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.
Monday, June 29, 2009
12:20 PM, 17 Jun 2009
Source: News Bites
Lafayette Mining Ltd directors David Lewis Baker, Jeffrey Allan Quartermaine, Robin Anthony Widdup, Carlos Dominguez, Steven Clarkwood and company secretary Michel Gradus Maria Stevering resigned on June 12, 2009.
The company appointed Matthew Gaden Western Wood and Nicholas Mark Lindsay as directors and Timothy James Flavel as director and company secretary on June 12.
Friday, June 26, 2009
To quote from the article: “PECR is a public bidding round aimed at encouraging companies to invest in the country's energy sector... Coal block system that was offered under PECR 2009 was in the municipality of Cataingan. Five other areas in Bicol that were offered under the same PECR were Caramoran, Panganiban and Viga, all in Catanduanes; Gubat in Sorsogon and Rapu-Rapu in Albay.”
Coal mining especially in adjacent Batan Island in the municipality of Rapu-Rapu is nothing new. But for the DOE to expand and further legitimize its hated polluting operation… this government's insensitivity to the environment and affected communities knows no bounds!
by EA Delgado
Masbate City (24 June) -- Because of its coal deposits, a town in Masbate is one of the sites in the country being sought out for exploration and development by mining companies.
The Department of Energy (DOE) said Cataingan, 80 kilometers from the capital city of Masbate, is among 18 areas in the country which are subjects of 25 contract proposals to explore and develop prospective coal sites.
Energy Undersecretary Ramon Allan Oca said the proposals were submitted under the fourth Philippine Energy Contracting Round (PECR) 2009 for coal.
At least 13 local companies submitted the proposals, Oca said in a statement quoted by the energy department website www.doe.gov.ph.
It was reported that the DOE intended to finish the technical, legal and financial evaluation of the proposal within a month.
"I don't want to take this long to avoid any doubts as to what we're doing," Oca added.
PECR is a public bidding round aimed at encouraging companies to invest in the country's energy sector. These contracting rounds, which showcase the country's potential areas for exploration and development, are expected to spur investments and help cut costly oil imports as well.
Coal block system that was offered under PECR 2009 was in the municipality of Cataingan. Five other areas in Bicol that were offered under the same PECR were Caramoran, Panganiban and Viga, all in Catanduanes; Gubat in Sorsogon and Rapu-Rapu in Albay.
The DOE had earlier assured prospective investors that the government had "undertaken a thorough process of resource evaluation to yield high exploration success that is in line with our shared goal of efficient development and production of the coal area." (PIA Masbate)
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Protesters shout slogans opposing the reopening of Lafayette mining during a rally in front of the South Korean Embassy in Manila , June 11. / AP-Yonhap
By Kevin Griffith
The Korea Times
A picture appeared on the front page of The Korea Times on June 12 concerning a protest in front of the South Korean Embassy in Manila over a planned reopening of a mining operation on Rapu-Rapu Island , the Philippines.
This article is to inform the Korean public about why people are protesting against Korean chaebol which are trying to reopen the mining operation, and also expose the ongoing humanitarian and ecological crisis on the island.
Earlier in April, Korean corporations ― LG International and Korean Resources Corp. (Kores) ― gained majority control of an Australian firm Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI).
LPI has been operating a highly controversial Polymetallic Mining Project on the once pristine island of Rapu-Rapu in the Republic of the Philippines .
LG and Kores have taken control of the operation; therefore, the details of this affair are now the business of the Korean people.
Rapu-Rapu is no longer pristine because the environmentally damaging practices of mining have incurred severe ecological damage to Rapu-Rapu's ecosystem. In the process of mining, LG and Kores use toxic chemicals to retrieve the minerals.
In November 2005, LPI was found liable for many damaging cyanide and mine tailings spills which resulted in massive fish kills, environmental destruction, community displacements, human rights violations and livelihood loss to the local people.
While I was there, I saw the fish kills with my own eyes. I even saw a dead whale shark there in 2003. I served as an American Peace Corps volunteer and lived on Rapu-Rapu Island from 2002-04.
I lived and worked hand-in-hand with the 20,000-plus Rapu-Rapuhon and personally know the hardships the local people have faced.
The local people were given false promises from LPI that their lives would be improved by allowing a mine to remove the valuable gold, copper, silver & zinc deposits.
The exorbitant mining profits resulting from the mining operation have gone to LPI and the Philippine government; meanwhile, the fisher folk are losing their livelihood and the local population is losing their most important source of protein, fish.
When I visited the island during Christmas festivities last December 2007, the Rapu-Rapuhon could not eat fish caught from the sea because the risk of illness was too great. People lived in fear of their food, and the fishermen couldn't sell their fish on the mainland.
The local Catholic Church has a sign on the steeple that says, `` Lafayette thinks this is a hoax. Rapu-Rapu is suffering for real.'' Children can be seen naked on the streets, dogs with mange run wild and the local high school's computer lab remains damaged from a super typhoon; meanwhile, LPI profits by exploiting Rapu-Rapu Island 's minerals.
Kalikasan, the people's network for the environment, said that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) ordered LPI to pay 134 million peso (3.1 billion won) to rehabilitate the damages caused due to the mining. However, I have been unable to find any report confirming this payment has ever been made.
Kalikasan reports, `` Lafayette 's income during its operation was estimated at 3.487 billion peso (80.94 billion won).'' This is just another case of a mining operation being more concerned about profits and shareholders than environmental and social responsibility.
A press release from Kalikasan's Web site quotes their national coordinator Clemente Bautista as saying, ``There is no reason to continue the Lafayette mining project. Its three-year operation in Rapu-Rapu Island has brought enormous environmental destruction, community displacements, human rights violations and livelihood loss to the local people.''
An LG press archive states that once Rapu-Rapu operations stabilize, the Korean firm and Lafayette will be embarking on other mining projects in the Philippines.
Are we to believe that the catastrophic impact of mining on Rapu-Rapu Island is going to change now that Korea 's LG is in control? Bikolanos have been protesting LPI's mining operation for over six years now; I'm afraid that operations will not stabilize.
There has been a long history of exploitation of the Rapu-Rapu people, which dates back to Japanese occupation during World War II. The Imperial Japanese had a base on the island because it provided a valuable lookout point for the Albay Gulf.
The locals told me that the Japanese would rape local women and sometimes shoot them and their families. They employed forced labour during the occupation to plunder the minerals from the island.
Now, LPI is profiting from the purchase and exploitation of land on the island; meanwhile, the local population once again suffers.
Who should be responsible for the ecological and humanitarian catastrophe brought on by LPI's mining operation?
The Australian investors apparently feel comfortable selling their stake, taking their profits, and washing their hands of the whole affair.
Now, LG and Kores are the major shareholders; therefore, they are responsible. They have made a big mistake and underestimate the veracity and the fortitude of the Filipino people.
LPI must pay the fines and reparations demanded by the Philippines and stop the mining operation on Rapu-Rapu Island indefinitely. People matter, even if those running the operation consider these people to be nothing more than ``peasants,'' The people of Rapu-Rapu Island want their livelihood, food source, and island returned.
If you're interested in learning more about this crisis, watch Greenpeace's ``Undermining Paradise'' at http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=EnVg3nywXNQ.
Kevin Griffith is currently working as an English teacher trainer at the Gyeonggi-do Institute for Foreign Language Education (www.gifle.go.kr) near Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province . He worked as an English teacher trainer with the U.S. Peace Corps in the Philippines from 2002-04. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
NewsNotes, May-June 2009
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
A new study says the decline and loss of Philippine forests, fisheries and now mineral resources has seriously decreased food production. In their study Philippines: Mining or Food, Robert Goodland and Clive Wicks say the Philippines, once a major rice exporter, is now the world’s largest rice importer. They demonstrate the overlap of mining locations with indigenous ancestral domains, watersheds and areas of environmental importance – all critical for Philippine agriculture and food security. The complete report and a summary can be found here.
Goodland and Wicks say deforestation from the 1950s to the 1980s affected rainfall and the water supply, leading to a decline in rice production. Much of the country’s fisheries were subsequently lost due to poor management practices. The loss of forests and fisheries denied the poor – comprising perhaps half the population – two avenues to a sustainable livelihood.
“Despite these warnings,” the authors say, “the large-scale mining that is now proposed for the Philippines threatens to wreak further havoc … There is strong evidence from areas in which mining has already taken place ... that the extraction process damages rice production, often permanently.”
While the government presents mining as a means of lifting the country out of poverty, the study indicates mining creates relatively fewer jobs than agriculture, fisheries or tourism – about 0.4 percent of total employment – and says mines normally have a lifespan of just 10-20 years. The study notes that “(i)n most cases, the ore is exported unprocessed, just as unprocessed logs were exported during the massive deforestation of a few decades ago.”
Goodland and Wicks wrote their report based on a February 2008 visit to mines on the islands of Mindoro and Mindanao . Goodland discussed the report April 7 at a presentation in Washington , D.C.
He said 26 Philippine families benefit the most from mining. As the report states, “Mining profits accrue primarily to mining corporations, most of which are based outside the country; some go to the government, but little trickles down to poor Filipinos. Thus profits are privatized by companies while the costs are externalized to communities.”
A representative of the Philippine Embassy said the country’s Mineral Action Plan of 2004 sets high standards for the mining industry and includes strict provisions to protect the environment and indigenous people’s rights.
However, Goodland said the problem is a lack of enforcement. As the study says, “While the Philippines may appear to have some of the best laws in the world to protect the environment, human rights and Indigenous Peoples, their application is unacceptably poor. Many countries without such good legislation have far better practical protection for their people and environment.”
The study cites a number of negative factors that can affect the outcome of mining operations. “Mining … is especially precarious in areas of high rainfall (more than three meters per year); seismically active areas; steep slopes downstream of deforestation; and densely populated areas,” it says. “These conditions are common in the Philippines .”
The study also reports frequent conflict between the Philippine armed forces and members of local communities protesting mining. “This leads to further human rights abuses and undermines the constitutional position of the military as protector of the rights of Filipino citizens rather than multinational interests,” the study says.
Goodland and Wicks address recommendations to the government, mining companies, people affected by mining and others. Their primary recommendation is that the Philippine government declare a moratorium on new mining development. They also recommend a review of existing mining projects “to determine if they impact on food producing capacity, afford adequate protection to the environment and respect existing legal provisions and rights, including the requirement to obtain Indigenous Peoples’ Free and Prior Informed Consent.”
The Catholic Church in the Philippines will likely use the report to bolster similar arguments. Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines , criticized mining companies late last year that had “systematically engaged in the rape of Mother Earth and left a legacy of impoverished communities and environmental [despoliation].” The archbishop said the Church wanted a moratorium on mining until “the government and the mining companies learn to uphold the right of the indigenous peoples, compensate the affected communities for past damages, and ensure responsible mining practices.”
1. "allegations against the project are baseless, speculative and in no way supported by facts or evidence."
-- The International Solidarity Mission will release a full report of its findings. When they do, let's see if company reps can still say they are speculative. Let their methods and findings be tested by fair and objective scientific evaluation. Unlike what the company and DENR did with the findings of the test run. The company failed the test run. The presence of mineral contaminants in the waters were found to be way off the charts. There was even a fish kill mentioned (in passing) in the official report. Yet the DENR chose only the "expert opinion" minimally favorable to them. And that was all the DENR needed to grant approval to the resumption of Lafayette's mining operations. It was not a test run at all, it was a "tutorial run". In the meantime, why don't the company respond scientifically to the findings of Dr. Emelina Regis in her book "Impacts of Mining in an Island Ecosystem: The Case of Rapu-Rapu Island, Philippines" (Ateneo de Naga University: 2008).
2. “The project can only be successful if we protect local residents and the environment for the long term,” he said.
-- The project does not enjoy the support of the local community. The people themselves complain of health problems, loss of potable water, dwindling fish catch, social division, corruption, human rights violations, etc. And Lafayette-RRMI-RRPP has the gall to tell the people the company is protecting them. Let company officials speak about these claims in a public forum in Rapu-Rapu and let's see how the community will react to them.
Increased militarization in affected communities near the mine site
3. “Safeguarding the people and the environment is a priority which we are actively pursuing,” Corpus said.
-- Double-talk. People and the environment, them too. But profit mostly. Double-talk.
4. Since July, 2008, the new shareholders of the company have deposited P50 million in an escrow fund for its Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan (FMRDP). Corpus said the advance deposit is the first ever to be made by any mining operation in the country before approval of its FMRDP.
-- And the island's residents should just be grateful for the company's great generosity. Let's forget about the overly-minimal tax they're paying and the overly-generous tax exemptions they're enjoying, while they wantonly blast the bowels and mountainsides of the island to extract its minerals. And for whose benefit? Certainly not for the majority of the people of Rapu-Rapu, or the province of the Albay. A few local employees and corrupt politicians may have some share in the benefits, but definitely not the majority of the people.
5. "The project has successfully passed the surveillance audits for its ISO 14001 certifications for environmental management systems"
-- Ah, the ISO certification... Can this ISO certification restore the losses in fish catch, give justice to the human rights violations, the health problems, the pollution in water supply, and the displacement of the people? Were these issues even considered before the certification was even granted? Your ISO certification may be good for your company's image, but what good does it do to the lives of the residents of Rapu-Rapu? I tell you what it actually does to the people: it further disenfranchises the suffering voices of the affected communities.
These are pictures from an ISO 14001 certified company:
Written by Jonathan Mayuga / Correspondent
Tuesday, 09 June 2009
RAPU-RAPU Minerals Inc. belied allegations that its Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay is threatening the health and livelihood of island residents.
Roger Corpus, Rapu-Rapu Minerals president, said in a statement that allegations against the project are baseless, speculative and in no way supported by facts or evidence.
According to Corpus, Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic is continuously strengthening measures to safeguard the people of Rapu-Rapu Island and their environment.
“The project can only be successful if we protect local residents and the environment for the long term,” he said.
Specifically, Corpus said that if the project were to have any adverse impact on people’s health, the 875 personnel at the mine and processing plant would be affected first before nearby residents, but there has been no such health impact from the Rapu-Rapu operations.
Corpus cited the following recent measures to protect Rapu-Rapu residents and the environment:
The mine’s tailings storage facility (TSF) has been strengthened and developed further to a capacity of 1.4 million cubic meters, of which 540,000 cubic meters are currently available.
Corpus said the TSF embankment is designed with technical specifications to properly contain tailings, including an impermeable clay section to prevent penetration by stored tailings and tailings water.
The tailings are kept underwater to render them inactive. While best practice calls for a cover of two meters of water, the TSF now has a depth of 10 meters of water covering the tailings.
In the event of any overflows during heavy rains, the spillway from the TSF has been lined with concrete to prevent soil erosion that may cause turbidity in the run-off. The spillway is linked to the environmental ponds to ensure the company’s compliance with standards set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for water quality, which is constantly monitored.
Environmental monitoring is integral to its operations, including continuous monitoring of water quality covering an extensive area within and outside the project site.
The project’s approved Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program specifies a total of 26 water-quality monitoring stations. On its own initiative and as the project develops, Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic has established additional monitoring stations to cover a much bigger area, so there are now 37 stations.
Since July, 2008, the new shareholders of the company have deposited P50 million in an escrow fund for its Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan (FMRDP). Corpus said the advance deposit is the first ever to be made by any mining operation in the country before approval of its FMRDP.
When the plan is approved, regular deposits into the fund will continue on a stipulated schedule. The fund will cover the costs of rehabilitating the site and decommissioning the mine at the end of extraction operations.
“Safeguarding the people and the environment is a priority which we are actively pursuing,” Corpus said.
The project has successfully passed the surveillance audits for its ISO 14001 certifications for environmental management systems.
The ISO 14001 certifications signify that the environmental management systems of Rapu-Rapu adhere to globally recognized standards, and that the project is environmentally compliant, he added.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Raydz B. Barcia
DARAGA, Albay: The barely four-year operation of the multi-million Lafayette mining firm in the island town of Rapu-Rapu has caused an alarming reduction of fish catch according to the report of local fishermen and environmentalists in the Bicol region.
“There is an alarming reduction of fish catch reported by the fishermen in the island. Our collated data points that the people experienced an estimated fish catch loss of 80 to 90 percent since the mining operation of Lafay-ette mining started to dispose mine wastes into the sea,” Fernando Hicap, chairman of the militant fisher folk group Pamalakaya told reporters in a press conference on Wednesday held at Terraza Cafe.
“The fishermen are forced to fish as far as Catanduanes province which increases their working time and pro-duction expenses,” Hicap said.
The major source of livelihood in the area is catching Malasugi or Blue Marlin, a type of tuna in Albay Gulf. Marine pollution and degradation of marine habitat drove the Malasugi and other tuna species farther away from Rapu-Rapu Island.
Based on the report of Solidarity Mission, areas adjacent and surrounding the open-pit mining operation of La-fayette such as Carogcog, Tinopan, Viga and Buenavista have experienced rapid loss of coral covers due to pol-lution.
Residents from Buenavista village estimated that they have already lost almost 50 percent of their coral reefs after Lafayette’s large-scale mining operation started in the island.
A group of environmental activists, health professionals, fisher folks, church people from the National Capital Region, Japan and militant groups in Bicol conducted a solidarity mission in Rapu-Rapu Island for three-day.
The solidarity mission, organized by Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) and Sagip Isla, Sagip Kapwa participated by at least 37 people from 28 organizations.
“People are fast losing their livelihood and food sources in the island. The extensive pollution and degradation of the local marine ecosystem and water sources in the area have resulted in the drastic decrease in people’s in-come and livelihood. We believe that the main factor in this environmental degradation and pollution is the con-tinuing massive release of mine wastes to the rivers of Rapu-Rapu and Albay Gulf,” Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE told reporters.
Bautista said the local communities have observed the decreasing population and loss of marine species such as seashells and small fishes that they usually catch for food.
NATURE FOR LIFE
By Anabelle E. Plantilla
Last Wednesday, together with colleagues from the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), representatives from the reli-gious sector and community members and indigenous peoples (IP) from Zambales, Nueva Vizcaya, Macambol and Zamboanga, we motored to the DENR and then to the Batasan Pambansa for the filing of the Alternative Mining Bill (AMB). We were met at the North Gate of the Batasan by Representatives Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and Walden Bello who are among the authors of the proposed policy. After some short speeches, we all headed for inside the Batasan where the bill was finally assigned a number—House Bill 6342—signalling an-other phase of our advocacy.
The AMB aims to articulate the basic agreements reached by the Dapitan Initiative—a mass-based movement formed in 2002 to counteract the government’s creeping aggressive promotion of large-scale mining operations in the country. It is the result of extensive consultations with different mining-affected communities nationwide. The AMB is a proposed policy to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and introduce a new mining law to regulate the rational exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources and ensure the equitable sharing of bene-fits for the State, indigenous peoples and local communities.
AMB covers ownership, management and governance of ore minerals onshore, as well as quarry resources, sand and gravel, guano and gemstones. It excludes offshore mining and other resources such as petroleum and coal, natural gas, radioactive materials and geothermal energy, as these are resources that require specific laws.
AMB is a tool to elevate marginalized and impoverished communities to the level of big businesses (in terms of political power) through the legal system to force government, transnational corporations, international fi-nance corporations and other countries to face communities, to address the loopholes of the Mining Act of 1995 and stop unjust mining practices in the country.
What are the salient features of the AMB?
In economic terms, it seeks the imposition of royalties to be paid by contractors to national government and local governments. Thus, national government shall receive 10 percent of gross revenues (royalty fee) outside taxes while local government units shall be entitled to share of the net revenues from mining operations paid directly to the provincial treasurer, taking into consideration classification of local government, vulnerability and human development index, besides the local governments’ share from the internal revenue allotment. On the other hand, IPs are entitled to at least 10 percent of gross revenues as royalty, similar to government share.
The AMB seeks the introduction of a new mining industry process, requirements and policies such as the re-moval of the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), which allows 100-percent foreign land ownership. Thus, only Filipino citizens or corporations 60 percent of whose equity is owned or controlled by Filipinos is allowed to mine.
It introduces a new process of screening contractor applications, which provides for a more competitive form of application process that will maximize economic benefits from the industry.
It calls for the removal of the confidentiality provision under the Mining Act and mandates transparency and access to information by the public and prohibits the transfer and assignments of agreements to prevent corpo-rations avoiding their obligations to the State and to the communities.
The AMB decreases the maximum areas to 500 hectares and terms to 15 years including the 5 years for rehabili-tation for mining contractors.
It prohibits the use of paramilitary forces or to contract the services of the military for the private use of the corporation as well as the direct support by the State to the private security of the corporation.
It enumerates the following grounds for cancelation of the mineral agreement which is absent in the current Mining Act: a) human rights violations perpetrated by the contractor or any agent of the contractor; b) bribery, use of force, intimidation, threat of public officials and communities; c) vitiation of the first prior informed con-sent; d) failure to initiate mining operations in accordance with the work program within two years from the award of the mineral agreement whereby a ban of 10 years shall be imposed and the contractor forfeits the value of the improvements made upon the land.
NATURE FOR LIFE
By Anabelle E. Plantilla
Last May13, the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), a national coalition of NGOs and peoples organizations trooped to the Batasan Pambansa to witness the filing of the Alternative Mining Bill (AMB) by Reps. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and Walden Bello. This proposed bill addresses the problems of the Mining Act of 1995 and other mineral policies. Even though the country’s mineral policy is considered to be “foreign-friendly” on invest-ments, the latest survey by the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank, revealed that most of the international mining company executives regarded the Philippine mineral policy as one of the 10 worst in the world even if they regarded the country’s mineral potential as one of the five most attractive.
One of the salient features of the bill is its take on the socio-cultural aspect. It emphasizes respect for and up-holding human rights by imposing the obligation to respect the same and punishing acts which violates them. It urges the respect for the rights to self-determination of indigenous peoples by requiring first prior informed consent at their participation in all phases of mining and the prohibition of strategic legal action against public participation (SLAPP). It also allows citizen to file suits.
On the environmental aspect, it proposes stronger safeguards on the environment, which means higher envi-ronmental standards and fees, creation of environmental programs and establishment of no-go zone areas and the ban on the use of mercury and cyanide. It also commands contractors to secure international insurance and performance bonds for rehabilitation and response to disasters and risks. Because mining uses up a significant amount of water, the proposed bill initiates a water usage fee and imposes the obligation to reuse, recycle and re-mine.
It also introduces the Environmental and Social Impact Prevention and Mitigation Plan in place of the Envi-ronmental Impact Assessment to comprehensively assess the economic, socio-cultural and environmental im-pacts of mining.
Governance is key in the implementation of the law. Thus, the proposed bill rationalizes the role of government in the mining industry by acting as a regulator rather than a promoter. It seeks to transfer the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to the Department of Science and Technology making the MGB a scientific research institution under the DOST.
The new MGB will be the only authorized agency to conduct exploration activities; to monitor and regulate the performance of corporations; to serve as an information resource agency for communities, local governments and the like; to provide necessary mining-related trainings for local communities, local governments and indige-nous peoples. But the new MGB will have no political decision-making authority to determine who will mine.
Another feature is the creation of a Mineral Multi-Sectoral Council (MMSC), which shall be composed of repre-sentatives of the national government in particular the DENR and the MGB, representatives from the affected local governments, NGOs and indigenous communities. The council shall represent the State and communities on exploration, development and utilization matters; decide to whether or not open an area for mining; decide whether or not to approve mining operations and approve permits for mineral processing.
The proposed bill underscores the sharing of the burden of responsibility but also the sharing of benefits in the exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources. This means the MGB has exclusivity in the con-duct of exploration activities; LGUs having the right to determine the use of their natural resources within their territories through active participation of their constituents; and ensuring the free and prior informed consent of indigenous peoples and the consent of private landowners/occupants/possessors.
The balance between development and environmental protection is always a challenge, thus policies should be well-crafted and widely consulted. We should be guided by the UN Millennium Declaration, which says, “Pru-dence must be shown in the management of all living species and natural resources, in accordance with the pre-cepts of sustainable development. Only this way can the immeasurable reaches provided to us by nature be pre-served and passed on to our descendants. The current unsustainable patterns of production and consumption must be changed in the interest of our future welfare and that of our descendants.”
Sun-Star / General Santos
ANTI-large scale mining critics filed on Wednesday before the House of Representatives an alternative mining bill seeking to eliminate full foreign ownership of mining tenements in the country.
The bill, which was shaped through six years of consultations with grass roots organizations, environment ex-perts, the academe and other sectors, seeks to replace Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Erwin B. Quinones, campaigns paralegal of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Centre-Kasama sa Kalika-san-Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KSK-FoE Phils), said the alternative mining bill was sponsored by Representatives Risa H. Baraquiel (Akbayan) and Lorenzo R. Tanada lll (Quezon, 4th District).
The bill is titled "An Act to Regulate the Rational Exploration, Development, and Utilization of Mineral Re-sources, and to Ensure the Equitable Sharing of Benefits for the State, Indigenous Peoples and Local Commu-nities, and for Other Purposes."
LRC-KSK-FoE Philippines was tasked to draft the bill and its supporters are still looking for sponsors at the Senate, Quinones said in a phone interview.
Based on the economic provisions of the bill, the National Government shall receive 10 percent of gross reve-nues outside taxes as a form of royalty fee.
Local government units shall be entitled to share of the net revenues from mining operations paid directly to the provincial treasurer, taking into consideration the classification of the local government unit as per vulnerability and human development index (aside from the LGUs share from the Internal Revenue Allotment).
Indigenous peoples shall also be given at least 10 percent royalty fee from gross revenues.
Constancio A. Paye Jr., Central Mindanao director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said indigenous peo-ple currently receive a royalty fee at least one percent of gross revenues while the government gets two percent excise tax from the gross revenue.
The alternative mining bill also proposes the removal of the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement, which allows 100 percent ownership of mining ventures.
"Only Filipino citizens or corporations, 60 percent of whose equity is owned or controlled by Filipinos, is al-lowed to mine – to conduct development, utilization, and processing of mineral resources in the Philippines," a primer prepared by the Alyansa Tigil Mina said.
Sagittarius Mines Inc, which is based in nearby Tampakan, South Cotabato, has been granted an FTAA by the government. Sagittarius is largely owned by Swiss miner Xstrata Copper through a 62.5 percent interest, Austra-lian junior exploration firm Indophil Resources NL (34.23 percent), and Filipino conglomerate Alsons Corp. (3.27 percent).
The bill also aims to decrease the maximum areas and term for mining contractors.
The maximum contract area for mining operations shall be limited to 500 hectares and the maximum term is 15 years, including five years for rehabilitation, according to the bill.
Paye said based on the existing mining act, firms are allowed 81,000 hectares during exploration and a maximum of 5,000 hectares during production stage but subject to increase depending on the need.
He added that firms can have 25 years for production and can be extended for another 25 years. (BSS)
A Rapu-Rapu Mother Grapples With the Poverty Caused by Mining
Against the Plunder of Nature
More than three years after Lafayette, an Australian mining company, wrought havoc on Rapu-Rapu and its neighbouring communities, residents are still reeling from the effects of the mine-tailings disaster. And they fear more threats as the mining operations resume.
By Janess Ann J. Ellao
RAPU-RAPU ISLAND, Albay — The two cyanide-laden tailings spills of the mining operations here in 2005 destroyed the source of staple food and livelihood of residents.
Three years of protests and dialogues initiated by the affected communities and environmental groups forced Lafayette Mining Ltd. of Australia to declare bankruptcy and stop its operations.
But in April 2008, Korean and Malaysian companies took control of Lafayette and the operations resumed. Al-though there has been no report of cyanide-laden spills since the resumption of mining operations, the residents of the 13 barangays (villages) of Rapu-Rapu Island are again facing threats of environmental degradation, health risks, human-rights violations and loss of livelihood. Another battle is imminent.
The town of Rapu-Rapu consists of three islands, namely Rapu-Rapu, Batan and Guinanayan. The seat of the Rapu-Rapu government is on Rapu-Rapu Island. The province of Albay lies within the country’s typhoon belt and a major fault line, making Rapu-Rapu prone to natural disasters and earthquakes.
Magayon (Beautiful). The shoreline of Tinopan, Rapu-Rapu, Albay. Two fishermen are busy preparing to sail the following morning, hoping to catch malasugi or blue marlin, a type of tuna that Rapu-Rapu is known for. (Photo by Janess Ann Ellao/Bulatlat.com) The communities in the municipality primarily derive their livelihood from fishing. The town is known for its malasugi or blue marlin. Aside from this, the residents occasionally earn from selling abaca (Manila hemp), coconut and other farm products. The residents of Rapu-Rapu share their rich marine resources with the neighbouring communities in Sorsogon and Catanduanes provinces. The island also lies in the migratory route of the butanding , the famed whale sharks of Donsol, Sorsogon.
The mining operations of Lafayette, which had 80 percent of mining claims in the eastern part of Rapu-Rapu island in mid-2005, generated protests from the residents. They had said early on that open-pit mining would cause environmental degradation, health risks and loss of livelihood. They were proven right after the two tail-ings dam of the mining company burst in October 2005, wreaking havoc on the communities.
Fish were found dead in the creeks and throughout the shorelines of Rapu-Rapu. Residents from other cities and towns refused to buy fish caught near the island for fear that these might be contaminated with cyanide. Without their main source of livelihood, widespread starvation took place. Children were most affected as they are more vulnerable to sickness, even death.
The residents were still recovering from the impact of the disasters in October 2005 when another fish kill was documented in October 2007. This generated more protest actions from the communities and environmental groups. Before that year ended, the Board of Directors of Lafayette decided to close down the operations, say-ing they were unsuccessful in their effort to recapitalize to keep the mining project going.
But in April 2008, Korean Resources Inc. and LG International Corporation, both based in South Korea, raised their holdings in Lafayette from 26 percent to 70 percent, thus taking control of the company. The remaining 30 percent was held by Malaysia Smelting Company. This resulted in the revival of the mining operations on Rapu-Rapu, allowing the new management to restructure what it calls a “more responsible mining.”
Again and again
Last week, a group of environmental activists, health professionals, and church people from Manila, Bicol and Japan held a “solidarity mission” to Rapu-Rapu. The objective of the fact-finding team was to document and report the continuing and worsening impacts of large-scale mining on the island.
The team administered tests on the sources of drinking water to check if it is free from contamination. It also conducted medical check-ups and interviews with the residents.
The fisherfolk told the mission that their fish catch had significantly decreased since the mining company began disposing their wastes into the seawater in 2005. They believe the malasugi and other tuna species have moved farther away from Rapu-Rapu because of the pollution caused by the mining operations.
Fernando Hicap, chairman of the Pamalakaya (Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas or Na-tional Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organizations in the Philippines), estimated that the fish catch on and around Rapu-Rapu has declined by as much as 90 percent.
Hicap said in a press conference on May 13 that this decrease forced the fisherfolk to go farther out to sea, even reaching the neighbouring islands of Catanduanes, just to improve their catch. This increased their cost of fish-ing because of higher gasoline consumption among other expenses, he said.
Residents from barangay Buenavista who were interviewed by the mission said they already lost almost half of the coral reefs in their locality since the start of the mining operations by Lafayette.
Dr. Geneve Rivera, secretary general of the Health Alliance for Democracy (Head) and leader of the medical team during the mission, reported that some residents have suffered itchy lesions. “The residents told us that these dermatological problems started to surface since the start of large-scale mining in the area,” she said.
Some of the residents from Tinopan, a village adjacent to the mining site, also complained that every time the wind blows from the direction of the mining site, they feel dizzy and experience headaches.
Rivera said there is also a reported increase in the occurrence of respiratory ailments such as cough and cold in the communities near the mining site.
“What aggravates the situation is the lack of medical services in the area. Majority of the residents are very poor and could not afford to go to hospitals in Rapu-Rapu or Legazpi City,” Rivera pointed out. “This situation leads to several deaths, particularly among children, from simple illnesses such as diarrhoea and vomiting.”
Antonio Casitas, leader of the local organization Sagip Isla Sagip Kapwa (Save the Island, Save the People), said the residents could no longer wait for the negative impact of the mining operations to worsen. “In order to stop this, the local government should urgently suspend the operations of Lafayette, investigate the marine degrada-tion in the area and immediately provide financial and food assistance to the poor communities of Rapu-Rapu,” he said. “Once and for all, the Arroyo government should listen to the people and immediately stop the large-scale mining on our beloved island.” (Bulatlat.com)
DAVAO CITY, May 19, 2009—The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Centre –Kasama sa Kalikasan –Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC/KsK-FoE Phils) said that there is a need for the passage of alternative mining bill (AMB) into law since this will address the criticisms and problems of the Mining Act of 1995 and other mineral policies in the country.
Erwin B. Quinones, campaigns paralegal of LRC/KsK-FoE –Phils said that the old law on mining is inherently flawed and problems cannot be solved by the same defective legislation.
Under the proposed AMB, Quinones said, the old law will be scrapped and a new mining policy is to be intro-duced that will now regulate the rational exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources and en-sure the equitable sharing of benefits for State, indigenous peoples and local communities and for other pur-poses.
Quinones said that in AMB there is now a greater participation of the Filipino people in mining and rights of the indigenous peoples are also respected.
The proposed AMB, he continued will also afford equitable sharing of benefits as compared to the old law. Un-der the proposed bill, the government will receive 10% of gross revenues apart from taxes to be paid by con-tractors, local government units are also entitled to share of the net revenues from the mining operations paid directly to the provincial treasurer, taking into consideration classification of local government and at least 10% of gross revenues as royalty to the indigenous peoples similar to government share.
Quinones added that AMB also seeks the removal of financial or technical assessment agreement (FTAA) which allows 100% foreign land ownership and give a mandate that it will only allow Filipino individuals or corpora-tions.
“Only Filipino citizen/s or corporation/s 60% of whose equity is owned or controlled by Filipino is allowed to mine, to conduct development, utilization and processing of mineral resources in the Philippines. The AMB will also remove the confidentiality provision under the Mining Act. Mandating transparency and access to informa-tion for the public,” Quinones told CBCPNews in an interview.
“AMB will also prohibit the transfer and assignments of agreements to prevent corporations avoiding their obli-gations to the state and to the communities. It will also decrease the maximum areas and terms for mining con-tractors compared to the Mining Act,” he added.
The maximum contract area for mining operations shall be limited to five hundred hectares (500 has) and the maximum area for one person in any place in the country shall be 750 has in any given watershed (prohibition shall also apply to corporations having the same directors or corporate officers). The maximum term is fifteen (15) years (already includes the five (5) years for rehabilitation,” said Quinones.
The proposed law will also introduce the Environmental and Social Impact Prevention and Mitigation Plan (ESIPMP) in place of the Environmental Impact Assessment to comprehensively assess the economic, socio-cultural and environmental impact of mining.
NEW COUNCIL WILL BE FORMED
If AMB will be passed into law then a Mineral Multi-Sectoral Council (MMSC) will be formed and is to be com-posed of representatives of national government, representatives from the affected local government units, non-government organizations, and the local indigenous communities.
Quinones explained that the council will represent the state and communities on exploration, development and utilization matters, decides whether or not to open the area for mining, decides whether or not to approve min-ing operations and approves permit for mineral processing.
Under the AMB, the government will act as a regulator rather than a promoter and it will also transfer the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) from the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) to Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
“The MGB now will become a scientific research institution under the DOST and has no political decision-making authority to determine who will mine,” said Quinones.
AMB covers ownership management and governance of ore minerals onshore, as well as quarry resources, sand and gravel, guano, and gemstones, excluding offshore mining and other resources such as petroleum and coal natural gas, radioactive materials, and geothermal energy, as there are resources which require specific law.
AMB also takes into consideration the decades-long issues, experiences and analyses of different individuals, organizations, and communities affected by mining in the Philippines.
Moreover, the AMB aims to articulate the basic agreements during the Dapitan Initiative—a mass-based movement formed in 2002 to counter act the government’s creeping aggressive promotion of large–scale min-ing operations in the country.
DAVAO CITY, May 22, 2009—Church leaders and grassroots communities in Southern and Central Mindanao also signified their strong support for the passage of the Alternative Mining Bill (AMB) or House Bill 6342.
The bill which aims to scrap the old Mining Act of 1995 takes into consideration the decades-long issues, ex-periences and analyses of different individuals, organizations, and communities affected by mining in the Philip-pines.
Fr. Romeo Catedral, the Social Action Director of the Diocese of Marbel said that it is about time to give more emphasis on environmental protection, respect to the indigenous communities and the need for food security of the people.
“The alternative mining bill clearly acknowledges the importance of environmental protection as well as food security and shows authentic respect to the communities. We hope our law makers will show real concern by supporting the passage of the bill,” Catedral said in a statement sent to CBCPNews by the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center Kasama sa Kalikasan -Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC/KsK-FoE Phils) group.
Catedral said that the Catholic Church is not against development and mineral utilization only if it promotes authentic improvement in the Philippine economy and lives of the people.
“Our diocese fully supports the Alternative Mining Bill as we demand the immediate scrapping of RA 7942. We believe that the alternative bill will ensure that benefits from mining will go not only to the community but will surely improve Philippine economy” Catedral said.
The proposed bill will raise government share from mining to at least 10 percent apart from the direct share of the Local Government Units (LGUs).
Also, leaders of the Columbio Multi-Sectoral Ecology Movement (CMEM), an alliance of grassroots organiza-tions in the Municipality of Columbio, Sultan Kudarat recently passed a resolution urging their district represen-tative to support the enactment of the bill.
“AMB reflects our position that the mining industry should be “needs–based,” should bring development to the local communities and does not favour foreign interests” said Audie Itable, chairperson of CMEM, adding:
“What is more promising in the bill is that it ensures that the benefits from mining operations should outweigh the anticipated impacts to the community and the environment.”
Itable also reiterated their group’s call to scrap RA 7942 otherwise known as the Mining Act of 1995.
The La Bugal-B’laaan Tribal Association, through its chairperson Quentol Labuayan, was present in the filing of the bill at the Office of the Secretary General of the House of Representatives. In 1997, La Bugal filed a petition in the Supreme Court questioning the validity of the Mining Act.
“Ang AMB naghatag ug dakung respeto sa among katungod isip katawhang lumad ug sa among yutang kabilin tungod kay ginaila niini nga kami ang nanag-iya bisan sa mga minerals nga anaa nasulod sa among teritoryo” (The AMB greatly respects our rights as Indigenous Peoples and our ancestral domains because it acknowledges that we own even the minerals found underneath our territories), Labuayan said.
On March 2009, leaders of Luwas Kinaiyahan, a multi-sectoral environmental alliance in Davao Oriental were also upbeat of the alternative mining bill.
The group committed to influence their district representative to support the bill through the signatures they will gather from their respective communities.
“Hopefully, Mt. Hamiguitan and Pujada bay will be finally spared from mining activities with the passage of the AMB since these two are protected areas” said Lilia Paglinawan, Luwas Kinaiyahan convenor.
“The final bill was a product of years of consultations with various sectors and even economic and environ-mental experts to ensure that it reflects the interest of the indigenous peoples and local communities, their rights and the environment are protected, food security is prioritized and that the government will largely benefit from it” said Atty. Rhia Muhi of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Centre - Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC/KsK-FoE Phils).
The bill was authored by Rep. Riza Hontiveros-Baraquil, Rep. Walden Bello, Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III, Rep. Carlos Padilla and Rep. Rufus Rodriguez. The filing was attended by various sectors including representa-tives from mining affected communities in Mindanao.
The Philippine mining industry is running rough-shod on indigenous people and the environment. For President Macapagal-Arroyo, it presents a great opportunity
Last month, the municipal government of Nueva Valencia in the Philippine island province of Guimaras passed a resolution opposing the proposed mining exploration by the Fil-Asian Strategic Resources and Properties Corporation. Environmental groups and Guimaras residents fear that the project will threaten the natural resources of the island, which is still recovering from a massive oil spill in 2006. Also recently, Bishop Ramon Villena, the chair of the Regional Development Council for Cagayan Valley , asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to suspend the operations of the OceanaGold mining project, following the company's alleged violations of human rights in the region.
There are many well-known negative effects of the mining industry, which uses a tenth of the world's annual energy supply and accounts for the second-largest source of greenhouse emissions. Farmland, plants, animals and humans all suffer from mining, which pollutes the groundwater, rivers and irrigation lines, leaving open sores of unusable land in its wake. The Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation, located in Mankayan, Benguet, dumps its mine tailings into the Abra River . The Manila Times has reported that pollution from the Lepanto operation has caused a 30% reduction in rice production in the Cervantes and Quirino areas, communities which rely on rice planting. Additionally, mining pollutants kill the marine life which many coastal residents depend on for their daily survival.
Open pit mining -- the standard method for extracting ore such as gold and copper -- also impacts the environment in a unique way: By destroying natural habitats, this mining removes a link in the ecosystem chain, adversely affecting the biodiversity of an entire region. BHP Billiton, one of the world's largest mining firms, recently secured a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the exploration of nickel deposits in Barangay Macambol. This area is located between the Pujada Bay Protected Seascape and Landscape and Mt. Hamiguitan Range , a newly-established wildlife sanctuary that is home to the endangered Philippine Eagle. Last month, protesters picketed in front of the firm's office in Mati.
But environmental damage, human rights violations and loss of food security are not the only mining industry factors affecting the country. The way in which the industry is currently operating may actually be unconstitutional. On March 3, several house representatives filed petitions before the Philippine Supreme Court seeking to scrap the Mining Act of 1995, a product of the World Bank's call to liberalize the world's mining industries. They argue that the act violates an article in the constitution which allows the state to exploit the country's natural resources in concert with corporations, provided that Philippine citizens own at least 60% of those interests. However, the Mining Act permits mining firms to be 100% foreign-owned and, most surprisingly, allows the repatriation of all profits. The only money to be made by the Philippines , according to the act, comes in the form of an excise tax. But this is a pittance. The 2005 excise tax collection of the Lafayette Mining subsidiary Rapu-Rapu Mining amounted to only 1.5% of the company's total revenue. Obviously, this is not a fair deal for the Filipino people.
As the petitions slowly make their way through Supreme Court bureaucracy, Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo seems to be in a political bind. As a senator, she was the principal author of the Mining Act under the Ramos administration. Her administration currently has over twenty priority mining projects. And, though legislation has been filed to repeal the act -- such as House Bill No. 1793, authored by Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño -- it is languishing in Congress and its Committee on Natural Resources, which is chaired by Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo's brother-in-law, Representative Iggy Arroyo.
Repealing the act in Congress is a far better solution than having the Supreme Court rule it unconstitutional. A protracted battle between the legislative and judicial branches of the government would not be good for the country. Moreover, solving the issue within the House of Representatives would give Filipinos a much needed measure of confidence in their elected officials. And this tack affords a big opportunity for Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo to pull herself out of her historical attachment to the law and the current bind she is in: She can be the one to make the call for change. As President, she can urge Congress (and specifically her brother-in-law) to seriously address Mr. Casiño's bill. Acknowledging that a law she authored is no longer effective would not only be a positive step in moving her country forward, but would help resuscitate her sagging image. Falling on the right side of the current mining issue will show that she is willing to adapt to changing times, and more importantly, willing to be wrong about a past position. Voters would more easily forgive Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo for writing a bad law over a decade ago as a senator than for holding onto it now as president.
In addition to calling upon Congress to address the problems of the current act, Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo should make sure that the DENR includes the voices of domestic mining interests, non-governmental environmental groups and the local communities directly affected by mining in a fresh, progressive and transparent discussion that crafts a sustainable future for the country's vast, untapped mineral wealth. The local communities that bear the brunt of the harmful environmental impact of mining should also be compensated more than the measly local business tax and other small fees they currently receive from mining companies. A portion of the larger piece of the tax pie, such as shares of remittances from capitals gains and dividend taxes -- all of which now go to the national government under the Mining Act -- should be reinvested in those communities.
Since 2004, $1 billion has come from overseas into the Philippine mining industry. Considering the country's proximity to resource-hungry China , the government hopes to increase that figure to $10 billion over the next three years. But if the Mining Act is repealed or ruled unconstitutional, lawmakers must find ways to keep current foreign investors from leaving in the face of major profit margin reductions, and also attract future foreign investment. Improved tax incentives, for example, could be granted when firms upgrade to more environmentally-friendly mining methods or purchase supplies from local businesses. Longer tax holidays can also sweeten investment incentives. Additionally, Congress should demand that the DENR uphold its mandate to "conserve specific terrestrial and marine areas representative of the Philippine natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations."
The Philippines may hold one of the largest caches of gold and copper in Southeast Asia . These resources should be exploited. Repealing -- or at the very least, rewriting -- the Mining Act would be a good first step in insuring that the national patrimony of the Philippines is not unfairly exploited by foreign interests. The mineral riches of the Philippines can certainly help its citizens by creating jobs and boosting the economy, but mining the land must be done in a sustainable way that limits the damage to the environment, maintains an interest in foreign investment and keeps a fair share of the profits in the hands of the Filipino people.
Letters to the editor can be sent to email@example.com.