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.
Friday, May 21, 2010
A reporter of a big TV network went to the island and told this author that there is no development in Rapu-Rapu.
So, where’s the development promised by advocates of mining? I am reminded of the article written by Peter Wallace. On October 27, 2007, Mr. Wallace published his opinions through an article titled “Where’s the pot of gold?”
Mr. Wallace wrote:
Mining has been touted as one of the sectors government will promote as a major contributor to the economy. . . Early this year, mining exports were to be 3 percent of the total exports or about $1-$2 billion. Just recently the Mines and Geosciences Bureau quoted $10 billion as a likely investment figure.
By now investment should be far higher, the big mining companies should be aggressively exploring, joint venturing, buying mines. But, except for a handful, they’re not.
A smart government would ask why, and act to change it. The secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources should be talking to the industry and asking why.
The first to feel sorry for such a dour situation should be the government. It seems an Australian is sorrier and does all the sour-graping. Why? Because foreigners like him have more to gain from the newly bared mining resources of the Philippines than Filipinos ourselves. Like a virgin being undressed before alien eyes, the mountains of our country make the mouth of Mr. Wallace water.
Since Mr. Wallace really thinks so low of us Filipinos I am inclined to return the volley. Australia began to be colonized by England as a place of exile for rapists, murderers, thieves and other species of low life. If he thinks $10 billion is not being availed of by us then he should be happy because such huge amount is still in his countrymen’s hands. One man’s expense is another’s income. The Filipino’s non-income is the foreigner’s savings. We do not feel sorry for that but Mr. Wallace does! Why? Because that $10 billion is a “bait” with which the likes of him would ensnare our people and squeeze out the bounty of our land. No fool would put in one dollar and get 90 cents in return. Mr. Wallace proposes to pour in $ 10 billion because he wants foreigners to receive 20, 30 billion dollars or more. In Rapu-Rapu, for example, Lafayette is reported to invest $40 million. A browsing of the company’s website and a research on metal prices plus some arithmetic would reveal that Lafayette would earn $1.549 billion. That’s earning $38 for every $1 invested! What do the people of Rapu-Rapu get in return? In Mr. Wallace’s word NADA! They got five major fishkills, 68% decline in fish catch, decline in copra production, landslides, black bug infestation brought in by Lafayette ships, total loss of drinking water supply in Barangay Pagcolbon, militarization, poverty, and migration.
Filipinos are not taking the bait and so Mr. Wallace calls our government unsmart and by extension, our people too.
If the current rush into mining concessions is not enough for Mr. Wallace that is his problem. We, Filipinos, do not need an alien like him to tell us what to do. For us, the frenzy over mining explorations is destroying our forests, mountains, rivers and seas. In return, so much destruction of livelihoods has happened. In Rapu-Rapu, for example, five fishkills have been documented. An average of 68% decline in fish catch was reported by Ibon Foundation in a study conducted in February 2007.
We have been dictated to by foreigners since 1565 when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived. We do not need another dictation disguised as unsolicited advice from an alien. That constitutes foreign interference. His advocated foreign investment in an industry originally exclusive to Filipinos is economic interference.
Mr. Wallace wrote:
There, of course, is one reason I can immediately cite: Continuity. You don’t change managers every few months if you wish to instill a sense of stability in a system. . . It’s crazy. It introduces a level of uncertainty that if you’re investing hundreds of millions of dollars, you will surely pause to think. Every manager (in this case Secretary) has his own philosophies, own set of priorities, own agenda. And a change can be quite substantial, particularly in a country where the leader herself has changed policy emphases fairly frequently.
If Mr. Wallace meets a problem he will not solve it. He will find someone or something to blame. In this instant case, he blames the government. If there is any wrong which our government has done it is not doing nothing. Rather, it is doing so much for foreign companies. One regional director even sounds like the spokesperson of Lafayette. Our government provides tax deductions and holidays to the countrymen of Mr. Wallace. I pay 23% of my annual income as tax. I work for 12 months, I give back two months income as tax. With 13th month pay, I have the equivalent of 11 months of earnings to use for my needs. Since there is a 12% EVAT approximately another month’s income is taken away as tax. That leaves me with only 10 months out of the equivalent of 13 months of work.
What tax is paid by mining companies? Under the PEZA privileges, they pay only 7% plus the measly real estate taxes. However, they are given by the Special Economic Zone Act, a tax-free period of six to eight years. Originally, Lafayette said its mine life was six years. Later the company adjusted it to eight years. Those estimates are not results of a technical study. They are results of a taxation study. Other corporations are taxed at the rate of 32% of their income.
Mr. Wallace wrote:
On top of that, the government has done a poor job at protecting the industry from attack. The incident at the Lafayette mine in Rapu Rapu was allowed to get completely out of hand. Oppositors, including Bishop Bastes, had a field day— and the government stood by. It even, quite unbelievably, encouraged it by appointing this bishop to head an investigation. He, of course, recommended closing the mine.
Well, he almost succeeded, and the government’s dilly-dallying over giving approval to re-open the mine almost broke the company. This was a minor incident. It should have been resolved within 3-6 months. Lafayette had made the corrections by then, but it was 12 costly months later before approval to re-open was given.
As to countering the rabid vilification by oppositors and giving a true picture of what happened, the government did nothing. Just stood by.
The Arroyo government has been overly protective of foreign interests while laying bare to alien rape the patrimony of its citizens. In the Rapu-Rapu case, Lafayette failed the “tutorial” run. The leaks and other failures are documented in the Technical Working Group Report. Instead of honoring his word, “You fail it, I close it!”, Mr. Angelo Reyes permitted the company to resume operations.
One nasty practice of opinion-makers is the use of exaggeration as in claiming that Bishop Bastes “had a field day – and the government stood by.” If I read the TWG Report on the “tutorial” run correctly and saw the ceremonies in Malacañang with clear eyes, the government was severely biased against the RRFFC and favored the minority report of Mr. Gregorio Tabuena. It was Mr. Tabuena who recommended a “test” run which was not in the recommendations of the commission. Of all the commission’s recommendations, none was heeded. If that was not protecting the foreign investor, then what is?
The government stood idly by. That’s true. It did nothing to protect Filipino interest. Yes, the recommendation was to close the mine. Just a minor correction: that recommendation did not come from Bishop Bastes. It came from the majority. The Tabuena recommendation for a test run was heeded by the government. In spite of so many concessions to Lafayette, Mr. Wallace still has the gall to whine about a government that “stood idly by”. He even has the chronology confused. The government did not stand idly by then appointed Bishop Bastes. Instead, the government appointed Bishop Bastes, ignored the recommendations of the Commission, heeded that of Mr. Tabuena, then showered Lafayette with so many favors. After all that, Mr. Wallace still feels so much inadequacy.
The “rabid vilification” was committed not by Lafayette oppositors but by Lafayette apologists and the company’s own Community Relations Department. Consider the following:
Atty. Bayani Agabin threatened to sue those spreading the “hoax that was the October 2007 fishkill”. Glaring evidences in the form of reports and photographs abounded but to Atty. Agabin the fifth fishkill was a “hoax”.
At least two members of the Albay Sangguniang Panlalawigan staunchly defended Lafayette against the accusations.
The true picture of what happened was distorted by Lafayette itself when its managers denied in public their culpability for the October 2005 fishkills but admitted it in their private communications to the DENR.
The truth about Lafayette operations was suppressed when the Philippine Daily Inquirer removed from its February 17, 2007 issue the body of the story titled “Environmentalists from 27 nations sign petition for investors in Rapu-Rapu mine to pull out. We searched every page of the issue but the story was nowhere.
If we remember correctly, it was the RRFFC specially Bishop Bastes who was severely vilified.
Mr. Wallace wrote:
When I come across media’s virulent attacks on mining, on top of the tirades of some members of the Church and well-funded NGOs, I wonder why mining companies even bother at all. Why not just leave the Philippines to be a backwater with its people in poverty? I’m not aware of any action any of these groups are doing that would give a job and a decent life to Filipinos. I’m not even aware of any positive action many of these groups are taking to improve the environment.
We also wonder why despite the strong and loud protests against mining companies they still remain in the country. Makapal ang mukha is our word for it. We also wonder why a guest of the Philippines is allowed to stay here longer than a day after insulting us with: Why not just leave the Philippines to be a backwater with its people in poverty? We had prosperity in the 1800s from the abaca industry. Our economy was second only to Japan’s in the 1960’s. It never boomed because of mining. Masbate and Camarines Norte have been mined since the Spanish times but they remain among the poorest ten provinces to this day. Take these statistics:
Aroroy, Masbate has been a mining town since 1837 (http://www.geocities.com/ppsec/pp/masbate.htm) yet it is only a 2nd Class municipality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aroroy,_Masbate). Masbate is the poorest province of Bicol with a poverty incidence level of 62.8% according to the NSCB survey in 2000 (http://txtmania.com/trivia/national.php).
Paracale, Camarines Norte has been a mining town since 1939 (http://www.wallstreetreporter.com/linked/PearlAsianMiningIndustries.html) and yet it is only a 3rd Class municipality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paracale,_Camarines_Norte). Camarines Norte is the second poorest province of Bicol, with a poverty incidence level of 52.7% according to the NSCB survey in 2000 (http://txtmania.com/trivia/national.php).
Rapu-Rapu, Albay has been mined since the 1930’s but it is only a 4th Class municipality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapu-Rapu,_Albay ), the poorest in the province.
Both Masbate and Camarines Norte are listed as among the country’s ten (10) poorest provinces per NSCB survey in 2000 (http://txtmania.com/trivia/national.php).
On the other hand, the country’s richest provinces and congressional districts derive their wealth not from mining but other industries:
In its 2000 survey, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) identified the ten provinces with the lowest poverty incidence levels. Each of the four districts in Metro Manila, composed of several cities and/or municipalities, was treated as a province in the survey.
1. 2nd district of Metro Manila1 4.1 percent (a)
2. 4th district of Metro Manila2 4.9 percent (b)
3. Bulacan, 5.4 percent
4. 1st district of Metro Manila (Manila), 5.8 percent (c)
5. Batanes, 7.5 percent
6. Rizal, 8 percent
7. Laguna, 8.6 percent
8. 3rd district of Metro Manila3, 9 percent
9. Bataan, 9.9 percent
10. Cavite, 10.2 percent.
(a) Mandaluyong, Marikina, Pasig, Quezon City and San Juan
(b) Las Pinas, Makati, Muntinlupa, Paranaque, Pasay, Pateros and Taguig
(c) Caloocan, Valenzuela, Malabon and Navotas
If those are not enough, consider these:
-----------------------Share in non-fuel minerals --------Population
-----------------------in Value of total Exports -------below Poverty line
Congo------------------ ------40----------------------------- 49
Papua New Guinea----------35------------------------------ 57
(Source: UNCTAD Handbook of World Mineral Trade Statistics; World Bank Development Indicators; UN Development Programme: Human Development Report 2001, quoted in the lecture of Dr. Giovanni Tapang of the University of the Philippines College of Engineering on January 31, 2006 at the Daragang Magayon Hall of Aquinas University of Legazpi).
The data show that these countries’ exports are composed of high percentages of non-fuel minerals and yet the percentages of their populations below poverty line are also very high. In his testimony before the commission on April 6, Hon. Alvarez stated that the mining communities of the Cordilleras, Canada, and Australia “have become miserable patches of poverty after the gold or the mineral ore was extracted.” So, what poverty alleviation can arise from mining?
These statements are downright arrogant: “I’m not aware of any action any of these groups are doing that would give a job and a decent life to Filipinos. I’m not even aware of any positive action many of these groups are taking to improve the environment.”
It is the problem of Mr. Wallace if he is unaware of certain things. Everyone has the privilege to choose ignorance. But arrogance is entirely different. He is unaware of the effect of Lafayette mining on the fish catch of fishermen in Rapu-Rapu – a decline of 68% according to an Ibon Foundation study in February 2007. Of the 286 jobs in the mine, only 131 are for the residents of Rapu-Rapu. The company promised 1000 during start up and 416 during normal operation in a Powerpoint presentation in 2001. The anti-mining NGOs are the ones protecting the livelihood of people. All that mining companies can give to ordinary people are menial jobs while their executives sitting in airconditioned offices earn millions. Mr. Wallace only has to read the annual reports of Lafayette to verify this. Not only are mining companies depriving people of their livelihood. The companies are also destroying the resources that should have been protected for the use of future generations as sustainable development requires.
Mr. Wallace also wrote:
If I were a mining company I’d like the government to tell me what it has done, and will do to fully protect my investment and my people. I’m not going to invest in a place where both are at risk. I’d have called all the mining company representatives that are here for an extended dialogue (meaning, two-way talks) about these issues: What are the concerns? What will be done about them?
Specific actions and corresponding deadlines committed to. I’ve offered to arrange it, but thus far I’ve had no response from government.
Since I am a taxpayer (while mining companies are given so much tax breaks) I’d like the government to tell me what it has done, and will do to fully protect my tax and my people. I’m not going to continue supporting an administration that places both at risk. I call on it to scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. After 15 years, where is the development? What have mining companies like Lafayette done to our national patrimony?
Why demand response from our government? Mr. Wallace is not a citizen. He is better deported back to Australia for insulting us and advocating interests inimical to the Filipino people.
Mr. Wallace's article was downloaded from
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=peterWallace_oct26_2007 October 27, 2007
Saturday, May 1, 2010
George Bernard Shaw once said about liberals as people who “have their feet solidly planted in mid-air.” We have nothing against liberals, neither anything in favor of conservatives nor something about those in the grey area between. Also, we do not know if the Australian columnist Peter Wallace is a liberal, conservative or anywhere in the grey area between. Of one thing, however, we are certain: as to the reality of life for the millions of toiling masses of Filipinos, Mr. Wallace is way up in his Cloud 9. We do not blame him. He is an alien from Down Under where life is more pleasant. The Philippines is poor because we citizen Filipinos have no control over and do not benefit from our own natural resources. Those resources have been given over to foreigners by Filipino authorities who are junior partners of the former. The toiling masses get meager wages, the junior partners get much but the foreign investor reaps the lion’s share. In Rapu-Rapu, for example, based on figures from Lafayette itself, the gain is $37.5 for every $1 invested. If the Philippines is in such a mess, most of the cause is foreign domination which, today, masquerades as foreign investment which Mr. Wallace taunts us to accept hook, line and sinker much like the spider that welcomed its victims to the parlor:
Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple — there’s a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!”
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue –
Thinking only of her crested head — poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour — but she ne’er came out again!
And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.
Again, take the case of the residents of Rapu-Rapu. Mr. Wallace once wrote, “where’s the pot of gold?” (Manila Standard Today October 26, 2007) We ask, in Rapu-Rapu where’s the development? When our NGO volunteers went there in August 2009, they saw a woman making hard brooms out of coconut midribs. Each sells for P15 (about 35 US cents). She makes four in a day. Yet, the coconuts are threatened by destruction as the mining operation of the former Lafayette Mining Limited of Australia through its local subsidiary, Lafayette Philippines, Inc. (now named Korea Malaysia Philippines Resources, Inc) expands from the southern tip to the north of the island.
Mr. Wallace is in the Philippines to convince Filipinos that Australian investment is good. We do know it is good! But good for whom? Certainly for them; we have doubts if it is, for Filipinos. The Rapu-Rapu trauma from Lafayette Mining Limited of Australia may not be the representative case of their engagement here but it definitely opens our minds to the very real phenomenon of good intentions paving the road to hell.
On March 5, 2010 Mr. Wallace wrote in the Manila Standard Today:
A mine (Lafayette) was closed for a mining spill that did no measurable damage. A delay of over 6 months to approve reopening forced the company into bankruptcy. Bishop Arturo Bastes lied to encourage that closure, which the government acquiesced to.
Mr. Wallace strayed too far from the facts of that unhappy incident (unhappy, for us here in the locality) as the following rebuttals would prove:
The mining spills of 2005 did a lot of damage. – Lafayette violated the Clean Water Act of the Philippines. It was slapped with a total of P16 million in fines. Mr. Wallace can go over the records of the Pollution Adjudication Board. If the fines were undeserved, then Mr. Wallace can initiate a refund proceeding.
The people of Rapu-Rapu and surrounding towns suffered immensely from income loss because the fish in Albay Gulf were poisoned with cyanide measured at 35 parts per million (the tolerable limit is 0.05 ppm). (Source: Mines and Geosciences Bureau “Fact sheet on the Mercury Issue in Albay” dated February 2, 2006 Page 9) While the executives of Lafayette continued to earn their millions in salaries, the fishermen of Albay and Sorsogon lost their meager incomes. The pre-operation survey of Lafayette revealed that the fishermen in the primary impact barangays of Malobago, Pagcolbon and Binosawan were earning P19.8 million a year. (Source: Lafayette Powerpoint presentation titled Baseline Data slide 12). The company did not reveal any economic impact study after the mining operation started. However, Ibon Foundation learned, through a study in February 2007, that the average weekly income of fishermen in five barangays (Poblacion, Malobago, Binosawan, Tinopan in Rapu-Rapu and Billante in Prioto Diaz) dropped by 68.56%. (Ibon Foundation; Mining Rapu-Rapu’s Pot of Gold, a Study on the Socioeconomic Impacts of the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project on the Residents of Rapu-Rapu, Albay and Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon). These are the hard facts on the ground. So, where’s the development? Would you invest in mining here and still raise your nose high in civilized society?
Mr. Wallace should have been there when the women, children and some men from Rapu-Rapu Island stormed the session of the Albay Provincial Board on December 12, 2007. Ms. Shanta Martin, then with Oxfam Australia, was there to witness for all Australians. Those people dared to storm a government function because they have been suffering from immeasurable damage. Does Mr. Wallace still insist on his “no measurable damage”? Perhaps, he is right - because “no measurable damage” also translates to immeasurable damage!
November 2005 to July 2006 was not a period of total closure. – During that period, Rapu-Rapu Processing, Inc. was ordered to stop but, Lafayette’s other arm, the Rapu-Rapu Minerals, Inc. continued to blast the open pit and quarry for gold, silver, copper and zinc. The dust continued to settle on the surrounding villages and the shaking of the ground was felt as far as the town center. Instead of totally closing the mine, erstwhile DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes ordered a “test run” following the advice of one member of the Rapu-Rapu Fact-finding Commission, Mr. Gregorio Tabuena. What took place were one “test run” after another until the mine had a semblance of compliance with the Clean Water Act of the Philippines. True enough, the runs were not tests but “tutorials.” A test is administered by a teacher on a student who works independently. In the case of Lafayette, the Technical Working Group was behind the company tutoring it on what to do when there were failures (the TWG Report shows that on July 20-21, 2006 there was a fishkill; the graphs of the readings of heavy metal content of samples were “way above the charts.”)
Lafayette was not bankrupt. It could afford to pay Mr. Roderick Watt $ 365,867 or the equivalent of P18,293,350 (at exchange rates prevailing in 2006 and 2007) despite the October spills. Mr. David Baker earned $ 1,197,884 or P 55,433,075. (Source: LML Annual Reports for 2006 and 2007) Lafayette is like the man who went to a feast and later complained that he starved!
Some impudence.- Mr. Wallace has the temerity to write: Bishop Arturo Bastes lied to encourage that closure, which the government acquiesced to. If Mr. Wallace wrote a similar charge against a Muslim imam, he would have deserved a fatwah call for death. But we are Catholics and we are reminded of the first of the Seven Last Words of Christ: Forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).
It is bad enough that an Australian meddles in Philippine affairs. It is worse that a foreigner insults a Filipino. It is worst that a foreign meddler fallaciously writes in the press of a predominantly Catholic country that a bishop lied!
Bishop Arturo Bastes, SVD of the Diocese of Sorsogon told the truth that the Commission, formed with presidential approval, recommended the closure of the Rapu-Rapu mine. The government did not acquiesce to the recommendation. On the contrary, Sec. Reyes allowed Lafayette to undergo “tutorial” runs; the company failed the “tutorials” as the TWG Report proves; and yet Lafayette was permitted in the end to continue normal operations. That is the bare truth! Wallace is the one lying!
How would he know the truth about Rapu-Rapu? He was never here. He did not see the mother of three children who almost died after eating poisoned fish from the seashore. He does not feel the earth shaken when RRMI blasts the open pit. He does not traverse hills and creeks on foot for seven hours just to sell farm produce in the town center. He cannot see the brown, yellow and orange colors of creeks emanating from the minesite and disgorging their waters into Albay Gulf. He is way up there in Could 9, his feet solidly planted in mid-air.
To prove how absurd the position of this Wallace is, the reader is invited to read his article titled “Corruption is endemic – but must it be?” published in the Manila Standard Today on April 9, 2010. After devoting ten paragraphs to the corruption of the Berlusconi government in Italy, Mr. Wallace writes: Don’t you find yourself transcribing “Philippines” into each of the paragraphs above?
What is the point of mentioning this? The point is that Mr. Wallace himself is convinced that the Philippines is wracked with corruption. If he knows the Philippines that much then he also knows how deep corruption has crept into the implementation of environmental laws, the Mining Act of 1995 included. For example, he should know that Lafayette’s lawyer offered P5 million to the local officials of Rapu-Rapu to get the latter’s assent to the reopening of the mine. Lafayette itself drafted the resolution supposed to be passed by the municipal council calling for the resumption of mine operation. There is the National Bureau of Investigation Legazpi District Office Report which concluded that there was no contamination in and around the mine site yet it says the sampling was done on April 4, 2006 then submitted to the NBI Forensic Chemistry Division in Manila on March 28, 2006 – one week before the date of sample gathering! Asked through two letters how this discrepancy in dates happened, the NBI Legazpi District Office never gave a formal reply, just a verbal word that we did not deserve a copy of the report because we were not the ones who commissioned the NBI investigation. I had a chance to divulge this discrepancy in a conference of pollution control officers on May 9, 2007 in Casablanca Hotel in Legazpi City in the presence of Engr. Jason Magdaong of Lafayette. The engineer replied that his company had nothing to do with the NBI Legazpi report!
A lot more skeletons in the closet await anyone who would care to read about the Lafayette misadventure in Rapu-Rapu. I have written a book about it. It is due for launching soon.