OPPOSE THE CONTINUING ONSLAUGHT ON THE EARTH
“I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and you made my inheritance detestable.” (Jeremiah 2:7)
We, the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), express alarm over the wanton abuse of natural resources by the Transnational Mining Corporations (TNCs) with their local cohorts in South Luzon Region, especially in Bicol. The experience of the Bicolano people is no different from the plight of local communities in mining areas throughout the country: massive environmental destruction, shrinking economic base of the people, militarization of mining communities, displacement of communities due to land-grabbing and unjust land-conversion, gross human rights violations, destruction of flora and fauna, and further impoverishment of the country. The unresolved and ever continuing polymetallic mining operations in Rapu-Rapu Island, Albay, Labo, Paracale, and Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, the aggressive mine expansion in Aroroy, Masbate by Filminera Resources Corp., the peculiar magnetite off-shore mining in Camarines Sur by Bogo Mining Resources Corp; the Palanog Cement Plant in Albay, Panganiban and San Andres, Catanduanes, and the deeper quagmire of maldevelopment of mining in Matnog, Sorsogon challenge us to rethink our role as responsible God’s stewards of creation ( Genesis 1: 26-31 ).
Destructive mining is blatantly unethical, unjust, and senseless for it exacerbates poverty, causes dislocation of livelihood of the people, and even threatens the base of life and life itself.
It is lamentable that the national government equates TNC mining with development, and is remiss in its duties in protecting the environment to the detriment of the people. It has been proven that the negative costs of mining operations far outweigh the gains.
Thus, to further liberalize the mining industry in favour of the mining corporations as being trumpeted by the Aquino administration will mean more suffering and death, dislocation, displacement and ruin of the environment.
Hence we call on the Filipino people:
1. To oppose all destructive mining operations, both locally or foreign-owned;
2. To scrap the Mining Act of 1995;
3. To demand immediate moratorium of large scale mining
4. To demand the demilitarization of mining communities
5. To fight for justice and integrity of creation;
6. To pass the HB 4315 or the Peoples’ Mining Bill
We urge our churches and faith-based groups and institutions to pursue organizing, awareness building, and other relevant activities, and be in full solidarity with the people’s movement against destructive mining operations.
With the liberating power of the Holy Spirit, we seek strength and wisdom to carry this task of asserting the right of the earth to survive and all that dwell therein.
Ecumenical Bishops Forum
October 6, 2011
DA Reports Rise in Fish Catch But Not in Albay Gulf
In the July 12-18, 2011 issue of Diario Veritas, the Department of Agriculture reported:
Nahilingan nin senyales nin pag-asenso an sector nin pagsisira sa paagi kan pagiging aktibo kan mga regional fishing ports sa primerong quarto kan taon.
Ipinahayag nin Rodolfo Paz, an general manager kan Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA), an mga dakop kan sira an nagtaas nin maabot sa 93 porsyento sa Navotas, Iloilo, asin Sual, Pangasinan.
Siring man an nanotaran sa Davao Fish Port Complex na nagkaigwa man na 40% na pagdakul nin dakop kumparadosa dakop kan mga parasira sa kaparehong peryodo kan nakaaging taon.
Katakod kaini, pinag-engganyar kan DA an gabos na local na gobyerno sa nasyon na pakusugon an industriya nina pagsisira partikular sa aspeto kan environmental protection asin pagbukod sa mga ilegal na mga parasira.
Nakaabot kaya an report sa DA na rampante an paggamit nin mga dinamitakan mga parasira sa nagkakapirang kostal na lugar kan nasyon kun saen saro kan naunambitan digdi iyo an rehiyon Bikol.
At least two points are implied in this report. First, there are rises in fish catch in several areas of the country but not in Albay Gulf. Second, the DA blames all declines in fish catch on environmental degradation “and” illegal fishing.
On the first implication: Why is there no report of any rise in fish catch in Albay Gulf? The answer is obvious: there is in fact a precipitous decline as attested to by fishermen. A 95% decline has been reported here since 2005 the same year when Lafayette went into full operation. Why is there such a decline? We have referred that question to the DA and its line bureau BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) but no answer has ever been given. (They have not even reported any investigation conducted on the cause of death of a 15-meter sperm whale in 2010.)
We have ascribed the decline to mining in Rapu-Rapu from which flow several creeks that are discolored. Officials of Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project reply that fish catch decline is a global phenomenon (technical meeting on April 26, 2011 in EMB). Now, we have here a rebuttal to that defense - the DA report of fish catch rise in at least four areas. Fish catch decline is not a global phenomenon.
On the second implication: Since DA reports rises in fish catch in four areas of the country and calls for curtailment of illegal fishing, then it follows that after curtailing illegal fishing we can observe a rise in fish catch. In Albay Gulf, the Bantay Dagat, a local watch group against illegal fishing, has been very active in this campaign. However, the fish catch decline continues. Couple this observation with the fact that the DA confirms the presence of a fish sanctuary in Gaba Bay, Villahermosa, Rapu-Rapu . With a fish sanctuary and active campaign against illegal fishing, fish population should increase within one or two seasons but this does not happen. Hence, illegal fishing cannot be the cause. Again, we are led to the more obvious – the mining operation in Rapu-Rapu.
It should be pointed out that much of the fish catch in the past according to fishermen consisted of migratory fish from the Pacific Ocean – yellowfin tuna, kwaw, malasugi, tanguigue, sharks, etc. These species do not need the local breeding grounds in Albay Gulf to multiply. They spawn in the areas around Guam and come to Albay Gulf to feed seasonally. They pass through the gap between Rapu-Rapu and Prieto Diaz following the current. Since 2005, the catch of these species has consistently declined. Something is barring their path in that gap and that something is none other than the contamination of silt and heavy metals flowing from the mine site through the creeks and ultimately to the waters around Rapu-Rapu. The current carries the contaminants into the Albay Gulf and spreads them as the tide flows back out into the Philippine Sea.
Any way we look at the phenomenon in Albay Gulf, the glaring fact is that mining has adversely affected our food supply. Between fishing where we derive 100% of the benefits and Rapu-Rapu mining where were derive only 1/3 of 1% (according to the statement of Gov. Joey Salceda in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on March 28, 2011), we have to choose the former.
The same issue of Diario Veritas banners the headline “City secures fish trade.” It reports the plan of the Legazpi City Council “to beef up the local fishing industry through stern legislation . . . Councilor Carlos Ante had already invited the different leaders of the local fisher folk to lay out details of a proposed ordinance to secure their livelihood.” I laud the efforts of the good councilor. However, I suggest that a more comprehensive view of the problem be taken if it is ever intended to be solved. As management theory suggests, any solution should address the real cause of the problem. Limiting the analysis within the immediate vicinity of the city’s coastal waters will lead to a failure at solution.
Not too long ago, we learned that several city councilors led by then Mayor Noel Rosal visited the Rapu-Rapu mine. In the newsletter of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Foresight, he was quoted as follows: “The mine is full of promise for the province” (Pages 9 and 11). I wrote Hon. Rosal in November 2010 (by then he had become the City Administrator) attaching photographs of the creeks colored brown, red, yellow and orange. I asked if the tour guides brought his group to the creeks. It’s September 2011 and I still have to receive a reply. I also wrote to MGB V and EMB V. Both replied that the contamination in the creeks is within “tolerable levels.”
RRMI, RRPI, LG, Kores and MSC should not think that they have succeeded in convincing the local community in their claim that the mine is operated responsibly and that the benefits they have derived translate to sustainable development of the people. The condition of the creeks, the fish catch decline and the poverty prevailing in the island all speak eloquently of the truth. Environmental damage and economic injustice have worsened. Adding insult to injury, they have praised themselves through press releases about their environmental awards while the residents of Rapu-Rapu and the fishermen of Albay Gulf continue to suffer. The contamination in the creeks may be within “tolerable levels” in the standards of the DENR but the poverty of the island residents, the fish catch decline and the environmental damage are definitely intolerable in the standards of the local community.
The DA, BFAR, DENR, Legazpi City Council, other local government units and other authorities better look into Rapu-Rapu mining honestly if they really want to solve the problem of fish catch decline in Albay Gulf. Anything less than that would not be in keeping with the public trust reposed in them.
September 4, 2011
Mining Engineers’ Conference in Legazpi City blind to local residents’ plight!
We remind the Provincial Government of Albay about the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Resolution 2011-020 issued on March 8, 2011 banning all future mining activities in the province. It should have shown consistency by expressing disfavor against the convention.
We rebuke the City Government of Legazpi for going against the sentiments of Albayanos against the continued destruction of our environment. The city has recently manifested its inability to walk the talk. In Mount Bariw, Barangay Estanza, a large swath of hillside is severely denuded yet it has done nothing. The silt from the denudation has flowed to Barangay Pinaric where it is several inches thick. In Embarcadero, large volumes of floating garbage greet the citizens whenever they go for a leisurely stroll along the boulevard. The city government has been so preoccupied with pleasing tourists but compromised the welfare of local residents who voted them into office and pay millions in taxes. Tourists bring in income but that income is just a means towards providing better living conditions for local residents. The means cannot be exchanged for the end. If the welfare of citizens is disadvantaged by the city government’s preoccupation with pleasing tourists, then it is time to withdraw the trust reposed in them during election.
The hosting of the mining engineers’ convention in Legazpi is a misstep of the city government. It betrays a failure to understand genuine environmental advocacy. While the city brags about its sanitary landfill, it fails to prove its pro-environment agenda by making a prominent endorsement of mining as a stimulant of progress. While we need products derived from mining, we insist that it should be done in the right place and the right manner. That is what responsible mining is all about. So far, however, all claims of responsible mining by many companies are nothing but hot air because of the evident damage wrought on their surroundings like what is happening in Rapu-Rapu, Aroroy, Palanog, Matnog, Paracale, Catanduanes, Caramoan, etc.
They say, if we do not want mining then we should not use the products of that industry. They are dead wrong. We want mining that does not destroy the environment. We want mining that reserves the natural resources of the Philippines for Filipinos. We want mining that spreads the fruits of development to the masses and not only to the foreign investors and their local junior partners.
We want mining that does not sacrifice our agriculture so that we protect our own food supply. Mining generally provides for non-basic needs while agriculture produces our most basic needs like food, clothing, shelter and livelihood. While mining generates a few temporary jobs, agriculture provides long-term sources of income thus genuinely assuring sustainable development.
We call on all mining engineers to support our notion of genuinely responsible mining. In view of the bad record of mining in Bicol, we ask them not to project the impression that they condone what is happening here contrary to declarations by the DENR, MGB, EMB and companies that all is well in Bicol mining. Bicol is severely suffering from the impacts of mining and the statements of the aforementioned entities are belied when we see the plight of the farmers and fishermen and the condition of our mountains, rivers, creeks and seas.
So in their visit to Rapu-Rapu today, they should make an objective assessment on the effects of mining in the island and its residents and not make it a mere field trip. They should talk to the people to know the real impact of RRPP on their lives. They tell us nothing but misery and deepening poverty. While the project heaps billions upon the foreign investors and their local junior partners, it brings “Lilliputian” benefits to the residents of the island and severe fish catch decline in Albay Gulf on which depend some 14,000 fishermen. Today, there is no more fish to catch in the gulf.
In 2010, the project earned P11.7 billion but according to Gov. Joey Salceda himself the province got a social fund of P41.71 million or a measly one-third (1/3) of 1%! If that is not enough, one can look at the creeks flowing from the mine site to the sea. They are colored yellow, orange, red and brown.
We ask the delegates to the mining conference to wake up to realities and not be deceived by the lies of those who support mining operations in Bicol.
July 19, 2011
RRPP’s Awards - Rubbing Salt on the People’s Injury
As the cliché goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. One needs only to go to the island and talk to the people to know the real impact of RRPP on their lives. They tell nothing but misery and deepening poverty. While the project heaps billions upon the foreign investors and their local junior partners, it brings “Lilliputian” benefits to the residents of the island and severe fish catch decline in Albay Gulf on which depend some 14,000 fishermen. Today, there is no more fish to catch in the gulf.
In 2010, the project earned P11.7 billion but according to Gov. Joey Salceda himself the province got a social fund of P41.71 million or a measly one-third (1/3) of 1%! If that is not enough, one can look at the creeks flowing from the mine site to the sea. They are colored yellow, orange, red and brown. Challenged to prove his belief in the reports of the Multi-partite Monitoring Team by bathing in the creeks on schedules and sites set by SARA, Director Reynulfo Juan of MGB V, showed photos of people perching on rocks in the discolored creeks on dates and sites they themselves chose. Challenged by SARA to withdraw the armed CAFGUs and allow free access and surprise visits to the creeks, Engr. Rogelio Corpus, President of RRMI, replied that they cannot allow such because they “have to protect their interests.” Hence, the interests of the environment and those of RRPP are contradictory.
The executives of RRPP can go on deluding themselves with fantastic claims of “safe and responsible mining” in Rapu-Rapu but the truth is well-known to the people who suffer much from the environmental damage and economic injustice attendant to the project. The emperor’s new clothes are well-praised by the award-giving bodies. One day, the truth will prevail and the awards will instead shatter their credibility. There is time under heaven for everything, says the Bible. Today, in the island of Rapu-Rapu and villages dependent on Albay Gulf, the people are groaning in pain. The awards are salt rubbed on their wounds while RRPP’s supporters have their photo-ops and raise their toasts of wine in fine dining. We believe that the day will come when, after being denied for so long, the people shall claim justice and RRPP’s awards will go to the dustbin.
July 18, 2011
Noon at Ngayon, Walang Responsableng Dayuhang Pagmimina sa Kabikolan!
Kahiya-hiya at malakas pa ang loob na ang itinakdang tema ng kumperensyang magaganap ay: Towards Responsible Mining: “Against All Odds”. Responsable para kanino? - Para sa mga malalaki at dayuhang korporasyon sa pagmimina kasama ng mga malalaking lokal na negosyante at para sa mga matataas na opisyales ng gobyerno at ahensya na nakikipagsabwatan sa mga korporasyong ito.
Kalokohang sabihin na ang operasyon na Open Pit Mining sa Rapu-Rapu, Albay (Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project ng Lafayette/LG-Kollins) at sa Aroroy, Masbate (Masbate Gold Project ng Filminera Resources Corporation) ay responsable! Mayroon bang pagpapasabog (blasting) ng kabundukan at kalupaan na “safe and environmental friendly”? Samantalang winawasak nga at hinuhukay pailalim.
Hindi rin responsable ang Magnetite Offshore Mining ng Bogo Mining Resources Corp. sa limang bayan ng Calabanga, Sipocot, Tinambac, Cabusao at Siruma sa Camarines Sur kung saan hahalukayin ang kailaliman ng karagatan 15 kilometro mula sa baybayin nito.
Hindi kailanman naging responsable ang mga dayuhang korporasyon ng pagmimina sa mga naapektuhan ng kanilang mga operasyon. Simula ng operasyon ng RRPP sa Rapu-Rapu ay lalong lumala ang kahirapan at nagkagutom-gutom ang mga residente dito dahil sa pagbagsak ng kanilang kabuhayan sa pangingisda at pagsasaka dulot ng mga lason ng pagmimina dito. Kung mayroong nakinabang sa binayad ng RRPP na P10,862.85 (mine waste fee) para sa 217,257 tonelada na “mine waste” ay ang MGB-V. (mula sa ulat ng MGB-V,2010). Sampung libong piso! Katumbas ba ito ng isang buhay ng nanay na namatay dahil nakakain ng isda dahil sa fishkill doon o ng isang batang namatay doon dahil sa kagutuman?
Apektado na nga ang mga residente sa pagmimina sa Barangay Nakalaya, Jose Panganiban sa Camarines Norte ay naiipit pa sila ngayon sa kaguluhan at away ng Investwell Corporation at ng FMCGI ng pamilyang Fonacier na nag-aagawan ng yamang mineral ng kanilang lugar.
Kasinungalingang ipamaglaki pa sa ulat ng DENR-V/MGB-V na ang malakihang pagmimina sa Kabikolan ang nagpasigla ng ekonomiya ng rehiyon samantalang ayon sa ulat ay nasa ikalawa sa pinakamahirap na rehiyon ang Bikol sa buong bansa. Kung sinasabi na umunlad ang ekonomiya ng Bikol dahil sa malakihang pagmimina – hindi ito maramdaman ng mga mamamayang Bikolano lalo na ng mga apektado ng mapaminsala at dayuhang pagmimina.
Tanging ang mga malalaki at dayuhang korporasyon sa pagmimina kasama ng mga malalaking lokal na negosyante at mga matataas na opisyales ng gobyerno at ahensya na nakikipagsabwatan sa mga korporasyong ito ang nakikinabang sa mga produkto at kita ng pagmimina dito sa Bikol. Sa ulat ng MBG-V/DENR-V noong 2010, sa kabuuan ay may P4,654,818,424.31 at P57,483,032.45 na kita mula sa “metallic ” at “non-metallic production”dito sa Bikol ayon sa pagkasunod-sunod ngunit hindi naman inulat ang mga dambuhala at limpak na limpak na kita ng mga korporasyon na maluwag na inilalabas patungo sa kanilang bansa. Maluwag nang nailalabas ang kita, maluwag pa ang kanilang operasyon dahil sa mga iba’t-ibang insentibo tulad ng: 6 years income tax exemption, 10 years export tax exemption, and import tax exemption at marami pang iba.
Kaya nga parang parang kabuteng nagsulputan ang mga ito sa Bikol dahil sa pagiging sagana ng rehiyon sa yamang mineral at prayoridad pa ng nakaraang gobyerno ni GMA ito para sa malakihang proyektong pagmimina na ipinagpapatuloy lamang ng gobyerno ni Noynoy Aquino at pinasahol pa sa ilalim ng kanyang Public-Private Partnership Program. Gayundin, patuloy ang pag-iral ng Mining Act of 1995 kung saan ay lalong nagbuyangyang sa ating likas na yaman para dambungin at wasakin ang ating kalikasan.
“Towards Responsible Mining: Against All Odds” ? - Ang responsableng pagmimina ay mangyayari lamang sa ating bansa kung magkakaroon ng re-oryentasyon ang industriya ng pagmimina sa ating bansa. Kung saan, ang kita ng industriya ng pagmimina ay napapakinabangan at napapaunlad ang mamamayang Pilipino at hindi napupunta sa dayuhan at sa mga lokal na kasabwat nito. Kung saan, ang gobyerno ang may kontrol ng industriya at hindi ang mga dayuhan.
Hindi dayuhang pagmimina at malawakang kumbersyon ng lupa ang magpapaunlad sa Kabikolan. Hindi ito ang sagot sa kahirapan at kagutuman ng mamamayang Bikolano. Pagpapaunlad ng agrikultura, trabaho at sapat na sahod, tirahan, libreng serbisyo-sosyal ang tutugon sa kahirapan at kagutuman upang mabuhay ng maayos at marangal ang mamamayang Bikolano. Tunay na Reporma sa Lupa at Pambansang Industriyalisasyon lamang ang magpapaunlad sa bansa at rehiyon.
Hulyo 13, 2011
A Word of Caution
Matthew 7:16 - You will know them by what they do. Thorn bushes do not bear grapes, and briers do not bear figs.
Matthew 7:20 - So then, you will know the false prophets by what they do.
The creeks are crucial to the condition of fishing grounds
The joke is that there will no longer be any fishkill - because there are no more fish to kill.
The fish that allegedly died off the coasts of Linao and Binosawan during the fishkill reported by island residents and the parish on May 8, 2011 could be the migratory species from the Pacific Ocean attempting to enter Albay Gulf via the gap between Rapu-Rapu and Prieto Diaz. Linao is a village facing the ocean and Binosawan, the gap.
The MGB V Photographs and "Bathing" in the Creeks of Rapu-Rapu
"With reference to your challenge to take a bath in the creeks, we have done just that. some members of the MMT and personnel of Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project (RRPP) went to a picnic and took a bath at Pagcolbon Creek on March 29 and April 3, 2011. We are attaching pictures for your reference. These pictures indicate the current status of the creeks."
In reply, Mr. Perdigon writes:
The good Director says he believes the contamination data but he is not among those “bathing.” Someone is shown sitting on the rocks (obviously not bathing) but the face is not recognizable (number 10).
Then and Now: What Difference? What Improvement in the Creeks?
Below, we are presenting ALL pictures in the Annex to the EMB V Investigation Report dated March 8-10, 2011. Those on the left are the pictures we have been showing to authorities which were taken from 2006 to 2009; those on the right are alleged to have been taken in the same spots on March 8 to 10, 2011 by EMB V and the mining companies. You be the judge if there is any improvement.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
As if to counter talks of S. Korea's KORES infusing new capital to Lafayette's ecologically and economically unsound mining project in Rapu-Rapu, as well as rumors that Albay Gov. Salceda may be part of the new efforts to rehabilitate Lafayette, the Albay Provincial Capitol draped its main facade this morning with a big banner containing the message: "Albay No to Mining". Several more banners were draped on the fence of Peñaranda Park.
BY ERIC B. DORENTEBusinessWorld / Corporate News
Vol. XXI, No. 145-A
Saturday, February 23, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES
Environment Secretary Jose L. Atienza, Jr., has ordered proponents of the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay to "set aside" at least P137 million for the environmental rehabilitation and social development of its affected areas, based on its contract commitments with the government.
"The Mining Act of 1995 and its implementing rules and regulations have provided such environmental and social safeguards that hold mining companies responsible even in the most challenging cases like what [the] Rapu-Rapu [group] faces now," Mr. Atienza was quoted in a statement released yesterday by the Environment department.
Earlier this month, the Rapu-Rapu mine’s proponents� Lafayette Philippines, Inc., Rapu Rapu Holdings, Inc., Rapu Rapu Minerals, Inc. and Rapu Rapu Processing Co.� filed for rehabilitation at the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 158, saying it incurred debts after it was forced to stop operations in November, 2005.
The firm closed because of cyanide spills from its mines in Rapu-Rapu Island in Albay, that reportedly caused fish kills and other environmental problems in the area and the neighboring Sorsogon province.
The court issued a stay order on Feb. 11 for the copper and zinc mine’s petition.
"I am aware that the proponents of the Rapu-Rapu mine have filed a petition for Rehabilitation with the court, but let me emphasize that this does not excuse them from any financial, environmental, social, legal, and fiscal obligations under their Mineral Production Sharing Agreement and Mineral Processing Permit," Mr. Atienza said.
Reached for comment, Rapu-Rapu Minerals Senior Vice President for Legal Affairs Bayani H. Agabin told BusinessWorld the proponents would comply with their obligations.
"But we probably have to discuss the amounts involved," Mr. Agabin said, saying it is also possible the costs would be lower than the P137 million quoted by Mr. Atienza.
"We recognize that the government is protecting its interests and the environment. We recognize their obligation," Mr. Agabin said."That is why we filed [for corporate rehabilitation], to make sure that we can continue operating so we can fulfill our obligations," he added.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Jose L. Atienza ordered yesterday Lafayette Philippines, Inc., proponent of the Rapu-Rapu polymetallic project in Albay, to set aside at least P137 million to ensure the implementation of all environmental, social development and rehabilitation commitments of the company under its contract with the government.
Atienza said this is to ensure the continued operation of the project and not allow it to become an abandoned mine.
The Rapu Rapu project has been plagued by a series of problems and delays stemming from a 2005 mine tailings spill that forced a 15-month halt to its operations. It was finally granted permission by the DENR to resume operations last year.
The mine’s closure has led to significant losses for Lafayette, forcing the Australian firm to seek additional capital from its partner the Kores Group of South Korea.
The DENR wants
The DENR is also mediating a dispute between Lafayette and its contractor Leighton.
According to Atienza, “I am aware that the proponents of the Rapu-Rapu mine have filed a petition for rehabilitation with the court, but let me emphasize that this does not excuse them from any financial, environmental, social, legal, and fiscal obligations under their mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) and mineral processing permit (MPP).”
Atienza explained that “the Mining Act of 1995 and its implementing rules and regulations have provided such environmental and social safeguards that hold mining companies responsible even in most challenging cases like what Rapu-Rapu faces now. Our laws were designed to ensure that no mine leaves unwanted legacy to the government, the community and the environment, and this I will make sure under my watch.”
Rapu-Rapu Minerals Inc. (RRMI), Rapu-Rapu Processing Inc. (RRPI) and Lafayette (Philippines) Inc., proponents of the polymetallic project and mineral processing plant, filed a petition for corporate rehabilitation before the Pasig Regional Trial Court last Feb. 6 in a bid to conserve assets in the face of outstanding debts.
The companies said the project incurred debts after it ceased operations in November 2005, when cyanide spills shut down the copper and zinc mine for more than a year.The Rapu Rapu mine has estimated reserves of 5.9 million metric tons.
Publishing date: Friday, Feb. 22, 2008 (11:51 AM)
Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza today strongly urged holders of foreshore lease agreements to utilize immediately the foreshore areas leased to them by the government and failure to do so will mean cancellation of the agreement.
“Use it or lose it,” Atienza warned foreshore lease holders. “Use it to benefit the people and the country. Lose it if you choose to allow the foreshore to remain idle.”
Foreshore lands are part of the shore which is alternately covered and uncovered by the ebb and flow of the tide.
Atienza said the principle of “use it or lose it” will soon be institutionalized by the DENR. “A forthcoming Department policy will include a proviso about the utilization and development of the foreshore area almost immediately after the approval of the agreement to benefit both the holder and the public.”
The DENR chief warned holder of lease agreements that the foreshore areas they had sought should not remain idle. “The lease agreement should not only be confined in safety vaults. Unproductive foreshore areas already leased by the government can be cancelled,” Atienza said.
Atienza explained that foreshore areas hold economic potential and could provide livelihood to millions of Filipinos. The income generated by these areas, he added, will boost the revenue of local and national governments.
The DENR chief expressed concern over reports on the absence of any improvement or development on some foreshore areas while some areas have been fenced off thereby barring public access.
“Foreshore areas should be developed for the benefit of the surrounding communities, as well as for economic good,” Atienza pointed out. He added that closing foreshore areas to the public is illegal.
He also ordered DENR field offices to conduct an inventory of foreshore lands and foreshore agreements and reminded them to be extra vigilant on issues of illegal titling of foreshore areas.
In another development, Atienza has ordered proponents of Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay to set aside at least P137 million to ensure the implementation of all environmental, social development and rehabilitation commitments of the company under its contract with the government.
“I am aware that the proponents of the Rapu-Rapu mine have filed a Petition for Rehabilitation with the court, but let me emphasize that this does not excuse them from any financial, environmental, social, legal, and fiscal obligations under their Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) and Mineral Processing Permit (MPP),” Atienza said.
“The Mining Act of 1995 and its implementing rules and regulations have provided such environmental and social safeguards that hold mining companies responsible even in most challenging cases like what Rapu-Rapu faces now. Our laws were designed to ensure that no mine leaves unwanted legacy to the government, the community and the environment, and this I will make sure under my watch.”
It can be recalled that Rapu-Rapu Minerals Inc. (RRMI), Rapu-Rapu Processing Inc. (RRPI) and Lafayette ( Philippines ) Inc., proponents of the polymetallic project and mineral processing plant, filed a Petition for Corporate Rehabilitation before the Pasig Regional Trial Court on February 6, 2007 in a bid to conserve assets in the face of outstanding debts. The companies said the project incurred debts after it ceased operations in November 2005, when cyanide spills shut down the copper and zinc mine for more than a year. ###
Friday, February 22, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
LG International Corp., the trading arm of South Korea’s fourth-biggest industrial group, and several other companies are in talks that may lead to an investment in the Rapu Rapu copper project.
“We hope to get a firm offer from some of the parties by next week,” said Ken Fung, a manager at Ferrier Hodgson, the administrators appointed last year by the mine’s main backers, Australia’s Lafayette Mining Ltd., after failing to pay off debt. “Half a dozen” companies were in talks, Fung said.
South Korea, which imports 97 percent of its energy and minerals needs, is increasing investments in overseas resource projects to secure supplies as prices gain. Copper, used in pipes and wires, has advanced 23 percent this year.
LG International, which already owns 15.6 percent of Lafayette Philippines Inc., the local unit that runs the mine, may raise its stake in the project, spokesman Kim Dong Wook said by phone yesterday.
Lafayette Mining’s shares have been suspended from trade on the Australian Stock Exchange since Nov. 29, when they ended at A$.015. LG International stock gained 0.6 percent to 17,700 won at 1:15 p.m. in Seoul yesterday.
Fresh investment in Rapu Rapu would be a boost for the Philippines’ drive to develop the mining industry. Lafayette Mining was the first overseas company to run a mine in the metals-rich Southeast Asian nation since investment rules were relaxed in 2004.
The five other parties that had expressed potential interest in the project included “industry specialists and financiers,” Ferrier Hodgson’s Fung said from Hong Kong, without identifying them.
“Any new investor would have to put in additional equity, which can be used as operating capital,” Bayani Agabin, a spokesman for Lafayette Philippines, said yesterday by phone from Manila. Agabin also didn’t identify the companies that were doing due diligence on the project.
Lafayette Mining, based in Melbourne, said Dec. 18 it was appointing Ferrier Hodgson to arrange a sale or restructuring of the mine. Lafayette Mining owns 76 percent of Lafayette Philippines, which runs the mine and a processing plant.
LG International is part of a Korean group that invested in Rapu Rapu. Korea Resources Corp., a state-run resources developer, has a 10.4 percent stake. Korea Resources spokesman Kang Chon Gu had no comment on the matter. Bloomberg
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Manila Standard Today / Business Stories
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
By Othel V. Campos
Lafayette Philippines, operator of the copper-gold operations of Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Inc. in Albay, is negotiating the sale of its project to Korean Resources Inc.
“From what Kores told me, Lafayette is asking for P100 million. But I’m told the two firms are still haggling,” Mines and Geosciences Bureau director Horacio Ramos told Standard Today.
He said Kores was still in the process of conducting a due diligence study of the Rapu-Rapu project.
“All told, the company spent around $64 million for the development of the project. $44 million was what it took to have the company operating, and another $20 million for rehabilitation,” Ramos said.
Bayani Agabin, company vice president and legal counsel, said Kores had expressed interest to absorb Rapu-Rapu’s outstanding liabilities.
The Australian subsidiary on February 6 filed a petition for rehabilitation because of financial difficulties.
Agabin said Lafayette was asking the court to issue a stay order to prohibit creditors from foreclosing on the company.
The plant is not operating on its full capacity.
“The new plant has just been commissioned. So we’re still at a break-in phase. We hope to gain momentum once this phase is fully exhausted,” he said.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
As if to exploit the current national preoccupation on the anomalous NBN-ZTE deal, MGB chief Horacio Ramos timed his 'official' announcement of KORES as Lafayette's financial savior at a time when public attention is hopefully diverted somewhere else. We say official because the DENR's website already carried in early February evidence of this DENR-Kores-Lafayette collusion.
A word of caution to corrupt government and Lafayette officials: deeds done in the dark tend to haunt their doers for a long, long time. You think you can cook up another anomalous deal under cover of another anomalous deal? You think you are high and mighty now? But you never know for the winds they are a-changing...
Lafayette in talks with Kores to sell Philippine mine
MANILA, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Lafayette Philippines, a unit of Australia's Lafayette Mining (LAF.AX: Quote, Profile, Research), is in talks to sell its copper and gold mine to partner Korean Resources Inc (Kores), a government official said on Tuesday.
The director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau told reporters that Kores was conducting due diligence on Lafayette's central Philippine mine, which was shut for over a year after cyanide spills in 2005, pushing its parent group close to bankruptcy and tripping up foreign investment in the sector.
"From what Kores told me, Lafayette is asking for 100 million pesos ($2.47 million)," Horacio Ramos said, without providing further details. "But I'm told the two firms are still haggling." Bayani Agabin, Lafayette Philippines vice president and legal counsel, did not confirm negotiations with Kores but said the firm was in talks with investors from Korea, Singapore, the United States and Malaysia.
"I can't identify the investors we are talking to," Agabin said. "Any investor will have to put in fresh funds to provide for additional operating capital for the company."
State-run Kores and South Korea's LG Co International Ltd (001120.KS: Quote, Profile, Research), which holds a supply agreement with Lafayette, together own 26 percent of Lafayette Philippines. The Australian parent owns the rest.
Agabin said the Australian firm was ready to either sell out of the project or retain a minority stake, depending on the buyer.
Lafayette was the first foreign firm to operate a mine in the Philippines after a law granting full foreign ownership of local mining projects was upheld by the courts in late 2004.
But it entered voluntary administration in December to avoid bankruptcy and fix its finances.
The Rapu Rapu mine was forecast to generate revenues of $350 million a year from annual production of 10,000 tonnes of copper in concentrate, 14,000 tonnes of zinc in concentrate, 50,000 ounces of gold and 600,000 ounces of silver.
The mine facility, which resumed operations in February last year after its suspension, is operating at just over half of its daily processing capacity of 3,000 tonnes of ore, Agabin said. ($1=40.55 Philippine Peso) (Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Jacqueline Wong)
Monday, February 18, 2008
“Given all of the above, the Board of Lafayette met on Dec. 18, 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 Lafayette group to be fully explored.” (Directors’ Statement) A very neat way of saying they had gone bankrupt!
“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 Gov. 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 Lafayette. The firm’s financial distress is absolute proof of bad management and could sacrifice or compromise environmental standards. We and the Albay Governor are asking: who will maintain the mines tailing pond once the mining firm seizes to operate? Who will pay the people of Rapu-Rapu the P16 million arrears in social development programs?
“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 Lafayette, we ask the DENR Environment Management Bureau to conduct compliance audit on all environmental concerns—NOW.
“We know that Carlos Dominguez, chairman and president of Lafayette Philippines, has filed a petition with the courts for rehabilitation to continue “normal” operations to protect all its stakeholders. The courts may then instruct all creditors and suppliers to continue their services and transactions with the local companies for as long as they are paid on cash basis. How much cash do they have? How long can they last? Understandably they will have to have a fire sale—sell whatever they can to have the cash they need till a knight in shining armour rides in. Meantime, courtesy of a kindly local court, payment for existing debts will be suspended until a rehabilitation plan can be agreed on what will fairly settle all outstanding debts to give hope for continued operations.
“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.
“The Lafayette mine is more than a financial mess. It is an environmental and social failure. How many of us forewarned the Administration and the DENR that the project is not socially, technically, environmentally and financially feasible but, still, they allowed it to proceed. Should they not be held accountable along with Lafayette to rehabilitate the island and compensate the local residents for the damages done by the mine? They also must ensure that enough rehabilitation funds are available for the affected people in the Island.
“Will not ANZ and the other banks that have signed the Equator Principles use this opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to social and environmental responsibility? Sharing responsibility would be the Banks that now operate the mine through their Administrator. These banks include the consortium of lenders (ABN AMRO, ANZ, Investec, SC First Bank, Standard Chartered, Standard Bank), LG International and KORES, Korean state companies, and Lafayette’s shareholders. ANZ and the banks that supported Lafayette should show the communities of Rapu-Rapu, who will live with the consequences of the failed investment, what “corporate social responsibility” means in practice. They can demonstrate this by ensuring that sufficient funds are set aside for the environmental rehabilitation of the mine and a sustainable development program for the communities of Rapu-Rapu.
“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.”
Friday, February 15, 2008
FOURTEENTH CONGRESS OF THE
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
First Regular Session
PSR N° 283
Introduced by Senator Loren LEGARDA
URGING THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC AFFAIRS AND THE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES TO CONDUCT AN INQUIRY, IN AID OF LEGISLATION, INTO THE VIABILITY OF LAFAYETTE PHILIPPINES WHICH IS SEVENTY-FOUR PERCENT-OWNED BY LAFAYETTE MINING LTD TO OPERATE THE RAPU-RAPU SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE IN THE LIGHT OF THE IMMINENT FINANCIAL FAILURE OF LAFAYETTE MINING LTD.
Whereas, Republic Act 7916, otherwise known as the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995, as amended by Republic Act 8748, was enacted to institute a framework that will facilitate the creation of economic zones in various parts of the country;
Whereas, Section 6 of RA 7916 authorizes the President of the Philippines to establish ecozones subject to the evaluation and recommendation of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, based on a detailed feasibility and engineering study which must conform to a certain criteria;
Whereas, on May 1,2004, pursuant to the powers vested under the above laws, the President signed Proclamation 625, creating and designating as a special economic zone an area located at Barangays Malobago and Pacolbon in the Municipality of Rapu-Rapu, Province of Albay;
Whereas, controversies which surrounded the grant of economic zone status remained even after the issuance of the proclamation, some sectors urging the President to revoke the same;
Whereas, the special economic zone is located in the area where the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project, an ongoing mining project, is being undertaken;
Whereas, the Project is operated by the Rapu-Rapu Processing, Inc. (RRPI), a unit of Lafayette Philippines, Inc. (LPI) which is 74-percent owned by Lafayette Mining Ltd (“Lafayette”), an Australian listed company, with the remaining 26 percent held by Philco (jointly owned by LG Metals and Kores, Inc.), a Malaysian corporation;
Whereas, Lafayette Mining Ltd announced on 10 January 2008 that it had just entered into voluntary administration allegedly to avoid bankruptcy;
Whereas, Lafayette Mining Ltd appointed Messrs. Rod Sutton and Peter McCluskey of Ferrier Hodgson as joint and several Administrators of the Company pursuant to section 436A of the Corporations Act 2001 of Australia;
Whereas, there is a need to assess the benefits against the costs or losses the government may have incurred while LPI enjoyed special privileges as an ecozone and in case of losses, to identify remedies for the Philippine government considering Lafayette's imminent financial failure;
Whereas, in the course of the mining operations of Lafayette, two reported mine tailings spills have occurred in the waters of Rapu-Rapu, resulting in the spread of various toxic substances to the rivers and surrounding seas killing fishes and other marine organisms;
Whereas, Paragraph (k), Section 36 in relation to Section 71 of Republic Act No. 7942, otherwise known as the Mining Act of 1995, require project proponents to restore or rehabilitate mined out areas and other areas affected by mine tailings and other forms of pollution or destruction;
Whereas, the financial failure of Lafayette has a direct bearing on the country's economic growth and environmental sustainability specifically on the local economies and communities of Albay and of the Bicol Region which is among the areas most vulnerable to extreme climate events;
Whereas, there is a need to investigate the viability of Lafayette to carry out its operations as a special economic zone and to ensure that its responsibility under RA 7942 to rehabilitate terrestrial and marine impact areas is enforced;
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, AS IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED, by the Senate of the Philippines, to urge the Senate Committees on Economic Affairs and Environment and Natural Resources to inquire, in aid of legislation, into the viability of Lafayette Philippines which is seventy-four percent-owned by Lafayette Mining Ltd to operate the Rapu-Rapu special economic zone in the light of the imminent financial failure of Lafayette Mining Ltd.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
National Mining Conference Statement: Save Our Land, Defend Our Lives, Uphold the Integrity of Creation
National Mining Conference
The Association of the Major Religious Superiors in the - Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission (AMRSP-JPICC) in coordination with Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) and the Philippine Misereor Partnership- Mining Advocacy Campaign (PMP) held last February 4-5, 2008 a National Conference on Mining at the AVR with the theme “The Philippine Mining Revitalization Program: Its impact to the Integrity of Creation and the Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines.”
The said conference was organized to: inform and update the participants on the status of the Philippine Bio-Diversity/Environment vis a vis the on-going Mining Revitalization Program and its impact to Indigenous peoples, provide venue for dialogue among the Religious and IPs, explore possible networking/partnership in the Local/National level, and come-up with AMRSP-IPs Mining Conference Statement addressed to the 14th Congress and Church leadership.
More than a hundred religious and lay individuals participated in the said conference. The first day was highlighted with a series of inputs and Situationer reports on the state of the environment, mining, and Indigenous Peoples. Also, there was an input on the legal aspect of the mining campaign and off-shore mining in Tanon Strait . During the second day, there were discussions on the involvement of the Philippine church on mining and direct sharing of the religious and tribal communities in the sites of struggles. Later, a joint Religious-IP statement was drafted and subjected for approval by the body.
The said statement can be read here after. In the said statement several points of action were raised among which are solidarity missions to sites of struggles, dialogues/lobby work with local church and LGUs, etc.
The Secretariat of the conference will release soon a CD compilation of the proceedings, inputs and information gathered during the said conference. For those of us who are interested in receiving such copy, please contact the JPICC-AMRSP Secretariat at (02) 4362561 or at 09163474625.
National Mining Conference Statement
SAVE OUR LAND, DEFEND OUR LIVES,
UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY OF CREATION!
We, the participants of this National Conference consist of Church, Indigenous Peoples and NGOs on mining and IPs’ rights, held this Feb. 4-5, 2008, at the Claret School, in after a two day sharing and reflection have become:
AWARE that we are facing a national crisis as our environment and ecology is seriously damaged, evidenced by the state of our natural resources including our forests and coastal areas;
CONSCIOUS that human activities particularly for profit and personal gain remain to be a primary driver for the unregulated use and unnecessary destruction of our natural endowments;
DISMAYED that despite rapid deterioration of our environment and biodiversity our government continues to embark on an aggressive mining policy;
WITNESS to the wanton desecration of the integrity of God’s Creation and the violation of people’s rights to land, life and livelihood;
APPALLED by the use of force and the creeping militarization of communities struggling against mining;
SENSITIVE to the special needs and inalienable rights of the marginalized sectors, especially the indigenous peoples and the rest of the marginalized poor such as farmers, fishers and women, who are the first and last victims of the wanton abuse of our natural resources;
MORE AWARE of our collective responsibility to nurture and care for the not only for this generation but for generations yet to come.
STRONG BELIEVER AND UPHOLDER that the image of God resides in every human being and in all of creation.
RESPONSIVE to the call of the to become responsible stewards of the , preserving our beautiful land and upholding the integrity of creation;
DETERMINED to blaze paths of solidarity and partnership for the defence of Creation, we hereby declare and vow to:
1. SUPPORT and build strong partnership with communities of resistance in the sites of struggles through the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission;
2. ENCOURAGE and STENGTHEN collective and united action in pursuing legal and meta-legal means necessary as gesture of sustained opposition to the mining policy of government;
3. BUILD AWARENESS AND UNDERSTANDING of the complicated issues and concerns that confront the poor and marginalized sectors, by studying more closely the situation and context of the indigenous peoples and the other rural poor communities;
4. FACILITATE closer relations with the indigenous peoples and communities affected by large-scale mining, creating platforms of interaction and dialogue between our religious groups and the affected communities at the local level;
5. SUSTAIN our networking and linkaging efforts at the national level, to create synergy and harmonization of initiatives to work together as a community in confronting the issue of large-scale commercial mining.
6. CREATE an Ad hoc committee, composed of the major organizers/participants of the conference, that shall coordinate and plan on the recommended points for action shared by the participants during the conference.
We, as church people in solidarity with indigenous peoples shall stand our prophetic ground. We offer our talents, resources and even our lives if need be as a last line of defence to save our land, uphold integrity of creation and protect human rights.
ASSOCIATION OF MAJOR RELIGIOUS SUPERIORS IN THE PHILIPPINES-
JUSTICE, PEACE AND INTEGRITY OF CREATION COMMISSION
ALYANSA TIGIL MINA
PHILIPPINE MISEREOR PARTNERSHIP – MINING ADVOCACY CAMPAIGN
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
At 4:00 AM on October 3rd, 2006, Bishop Alberto Ramento was lying asleep at his convent in San Sebastian, Tarlac City. A Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, Ramento was known for his tireless efforts to uphold workers’ rights and fight for the poor and oppressed. He suddenly felt a biting pierce to his body; “thieves” crept in and left him with seven brutal stab wounds. Ramento staggered out of his bedroom, but was too deeply wounded. The next morning, the police would claim that a robbery-homicide was the cause of his murder, the thieves apparently targeting a $10 used DVD player he owned.
Three months prior, a pounding was heard at a house in Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy. Armed men in military uniform forcibly took Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, two students from the University of the Philippines, and threw them into a service vehicle bound for a nearby town. Earlier, Sherlyn had accompanied Karen to the barangay (village) to help collect testimonials and data for her senior thesis on the plight of the peasants in the countryside. After their abduction, eyewitness accounts from a military camp testified that they were possibly raped and tortured. The image of their faces now scar the collective consciousness of the Filipino people; two more names to be added to the shameful list of the “disappeared.”
Such occurrences have been commonplace in the Philippines over the past few years. Under the banner of George W. Bush’s “War on Terror,” President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has instituted Oplan Bantay Laya (“Freedom Watch”) in her country with the expressed purpose of counterinsurgency. However, like the loose definition of the “War on Terror”, the “insurgents” identified by Oplan Bantay Laya have been members of worker’s unions, student activists, leaders of human rights organizations, and other individuals deemed a threat to the Arroyo government. According to a report by Karapatan, a human rights organization, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and their paramilitary collaborators have been responsible for 16,307 human rights violations in 2007 alone. Karapatan notes that these have included extra-judicial executions, involuntary disappearances, torture, forced evacuations, and other gross injustices. Many are done furtively at night; still others by day. University of Michigan Lecturer Maria Barrios notes that hired hands by the military, dressed as civilians, would carry out motorcycle drive-by shootings on people deemed “enemies of the state.” On October 10th, witnesses saw Alano Clerigo forcibly taken by elements of the Scout Rangers Company under the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion in Barangay Menchaca, Negros Occidental. As a “subversive” member of the local peasant’s organization championing for better working conditions, he was burned, slashed, mauled, castrated, and then buried alive. Seventeen days later, Luicito Bustamante was abducted, only to surface on November 14th after a judge ordered his presentation in court. His testimonial revealed that the AFP, trained and well-versed in torture tactics by the U.S. military, coerced him into eating his own feces and suffocated him by a plastic bag wrapped around his head. The justification by the military for carrying out such heinous acts: the victims are members of the Communist Party of the Philippines or other “leftist” organizations working to destabilize the “free” government.
Yet, these crimes against humanity are not going unnoticed. Many parallels are being drawn between the current state and the U.S.-backed repressive regime of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1980’s. During his tenure in office, the country was marred by rampant corruption and political mismanagement, exacerbated by rampant political killings and the constant looting of funds from the treasury. Hardened from the experience of combating the Marcos regime, similar measures are being taken by Filipino and other human rights organizations to raise awareness of these atrocities. At a conference in The Hague, Netherlands on March 26th, 2007, the Permanent People’s Tribunal declared the governments of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, George W. Bush, and their collaborating multinational firms guilty of trampling down Philippine sovereignty by plundering the country and oppressing its people. In a press release, the Tribunal further condemned the actions of the government in allowing widespread U.S. military and economic intervention, hindering the peoples’ right to self-determination by baselessly labeling them as “terrorists.” On September 22nd, 2005, Diosadado Fortuna, the union leader for Nestle, was murdered for fighting the exploitation that the Nestle management exacted upon its workers. The Kilusang Mayo Uno labor center, in response, declared September 29th as the National Day of Protest and Indignation and motivated workers to leave the factories to mourn his death. Their actions provided a strong front of solidarity and protest.
On Rapu-Rapu in Albay Province, the Australian firm Lafayette has been plundering huge profits off of extracting precious metals from the island. With the benefits of Arroyo-backed tax cuts, Lafayette earns an average of $1.3 billion annually by strip-mining the land with complete disregard for the environment. Filipino news magazine Bulatlat notes five instances within the last two years, the most recent being November 6th, 2007, where pollution has caused the fish around the island to be poisoned, of which the inhabitants depend on for their livelihood. As the 10,000 residents lay hungry, their protests have garnered the attention of the larger community, with their starved bodies a bitter statement of the hardships they faced.
These are just merely a few of the countless documented and undocumented incidents perpetrated by the Arroyo administration. Yet, the activists keep on fighting with unwavering resolve. Looking towards an uncertain future, they are moved by the words of the late Bishop Ramento to “find courage and confront the darkness that is engulfing the very soul of the [Philippines] and continue to tread the path towards the establishment of a just society under a government that genuinely serves the interest and welfare of the Filipinos.”
What you can do:
• Start an information campaign. Arkibong Bayan, an organization dedicated to justice in the Philippines, documents the ongoing abuses by the government and provides a wealth of information on the subject through their website atwww.arkibongbayan.org. Barrios has authored the book “Battered Bodies, Ravaged Lives: Women and the Culture of Militarism in the Philippines” and co-edited “Subverso,” both of which provide a personal perspective to the extra-judicial killings. Encourage discussions using these references in your political science, law, Asian studies, sociology, or women’s studies class.
• Sign the online petition at http://citizenspeak.org/node/1187, which persuades your congressperson to support H.R. 2764, a bill that opposes U.S. military funding and personnel being used for these killings. Ask your colleagues: do you want billions of your tax dollars to be used for purchasing bullets to mow down innocent people?Aid the fundraising campaigns of Karapatan. The Writ of Amparo is a powerful tool used by the Filipino judicial system to force the military to surface an abducted individual, dead or alive. However, each case costs $300, and funds are greatly needed to continue these searches.
• As an alternative to Nestle products, support the “Truffles for Activists” campaign by volunteering to make or sell truffles: this fund strives to keep activists in the Philippines alive and safe.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
NATURE FOR LIFE
By Anabelle E. Plantilla
The Manila Times
Sunday, February 10, 2008
This is the continuation of Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes’ statement on the 20th anniversary of the CBCP Pastoral Letter, “What is Happening to our Beautiful Land?” He chaired the Rapu-Rapu Fact-finding Commission which looked into the violations of Lafayette, an Australian mining firm.
He continues, “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 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.
“Lafayette wanted to have DENR hostage in their threat that if their mining permit or ECC were cancelled, they’d just walk away and leave DENR with the mine tailings and the pollution and the crisis. And DENR was just too weak to defend the environment and people’s health and welfare. It surrendered, in the name of attracting more investments—of the credit card variety. This is the type that brags, “Have permit and there will be banks to give you a credit line.” During the term of Secretary Reyes, the state was clearly captive. He could not withhold the mining permit that Lafayette did not deserve, and which clearly constituted a continuing threat to both local people’s health and livelihood and the small island’s fragile ecosystem.
“A little more than a year after they were given the green light by Reyes, Lafayette was up and about looking for more funds to expand its operations—activities squarely opposed by the local communities. But as a consequence of both its own management faults and typhoon-caused serious structural damage to project infrastructure, the mining company’s financial position “deteriorated to a point where by mid-July 2007 the Board considered it necessary to undertake a significant restructuring and recapitalization of both Lafayette and the project, to ensure that they remained going concerns. This deterioration was in large part due to the need to progressively cash settle (with additional borrowings from the Bank Group) maturing forward sale positions in circumstances where relevant commodity prices had increased substantially from those on which the original forward sale contracts were based.” (Directors’ Statement, 20 December 2007)
The statement continued: “On 4 October 2007, Lafayette announced that non-binding term sheets had been executed by the Company and the Bank Group with a Special Purpose Vehicle (“SPV”) owned by a prospective Cornerstone Investor (“CI”) and the South East Asian Strategic Asset Fund LP. These term sheets outlined the basis of a series of transactions designed to recapitalize and restructure both the Company and the Project. As part of these arrangements, a binding Option Deed was executed by the Bank Group and the SPV under which the SPV was granted the right but not the obligation to purchase the Bank Group’s debt exposure of approximately US$269 million (which included a significant amount of debt needed to cash settle outstanding hedge contracts) at a discounted price.”
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 Lafayette, received a default notice from its mining contractor Leighton Contractor (Philippines) Inc (‘Leighton’). Lafayette is a co-guarantor of the payment of money due under the mining contract with Leighton and while there was a cure period for default provided under the terms of the contract, Lafayette could not be certain that either RRMI or Lafayette would be in a position to settle this claim by Leighton at the expiry of the cure period, given the delayed nature and inherent uncertainty in the Bank Group’s processes.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Talk delivered on the occasion of the
National Mining Conference:
Upholding the Integrity of Creation and the Sanctity of Indigenous People’s Rights in the Philippine Context
4-5 February 2008
Government – from the Congress that gave us the Mining Act to the Executive Branch that so eagerly implements it and the Judiciary that as brazenly upholds it – forms one side of the divide.
On the other side is the Church: define her in any way you want, the Church as institution, the Church as people and their many manifestations in civil society, the Magisterium – Pope and Bishops together, or Bishops alone in each diocese and as a group, Bishops with their authority and Religious Orders with their charisms in an agreed-on Mixed Commission (if that still exists, following the “Decree on the Renewal of the Religious Life" of Vatican II and the Guidelines for that Decree supplied in the Document "Mutuae Relationes."). The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines encouraged cooperation between bishops and religious – not that there is a great need for that now as much as in the days of the Martial Law Regime when left-right ideologies tended to make relationships between bishops and many religious often tenuous and uneasy.
No, in the current collision course within the Philippine State between Government and Church, in the area of mining, the Church is, today, hardly fractious in character. She is united and quite tenacious. The Government talks of legality. In the area of mining, Government says that what they do, what they propose, what they advocate – are all legal. At one time the Supreme Court said no, the whole thing was not legal, not constitutional – but changed its mind in record time: yes, now everything is legal, everything is fine, and everything is according to the wisdom of the Philippine Constitution. After all, the Supreme Court is supreme. In fact, the Supreme Court is the law.
The Church, on the other side, talks of morality, of ethics, of what is right and wrong - not only describing what is, but prescribing what ought to be. In the area of mining, what the Government calls legal, the Church denounces as immoral. We have here a situation reminiscent of the early Christian era during the late Roman Empire when both Western and Eastern Church leaders denounced Roman law as immoral, unjust, as it applied in thought and practice to the absolute ownership of Earth by a few for the benefit of a few and the destruction of Earth, in violation of the integrity of creation and the intention of the Creator – almost two millennia before modern scientists caught up with the major living faiths in observing that the Universe had a beginning (13.7 billion years ago), has a continuing story and humans better understand what it is all about.
From the Church’s viewpoint, what is legal is a matter of factual contingency. It is another thing to determine whether the human legal arrangement is just. If it were to be unjust, said
The early Christian philosophers led by St. Augustine’s teacher, Saint Ambrose, quondam Governor of Milan when that post practically meant acting as Chief Executive of the Roman Empire, and later Bishop, warned the “capitalists” of his time that mining should, first of all, follow the “tantum…quantum” (so much…as much) principle, formulated a couple hundred years earlier by Clement of Alexandria: mine only what you need of the earth’s finite non-renewable wealth. There ought to be, as always, a proportionality of means and ends.
Going to present-day times, the former Chairman of the Rapu-Rapu Commission, who is both a Bishop and a Religious, Most Rev. Arturo M. Bastes, SVD, DD reminded us that last week, January 29th, marked 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 LAND? In answer to that question then, the Bishops of this country said:
That was twenty years ago.
Less than three years ago, Bishop Bastes said, the President of the
It also augured well for the cooperation desired by those who are primarily mandated to care for the “soul” and those who are primarily mandated to care for the “body” – if indeed such a dichotomy is possible at all in the one and same human person they both aim to serve – the Filipino.
Also appointed to the Commission with Bishop Bastes was Bishop Jose Rojas, DD, of Naga. Bishop Rojas contributed greatly to the discussions on the moral dimension of mining. At the outset, he urged, it must be recognized that mining is not just purely an economic or just a legal issue. It is primarily an environmental issue and as such, it must be governed and justified within the context of environmental ethics or what is now called geoethics.
Etymologically, of course, the word refers to “the ethics of the Earth” – to what is right or what is wrong in any human activity affecting the one planet where we move and live and have our being.
In the course of economic development and growth, many human acts can be either right or wrong relative to their effects on the house of life we call the environment. Human acts are rarely value-free or ethically neutral. They are always either right or wrong. And when they are wrong – no matter what great profits they had brought to some corporations, or revenues to some governments, and prosperity to some individuals and social sectors – if and when those human activities we refer to were essentially wrong, they ultimately and inevitably would have to bring worse problems and deeper crises, for truth is one: the truth of science, the truth of economics and the truth of ecology are one many-sided, non-conflictual truth.
For instance, a certain way of exploiting some mineral resources could bring irreparable, and therefore irreversible, damage to the environment. Any damage to the environment in this way can in turn bring irreparable harm and injury to human health. The dramatic example of the Minamata disease in
Another fact is the non-renewability and non-inexhaustibility of mineral resources. Once they are depleted, there is no way that they can be replaced or restored. We know, as many scientists have pointed out, that the essential resources upon which our global progress depends are not inherently and exclusively created by human ingenuity and technology. On the contrary, the essential resources upon which global progress depends are inherently natural in origin so that resources are fundamentally in limited supply.
Putting it another way: our technological systems and we humans exist within and are subject to the rules and processes of the ecosystems of the natural world. It is not the other way around. We are a part of and not apart from the natural world. Nature does not exist within a human-made and manipulated landscape. The biology of natural systems simply does not function subject to our rules, economies, and decisions. In other words, it is we who exist within and are subject to the natural setting. The natural world does not exist within and is not subject to human artifice.
A given mining operation, therefore, will have to be viewed by people and Government according to this perspective and first be evaluated as either ethically right or wrong, good or bad, before it could even be considered legal or illegal, before it can be judged economically profitable or non profitable, before it can be tested as socially acceptable or not. Without a full respect for the principles of geo-ethics, the exploitation of mineral resources can be very dangerous indeed.
From the very outset, then, the objective of any country that seeks to derive any good from the mining industry should be to ensure that mining is done the right way. In fact, underlying any mining law and the economics that appertain to it should be a solid geo-ethical foundation – a foundation of rules for the use of mineral resources, which are designed to protect people against environmental catastrophes.
Having said that, you will all begin to agree that scientists, great as they are, have a great responsibility as well to work with social philosophers and moral theologians and steer public policy and debate on the uses of the scientific knowledge they come upon. This was a beautiful thing that happened during the work of the Rapu-Rapu Fact-Finding Commission. It’s not just that the Commission Report speaks for itself, but that so many scientific fora and colloquia organized after the Report was made public delved even more deeply into the crucial issues and with more participation from a greater number of our nation’s active scientists.
Never have so many scientists worked together so selflessly and humbly, searching for the truth with pure hearts and love of country, and in the end coming to an unprecedented consensus of caveats on mining in a small island ecology with steep slopes, against the on-going threats of acid mine drainage and insufficient dam integrity – all of which, parenthetically, were lauded and agreed to by the Government’s DENR but whose conclusion and urgent recommendation for mining moratorium in Rapu-Rapu were so illogically cast aside by the same government agency that earlier became so famous for so much mea culpa and mea maxima culpas in the Lafayette mining tailings spillage of 2005 October to 2006 February and a few more times thereafter.
The constant insistence of Bishop Bastes before media that the ethical approach that the investigative commission had taken was meta-scientific and meta-legal, or – in simpler terms – beyond and beneath the purely scientific and the purely legal angles, got chewed on and constantly chewed out by shameless propagandists – including one of the Australopithecus type like Mr. Peter Wallace – who mercilessly twisted this Bishop’s alleged confession of the “unscientific” methodology of the commission that he headed.
Wallace would have the temerity to repeat like a mantra, Hitler-like, the line that the Mining Act which so many of us seek to review is the best mining law in the world, while immediately hiding with malicious glee the enthymeme that yes, it is the best in the world for their interests, from their point of view.
We understand their tack: they believe that constant repetition might just turn their lie into a “truth”. And we … we really only have ourselves to blame when our hospitable traits are taken for weakness and illiteracy, when the consultants we take for our internal discussions of the precise meaning of our Constitution’s provisions on the national patrimony are not our own national but unabashed Australian interest defenders, even as we smile with patience at their grossly utilitarian standards and their shameless assumptions that what is good for them are what is good for our country as a whole.
The 1960’s song echoes in my ears, “Oh when will we ever learn, oh when will we ever learn?”
Imagine that a foreign corporation arrived one day with your national government’s blessing and seized your home; destroyed your local store, local farms and gardens, your church, your favourite park; polluted your drinking and bathing water; created hazardous waste dumps throughout your town; blocked your efforts to seek justice through the courts; and bankrolled the police who threatened, tortured, raped, and killed family and friends for trying to resist this destruction of your way of life, promised your local government more revenues and then twisted the arms of some national agencies to give it more tax holidays than the total duration of the mining operation. Would you not say that you had a few serious ethical questions in your hands?
Not the Bastes Commission in Rapu-Rapu but the United Nations, and international and local NGOs have independently identified the following human rights abuses associated with an increasing number of mining operations and which the CBCP as a body is so concerned about. You would have been hearing a lot about this since yesterday:
· Torture, rape, indiscriminate and extra judicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, employment discrimination, interference with access to legal representation, and severe restrictions on freedom of movement;
· Violation of subsistence rights resulting from seizure and destruction of thousands of hectares of forests, including community hunting grounds and forest gardens, and contamination of water supplies and fishing grounds;
· Violation of cultural rights, including destruction of sites held sacred by indigenous peoples; and
· Forced resettlement of communities and destruction of housing, churches, and other shelters.
And yet, to be fair, we must make mention of the fact that there is an Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, founded in 1893 and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1955, which includes an assemblage of scientists, engineers, technologists, geologists and other geoscientists, mining engineers and metallurgists, also other professional and para-professional groups who are engaged in or associated with the industries; and students who are preparing for careers in the industries, all of whom have committed to and are required under their Bye-law 30 to comply with their Code of Ethics and with the Code for Consultants when practicing as such. Down under, not all are as wild and irresponsible as Wallace – consultant to Philippine governments, think-tanks and newspapers.
It may suffice to underscore the very first rule, which they explain and we hereunder quote at length.
“The responsibility of members for the welfare, health and safety of the community shall at all times come before their responsibility to the profession, to sectional or private interests, or to other members.
“The principle here is that the interests of the community have priority over the interests of others. It follows that a member:
a. shall avoid assignments that may create a conflict between the interests of his client or employer and the public interest;
b. shall work in conformity with acceptable technological standards and not in such a manner as to jeopardize the public welfare, health or safety;
c. shall endeavour at all times to maintain technological services essential to public welfare;
d. shall in the course of his professional life endeavour to promote the well-being of the community. If his judgment is over-ruled in this matter he should inform his client or employer of the possible consequences (and, if appropriate, notify the proper authority of the situation);
e. shall, if he considers that by so doing he can constructively advance the well-being of the community, contribute to public discussion on scientific and technological matters in his area of competence.”
When you read such lines in a Code of Ethics subscribed to by Australian firms, you should not be faulted if you start wondering whether they have isang salita or whether they have, in fact, a double standard of behaviour – one for the home front and another one for investments abroad. Would they do or not do in their home countries what they so easily do or not do in our country? Again, we Filipinos would have no one to blame but ourselves if we did not know any better, if we so easily take as gospel truth the grandiose pronouncements of foreign propagandists, especially the ones we so hospitably allowed to infiltrate our society and many of our officials’ thinking on matters of patriotic concern and national interest.
The Bastes Commission Report remarked that people of earth have a duty to govern the world with justice and harmony even as they use for themselves all the earth and all that it contains. Church leaders are not – they could not be against mining per se. Mining has been an important part in the historical development of civilizations – from first (agricultural) to second (industrial) to third (information) wave of social formations.
Industries need minerals to support the production and flow of basic goods and services. The production and availability of a broad range of metals are essential to modern life. Throughout human history, economic progress has been dependent to a large extent on the availability and use of metals. We agree with the observation of the International Council for Mining and Metals that, given their unique physical and chemical properties, metals are essential for a number of uses – in transportation, housing, power generation and transmission and electronics, as well as for a wide range of high technology applications in the telecommunications, computer, and aerospace, medical and environmental control industries.
We especially note their acknowledgement that metals can be reused and recycled indefinitely without loss of their properties.
In any case, how fortunate should our country have been, given the mineral resources vital for industrialization! As noted in the Bastes Report, the Philippines is a part of earth that is so incredibly rich in gold, silver, copper, nickel, chrome and zinc that there is now a consensus among governments and industry in the valuation of the mineral wealth within the territorial limits of our country at more than a trillion dollars’ worth, at least. The problem, however, has been – again – the fact that the Philippine Government and the Filipino people do not really own and control mining as a crucial part of basic industry.
In geo-ethical terms the State and the Filipino people have to date not actively subscribed to the fundamental geo-ethical principle of stewardship. Stewardship, in general, means the protection, care and proper use of this world’s resources.
According to the Principle of Stewardship, human beings are called by nature to nurture, protect, use, order, and adorn the earth and all living and nonliving creatures in harmony with and obedience to the fundamental laws written into the very nature of all things. Thus, the steward is more a manager, and not an absolute owner.
In this era of rising consciousness about the physical environment, we humans are called to a sense of moral responsibility for the protection of the environment. And the State and the Filipino people are likewise called to care for the special environment and biodiversity they have been gifted with, including all the natural wealth and mineral resources of the Philippine archipelago – in short, to be responsible as stewards for the national patrimony towards the attainment of the common good.
As stewards, the State and the Filipino people must be able to effectively impress on miners the importance of responsible management of their operations from discovery to closure, contributing to the scientific knowledge regarding the safe production, use and disposal of metals. Past mining methods have had, and methods used in countries with lax environmental regulations continue to have, devastating environmental and public health effects.
And, of course, no matter how huge the mineral deposits, they are finite. Wouldn’t the mineral resources run out soon enough on account of their being limited, given the unregulated corporate greed to control every significant mineral vein in the country? Shouldn’t we rather develop our own basic and medium industries to ensure we have enough wherewithal for industrialization? As stewards, Government and people are responsible for furthering the task of building a strong industrial economy. They must not give up on the possibility of seriously developing in our country an integrated mining industry.
There is room for foreign investments – room. It is crazy to give them the whole house. That would be tantamount, again, to giving up on the stewardship obligation and vocation.
What we need is a strong state that can rigorously screen and strictly regulate these investors and amend the Mining Act to include the crucial provision of the Government's pre-tax share of the cash flow generated by a mining project. In most countries around the world where there is mining this pre-tax share representing the national patrimony averages a hefty 38% (Chile 15.00%, Bolivia 27.06% ,Venezuela 32.82% ,Peru 36.52%, United States 36.61%, Mexico 37.21%, Botswana 40.10%, Brazil 40.85%, Argentina 46.13%, Canada 46.71%, Guyana 48.16%, Australia 50.60% )! In the
At the present time, the Mining Act is blind on how the State – which has the exclusive duty to explore, develop and utilize natural resources – would participate in the profits of service contracts such as financial and technical assistance agreements with mining contractors. The law also does not guarantee that the government will receive an equitable share on the mining contractor's profit. The government's share in the mining deals only includes taxes, duties, and other fees paid by the contractors.
The payment of these fees does not immediately benefit the Philippines as the contractors are given the privilege of first fully recovering their pre-operating and property expenses before paying their financial obligations to the government, not to mention the aggressive grant of tax holidays to foreign investors in mining, which does not make sense at all since mining is that kind of investment which is neither market-seeking nor efficiency-seeking so much as clear asset-seeking.
In essence, with a strong state and a people who understand the principle of stewardship, mining projects that cannot absorb the environmental and social costs of modern mining should not be allowed to proceed. Period. Then we won’t have the case of a
Stewardship understood in this way means primarily the preservation and conservation of nature. However, it does not in any way preclude the creative transformation of nature, represented by human ingenuity and technology. In performing this task, however, human beings must recognize that they can only proceed within a certain limit and that the resources with which they must work are not necessarily inexhaustible.
Thus, stewardship – to the chagrin of many businessmen - is not a license for doing just about anything or for trying out anything just because it is possible. Rather it entails more than anything else, restraint and responsibility in the use of this world’s resources. No matter how human beings may progress in science, freedom, and power, they should not dare abuse this responsibility and in the process contradict their own human nature with the consequence of destroying themselves and their environment.
Nature is to be creatively transformed but not to be relentlessly exploited. The slogan should be “Need rather than greed.” We will not encourage people to be simply driven by the desire to satisfy wants and wantonly engage in research and experimentation without taking into consideration risks and negative consequences.
So when is mining an exercise in responsible stewardship? We can sum up the sense of our common teaching thus:
1. When the site on which mining is conducted is suitable, that is, one that has low permeability foundations, and a stable geomorphic environment.
2. When, in the process of mining, the ecological balance is not destroyed so that there is no harm to essential biodiversity; the air and the water are not contaminated by toxic wastes (there is strict enforcement of pollution control measures); there is no serious harm and injury to human health.
3. When social justice is served: the main benefits of mining redound to our country, and particularly local communities, and not exclusively to foreign mining interests; our nationals are given preference in the employment of personnel; taxes due to the government are paid honestly by the mining company; the working conditions are healthy and safety measures are in place, and all kinds of necessary insurance for the physical well-being of the workers are provided; just wages and benefits required by the labor code are given by the mining company to their employees, including bargaining agreements and recognition of their right to strike.
4. When the capitalization of the project is in accordance with the proportion prescribed by law and local capital is accorded a level playing field, e.g., no undue advantages and benefits are granted to credit-line foreign investors to the prejudice of the locals.
5. When cultural values are not sacrificed under the guise of development, i.e., the industry does not conflict with traditional cultures which are in harmony with nature.
6. When ancestral lands are not expropriated without just compensation, or in utter disregard for religious sensibilities.
7. When extreme care is taken to prevent or at least minimize the risk of serious accidents, as the damage to the environment or human health could be irreversible. It is necessary to create instruments for monitoring and controlling both local and transnational operations with mineral reserves which might result in heavy dangers for the life of future generations.
8. When population displacement engendered by mining operations, if necessary and inevitable, is delicately managed through humane and equitable relocation, and better conducted without physical force and violence, as much as possible, but rather in the context of reasonable and peaceful dialogue.
9. Most of all, when the “advantages” that are envisioned by such exploration and exploitation of nature are not to be confined to only a few but reach the majority they are meant to benefit.
We need to underscore the present situation in our country that needs to find new ways of thinking and new ways of planning and controlling mining activities. A considerable improvement of ethical climate is needed and hopefully some of the principles of geo-ethics discussed here will go a long way to helping in dispelling muddled thinking and giving new clarity of direction. It is not always easy. What happened in Rapu-Rapu is quite instructive.
The Bastes Commission had earlier established that "
The Rapu-Rapu mining project had met with fierce resistance from local communities since its inception, with concerns centred on:
· 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.
The government through the DENR should really just have followed the rule of law rather than the culture of privilege and impunity. The government that often prides itself in underscoring legality sometimes can be quite selective in its utterance. 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 (EMS), precisely as the law requires, and then let an awakened citizenry watch a reformed DENR do its job. That is what the Bastes Commission logically recommended which the DENR so illogically ignored – even as they both argued from and agreed on the same major and minor premises.
In addition, 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.
Bastes warned that Lafayette only wanted to have DENR hostage in their threat that if their mining permit or ECC were cancelled, they’d just walk away and leave DENR with the mine tailings and the pollution and the crisis. And DENR was just too weak to defend the environment and people’s health and welfare. It surrendered, in the name of attracting more investments – of the credit card variety. This is the type that brags, “Have permit and there will be banks to give you a credit line.” During the term of Secretary Reyes, the state was clearly captive. He could not withhold the mining permit that
And 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.
These are not the best of times. The world demand for our minerals is at a new high. And Government is at a new low - easily held captive by the transnationals, and so weak and so unwilling to put people's welfare and environmental conservation above the fetish of investment promises that become a source of even greater frustration all around. These, however, are the most challenging times. Can't a new combination of bishops and religious people succeed in forming enough numbers of the lay faithful so that the latter can seriously start transforming the world? Thank you very much and good day!