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.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
June 25, 2008
THE Philippines is still among the world’s most corrupt and politically unstable countries in the world, according to the latest report released by the World Bank (WB).
The Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project of the Washington-based lender showed that the country scored poorly, particularly in political stability and absence of violence and control of corruption.
“The WGI authors defined governance as the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them,” the WGI stated in a report brief.
In the WGI, the country’s percentile ranks for political stability and absence of violence was pegged at 10, while in control of corruption, the Philippines ’ percentile rank was at 22.
The WGI said Hong Kong got a percentile ranking of 86 in political stability and 92 in control of corruption, while Singapore had a percentile ranking of 90 in political stability and 96 in control of corruption.
Worldwide, Iceland got a percentile ranking of 100 for political stability and control of corruption. Finland also got a percentile ranking of 100 in control of corruption.
Country scores in the WGI are reported as percentile ranks, with higher values indicating better governance ratings. Percentile ranks indicate the percentage of countries worldwide that score below each country.
For example, a country with a percentile rank of 70 has 70 percent of countries scoring worse than it and 30 percent of countries scoring better.
The indicators are just two of the six-indicator WGI, which also includes voice and accountability, government effectiveness, regulatory quality and rule of law—where the country also did poorly.
In terms of voice and accountability, the Philippines ’ percentile rank was pegged at 43, government effectiveness, 56; regulatory quality, 50; and rule of law, 34.
Among the country’s neighbours in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Singapore received high percentile rankings for control of corruption and political stability.
The WGI also noted that in terms of political stability and absence of violence, the Philippines ’ index score, the basis for percentile rankings, worsened to negative 1.38 in 2007 from negative 0.15 in 1998.
The voice and accountability indicator measured the extent to which citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association and a free media.
In terms of political stability and absence of violence/terrorism, this indicator measures the likelihood that the government will be destabilized by unconstitutional or violent means, including terrorism.
Government effectiveness, meanwhile, measures the quality of public services, the capacity of the civil service and its independence from political pressures, and the quality of policy formulation.
In regulatory quality, this indicator measures the ability of the government to provide sound policies and regulations that enable and promote private-sector development.
On the other hand, rule of law measures the extent to which agents have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, including the quality of contract enforcement and property rights, the police and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence.
The last indicator, control of corruption, measures the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as “capture” of the state by elites and private interests.
The WGI covers studies made by experts in more than 200 countries and territories between 1996 and 2007. They organize and synthesize data reflecting the views of thousands of stakeholders worldwide, including respondents to household and firm surveys, and experts from non-government organizations, public-sector agencies and providers of commercial business information.
The latest update of the WGI is based on 35 data sources from 32 organizations around the world. The WGI is considered as one of the largest compilations of cross-country data on governance that is publicly available.
Monday, August 11, 2008
As Korean firms gain control of gov’t flagship mining project: Closure of Rapu-Rapu Mine sought anew
By Lisa Ito
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 19, June 15-21, 2008
Bicolanos and environmental advocates want the government’s flagship mining project in Rapu-Rapu terminated before it resumes operations under new Korean owners next month.
The mine in Rapu-Rapu Island , off the coast of Albay province, has been estimated to generate $350 million a year from revenues from annual production of 11,000 tonnes of copper and 13,000 tonnes of zinc.
The open-pit mine was previously owned by Lafayette Mining Limited (LML), an Australian firm and had started operations in April 2005. The project caused two mine spills, a landslide and several fish kills from June 2005 to October 2007.
Mounting debts and community opposition from the local to the international levels forced Lafayette to go under voluntary administration in December last year.
Ownership of the mine is currently under the control of Philco Resources Limited (Philco), a joint venture company registered in Malaysia and owned by Korean firms LG International Corporation and state-owned minerals explorer Korea Resources Corporation (Kores). Philco bought Lafayette ’s 74 percent stake in the mine last March.
Officials of Lafayette Philippines, Inc. (LPI), the Filipino management team running the Rapu-Rapu project since 2006, resigned this first week of June after negotiations with Philco fell through. The mine is expected to resume operations under its new Korean owners by July.
But Church groups, Bicolanos, and environmental groups now clamor for the Korean investors go the same way as Australian-owned Lafayette : pack up and out of Rapu-Rapu island for good.
Total closure sought
Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes last Friday called on the Philippine government to impose the “total closure” of the Rapu-Rapu mine, in the wake of month-long protests from Rapu-Rapu residents, Bicolano groups, and environmental organizations.
In a statement posted at the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website, Bastes said that mining “ruined not only the environment but the economy” of Rapu-Rapu island. Bastes is the former head of a Presidential investigative commission which concluded in November 2006 that LPI engaged in irresponsible mining and recommended that the project be terminated.
The bishop said Rapu-Rapu mining is supposed to be the government’s “flagship” project in its revitalized mining industry program but it turned out to be a “fiasco.”
Korean Embassy picketed
Philippine environmental groups launched the first salvo of protests against the new mine owners, starting with a picket in front of the Korean Embassy in Makati City last June 11.
A crowd of around 50 fisher folks and residents of Rapu-Rapu island, environmental advocates, and supportive Korean citizens protested in front of the Embassy Tuesday morning and called on South Korean Ambassador Hong Jong-ki to support the pullout of Kores and LG International’s investments in the Rapu-Rapu mine.
Clemente Bautista, national Coordinator of militant environmental group Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, said, “There is no reason to continue the Lafayette mining project. Its three-year operation in Rapu-Rapu Island has brought so much environmental destruction, community displacements, human rights violations and livelihood loss to the local people.”
Bicol residents expressed their rejection of the mine’s new Korean owners. “We are now just trying to recuperate from the division and damages Lafayette brought to our people. The urgent action is the rehabilitation of the island and the compensation of mining-affected people not another mining operation,” said Antonio Casitas, spokespersons of Sagip Isla Sagip Kapwa, a local organization leading the mining opposition in the island.
“Large-scale mining is not technically, economically and socially feasible in the small-island ecosystem of Rapu-Rapu. The Korean companies are not welcome in the island and they will suffer the same fate of Lafayette ,” stressed Arieto Radores, spokeperson of Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagmimina at Kumbersyong Agraryo (UMALPAS Ka-Bikol or Unity of People Against Mining and Agricultural Conversion).
Protest song launched
An environmental NGO also expressed its opposition to the Rapu-Rapu project by releasing a CD of protest songs. The Centre for Environmental Concerns (CEC-Phils), which promotes progressive and sustainable environmental advocacy, launched a music CD entitled Rapu-Rapu Atbp: Taghoy ng Kalikasan on the eve of World Environment Day on June 4.
Named after the controversial mining project, the album’s title and carrier single is “an indictment of the plunder, pain and destruction caused by the mining project in Rapu-Rapu”, said CEC-Phils Executive Director Frances Quimpo.
The mining operations will last for approximately seven years, but its negative impacts on the environment is expected to persist for decades after the mine closes, Quimpo said.
“We hope to help bring the issues faced by the environment and people of Rapu-Rapu to a wider audience through the song, to gather more popular support for the closure of the mine,” Quimpo added.
Philippine News Agency
MANILA, June 20 - Philippine Catholic bishops have found an ally on their counterparts in Australia in their bid to stop mining activities operated by Australian firms in the country.
Australian Bishop Michael Putney said they are willing to help the local Catholic prelates’ campaign against Australian-controlled mining operations.
However, the Australian prelate refused to issue details on the possible assistance they will be extending, noting that they are willing to help if asked by the Filipino prelates.
“But we are very interested in assisting them. So if the Bishops Conference in the Philippines wanted us to become engaged in the matter then I’m sure we would be open to it,” said Putney, on the sidelines of the12th Asia-Pacific Forum of the Australian Embassy on Thursday.
He noted that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Australia conducted discussions on mining concerns raised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) but they do not have any official statement yet.
Putney, chairman of the CBCA-Commission on Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue, added that they are interested in the reflections of the CBCP about mining.
Mining firms, including Australian operated companies are interested in conducting operation in the Philippines , which they considered as one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world.
Australia-based Lafayette mining company operating in Albay province pulled out over environmental issues, their operation was immediately taken over by a Korean state-run mining company.
Aside from Filipino bishops, local resident in areas where mining operations are being conducted expressed opposition on the activities, saying that mining companies are destroying their livelihood. (PNA)
Saturday, June 21, 2008
PHILIPPINE Catholic bishops have found an ally from their counter-part in Australia in their bid to stop mining activities operated by Australian firms in the country.
Australian Bishop Michael Putney said they are willing to help the local Catholic prelates' campaign against Australian-controlled mining operations.
However, the Australian prelate refused to issue details on the possible assistance they will be extending, noting that they are willing to help if asked by the Filipino prelates.
"But we are very interested in assisting them. So if the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) wanted us to get involved in the matter then I'm sure we would be open to it," said Putney.
He noted that the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Australia (CBCA) conducted discussions on mining concerns raised by the CBCP, but they do not have any official statement yet.
Putney, chairman of the CBCA Commission on Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue, added that they are interested in the reflections of the CBCP about mining.
Mining firms, including Australian-operated companies, are interested in conducting operation in the Philippines , which they considered as one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world.
Australia-based Lafayette mining company operating in Albay province pulled out over environmental issues. The firm's operation was immediately taken over by a Korean state-run mining company.
Aside from the Filipino bishops, local resident in areas where mining operations are being conducted expressed opposition to the activities, saying that mining companies are destroying not only the environment but also their lives. (FP/Sunnex)
Antonio M. Claparols
President, Ecological Society of the Philippines
THE GREEN REVOLUTION
Sunday, June 15, 2008
The Philippine environment, dubbed a mega biodiversity country, is in danger as true as the saying goes. Our country once blessed with an abundant, healthy environment and balanced ecology is now in the threshold of an irreversible ecological meltdown.
Our forests are nearly gone and yet wanton logging goes on unabated with the knowledge of the government. Millions of species have gone extinct even before they were discovered and identified. Our water resources are running out as our forests continue to vanish. The air that we breathe is so polluted that with every breath we take— we inhale poison, toxic causing us to die slowly. Air and water are God-given resources, and not owned by anyone. Like the oceans, they are part of the Global Commons—owned by no one, but by all. Air has increased carbon dioxide content from 266 ppm (part per million) nearly 50 years ago to over 377 ppm today and it’s getting worse.
The Philippines is also part of the Coral triangle and considered to be the world’s center of marine biodiversity. Our marine resources are being destroyed due to the “waste basket” theory that the seas and oceans are the dumpsites of the world’s waste.
We all know that the seas are the life of the earth. They harbor countless species that complement our biodiversity and life support system. Our coral reefs and mangrove swamps are vanishing despite years of action and advocacies. These are the food chain and without them, all of us today will all suffer a catastrophic fate.
And so will the generations to come.
Our population continues to grow and with it, poverty is on the rise. We are a country so rich and yet so poor. Why do we ask? Is it a lack of awareness, is it ignorance or is it greed?
We feel that greed is the cause of destruction of our rich biodiversity.
Our government lacks the responsible actions and the political will necessary to protect our people and the environment. The economic order that they use is destroying us.
We need to change all these.
We need to repudiate loans that are marred by fraud, reduce our foreign debt and bring the culprits to the international courts. We need to create a whole new system that will not only enhance biodiversity but also result in eradicating poverty and giving us what is embedded in the constitution.
The right to a clean and healthy environment.
This is our right and we must demand for it—the outright violations of environmental laws on clean air, water, marine, forest, agriculture and now the dumping of toxic wastes and the selling of our patrimony to the extractive industries and bilateral trade.
This is a crime against humanity. It must be stopped.
Our country is rich; we can feed our population. We can be self-sufficient with our Natural Capital. We must think of ourselves first and protect, enhance and conserve our biodiversity for us and for future generations. After all, only Filipinos will speak for the Philippines.
We must not allow ourselves to be used and abused. We want food, sovereignty, clean water and air. We want a healthy environment for our people. If we need to die for the cause then so be it.
At least we can say that we did what we had to do. Personally, I see that the earth’s ecosystems will collapse in the next 10 years. We have seen the ice melting in the Artic.
We have seen the Extractive Industry Review of Dr. Emil Salim and the World Bank stating that mining will only make the poor poorer.
We have seen the GMO ban adopted by Switzerland and World Conservation Union (IUCN). We have heard Tony Blair call on the world to take action on global warming after the economic and environmental figures lost were quantified.
We have seen the ecosystem’s benefits, which give us life. The Millennium Ecosystem benefits provide us more than all the world’s gross domestic products (GDPs) put together.
Once an ecosystem is destroyed, it cannot be replaced. We cannot eat the gold that is extracted nor drink the waste that it gives. But we can eat, drink and survive with our rich biodiversity. Let us conserve mother earth’s natural capital.
We have seen our communities suffer from landslides, flash floods. And lives have been senselessly lost.
What are we waiting for? Let us ask ourselves.
A tsunami to strike Manila , or more people to die of starvation and diseases?
Time is running out. The earth is dying.
Tsk, tsk, so much for responsible mining. So much for sustainable development.
Monday, May 12, 2008
These pictures tell the stories of some of the people whose lives have been affected by the Canadian mining industry. Three different provinces are visited – Benguet, Marinduque, and Oriental Mindoro. In Benguet, Lepanto Consolidated has been operating a gold mine since 1995. Canadian company Ivanhoe Mines holds shares of Lepanto. Marinduque was the site of the worst industrial disaster in Philippine history, where Canadian company Placer Dome operated a copper mine for thirty years. In Oriental Mindoro, Canadian Crew Minerals, who have recently relocated to Norway and changed their name to Intex Resources, has been attempting to open up a nickel mine despite local opposition.
Canada, home to about sixty percent of the world’s mining corporations, leads the way in the global mining industry. But some critics have labeled the mining industry as Canada’s number one contribution to global injustice. As the industry continues to shape the world we all live in, it is the hardships endured by the men, women, and children like these that make our way of life possible.
Trixie looks down at the tailings dam for the Lepanto gold mine in the province of Benguet, where the toxic waste from the mining process are dumped at a rate ranging between 1,500 and 2,500 metric tons per day. This is the third dam built here after the previous two collapsed.
According to a fact-finding mission led by British MP Clare Short, as of 2003, there had been 16 serious tailings dam failures in the Philippines in the past twenty years. Additionally, over eight hundred mine sites have been abandoned and have never been cleaned up. Cleanup costs are estimated in the billions of dollars and the damages caused are irreversible.
This particular dam has been completely inadequate against the torrential downpour during the yearly rainy season and is especially vulnerable to earthquakes as Benguet is directly above a fault line. For years the chemicals have been leaking out into the nearby river systems.
Just a few meters past the dam, contaminated water (left) - carrying with it cyanide, lead, copper, and mercury - joins together with the clean water (right) coming from the mountain springs into the river system.
Many mining sites in the Philippines are located in the mountains that act as watersheds for the surrounding river systems, which poses serious threats to those living downstream from the mines. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, contaminated water from mining operations poses one of the top three ecological security threats in the world.
The dangers surrounding mining are exacerbated in the Philippines by the additional risks from the high rainfalls, frequent typhoons and earthquakes, all of which increase the strain on the tailings dams making leaks almost inevitable.
In Cervantes, a few kilometers down river from Lepanto’s gold mine, Suley sits in the middle of her barren farm which has been contaminated by the toxic chemicals that have leaked out of the tailings dam and into the river system.
Her farm has been barren for ten years now. “If it wasn’t for the mine, we would be living a good life”, she says, “but now, life is very hard.” Before, Suley’s abundant farm more than adequately provided for her entire extended family. Now they are barely able to provide for their basic needs. Every year they try replanting fresh seeds hoping that the soil will eventually regenerate. They will do so again this year, but after ten years, nothing has changed.
According to the Save The Abra River Movement, the siltation and toxic pollution of the rivers deprives communities in Cervantes of about 7.33 million kg of rice worth US$2.27 million per annum.
Remy washes her laundry in the poisoned Mogpog River in Marinduque. In 1993 one of the tailings dams of Placer Dome’s copper mine burst sending tons of mine waste raging down the river in a flash flood sweeping away homes, people and livestock. Three years later a second collapse sent waste in the opposite direction destroying the Boac river.
After Fifteen years both rivers remain biologically dead and contain dangerous levels of toxic chemicals. Dead trees and other debris can still be seen all along the rivers. But people here have no other water sources to rely on. The company continues to deny any responsibility for what was the worst industrial disaster in Philippine history. After being ordered by the government to clean up their mess, the company responded by packing their bags and sneaking out of the country.
“Imagine...being forced into a situation where you lived in a house...and a contractor puts a huge swimming pool up on your roof. You then suddenly receive a secret report that says the roof can cave in at any time and the water can drown you and your children who live below!...How would you feel if you had no other place to live? If you feel desperate, you have just put yourselves in the shoes of...almost 100,000 villagers in my home province of Marinduque.” - Congressman Edmund Reyes from Marinduque.
The San Antonio Pit contains millions of tons of mine waste being held back by failing dams. According to a leaked document from Placer Dome’s own environmental consultants, “failure of the dam is a virtual certainty in the near term”. When the Philippine government ordered Placer Dome to make the necessary repairs, and clean up the mess from two previous dam failures or face criminal charges, Placer Dome responded by pulling out personnel from the Philippines without a word to anyone.
Eighty years old, Thomas used to bathe in the Mogpog river every day when he was younger. His body is now covered with skin discolouration which he started developing about forty years ago when Placer Dome’s mine was in full operation.
Marinduque has never been able to afford conducting a full medical survey of the island, but smaller studies have shown that, of 59 children tested, every one of them had unacceptable levels of lead in their blood, and a quarter of them had dangerous levels of cyanide in their blood. Soil and air samples also showed unacceptable levels of dangerous chemicals.
When Placer Dome left Marinduque, they left behind them the mess from years of dumping mine waste into Calancan Bay; the island’s two main rivers of Mogpog and Boac were poisoned by separate dam collapses in 1993 and 1996; a population suffering from heavy metal contamination; stripped forests; and a nine-hole golf course. The province never saw a single centavo of the profits that Placer Dome raked in.
When the first dam collapsed in 1993, the flash flood of toxic waste swept away Thomas’ treasured cow and he nearly drowned. With the San Antonio Pit now on the verge of collapse, Thomas knows that his home will be one of the first ones swept under by the coming flash floods, but he has nowhere else go. With his already deteriorating health, he stands little chance of surviving.
Wilson was a fisherman living in Calancan Bay in Marinduque where Placer Dome used to dump its mine waste. Over a period of sixteen years, Placer Dome dumped 200million tons of mine waste into the shallow coral-rich bay despite vocal opposition from the community. The president of the company, John Dodge, continues to maintain that the fishermen of Calancan Bay “have not suffered in any way because of the tailings disposal.”
Before, most of the 15,000 villagers in the area made a living from fishing in the bay for a few hours every other day. Now, there are more fishermen than fish, and the men have to go far out to sea everyday. One day many years ago Wilson went out into the bay with a small cut in his leg. As a result, Wilson suffered from mercury poisoning rendering his legs useless. One leg has been amputated, the other one will have to come off as well.
“It’s just a picture, it won’t change anything. I can’t ask you to do this”
“I want to. Look, the dam could break at any time, maybe next week, maybe tomorrow, I don’t know. But I do know that when it does happen, my house and my family will probably be destroyed. And just like last time, the company will deny responsibility. I want that picture to exist, so that people can know what happened. For that, I would be willing to sacrifice myself.”
With that a brave Marinduqueño, D., snuck a photographer in the back of a truck into Placer Dome’s old copper mine, successfully evading the armed guards still protecting the property. Here D stands in front of the San Antonio Pit, containing the millions of tons of mine waste which will eventually come crashing down on his home. His desire to put himself in harms way for the sake of this documentation is a stronger testament to the anxiety Marinduqueños have to live with every day than any picture can offer.
In Pili, Mindoro, Henry (second left) and his family enjoy a meal consisting of rice, fish and vegetables. The province of Oriental Mindoro is ranked third as the province which produces the most food in the Philippines, and is known as the “food basket” of the southern Luzon region.
The food security of Mindoro is under threat, however, by Crew Minerals’ (now Intex Resources) proposed nickel mine. The proposed mine site is located within a critical watershed area that provides the irrigation for 70% of the province’s vital rice fields and fruit plantations.
Despite widespread opposition to the mine from all levels of the local population, the company maintains that the local population welcomes the project. Crew has lied to the people of Mindoro by claiming that the proposed method of submarine tailings disposal is environmentally safe and practiced in their home country Canada, when in fact this method is banned in Canada.
Ramon, of the Alangan tribe in the village of Kisluyan, in Mindoro. Kisluyan is one of 26 indigenous villages that face the threat of displacement if Crew Minerals (now Intex Resources) opens up a nickel mine on their ancestral land.
Although many of the indigenous peoples in the neighbouring villages are opposed to the mine, it has proven difficult to organize the groups to show their unified opposition and stand up for their rights. Traditionally the Alangan have been averse to confrontation.
Crew has taken advantage by forming their own group to pose as representatives of the affected indigenous communities to sign documents consenting to the mining operations.
Luningning, of the Alangan tribe, with her granddaughter in the village of Kisluyan. The Alangan are one of 8 indigenous tribes in Mindoro, known collectively as the Mangyans. The Mangyans, who once occupied the whole island, are peaceful people who shy away from confrontation. As more and more settlers began moving to the island, the Mangyans were gradually pushed higher and higher into the mountains. Now, with the proposed opening of the mine threatening to push them off their land, they are left with nowhere to go.
Maximo is the oldest member of Kisluyan and the acknowledged leader of the community. Maximo’s biggest worry is for the future generations. Living in relative isolation high in the mountains, the Mangyans have done well to hold on to their culture despite increasing external interference. The Mangyan have managed to ensure that their own traditional ways are taught in their schools, with Mangyan teachers, alongside the standardized Philippine curriculum.
For the Mangyan, their land is the very foundation of their identity. Generation after generation, the Mangyans have been taught to care for their land; “we take care of the land, and the land will take care of us.” Deeply superstitious, many of them worry that disaster will befall them if their lands – especially their ancestral burial grounds – are desecrated.
Stoking the flames, Jeff is a community activist working for ALAMIN (Alliance against the mine), a broad coalition of Mindoreños united in their opposition to the nickel project. ALAMIN has organized numerous peaceful demonstrations to show their opposition. However, members and supporters of ALAMIN have been subject to intimidation and have even been accused of being dissident-terrorists.
The Philippines is one of the hot spots of the so-called global “War on Terror,” so such accusations are not to be taken lightly. As documented by Amnesty International and the United Nations, human rights abuses have been reported all across the Philippines against legitimate political and environmental activists. Since the current administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office in 2001, there have been over 700 reported extra judicial killings of such activists.
Albert has worked in the Lepanto mine for fifteen years trying to support his family of ten. But his wages are not enough to support all of them so his wife has had to leave for the city with their four oldest children to sell fruit in the market.
Many of the men risking their lives underground say they feel exploited as they struggle to provide for their families while the company profits in the millions. The miners have no masks to protect them from chemicals and dust, they work wearing nothing but helmets, boots, and briefs, and have to pay for their own treatment when they fall ill.
Albert has no doubt that it’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make. “My family”, he says, “are my inspiration.” Together with his wife, they are putting their children through school in the hope that they will have better lives. It is this hope that gets him out of bed every morning to go back underground.
Lilia’s husband, Peter, had worked at the Lepanto mine for seventeen years when all 1,787 workers went on strike in 2005. The workers were on strike for three months demanding better wages, benefits and job security to reflect the dangers of their jobs. Management refused to meet their demands and responded by firing the 19 union leaders behind the strike, including Peter. After lengthy negotiations, the 19 union leaders eventually accepted their dismissals in exchange for the reinstatement of the other striking workers. The labour disputes have been ongoing with workers complaining that the company often delays or withholds their salaries to control them.
Peter has been trying to find a new job without any luck for two years and recurring health problems have been making his job hunt increasingly difficult. With Peter unable to find work, the burden of supporting the family now falls on the shoulders of his wife Lilia, sitting here with their daughter Trixie. Lilia has no formal education so her prospects are limited. The only real option available to her is to work abroad as one of the millions of Filipino domestic servants employed all over the world. “I would like very much to work in Canada”, she says, “it must be like paradise there...do you know anyone who needs a house worker?”
But even in places like Canada, she knows Filipino domestic workers are alone and vulnerable. About a month before this picture was taken, she heard reports about a girl from the neighboring town of Ifugao who was murdered while working as a domestic servant in a mansion in Toronto. But apart from her personal safety, what troubles Lilia most is the thought of being separated from her family.
As the sun sets over the mountains of Benguet province, Lilia and Trixie walk along Lepanto’s airport runway near their home where all the gold is flown out of the province. The pattern has been repeated many times across the Philippines; the companies come in promising to bring with them jobs, development and prosperity. In reality, the experiences of the people of the Philippines show that large-scale corporate mining destroys, pollutes, and disrupts agricultural economies, and displaces indigenous peoples. While the mines do generate a great deal of wealth, local communities rarely see any of it.
The global demand for these metals have been skyrocketing, and the mining industry is booming. Yet, in places like the Philippines where these metals are found, the effects will be felt for generations. Families are being torn apart, indigenous cultures are being eroded, livelihoods lost, and ecosystems destroyed – all for someone else’s treasure.
Posted by allan(at)lissner.net at 9:08 AM
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
AT LEAST 40 fisher folks and residents of Rapu-Rapu Island in Albay Province on Wednesday called on the South Korean Embassy to stop Korean investors from taking over the mining operation left by Australian firm Lafayette Philippines Inc. in their hometown.
The Rapu-Rapu residents, together with environmental activists and peasants, held protest in front of the Pacific Star Building housing the South Korean Embassy in Makati City , asking Ambassador Hong Jong-ki to provoke the pullout of the investments of Korean Resources, Inc. (Kores) in the mining operation.
Among those who travelled from Bicol to Makati to voice their opposition to the takeover is Antonio Casitas, leader of a local people's organization based in Rapu-Rapu called Sagip Isla, Sagip Kapwa.
"We came all the way from Rapu-Rapu just to ask the good ambassador to help us prevent further ruin in the island. Lafayette has already caused damaged in our environment, livelihood and health," Casitas said.
Other environmentalist groups likewise opposed the haggle between the two firms over the Rapu-Rapu mine, saying the sale to Kores is Lafayette 's manoeuvre to evade responsibilities from all the environmental and economic damages it has caused the island and its inhabitants.
"The patrimony of the people of the island and our province is being negotiated between two foreign interests, and we are being treated as powerless onlookers," said Virgilio Perdigon Jr., spokesperson for Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance.
Last April, Korean transnational companies LG International and Kores gained majority control of LPI, previously an Australian-owned company, which operated the highly controversial Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Mining Project.
In November 2005, LPI was found liable for the recurrence of cyanide spills, mine tailings and fish kills in the island, causing environmental destruction, community displacements, human rights violation, and livelihood loss to the local people.
LPI was ordered to pay P134 million to ensure the restoration and rehabilitation of the mine site, but there is no report confirming the payment of such up to this date.
"There is no reason to continue the Lafayette mining project. It should be closed for good instead of being sold off to another mining investor," said Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment.
"We are now just trying to recuperate from the division and damages Lafayette has brought to our people. The urgent action is the rehabilitation of the island and the compensation of mining-affected people not another mining operation," Casitas added.
The Rapu-Rapu project was the first foreign-operated Philippine project to reach the production stage after the Supreme Court upheld the legality of a 1995 mining law, which opened the sector to foreign investment.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has called for more foreign capital into the sector, which she said has huge potential to reduce poverty in hinterland areas where most of the Philippines ' mineral wealth is located. (AH/Sunnex)
Charlie V. Manalo and Pat C. Santos
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño yesterday reiterated his full support to the people of Nueva Vizcaya as he labelled a Court of Appeals (CA) decision preventing its provincial government from implementing an order seeking to stop mining operations in the area as “a temporary setback for environmental protection, local governance and the defence of national patrimony.”
The CA issued a 60-day injunction with temporary restraining order against the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government which issued a cease and desist order (CDO) against Australia-based mining firm OceanaGold Mining Inc.
“The militant party-list bloc in Congress supports the people of Nueva Vizcaya and its governor, Luisa Cuaresma in this fight. Gov. Cuaresma only put out a CDO to stop OceanaGold from operating the mine after it failed to pay P30 million for a quarrying permit, aside from the growing tension among indigenous tribes — including the murder of the village chief — that the entry of the mining firm has caused. The CA decision has obviously favoured the Australian firm over the local people of the province,” Casiño said.
The lawmaker visibly dismayed by the decision penned by CA Associate Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando, which he said completely favoured OceanaGold. The company runs the Didipio Gold-Copper Mining Project in Barangay Didipio in Kasibu town.
“I cannot help but surmise that the decision is part of the Arroyo administration’s effort to allow OceanaGold to go on with its mining operations that will permanently damage the area. The OceanaGold incursion into Nueva Vizcaya at this point is the cause of brewing tension and violence among Ifugao and Bugkalot tribal communities in Didipio. The company has in fact supplanted the government in the area as it has arrogated the functions of providing social services and peace and order in the area. It has demolished houses and bulldozed rice lands. With all due respect to the Court, we went to the area last June 7, were waylaid by a police checkpoint and in fact saw the deep division among the once peaceful local community due to the entry of OceanaGold. This, to my mind, is what the Court should do to come up with a better decision,” Casiño said.
Casiño, along with Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla, and Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan went to the area for an on-site inquiry into alleged OceanaGold’s violations in conducting its operations.
From June 7 to 8, the House Committee on National Cultural Communities held two on-site hearings in Barangays Kakidugen and Didipio, mining sites of foreign owned mining companies RoyalCo and Oceanagold, respectively.
The investigation also focused on OceanaGold’s alleged violations of human rights, the Free and Prior Informed Consent process, certain provisions of the Mining Law and the Local Government Code in relation to its operations.
“It should also be noted that even before the CA decision, DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Secretary Lito Atienza already branded the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government’s cease and desist order illegal. This emboldened OceanaGold to go to the CA and defy the local authorities. The municipal and provincial governments do not support the project yet Atienza is siding with the mining firm. We will not back down from this temporary setback. The militant bloc in Congress sides with the people and supports the stand of the local governments versus destructive mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya,” Casiño said.
The House militant bloc is composed of Bayan Muna Reps. Casiño and Satur Ocampo, Gabriela Reps. Ilagan and Liza Maza, and Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano.
Meanwhile, a Roman Catholic bishop demanded the total closure of a hotly contested South Korean-controlled copper and zinc mine in Rapu-Rapu Island , Albay.
Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes claimed the people would definitely be “too happy” if Korea Resources Inc. (Kores) and LG International Corp. will leave the area.
The South Korean state-run mining companies took full control of the project in April after its previous operator, Lafayette of Australia, pulled out over environmental issues.
Bastes said Lafayette got “bankrupt” after its investors backed off due to public clamor against environmental destruction.
“They (Lafayette) have no more investors. They can’t even pay their personnel anymore. It’s no longer financially viable,” he said.
The bishop said Rapu-Rapu mining is supposed to be the government’s “flagship” project in its revitalized mining industry program but it turned out to be a “fiasco.”
Bastes added Lafayette still has a balance of over P130 million in taxes.
The Rapu-Rapu mine was expected to generate revenues of up to $350 million a year from annual production of 11,000 tons of copper and 13,000 tons of zinc.
Kores and LG Group acquired Lafayette ‘s majority stake shortly after the mine was fined for spills that contaminated surrounding waters in 2005.
At least 40 fisherfolk and residents of Rapu-Rapu picketed the South Korean Embassy in Makati City to stop the South Korean investors from taking over the mining operations.
The Bicolanos, together with environmental activists and peasants, urged Ambassador Hong Jong-ki to provoke the pullout of the investments of Kores and LG International in the mining operation.