large-scale mining operations.

Board member Nemesio Beltran Jr confirmed that the board’s staff was told to make arrangements that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan “would like to go”.

Beltran told MindaNews he would still try to convince his colleagues not to hold it on a session day. “Mining is not a large industry here in Bukidnon and we don’t even allow large-scale mining here,” he said.


Beltran said it should not push through as there would be an environment summit in the province on June 26 to 27, organized by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office.

“I will talk them out of it this coming Wednesday (June 18) I will not go myself,” he said.

Beltran said the organizers offered free meals and free ride to and from Malaybalay City.

Manzano said in his letter the tour is part of the activities of the DENR for the celebration of Environment Month .

”We have lined up activities to give significance and noble tribute to mark the celebration with emphasis on information, education and communication campaign,” Manzano said.

He also said it is intended to “promote responsible small-scale and large-scale mining operations in the region.”

Manzano described the Holcim plant as a “model cement plant and quarry in the country showcasing responsible mining practices, best environmental management and corporate responsibility.”

He said the plant was twice awarded the Presidential Mineral Industry Environmetal Award, among others. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

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

My Take:

1. Corrupt move.  This is the common practice being done by the mining companies: invite legislators to a “tour” with freebies and behind the door add-ons.  commonly, the “invited” public oficial would sing the tune of the mining companies after the “tour.”

2. State corrupted.  The MGB spearheaded the “tour”? What the hell… Nagtatrabaho na pala sila ngayon para sa mga mining companies.

CA decision favoring Australian firm a temporary setback

June 13, 2008

House militant bloc supports Nueva Vizcaya LGUs in fight against foreign mining intrusion

BAYAN MUNA Rep. Teddy Casiño today renewed full support to the people of Nueva Vizcaya as he labeled a Court of Appeals decision preventing the its provincial government from implementing an order that halts mining operations in the area as “a temporary setback for environmental protection, local governance and the defense of national patrimony.”

The Court of Appeals issued a 60-day injunction with temporary restraining order on the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government that issued a Cease and Desist Order [CDO] on OceanaGold, a Melbourne-based mining firm.

“The militant partylist bloc in Congress supports the people of Nueva Vizcaya and its Governor, Luisa Cuaresma in this fight. Gov. Cuaresma only put out a CDO to stop OceanaGold from operating the mine after it failed to pay P30 million for a quarrying permit, aside from the growing tension among indigenous tribes – including the murder of the village chief – that the entry of the mining firm has caused. The CA decision has obviously favored the Australian firm over the local people of the province,” Casiño said.

The militant solon was visibly dismayed by the decision penned by Associate Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando that completely favored Oceana Gold Mining Inc. The company runs the Didipio Gold-Copper Mining Project in Bgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.

“I cannot help but surmise that the decision is part of the Arroyo administration’s effort to allow OceanaGold to go on with its mining operations that will permanently damage the area. The OceanaGold incursion into Nueva Vizcaya at this point is the cause of brewing tension and violence among Ifugao and Bugkalot tribal communities in Dipidio. The company has in fact supplanted the government in the area as it has arrogated the functions of providing social services and peace and order in the area. It has demolished houses and bulldozed rice lands. With all due respect to the Court, we went to the area last June 7, were waylaid by a police checkpoint and in fact saw the deep division among the once peaceful local community due to the entry of OceanaGold. This, to my mind, is what the Court should do to better come up with a decision,” Casiño said.

Casiño, along with Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla, and Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan went to the area to have an onsite inquiry into OceanaGold’s violations committed in its operations.

From June 7 to 8, 2008, the said Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities held two on-site hearings in Bgy. Kakidugen and Bgy. Didipio in Kasibu town, mining sites of foreign owned mining companies RoyalCo and Oceanagold, respectively.

The investigation also focused on the OceanaGold’s alleged violations of human rights, the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) process, certain provisions of the current Mining Law and the Local Government Code in relation to its mining operations.

“It should also be noted that even before the CA decision, DENR Secretary Lito Atienza already branded the the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government’s cease and desist order illegal. This emboldened OceanaGold to go to the CA and defy the local authorities. The municipal and provincial governments do not support the project yet Atienza is siding with the mining firm. We will not back down from this temporary setback. The militant bloc in Congress sides with the people and supports the stand of the local governments versus destructive mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya,” Casiño said.

The House militant bloc is composed of Bayan Muna Reps. Casiño and Satur Ocampo, Gabriela Reps. Ilagan and Liza Maza, and Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano. #

‘Delayed and detained,’ insists official

June 13, 2008

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: Provincial Administrator Manuel Tabora said they were definitely detained inside the “mining compound” during the June 7 visit to Barangay Didipio, Kasibu of four house representatives including Rep. Carlos Padilla and together with Gov. Luisa Loren Cuaresma, and other provincial officials.

In an interview with The Manila Times, members of the Vizcaya delegation that joined the visit claimed they had to wait for more than 20 minutes before they were allowed entry by the police officers in checkpoint at Barangay Burgos, Cabarroguis, Quirino province.

Tabora said, after having been accosted for more than 20 minutes at the police checkpoint “and not five minutes as claimed by the police,” they were allowed to get inside. “On our way, we were not allowed to pass another barricade that was padlocked and the guards refused to unlock it.”

Tabora said the incident at the police checkpoint is a separate situation from that which transpired inside the mining compound. “That is where we were somehow detained because we were already inside and not allowed to get through the barricade.”

One provincial security officer who requested anonymity said that when they were inside the compound, they discovered their tents transferred from their original setups but the security guards of Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. who were there, allegedly carrying long firearms, denied having transferred the said tents supposedly to be used by the provincial employees.

In the June 9 issue of The Manila Times, Rep. Padilla complained that he and his three colleagues, Rep. Solomon Chungalao of Ifugao and Party-list Representatives Teodoro Casiño and Luzviminda Ilagan were “detained” for almost half an hour inside the police checkpoint while on their way to Barangay Didipio, Kasibu for a congressional committee inquiry on alleged abuses of the foreign firm conducting the large-scale mining operation in the area.

The solons, all members of the House Committee on Cultural Communities, passed Resolution 594 seeking an inquiry over alleged abuses committed on tribal villagers by Oceana Gold in their operation of the Didipio project, one of the only two large-scale mining ventures approved since the enactment of the 1995 Mining Act. Gene Basilio

Chungalao, Casiño and Ilagan vowed to bring the “horrible experience” before the House plenary.

In his report to Police Dir. General Avelino Razon Jr., Police Chief Superintendent Ameto Gil Tolentino, Regional Dir. of Police Regional Office 02, said that the PNP personnel manning the checkpoint stopped the convoy of Rep. Padilla for five minutes and not 30 minutes as alleged. “They may have been delayed but definitely were not detained,” Tolentino said.

Tabora said however that Rep. Padilla and all the rest of the delegation could not lie. “We were stopped and even if Governor Cuaresma already introduced herself, we were still inspected without considering that these high-ranking elected officials are the ones they should be protecting.”
– Gene Basilio(ManilaTimes)

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

My Take:

Grabe talaga ang pangil ng state-terrorism.  Maski gov’t oficial di pinapatawad.  Hay naku, sino pa ba ang maaasahan natin ngayong magprotekta sa atin kung ganito na ang ginagawa ng mga kapulisan natin?  Tapos magrereport pa ng kasinungalingang pantakip.

Kakabwisit!

HRVs heighten in Abra mining town

June 12, 2008

BAAY-LICUAN, Abra — Human rights violations have reportedly been taking place in the upland indigenous communities of the Binongan in Baay-Licuan, Abra, where community consultations are ongoing regarding the operations of Canadian mining company Olympus Pacific Minerals, Inc.

The 503rd IB Reconnaissance Coy and the 502nd Composite Coy replaced the 41st IB, which pulled out in March 2008.

The Binongan tribe set out a tide of petitions against Olympus as early as March 2007 due to violation of their right over their ancestral domain at Mt. Capcapo. Olympus and local conduits AMIC and Jabel explored and drilled in a 4,300 hectare mining claim at Mt. Capcapo in February 2007 without securing the communities’ FPIC which was also the case on the approval of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) issued to the local companies without the communities’ consent.

Sustained opposition temporarily suspended the exploration and drilling, and prompted the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) regional and provincial offices to call the attention of Olympus to comply with the legal requisite of acquiring the FPIC.

Community leaders through Baay-Licuan Takderan Omnu a Karbengan (Balitok) and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance in Abra (Kastan) said that elements of the said Reconnaissance Coy have camped under three houses in Brgy. Poblacion and have been taking videos of community meetings on May 29.

The following day, on May 30, the soldiers started conducting a census in the barangay while still taking videos of the community folk. This angered the residents as they questioned the purpose of the census. They disallowed further questioning. “Census” was also conducted in barangays Lenneng and Caoayan.

“It is not the job of the military to be conducting census and this is just being done as a guise for surveillance and harassment, especially since the communities are firmly reiterating their collective decision and stand that they do not want Olympus or any large mine to operate in their ancestral domain”, said CPA Secretary-general Windel Bolinget.

Moreover, Balitok leaders, including CPA and Kastan staff who continue to provide assistance on mining education in the communities are tagged as members of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

“Branding these organizations and community leaders as such makes them open targets and enemies of the state thereby giving the military a license to attack and violate the rights of civilians and communities whose activities and opposition to defend their ancestral land, life and resources are just and legitimate,” Bolinget explained.

Starting June 1, the military posted fliers in the rice granaries in Poblacion containing a list of “terrorist fronts,” of which the CPA is included. It was also reported to the CPA that on June 6 in Brgy. Caoayan, elements of the Reconnaissance Coy threatened residents that those who have been giving food to the NPA are supportive of them and thus are members themselves.

“We ask the public to join us in urgently calling for the pullout of the military before any graver human rights violation takes place,” Bolinget added.

Communities’ still say No to Olympus

Community consultations started on April 15 in Brgy. Bolbolla, followed by (April 16), Tumalip (April 17), Nalbuan (April 18), Subagan (April 19), Caoayan (May 3), Mogao (May 5), Domenglay (May 6), Poblacion (May 7), Lenneng (May 8) , and Bunglo (May 10). “The prevailing and collective stand of the communities was not overcome during these consultations as they have in fact strengthened their position against Olympus”, Bolinget said. # AT Bengwayan

Palawan mayor praised for mining moratorium

June 12, 2008

By Cheryl A. Galili

A TOWN mayor here in Palawan has earned the accolade of members of several non-government organizations (NGOs) for issuing a moratorium to stop new mining explorations and operations in his municipality and avoid the destruction of its environment.

Being praised is Mayor Cesario R. Benedito, Jr. of the first class municipality of Brooke’s Point in southern Palawan who issued an executive order recently to stop further mining explorations and operations that many residents allegedly claim will only destroy the balance in their environment. It took effect on June 3, 2008 and will be enforced for 10 years.

Currently, there are 38 large and small scale applications for mining explorations in Brooke’s Point, and two have reportedly been given their mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs), MacroAsia Corporation and Ipilan Nickel Company (INC).

Executive Order No. 28, which was actually done by Benedito on December 20, 2007, it is stated that “Republic Act 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991 mandates the municipal mayor to issue such executive orders as necessary for proper enforcement of laws.”

It stated further that “one of the primary concerns of the local government unit of Brooke’s Point is to intensify environmental laws, particularly the protection of its forest and marine resources, its utilization and conservation as well. And to effectively safeguard the environment and protect the rights of affected communities.”

Section 2 of the EO specified that “only mines whose permits are approved by the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) confirmed and already operating in Brooke’s Point as of this date, shall be the only recognized mining entities in the municipality and a moratorium for new mining applications shall be implemented for a maximum period of 10 years.”

The executive order, according to Palawan NGO Network, Inc. (PNNI) Executive Director Cleofe Bernardino, is laudable and expresses the true sentiment of the people of Brooke’s Point, may they be indigenous peoples or not.

“Mayor Benedito should be lauded and emulated by other mayors for what he did,” Bernardino said when interviewed by radio station DYER, adding they are very happy in the NGOs that their plea did not fall on deaf ears in Brooke’s Point.

“The residents of Brooke’s Point also deserve praises because they are the reason why Mayor Benedito issued the moratorium. They spoke and the mayor listened,” she added.

Brooke’s Point in southern Palawan is where MacroAsia, a large mining company, is applying to do large scale mining. Another company, Ipilan Nickel Corporation, is currently conducting mining explorations for future operation in Barangay Ipilan.

In related news, Bernardino is calling on Board member Gil P. Acosta of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and Governor Joel T. Reyes to speed up the approval of the proposed mining moratorium by board members Vicky de Guzman, Joselito Cadlaon and Modesto Rodriguez II.

The moratorium, she said, is Palawan’s chance at saving the balance in its environment. “They should not allow this moratorium to sleep long and be delayed,” she stated when interviewed.

From the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Rodriguez II said he is happy that Benedito of Brooke’s Point issued a moratorium. “It’s an additional success to the moratorium that we are proposing here in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. The EO means that different LGUs are already throwing support to our cause here to protect Palawan’s environment,” he said, adding that the chance of the moratorium being approved by other board members is at 51% currently.

Vice-Governor David A. Ponce de Leon, when asked, said he can’t comment because they have not received a copy of the EO as of Tuesday, June 3, the day it also took effect in Brooke’s Point.(PalawanTimes)

Residents of Benguet Village Wary of Mining Personnel’s Visits

June 3, 2008

Village folk in Kibungan, Benguet could not help but ask why the staff of a mining corporation keeps coming back to their place when the community has already rejected their application for a mining permit.

BY LYN V. RAMO
Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 17, June 1-7, 2008

KIBUNGAN, Benguet – Barangay (village) folk here could not help but ask why the staff of a mining corporation keeps coming back to their place when the community has already rejected their application for a mining permit.

Association of Barangay Captains president and Lubo barangay captain Arturo Collado told the media last week that his constituents are losing patience with the insistence of Al Magan Mining Exploration Company (AMMEC) on mining a 132-hectare area at the Benguet-Ilocos Sur boundary, which includes barangays Lubo and Madaymen in Kibungan town.

The mining application is said to include some communities along the path of the Amburayan River in Ilocos Sur, said Collado.

Opposed

In letters of complaint sent to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) of the Cordillera Administrative Region, the Indigenous Peoples of Barangay Lubo Kibungan Benguet Association (IPBLKBA), reiterated their objections to the numerous unauthorized visits of alleged mining representatives who have made attempts to dishearten the people on their stand against mining in their ancestral domain.

Lubo residents oppose the mining project because it would destroy their traditional source of livelihood and the environment, according to Collado.

Mining engineers suspected to be hired by AMMEC were seen in the vicinity of Lubo on Nov. 22 last year and again on May 28, this year. This made the residents angry because according to Collado, they could not understand why the company insists on its plans despite the community rejection.

“Company representatives wanted to pay a courtesy call to the town officials but they did not get a community consent to their project,” Collado told Nordis in an interview. “Adun a petisyon ti impatulod mi” (We have sent many petitions) he said.

Earlier, Lubo residents questioned the sampling done by a group of engineers led by one David Apakway. In a petition, they asked MGB-CAR to investigate the “illegal rock and mineral sampling” in the area.

Devastation wrought by Boneng mines

Collado said the people want to recover from the devastation caused by the open pit mining operation of the Western Minolco Corporation (WMC), the mining operator of BVI, which operated the Boneng mines from 1974-1982.

Residents were displaced from their ancestral domain at the time WMC was operating in their area, according to a former Lubo resident. She recalls mining accidents and the food poisoning of about 306 people in the late 1970s.

Major rivers dried up due to siltation. Water was diverted, aquifers were destroyed when the underground tunnels and an open pit were operated. Toxins were found in water bodies and continuous erosion polluted the rivers, according to other Kibungan residents.

“Kaasi ti tao iti Lubo idi. Napan da iti (Nueva) Vizcaya ken Pangasinan. Tatta a nagsubli dagiti putot da, nagmula da ti sayote tapno agbiag,” (Lubo folk had a hard time then. They migrated to Nueva Vizcaya and Pangasinan. Now their children have returned and plant chayote to live.) Collado told the media.

Brgy. Lubo now contributes significantly to chayote production.

No FPIC

In a separate interview, Engr. Lyman Benito Bangao of the NCIP-CAR said the mining project did not get the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the community. He said even the field-based investigation that precedes consensus-building in the FPIC process did not push through because of the community resistance to mining.

Bangao, however, said any visit to the area by mining personnel should not mean anything because the application for any mining project could not proceed without the people’s consent.

MGB-CAR Director Neoman dela Cruz could not be contacted for comment as of press time but Engr. Alfredo Genetiano confirmed that no mining application for Kibungan has been approved so far.

Earlier in February 2007, Dela Cruz said Applications for Production Sharing Agreement (APSA) 008 and 060 were originally under the name of Benguet Ventures Incorporated (BVI) and are still under process for assignment to AMMEC.

According to the website of Mines and Communities (MAC), as of December 2006 Boneng Mining Ventures Inc. (BVMI) has an APSA under process with DENR-MGB, which was filed on June 18, 1997 for 1,530 hectares in Atok, Kapangan and Kibungan, all municipalities of Benguet. BVI entered into an operating agreement with BVMI on June 2, 1997.

Genetiano said company personnel might be trying to feel the Kibungan waters or trying to establish rapport with the community folk in the proposed mining sites.

“As long as there are no exploration activities in the area, there is no problem with company personnel around,” Genetiano told Nordis in a phone interview.

Foreign capital

MAC noted that in an announcement made by Toronto, Canada’s TSX Ventures Exchange, the world’s largest mining ventures exchange, Euro-Net Investments Ltd. (Euro-Net) has sent a Letter of Intent (LOI) with AMMEC, in which it is stated that Euro-Net intends to pay AMMEC, on closing, CAD $70 million in common shares (at $0.50 per share), in exchange for all of the legal and beneficial interest in a copper mine with an area of 1,530 hectares located in Benguet. This may be the same area applied for by BMVI as per APSA 60. Euro-Net was de-listed from TSX Ventures’ roster on June 25, 2004 and has been trying to get itself relisted.

Euro-Net expects to raise up to USD$24,000,000 as working capital by issuing up to 40,000,000 units (each unit consisting of one common share and one warrant to purchase one common share) at a price of $0.60 per unit. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat

Atienza Favors Mining Firms Over LGUs: Group

May 31, 2008

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — A mayor of a mining-affected community and environmental groups today charged DENR Secretary Lito Atienza as favoring mining firms over local government units, after the latter issued a statement calling the provincial order by Nueva Vizcaya Governor Luisa Cuaresma to stop the mining operations of Oceana Gold “illegal”.

“Is DENR Sec. Lito Atienza in the service of Oceana Gold? It seems he is acting like the lawyer of the foreign mining company,” said Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).

“The provincial administration under Gov. Cuaresma is basically upholding its legitimate authority to stop entities which violate local laws and ordinances. It is clear that Oceana Gold has refused to pay local taxes and ignored the cease-and-desist order of the provincial government,” Mr. Bautista points out.

Gov. Cuaresma issued a cease-and-desist order to Oceana Gold due to the company’s failure to pay all provincial taxes relating to its quarrying activities in the said village, which provincial officials had estimated to be some P25 million.

This order is being disputed by DENR Sec. Atienza. According to him, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 does not require Oceana Gold, which was granted a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), to acquire a permit from local government units to use natural resources such as quarry materials

Bautista pointed out that this loophole only empasizes the weakness of the current mining law. “That is one of the major problems of that law. It surrenders our right to control and utilize our natural resources to foreigners,” Bautista said.

“DENR Sec. Atienza is further stretching the flawed Mining Act to the benefit of his foreign clients,” Mr. Bautista added.

Atienza further stated that “there should have been no such (local) tax at all” to be imposed on Oceana Gold.

Bautista contested this, saying that “although mining companies are not required to secure permit from the LGU, there is still no provision under the Mining Act stating that companies are exempted from local ordinances and taxes.”

Mayor Romeo Tayaban of Kasibu, one of the mining-affected municipalities, also chastised Atienza for refusing to recognize the opposition of local government officials to the mining project.

“Hindi naman pwedeng walang responsibility and accountability ang Oceana Gold sa local government. Si Sec. Atienza, hindi naman sya ang namamahala ng aming bayan at hindi niya alam ang nangyayari dito. Masyadong tolitarian ang kanyang pamamaraan at hindi ito makatarungan. Hindi pupuwede na kung ano ang gusto ng national, ito na agad ang masusunod kahit hindi ito kapakipakinabang sa mga lokal governments tulad namin. Kung gusto nya, alisin na lang nya ang Local Government Code,” asserted Mayor Tayaban. . (It is out of the question that Oceana Gold be not held accountable and responsible to the local governemnt. Atienza has no direct authority and power over our province and has no idea on what is good for us. His approach is totalitarian and unfair. It is unacceptable that whatever the national government wants will be enforced, even if it is against the interests of the local government units. If they still insist on their way, they should first abolish the Local Government Code.”)

“Abuso nga ang Oceana Gold. Hanggang ngayon wala pang Mayor’s Permit na kinukuha kahit napakatagal na nilang nag-ooperate sa aming munisipyo,” Mayor Tayaban adds. (”Oceana Gold is very brazen. Even now, they still have not obtained a mayor’s permit, even if they have been operating for so long in our municipality.”)

Local groups also belied reports about Oceana Gold’s reported social acceptability.

“Oceana Gold is a liar and tax evader. Their 2007 Annual Report claims that their project has extensive local community support. They said they have made improvements regarding the social infrastructure and economic development of the local government units. However, the lack of support from barangay to provincial government units and their non payment of local taxes contradict their claim.” Allan Barnacha, spokesperson of the local multisectoral alliance Save the Valley Serve the People Movement, expounded.

“We urge the people and LGU of Nueva Vizcaya not to waver in their struggle to expel the anti-LGU, anti-environment and tax evader Oceana Gold in their lands. We support their stand firm against the national government, DENR Sec. Atienza and Oceana Gold who are here not to serve the welfare of the people but to plunder our mineral resources for their own good and self interest,” Mr. Barnacha ended.

References:
Mr. Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator, Kalikasan PNE (0922-844-9787)
Mr. Romeo Tayaban, Mayor of the Municipality of Kasibu
Mr. Allan Barnacha, Spokesperson, Save the Valley Serve the People Movement (0926-691-5703)

Davao Oriental mining causes row among lumads

May 30, 2008

DAVAO CITY — The multi-billion dollar mining project in Mati City has caused rift not only between the mining companies involved in the project but also among indigenous people living in the area.

Mandaya tribal group chieftain Rufino Mapinogos, said in an interview at his residence in Barangay Macambol, that there are some lumads who oppose the mining project in the area.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

They call the lumads “outsiders” as they are not recognized as members of the Mandaya tribe in Macambol, said Mapinogos.

Mapinogos was referring to Datu Victor Aying who is one of the staunchest oppositors to the mining project in Macambol.

It was learned that Aying, though a half-Mandaya, has his roots in Barangay Lucatan and not Macambol. Thus, Mapinogos said, Aying is not considered a member of their tribal community in Macambol and is not recognized by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

For Mapinogos, Aying’s Alima-ong group is not a Mandaya tribe, but just a group of lumads from Visayas who migrated in Mati.

Mapinogos made the clarification after reports claiming that lumads led by tribal leader Aying are opposing the mining project in Pujada.

It was learned that NCIP-recognized lumads in Macambol and Cabuaya had forged an agreement with mining company Asiaticus Mining Corporation (Amcor) back in 2002, giving their support to the mining project in return for a one percent royalty tax the IP’s would get from the gross output of the mining company’s operation.

Amcor later forged a joint venture agreement with international mining company BHP Billiton and formed the Hallmark Mining Corporation. It, however, decided last year to rescind its contract with Billiton.

Mapinogos said they are now giving their support to Amcor and not Billiton.

“In fact, the Mandaya community has organized its ‘tribal guards’ to ensure that no Billiton personnel could enter the more than 7,000 hectare mining area in Macambol and Cabuaya,” he said.

He also accused Aying’s group of being used by BHP Billiton to lobby against mining in the area after Amcor’s decision to rescind its contract with the company.

Efforts to get the side of Aying and Billiton on this issue proved futile though.

The call to stop the mining project in Pujada is not only made by Aying’s group, but also of several non-government organizations (NGOs), environment groups and other cause-oriented groups.

The Pujada Nickel Mining project in Macambol and Cabuaya (commonly referred to as Pujada Properties) is touted to be one of the biggest mining project of the Arroyo administration due to the $1.5 billion investment expected to be poured in by BHP Billiton, the biggest mining corporation in the world. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Mining firm gets ECC for Surigao project

May 29, 2008

MANILA, Philippines–Mining firm Mindoro Resources Ltd. said it was recently granted an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for its Agata nickel laterite project in Surigao, clearing the way for direct shipping of ore starting this year.

“Mindoro Resources can now proceed to acquire or process several additional minor permits and requirements necessary to commence production. These are considerably less comprehensive and less onerous to acquire than the ECC,” the company said.

It said the ECC covered 600 hectares in the area covered by its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the government. The MPSA covers both the Agata North and Agata South projects in the Surigao gold district in northern Mindanao.

It added that the Surigao area was emerging as a major nickel-producing district. It said there were at least eight nickel laterite deposits either in production or being developed and providing direct shipping of ore to markets and processing plants in China, Japan, Korea and Australia.

Mindoro Resources earlier said it expected to start production at its Agata mine in the first half of the year and ramp up production to at least a million tons a year afterwards, depending on market demand.

“Mindoro Resources is continuing to receive expressions of interest to purchase material from the Agata project and will continue to advance all development alternatives for the Agata nickel laterite in the best interests of its shareholders,” the mining firm said.

It added that Agata had strong competitive advantages, with good nickel grades, corresponding low-haul distance and costs, and only two days shipping to China.(PDI)

Nueva Vizcaya solon warns DENR on mining order

May 29, 2008

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya — Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla on Sunday warned environment officials to be “more careful” in directing a foreign mining company to resume operations and defy an order of stoppage from the provincial government.

Environment Secretary Lito Atienza earlier warned the provincial government that the order to stop the earth-moving activities of OceanaGold Philippines Inc. in upland Didipio village in Kasibu town was illegal.

“Nobody can stop the governor, not even Atienza. I am warning the secretary, that being a former city mayor, and a person in authority, he should not be violating the provisions of law; he should uphold the law,” Padilla said.

On May 6, OceanaGold’s activities in Didipio stopped after provincial officials blocked the company’s access roads to enforce a cease-and-desist order (CDO) issued by Gov. Luisa Cuaresma on April 9 for its refusal to settle its supposed local tax obligations.

Warning

The CDO has hampered the company’s efforts to meet its target of starting mineral production in February 2009.

In a statement, Atienza warned provincial officials against the “illegal act” of blocking the operations of OceanaGold, saying the province could not collect quarry taxes from the company because it is not engaged in commercial quarrying.

He said OceanaGold’s mining operation is allowed and governed by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act 7942). The law, he said, provides that a contractor which holds a financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) is exempted from quarrying fees and has the right to extract and remove sand and gravel and other materials without a permit.

Atienza said he was acting “for the best interest of the country and was not siding with anyone but the rule of law that everyone must adhere to.”

He ordered the resumption of construction of OceanaGold’s Didipio mine as “it cannot be delayed by an illegal order” issued by the local government.

In a letter to Cuaresma, Atienza clarified that the ongoing activities of OceanaGold are “part of the development of the FTAA area in accordance with the company’s approved declaration of mining project feasibility.”

He said he was hoping that the dispute with the provincial government would be settled soon as the impasse “sends the wrong signal to both foreign and local investors.”

But Padilla said Atienza cannot issue an order for OceanaGold to resume and violate the CDO, a legal directive that is based on the authority granted by the Local Government Code.

Citing the code, Padilla said parties who question the legality of a local government’s tax ordinance should seek relief from the Department of Justice, then the courts.

Not binding

“Regardless of his opinion, whatever he says or whatever he does is not binding to the provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya. He has no business telling the governor what she can and cannot do,” Padilla said.

“It is Atienza who is out of his senses,” he said, alluding to Atienza’s earlier statement telling Cuaresma to “come to her senses” after issuing the CDO.

Padilla said the House of Representatives’ committee on cultural communities would inspect Thursday the areas of operation of OceanaGold and Royalco Resources Ltd., two Australian companies operating in Nueva Vizcaya, over reported human rights violations.

He also warned Mario Ancheta, acting Cagayan Valley director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, against enforcing Atienza’s order.

“If he follows the illegal order of Secretary Atienza, I will see to it that I will make life difficult for him,” he said.

Sought for comment, Ancheta said: “We’re just doing our job.”

Asked whether he will enforce Atienza’s resumption order and disregard Cuaresma’s CDO, Ancheta said his agency would act “depending on the situation on the ground.”

Cordillerans in Hong Kong unite to defend ancestral lands

May 29, 2008

HONG KONG (May 15) — The sound of gongs reverberated in Chater Road on May 4 as migrant workers from the Cordillera region reaffirmed the defense of their land, life, livelihood and resources in celebration of Cordillera Day in Hong Kong.

Organized by the Cordillera Alliance, the event focused on the issue of mining plunder and state terrorism in each of the six provinces in the region, namely Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province.

The Cordillera Catholic Group headed by Luz Afidchao sponsored an ecumenical service for the morning part of the whole day program. For the first time, a Bible enthronement ritual was participated by representatives of various tribal groups from the region. Spiritual readings focused on respect for God’s creations including land and the environment.

The main program in the afternoon featured the specific cultural heritage of each of the six provinces that was clearly depicted in the opening rites. Josefina Pingkihan, Cordillera alliance (Corall) chairperson, welcomed the participation of the migrants who braved the searing heat of the sun and showed solidarity throughout the whole program.

Abra, the host of this year’s Cordillera Day in the Philippines last April 23 & 24, is under threat of massive mining exploration particularly in the Baay-Licuan area as well as dredging of the Abra River, according to Caring Bachiller, president of the Abra Tinguian-Ilocano Society Hong Kong (ATIS).

Fourteen municipalities in the province would be disastrously affected if the project continues, she stressed. The negative impacts of mining include deforestation, slope destabilization, soil erosion, desertification, water resource degradation, de-fertilization, crop damages, siltation, alteration of terrain and sea-bottom topography, increased water turbidity and air pollution.

Aggravating the situation, Bachiller stated, is the deployment of the 41st Infantry Battalion in the communities, sowing fear and terror therein intended to silence the communities in their protest against Olympus and other destructive mining companies. The military camped under residents’ homes and have maliciously tagged members of people’s organizations, like the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and its member organizations Kastan-CPA Abra and Balitok to be members of the revolutionary New People’s Army, making the civilians open targets to the attack of the military when in fact these legitimate organizations are but pursuing legitimate activities asserting their democratic rights and survival as a people, according to the sources.

Bachiller called on all Cordillerans to stand firm to oppose the exploitation of their rich natural resources by foreign corporations as well as the heavy militarization protection provided by the Arroyo government

Speakers from other provinces echoed the situation suffered by the people of Abra. Actually, each province presented a specific concern such as illegal logging, open pit mining, killings of tribal leaders, and others.

Guest speaker Norman Uy Carnay from the Mission for Migrant Workers lauded the Cordillera tribes for being a source of inspiration to the rest of the Filipinos in their bravery and unity to defend their ancestral domain.

“Let us remember how our ancestral lands have been stolen from us. Let us remember the various government-sponsored and foreign funded projects that destroy our environment and put our lives and way of life in danger – Chico Dam, Cellophil, San Roque Dam, open pit mining. And let us remember the courage and victories of the various Cordillera peoples,” he stressed.

He reminded the migrants that Cordillera is worth fighting for since it is home to the biggest concentration of indigenous peoples in the Philippines. It is rich in natural and mineral resources like gold and copper and it is also an ideal site for hydroelectric dams that can be used, as the government says, to meet the power needs of residents in the region and big industries in Luzon.

But the local inhabitants value their land because land is a gift from God and thus should be protected, according to him. This is also the source of their life, their food and the foundation of their very existence.

Carnay cited the martyrdom of Macliing Dulag who was gunned down by government troops on April 24, 1980 and later became the symbol of the Cordillera people’s struggle for self-determination. His death became a cause for the celebration of Cordillera Day in the Philippines and later abroad.

“Life! If life is threatened, what should we do? RESIST! This we must do, otherwise, we are dishonored and that is worse than death. If we do not fight, we die anyway. If we fight, we die honorably… and our children may win and keep this land. And the land shall become even more precious when nourished by our sweat and blood.” This was Macliing’s commitment. # Vicky Casia-Cabantac/Cordillera Alliance and Abra Tingguian-Ilocano Society (ATIS)(NorthernDispatch)

IP’s reaffirm unity against development aggression

May 27, 2008

OZAMIZ CITY, May 27, 2008— Indigenous peoples from different towns of Misamis Occidental gathered in a consultation-seminar to reaffirm their unity against what they call “development aggression” brought about by mining operations.

The two-day consultation-seminar which started May 26 was held under the auspices of the Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation-Society of St. Columban Mindanao at the Lopez Jaena Cultural Center this city.

In an interview with CBCPNews, Nitz Clamunti of the JPIC-SSC said they will help indigenous peoples from all over Mindanao to stand for their rights.

About 75 indigenous people and advocates from different towns of the province are attending the consultation-seminar.

Clamunti added they talked about the Mining Act of 1995 and Republic Act 7942 which has affected lumads’ lives.

“Because of these mining laws, human rights violations in this era of development aggression continue to worsen, even with the passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), which the Philippine government boasts as landmark legislation in international gatherings, aggression have continuously affected the lives of the region’s indigenous peoples,” said Clamunti.

Clamunti further said due to these national laws and policies, development aggression led to the unprecedented plunder of ancestral territories and destruction of the environment and sources of livelihood of indigenous peoples.

In a related development, DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI) Fr. Riolito Ramos said there have been a series of documented Human Rights violations made by the Special Citizens Armed Geographical Unit Active Auxiliary over the past years. He expressed doubts whether complaints against those responsible would be acted upon by local authorities. (Wendell Talibong)

Firm given mining permit even without village okay

May 27, 2008

Exploration project overwhelmingly rejected in referendum

Dexter A. See

BAKUN, Benguet — The Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) granted to a mining company a permit to conduct exploration activities in a supposedly mineral-rich area in Barangay Gambang here despite the opposition of the villagers.

The proposed mining exploration drew an overwhelming rejection by the villagers in a referendum held last December.

A two-year permit was granted by MGB to Royalco Philippines Inc., formerly Oxiana Philippines Inc., to explore a 986-hectare area in Barangay Gambang.

Earlier, the central office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued a certificate of compliance to the mining company. This was embodied in its en banc Resolution No. 107, series of 2007.

Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) provides that no permit for exploration, utilization, and development of mineral resources is to be granted or renewed by a concerned agency without free and prior informed consent of the concerned indigenous peoples or concerned indigenous cultural communities.

However, some residents in the town raised concerns over the credibility of the procedures in the conduct of a dialogue with the affected villagers, saying that the supposed free and prior informed consent given by the elders was irregularly secured and allegedly tainted with fraud.

While admitting that consultations were conducted to seek the consent of the affected communities for the exploration project, the Gambang Indigenous Community and Peoples Organization said Royalco Philippines failed to get the full support of the affected people for the implementation of their exploration activity.

This was due to its failure to address major concerns on environmental safety and livelihood for the displaced people.

The group said the required majority vote of the affected residents was not secured when the referendum was conducted.

The group also said that the majority vote depends on the number of the population of the affected communities.

The results of the referendum determine if a project such as mining is going to be endorsed or not.

The group said the majority vote for the endorsement of the project was not attained when the referendum was held last December, but despite the failure to secure the endorsement, a memorandum of agreement was signed between the elders and the company.

Based on the results of the referendum, only 745 voters or 25.69 percent of the 2,899 people who participated in the decision-making process voted in favor of endorsement. This shows that there was no free and prior informed consent, the group said.

Despite the failure to satisfy the requirement, some village elders and Royalco executives reportedly signed an agreement at simple rites held in Bangao, Buguias, which is outside the municipality of Bakun.(MB)

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

My Take: This only shows the leaning our government take.  They talk for the people but they walk the other way.  Expect to hear soon that the anti-mining locals will be tagged as communist-supporters if not communist.  This is one of the valid reasons why we should scrap the Mining Act.

Congress to look into Oceana Gold-N. Vizcaya officers dispute

May 22, 2008

KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya (May 12) — An environmental activist group lauded the congressional inquiry conducted yesterday by the Committee on National Cultural Communities into the reported encroachment of the Australia-owned mining firm Oxiana Philippines-RoyalCo and New Zealand-owned Oceana Gold into indigenous peoples’ territories here.

The Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities decided to hold an on-site investigation in mining affected areas in Nueva Vizcaya in the next few weeks.

In a statement issued today, Kalikasan PNE National Coordinator Clemente Bautista Jr. said that the inquiry will lead to further investigation on the current mining-related problems afflicting the Nueva Vizcaya province as a result of Arroyo’s policy of liberalizing the Philippine mining industry which have led to the violations of peoples’ right and national patrimony.

Nueva Vizcaya Governor Luisa Cuaresma and the provincial board members are currently leading a barricade to stop the operations of Oceana Gold because of tax disputes. Oceana Gold was reported ignoring the provincial government order for it to pay millions of pesos of tax on the quarry materials the mining firm are using, saying that under their mining agreement Oceana Gold has no obligation to do so.

“Private and foreign mining corporations are exploiting and depleting our natural resources, displacing our communities, polluting our rivers and degrading the environment. Worse, the local government are being disempowered by the mining policy and program of the Arroyo government for the interest of these foreign corporations,” added Bautista

Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban firmly reiterated his opposition to mining operations in his municipality. “Since the entry of mining companies in our province, there is a lot of tension between our indigenous peoples. The peace and order now becomes one of our major problems. Unidentified armed groups are now roaming the mining areas and harassing local people,” said Tayaban.

“We urge the Congress Committee on National Cultural Communities during their site investigation in Nueva Vizcaya to visit the people’s barricades against Oceana Gold and Oxiana Philippines-RoyalCo. They can see how serious and united the local people in opposing the foreign mining projects in our province,” added Tayaban.

Allan Barnacha, spokesperson for the local alliance Save the Valley Serve the People Movement in Nueva Vizcaya, said, ”We do not see how the mining projects by Oceana in Nueva Vizcaya can possibly translate to a better life for the people.”

Barnacha said it is only the mineral ores which the foreign mining firms will be extracting from the land and exporting to their own respective countries to be processed and sold back to developing countries. “Our agriculture particularly our rice and citrus production will be negatively affected by these mining operations,” he said.

Barnacha added the people of Kasibu want to hold these corporations accountable to crimes against the people and the environment of Nueva Vizcaya.

“Oceana and Oxiana should be expelled from Nueva Vizcaya,” Barnacha said. These mining firms should be declared a persona non-grata by the provincial government. Oceana even had the temerity to prohibit the entry of provincial officials into the mining areas,” he added.

“We hope the experiences and sufferings of people in Nueva Vizcaya from foreign mining operations will convince our legislators to stop the large-scale mining projects in the province. Once positive step is for them to support the resolution repealing the Mining Act of 1995,” ends Mr. Bautista. # Via NORDIS

Mining moratorium may get unanimous nod from Palawan board

May 21, 2008

By Cheryl A. Galili

MINING COMPANIES, large or small, should brace themselves because the 25 years mining moratorium proposed by several board members on all forms of mining at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan may likely get a unanimous approval.

Board member Vicky de Guzman, one of the staunch proponents of the mining moratorium, said that base on the merits of the ordinance, there is “a big probability” that the rest of the members of the Provincial Board (PB) will approve it for implementation.

De Guzman said what the ordinance needs are additional legal basis to strengthen it. “As far as the faith of the ordinance or resolution is concerned, I think it will be passed. It’s just a matter of including more legal basis so our intention for the environment is clear,” she said.

In a committee hearing that was conducted by the Encironmental and Natural Resources Protection (ENRP) that is headed by Board member Gil P. Acosta, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), Palawan NGO Network, Incorporated (PNNI) and the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) expressed support for the passing of the 25 years moratorium in the province to rest its environment.

De Guzman added that as co-author of the ordinance, she is happy that it is gaining more support from different sectors, including the non-government organizations (NGOs).

“The responses we’re getting is very encouraging. As a matter of fact, Board member (Alice) Fabellon told me why not make it 50 years. All of us authors are already considering making her as another author,” De Guzman said.

On the the Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion cited by Provincial Legal Officer Atty. Elena Rodriguez, De Guzman clarified that it only covers the small scale mining and not large scale mining.

“Regarding the power of the local government unit to enact ordinances pertaining to large scale mining, the DOJ has that only the small scale mining are within the power of the LGU so that excludes large scale mining operations,” she stated.

The PCSD’ reaction on this is that what was cited was just an opinion by the DOJ and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). It said there are other laws in the province that can also support the move of De Guzman’s group to push for cessation of all mining activities.

Cleofe Bernardino, executive director of PNNI, said that they are prepared to support the ordinance and collect the legal basis that it needs to strengthen its stand for approval by the rest of the PB.

Bernardino said there are already other provinces in the country that are also pushing for the same moratorium in their areas to maintain the health of their environment from mining and they were not questioned by the DOJ.

Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda of ELAC supported this and said the province of Capiz has done the same as Palawan and she was the one who helped in drafting the ordinance. Aside from Capiz, Marinduque and Eastern Samar also have moratoriums.

Anda said the ordinance’ authors’ biggest basis is the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan law and the executive order that was issued by President Arroyo that declares the province as a “key biodiversity” area.

De Guzman said the Provincial Board is readying to conduct public consultations regarding the ordinance in the municipalities of Narra, Quezon and Roxas – three municipalities where small and large scale mining operations are ongoing.

At present, there are 22 applications for endorsement in the PB; 16 are now in the Committee on Environment and four in the special committee that includes marine exploration. The ordinance is authored by board members Vicky de Guzman, Modesto Rodriguez II and Joselito Cadlaon. Fabellon will also be taken in as co-author. (PalawanTimes)

LGU receives P13.5M to make way for Hanjin Shipyard

May 18, 2008

RESIDENTS of three barangays in Villanueva town, Misamis Oriental said Tuesday that the local government unit (LGU) received money from Phividec Industrial Authority (PIA) to allow Hanjin Heavy Industries Inc. to bulldoze their villages.

In a press conference, Tambobong barangay captain Delaila Abellanosa said Villanueva Mayor Juliette Uy received P13.5 million, allegedly as compensation money for the crops and properties destroyed in Hanjin’s clearing operations to make way for its $2 billion shipyard.

Abellanosa presented a document to the media showing how the P13.5 million was divided among six persons, including the municipal engineer and a judge.

“Those who received money are not even residents of our barangay. Why did they receive this money? The families who were affected by the clearing operations should have received the compensation, not them,” Abellanosa said in the dialect.

Jimmy Agcaoili, spokesperson of Mayor Uy admitted that the LGU received the money from PIA. “Under the memorandum of agreement with PIA, the money is in payment for the public properties destroyed as part of Hanjin’s clearing operation, including health center, school and other public buildings,” he said.

Members of the Balacanas-Tambobong-San Martin Workers Association (Batasanwa) said they were not consulted about the compensation to be given by PIA. They also claimed that the municipal LGU negotiated directly with PIA and Hanjin and left them blind.

Agcaoili denied this, saying they conducted a public consultation. Village officials, however, said they were not properly informed and that they never accepted the terms in the MOA.

“The municipal officials did not even honor the autonomy of the barangay. We should have been properly informed. According to the law, the barangay council should approve a resolution accepting a project within their jurisdiction. For the Hanjin shipyard, we never passed any resolution,” said Abellanosa.

She said the document detailing the alleged P13 million payment was distributed to barangay officials on May 5 during a meeting with Mayor Uy. “Gi-sabaan pa ni-a akoa kay ngano man diay na dili ko maka-cooperate (She scolded me and questioned why I could not cooperate),” said Abellanosa.

The residents also complained that the bulldozing of their homes and crops were done without notice. “The bulldozers came at night. We could not do anything but watch our crops destroyed,” said Eugene Payusan, a resident of Barangay Balacanas.

Parents and teachers of the said barangays are also wary about the impending demolition of the Balacanas Elementary School to make way for the shipyard.

Ramil Factura, president of the General Parents Teachers and Community Association (GPTCA) of Balacanas said the demolition of the school will leave their children without any place to study in the coming school opening.

“Where will our children hold their classes? They should ensure first that a new school building had been put up before demolishing the elementary school. What they are doing is a violation of our rights,” said Factura.

Edygardo Roa, coordinator for Lumayaka-Northern Mindanao, a multisectoral umbrella organization, said the plight of the Villanueva residents is another case of development aggression practiced by Hanjin and tolerated by the government.

“It is a great paradox that the government has been all praises about Hanjin’s billion dollar investments in the country. They seem to be so enthralled by Hanjin that they are, deliberately or not, ignoring Hanjin’s clear violations of our laws and its wanton disregard of our people’s welfare,” said Roa. (SunStarCDO)

BSP to collect excise tax from small-scale miners

May 17, 2008

MANILA —  Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will begin collecting late this month excise tax on small-scale miners’ gold sales to such institution.
BSP’s designation as a collection agent is provided for in Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Revenue Regulations (RR) 7-2008 which Department of Finance Secretary Margarito Teves approved upon revenue chief Lilian Hefti’s recommendation.
RR 7-2008 provides that BSP must deduct from payment for gold it bought from small-scale miners the corresponding two percent excise tax due on such transaction.
Authorities expect such move to help boost government’s revenue collection from small-scale miners, particularly as Hefti earlier estimated at over PhP1 billion total excise tax uncollected from this sub-sector since 2001.
Presidential Decree 1899 as amended by Republic Act 7076 defines small-scale mining as an operation mainly using manual labor and artisanal tools to generate a maximum annual ore production of 50,000 metric tons.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Horacio Ramos said earlier government can collect annually from small-scale miners at least PhP640 million in excise tax alone.
RR 7-2008 says excise tax due from small-scale miners is based on gold’s actual market value which is the price that’s competitive with those prevailing in the world market regardless of volume or weight by which BSP agreed to buy such mineral.
Deduction for excise tax “shall be in addition to the 10 percent creditable withholding tax required to be withheld on income payments or purchases of minerals and mineral products,” RR 7-2008 clarifies.
Small-scale mining permit holders are also required to pay at the Tax Code-prescribed rate of zero percent value-added tax on gold they sell to BSP.
RR 7-2008 noted BSP’s excise tax collection for the month must be remitted to government through the appropriate BIR accredited agent bank on or before the 10th day of the following month.
Ramos said about 90 percent of small-scale miners sell their gold to BSP while the rest do so in the black market. (MindanaoTimes)

Economics and Society 101: Again, prosperity of Cordillera does not lie in mining

May 17, 2008

By ARTURO BOQUIREN

Months from now, I will gladly modify the arguments of this column—if warranted based on my interaction with the Itogon Inter-barangay Alliance (IIBA). I will gladly create opportunities to interact with them and, hopefully, they will also allow me to converse with them. Relatedly, in the same manner, I have expressed my willingness to Philex Mines to take a look at the FPIC process between them and the communities affected by their operation.

In the May 27, 2008 issue of the NORDIS, small-scale miners were reported to be keen on developing clean gold. They argue that they can get their gold and still enjoy clean surroundings. In contrast, my basic point is that while very small-scale mining may be tolerated for some time, the strategic goal must be to move towards livelihood systems and a basic economy that are friendly to the environment. Needless to say, there are also nationalistic as well as empowerment concerns that must simultaneously be addressed.

The progressive nations, states, regions, and individuals of the 21st century are not into mining. They are into electronics, land development, real estate, computers and softwares, resorts, and the like. We must recognize this historical trend and factor this in our effort to develop our communities and regions. There is also an emerging paradigm wherein compensation is given to communities that take care of the forests and watersheds.

I am interested really to take a look at the mining process used by the organization of the IIBA. I would like to see for myself if this gold is really “clean.” And if this is so, I will gladly support IIBA in their position. Nevertheless, whatever their position on clean gold mining is, I am one with them in their fight for equity and better livelihood. My impression is that they have conflict of interests with the large-scale mining companies even as the large-scale mining companies are keen on using them to justify large-scale mining.

May I therefore propose to the IIBA that they consider alternative uses for their land. If investments are lacking, then one of the first order of business may be to direct investments to alternatives that yield higher returns. They must take advantage of the IPRA Law even if the law is inadequate in protecting their interests.

May I also request them to consider their lives as small-scale miners. How many of them have become rich in small-scale mining? How many have improved their lives? For those that have improved their lives, were the improvements not possible with other forms of livelihood?

Further, they may want to look at their clans. Are those in small-scale mining have better lives than those who are not engaged in small-scale mining? If this is not the case, is it not the case then that small-scale mining would only perpetuate poverty in their clans and families?

Perhaps, it is not really small-scale mining that small-scale miners are interested in. Their basic concerns are actually livelihood, jobs, and a better way of life. Unfortunately, I do not see that they will be able to realize these from small-scale mining as both history and their own experience probably confirm.

Even as I support the IIBA in their fight for a better life and greater share in the benefits from resources, may I beg them to reconsider their view on small-scale mining and their alternatives for improving their lives. There is nothing really wrong in fighting for your interests. However, this column believes that your basic interests will be advanced better in livelihoods other than small-scale mining. The basic solutions, admittedly, will not be available overnight. Nevertheless, it is important to start from the right foot. #

(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)

Dioceses to stage protest action vs mining firm

May 14, 2008

THREE Catholic Church dioceses in Mindanao are planning to mobilize its flock for another huge protest action against Sagittarius Mines, Incorporated.

Efforts are underway to organize a joint protest rally against the disparaging mining business in Kiblawan town, revealed Fr Cornelio Toraja, director of Digos diocese’s Social Action Center.

Although no specific date was given, this rally, which is slated in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, will be the third time in the last three years spearheaded by ranking Catholic Church leaders surrounding the mines development site.

In April 2006, the bishops of the dioceses of Marbel, Kidapawan and Digos forged an alliance, amid the presence of an estimated 8,000 supporters in the town of Tampakan in South Cotabato, to oppose the presence of Sagittarius in the area.

Some 5,000 people, in May 2005, also gathered in Tampakan town to condemn the firm’s presence, with local Catholic Church officials leading the event.

Kiblawan and Tampakan towns straddle the mines development site of Sagittarius, as well as the municipality of Columbio in Sultan Kudarat province.

Sagittarius is being controlled by major global mining player Xstrata Copper, with Australian Indophil Resources NL as junior partner.

In a statement posted recently at the website of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), it cited leaders of the B’laan, the dominant indigenous tribe in the area, as saying the agreement between them and the company was made in a “dubious way.”

Sagittarius made a survey for the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project after signing a 2003 accord with B’laan elders who agreed to explore the 300-square-kilometer mining site for a decade, the statement said.

“The agreement was not explained well and without proper consent,” the B’laan leaders said.

In the process, there have been reported instances whereby tribal communities are divided and dispute among them is looming, according to Fr. Toraja.

Sought for reaction, Roy D. Antonio, Sagittarius senior coordinator for corporate affairs, denied the company deceived the B’laan elders in coming up with the agreement.

“In the signing of the principal agreements, there is always the presence of NCIP [National Commission on Indigenous Peoples] officials who explain to them [the impact of the project],” Antonio said.

On the planned religious-led rally, he said the people have the right to assembly.

“Also, the company is open to a direct dialogue with the three dioceses with regards to the Tampakan project,” Antonio said.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources upholds mining for the reason that increases the country’s economy and it records the Tampakan mines as one of 24 priority projects.

The CBCP has repeatedly urged the National and Local governments to reconsider large-scale mining operations that cause environmental hazards and destruction of peoples’ livelihood.

During the 2005 Mindanao Mining Forum, the bishops supported calls for Congress to revoke the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which allows foreigners to engage in mining operations in the country.

In a separate statement, the Citizens Alliance Unified for Sectoral Empowerment also urged Sagittarius to abandon its project. The firm is currently on an exploration stage for the world-class mineral deposits.

“The mining operations of SMI in Kiblawan will not only affect the people of that municipality but also the people of Davao del Sur and the areas surrounding Davao Gulf as well,” the group said. (SunStarGeneralSantos)

Cordillera Struggles Inspire Taiwan IPs

May 13, 2008

They live around 1155 kilometers away in Taiwan.  Their history and culture is distinct from the Cordillera peoples.  But the indigenous peoples of Taiwan and the Cordilleras share the same issues and concerns.  And they are linked in solidarity in the struggle for indigenous peoples (IP) rights.

BY AUBREY MAKILAN
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 14, May 11-17, 2008

BAAY-LICUAN, Abra (more than 400 kms. North of Manila) The Cordillera people’s organized struggle is an inspiration for the indigenous peoples (IPs) of Taiwan. They were so inspired that they traveled a long way to this remote town to be able to attend the Cordillera Day celebration, again.

Taiwanese belonging to the Atayal and Paiwan tribes have participated in the celebration of Cordillera Day not just once. Besu Piyas and Yunaw Sili of the Atayal tribe have joined the Cordillera peoples in commemorating the event twice while Tobias of the Paiwan tribe has participated thrice already. This year, there are 26 Taiwanese who observed the Cordillera Day celebration in Baay-Licuan, Abra.

According to them, they share the same concerns as what the IPs in the Philippines have been experiencing.

Restrictions a disrespect to IP culture

Taiwanese tribes originally live by hunting wild animals.

In fact, the Puyuma tribe performs a traditional ceremony every January as a rite of passage. As the main part of the ceremony, young people who have come of age are given guns and sent to the forest to hunt wild animals.

Traditionally, IPs are allowed to use guns in hunting. But in 2000, Piyas said, their government restricted gun ownership by requiring licenses. He said the government issues licenses only for traditional guns used for hunting. However, he said IPs now use modern kinds of guns, which do not recoil much and do not produce an ear-deafening sound as traditional guns do.

Because of this law, Piyas’ Kanke community had experienced problems with the government.

Since they are hunters by nature, it is but normal to find guns in their homes. But, Piyas said, last March 15 police raided their homes, confiscated their guns and bullets, and charged them in court. If found guilty, IPs are fined from NT 2,000-20,000 while non-IP are imprisoned for more than five years. The IPs get a lighter penalty than the non-IPs if they are able to prove that they use their guns for hunting and not for self-defense, and they hunt for their consumption and not for selling.

But their problems do not start and end with gun restrictions. They also worry for their hunting grounds.

Tobias said that the government now requires them to secure hunting permits, indicating when and where they intend to hunt.

“Hunting is not only hunting. It is possession of the culture and use of their ancestral territories,” said Tobias. “If the government restricts hunting, it is insulting our culture and violating our rights to hunt.”

Urban migration and poverty

Like in the Philippines, urban migration and poverty are affecting IPs in Taiwan.

Historically, Tobias said, tribes owned the lands. Tribes divided the land they own according to its use: for hunting and agriculture. But the government has ruled that ownership should not be communal but personal, and thus, required them to apply for titles, he said.

But since IPs are not familiar with titles, he said, they lost their lands to the government. Though the government has announced it would return some of the ancestral lands to the tribes, Tobias said, it still owns most of the IP lands.

For more than 30 years now, Piyas said, IPs who have lost their lands have been migrating to Taipei City. They ended up in urban poor communities in Taipei.  And the government seems to have no plans to help them. Recently, he said, the Taiwan government unveiled a development plan, which, Piyas said, intends “to build houses for rich people, not for the IPs.”

Though the government built homes for the IPs, Piyas said, these are “too far from work and school.” He said that it would be difficult for them to transfer their children from one school to another because they would have to pay again for school fees, additional transport and other costs. And since they are not legal residents and therefore, have no papers, it is difficult for their children to be accepted in schools.

If they would be relocated to the resettlement areas provided by the government, Piyas said they would still have to pay NT 2,000-3,000 a month as rent. And with this additional cost, he said, they might not be able to pay for their other basic needs like education.

Piyas and Sili computed the average monthly living expenses vis-à-vis the income of those living in urban poor communities.

About NT 7,000 would be spent for the food of a family, which normally has five members; NT 1,500 for water, electricity, gas and other utilities; NT 1,000 for transportation; NT 3,000-4,000 for education fees. To sum it up, a family of five is spending about NT 32,000-33,000 a month for their basic needs, excluding health insurance and social need. This is higher than the usual income of a working father, which averages from NT 20,000-30,000.

Men’s usual jobs are in construction, with no regular job orders and no stable salary, said Piyas. Women, on the other hand, help augment their husband’s salary by vending vegetables or even taking easier and lighter tasks in construction.

Problems with jobs

Since companies in Taiwan need to pay Taiwan nationals higher salaries, more have been employing foreign workers who are willing to accept lower salaries. Some IPs see the influx of migrant workers as the reason for the dearth in jobs available for them.

“Some IP groups think that migrants take the jobs that could have been for them but they don’t realize that it is the fault of the government for not providing enough jobs and the capitalists for exploiting migrant workers who are paid lower wages,” said Piyas.

Another problem IPs encounter is the technological advances of factories in Taiwan. Piyas said that many factories in Taiwan have transferred operations to third world countries to avail of cheaper operational costs, including lower wages. Factories that are left in Taiwan are so technologically advanced that IPs could no longer do these jobs.

Worse in RP

Philippine and Taiwan IPs may have similar issues of being marginalized, discriminated against, oppressed and deprived of their ancestral lands. But the IPs from Taiwan and the Philippines agreed that Philippine IPs’ issues are worse because they have shed blood and have been sacrificing their  lives until now. Markus Bangit and Alyce Claver are just some of the victims of political killings in the Cordilleras.

“Philippine government even ignores the right to life,” said Tobias, noting that they have not experienced political killings in their country.

Solidarity

Members of the Atayal and Paiwan tribes are inspired by the struggles of the Philippine IPs, particularly the Cordillera peoples.

“I like the Philippine organizing, the spirit of fighting,” said Tobias who said that he learned the power of organizing people for a common cause from his exposures to the struggle of the Cordillera peoples. He said that since his first Cordillera Day, he has taken the lessons he learned with him to Taiwan and used them in organizing people to fight for their rights.

He has helped linked over 40 tribes to hold coordinated protest actions like the simultaneous setting of fire in their respective communities. This action was part of their ritual of asking guidance from their ancestors during the time they have been confronting restrictions in hunting.

“People are organized here. They clearly know what the situation is and why it is happening. In Taiwan, the people don’t know how to unite against issues. They act more on individual interests,” said Piyas.

But more than just learning from the Cordillera people, Taiwan IPs are in solidarity with the Philippine IPs and the Filipino people in their struggles.

Last year, after attending the Cordillera Day celebrations in Baguio City, Piyas and other members of the initially-formed Yilan County Kanke Indigenous Peoples’ Sustainable Development Association (Yikida) formed the Taiwan Committee for Philippine Concerns. This committee has been campaigning for Philippine issues like political killings.

The formation of Yikida was a result of their July to August 2007 exposure trips in different IP and urban poor communities in the Cordilleras.  After returning to Taiwan, Piyas and his companions formally launched Yikida last October and practiced what they have learned from Filipino organizing work.

Tobias, on the other hand, said that his group’s participation every Cordillera Day is “part of their support to let Filipinos know they’re not alone.” Tobias also helped formed an organization in Taiwan helping IPs and poor Taiwanese. Bulatlat

Missionary Sisters want speedy investigation on tribal chieftain’s slay

May 13, 2008

DAVAO CITY, May 13, 2008—After a couple of weeks following the massacre of the family of Bagobo-Klata Tribal Chieftain Dominador Diarog, the Missionary Sisters of the Assumption has called on the local government for a speedy investigation.

Diarog and his family were inside their home in Manuel Guianga, this city, when their house was strafed by unknown gunmen resulting to multiple gunshot wounds in the different parts of his body.

During the same incident, his wife Emily as well as two of his ten children, an 8-year old and a 4-year old, were also hit and had gunshot wounds in their body.

Diarog and his family were immediately brought to the hospital but the former did not survive.

Sr. Marietta Banayo of the Missionaries of the Assumption said that the killing of an innocent tribal chieftain deserves condemnation as it blatantly shows disrespect to the indigenous peoples’ culture.

Banayo added that the government should be sensitive with this issue as it also affects the peaceful existence of the indigenous communities in the city.

“We appeal to the city government for a speedy investigation so that justice will soon be served,” she said.

Banayo, also the president of the Assumption College of Davao (ACD) has called on concerned organizations to look into this case seriously so that justice will be properly rendered.

“It is sad to note that sometimes justice is being compromised in favor of the mighty while the least of our citizens who were victims still suffer,” Banayo told CBCPNews, Monday afternoon.

Part of the mission of the Missionaries of the Assumption is the promotion of IP”s rights, preservation of their cultures and proper education.

Reports said that the killing of Datu Diarog is intended to put him silent and also to drive off the tribal communities from their remaining two hectare land of ancestral domain.

The land was reported to be used for development project with an initial offer of P50,000 from a prospective buyer.

Again, news report here bared Apollo Quiboloy who calls himself “Son of God” as the one who made the offer of P50,000 to Datu Diarog twice for the purpose of converting their ancestral domain to planting pine trees around the prayer mountain.

Other news item posted at Mindanews recounted that there were four attempts to burn Diarog’s farmhouse at 1 a.m on March 1, 1 a.m. on April 4, 4 pm on April 8 and 2 p.m. the last one, on April 20. The last one succeeded.

But more than the burning, the Datu’s nephews, Danny and Junaz, told the press that their family was left with no other choice but to sell their two hectare land for P100,000 to Tambayong barangay captain Greg Canada, who is known among the villagers as representative of Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Worse, the nephews said were offered P 20,000 to kill Diaorg, their uncle.

In a statement sent to CBCPNews, Quiboloy said, “we do not wish to dignify the initial reports linking our congregation to the unfortunate incident that happened in a nearby barangay adjacent to the covenant mountain and prayer center in Tamayong.”

“We strongly deny these as totally false and baseless, if not ridiculous,” the statement further said.

JUSTICE FOR THE TRIBAL PEOPLE

Banayo, meanwhile, said that as several accusations and speculations have cropped out, it is all the more imperative for the local government to come up with a proper and impartial investigation.

“We trust in God that in due time the truth shall come out,” said Banayo even as she appealed to the influential not to manipulate the Diarog slay case.

“Patay na si Datu Diarog. Pero buhay pa ang kanyang pamilya na patuloy na tumatangis upang makamit lamang ang hustisya,” said Banayo.

She added that the death of Diarog is also a revelation of the long drawn out oppression to the marginalized sector in the society the indigenous people.

Banayo also asked the people to pray for justice for Diarog so that the real culprits will really serve their sentence.

Councilor Karlo Bello has also called for an objective investigation on the killing of Diarog. Like Bello, Councilor Rachel Zozobrado said, “while we seek justice for what happened to the Diarog family, we must not speculate.”

“Dominador Diarog belongs to an indigenous tribe that makes up the tri-people of Davao and Mindanao . It is thus our responsibility not only as Dabawenyos but as a people to seek the truth behind the murder of Diarog and the wounding of his family,” said Zozobrado.
.
Zozobrado added that the incident should be an eye-opener on the plight of the lumads and what they have to go through just to protect their ancestral land.

She also urged concerned government agencies to adopt policies for the protection of the ancestral domain.

“Let us all endeavor to adopt policies for the protection of the ancestral domain. For only then will justice be truly achieved, and then, perhaps, Datu Dominador Diarog shall not have died in vain,” Zozobrado ended.

(CBCPNews)

South Cotatabato’s Proposed Environment Code Worries Mining Firm

May 12, 2008

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/11 May) — The proposed environment code of South Cotabato province is making officials of a big mining firm nervous as it will ban the use of open-pit mining.

The foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. had earlier expressed it prefers open-pit mining for its Tampakan copper and gold project.

A public hearing was held here late last week attended mostly by pro-mining supporters.

Rumors have it that the foreign executives of Xstrata Copper, which manage the mining project, are contemplating on abandoning the venture if the open-pit ban will not be stricken off the final version of the code.

“We will wait for the code before we can answer that question,” Roy D. Antonio, Sagittarius senior coordinator for corporate affairs, answered when reporters asked if they were, indeed, packing up.

Although his company had announced earlier that they will likely use open pit mining based on a study, Antonio said they will make the announcement as to the final method to use later this year.

The mining firm, however, is getting the backing of Tampakan acting Mayor Pedro A. Cagas who said they are fully backing the project of Sagittarius.

Even pro-mining supporters were surprised at Cagas’s pronouncements since there was an apparent agreement that he was not to reveal the local government unit’s stand on the issue.

“If studies eventually show that open pit is the most appropriate method, the proposed ban on open pit will automatically put a stop to the Tampakan Project,” Cagas stressed

“To pass this provision is to deny us of a rare chance for development. Our people are having jobs, many children now can go to school because of the assistance of SMI. Business is thriving in Tampakan because of the Tampakan project. If the project stops, all these will stop, and our development will slide back,” he added.

Busloads of mining supporters came at the hearing venue even though they said they did not know what the gathering was all about.

Board member Jose M. Madanguit, chair of the environment committee who presided over the public hearing, told reporters “there is a slim chance” that the Sangguaniang Panlalawigan would strike out the provision prohibiting open pit mining in South Cotabato.

Anti-mining advocates expressed dismay at the proceedings of the public hearing, noting there was no open forum held.

“The voices heard were overwhelmingly in favor of the operations of Sagittarius,” lamented critic Eliezer S. Billanes.

Fr. Romeo Catedral, social action director of the Diocese of Marbel, asked the board members to retain the ban on open pit, stressing this endangers the environment, human health and food security. He was the only one who expressed such views in the hearing.

Constancio A. Paye Jr., Mines and Geosciences Bureau director for Central Mindanao, noted that the proposed ban on open pit mining goes against the policy of the national government to revitalize mining in the country. “This provision is also a violation of a national law that allows the use of open pit. We all know that a local ordinance cannot legally amend a national law,” he added. (MindaNews)

Editorial Cartoon: Huwarang Ina Awardee

May 11, 2008

Huwad Na Ina


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