Davao Oriental Folk: We Want Food, Not Mining


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

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