Most Rev. Bishop Arturo M. Bastes, SVD, DD
Bishop of Sorsogon
Former Chairman of the Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission
Next week, January 29th, will mark the 20th anniversary of the CBCP Pastoral on Ecology that came to be more popularly known as the Letter that asked: WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR BEAUTIFUL
That was twenty years ago.
Less than three years ago, the President of the
- Inadequacy of environmental and social impact assessment process
- Exposure to typhoons, as the island was quite in the centre of the typhoon belt and heavy rain area
- Serious toxic spills in the past and related findings of negligence and breaches of basic industry practices
- Unresolved community impacts and questionable social acceptability as reflected in widespread opposition to the mine
- Direct and long term environmental impact of the mine, in an island of steep slopes, through Acid Rock Drainage, toxic discharges, long term solidity of tailing dam design, direct impact on island and aquatic biodiversity
- Effect on emerging ecotourism industry based on whale shark watching
- Undue pressure on local government structures and citizens’ rights
Following the report of my Commission to the President, which addressed the above concerns, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that they agreed with the major points and enumerated them thus:
- The two tailing spills that occurred at
were preventable – they could have been prevented. Lafayette was guilty of lapses of an operational/technical and management nature. Lafayette did not measure up to the standards of responsible mining. Lafayette
- DENR itself was a failure in monitoring
and consequently did not detect the violations that would indicate the possibility of environmental accidents. Lafayette
- The sharing of benefits from the mineral exploitation of
had clearly been grossly unfavourable to the Phil govt. Rapu-Rapu Island
With regard to the long-term environmental risks, beyond the spills, DENR also agreed with our Commission that: “Two major issues concerning the implementation of the Project remained pending: the integrity of the tailings dam structure and the Acid Mine Drainage, or
The government through the DENR should really just have followed the rule of law rather than the culture of privilege and impunity. In accordance with the spirit and letter of the law, DENR should just have cancelled the Environment Clearance Certificate (ECC) of a recidivist firm, and if allowed to re-apply, let it undertake the drawing up of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and propose an Environmental Management System (
In addition, we said we were frankly quite dubious about the honesty and financial integrity of the mining firm. The Commission found strong indications to believe that the firm underreported its production of ores and of processed gold and silver to the MGB or Mines and Geosciences Bureau thereby reducing the basis, and ultimately, the value of the excise tax they would have to pay the government. The details are in our formal report.
A little more than a year after they were given the green light by Reyes,
The Statement continued: “On 4 October 2007,
But, as the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men…” do not always work out as hoped for. “On 17 December 2007, Rapu Rapu Minerals Inc (‘RRMI’), an associate of
“By 17 December 2007, it was also evident that
“Given all of the above, the Board of Lafayette met on 18 December 2007, and being of the view that they no longer had reasonable grounds to believe that the Company could meet its obligations as and when they fell due resolved to voluntarily appoint Messrs Sutton and McCluskey of Ferrier Hodgson to the role of Administrator. In making this appointment, the Board expected that the Administration process would allow all options for either the sale of the Project or a restructure and recapitalization of the
What we feared would happen has now happened. The flagship mining foreign investor of this country, certified so by no less than DENR Secretary Reyes, was all along a financial bluff.
Those of us from the area, together with Albay Governor Joey Salceda, are asking a new DENR, if “new” it can be called since Reyes is no longer there, and Atienza has taken his place, to PLEASE, finally, suspend the mining operation of Lafayette Mining Corp. in Rapu-Rapu following the firm's move to go under voluntary administration – a euphemism for declaration of bankruptcy. DENR should immediately suspend the permits to mine, mill and transport chemicals granted to
The DENR has the responsibility for the integrity of the mine's facilities to prevent any mishap especially if some mining chemicals are misplaced. Given the poor track record of
We know that Carlos Dominguez, chairman and president of
But has the important lesson been learned? A company that fails to obtain and retain a social licence to operate, in other words one that operates without community approval, is simply not viable – even if one has the Reyeses’ and whole armies’ arbitrary license to be illogical and insane, as clearly happened in the Lafayette Rapu-Rapu experience.
To date, the company has not been required by DENR to set aside money for the final rehabilitation of the mine. Cannot this terrible Reyes negligence be remedied by Atienza now? Madame President, it’s your turn to speak.