Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Aquino's proposed six point agenda on mining

The following are the points considered in the proposed Executive Order, we don't have a copy of the one which has been submitted to President Aquino.

What can you say?


Agenda 1: Ensure responsible mining's contribution to the country's sustainable development (i.e. economic and social growth and environmental protection);

Agenda 2: Adopt international best practices to promote good governance and integrity in the sector

Agenda 3: Ensure the protection of the environment by adopting technically and scientifically sound and generally accepted methods as well as indigenous best practices

Agenda 4: Enforce the primacy of national laws over local issuances and harmonize laws, policies, and regulation

Agenda 5: Ensure a fair, adequate, and equitably shared economic benefit for the country and the people

Agenda 6: Deliver efficient and effective management of the mining sector, both large and small scale


Office of the executive Secretary – Strategic Initiatives and Monitoring Office (SIMO) 1

Six-Point Agenda on the Aquino Administration's Mining Policies with Specific Recommendations


Agenda 1: Ensure responsible mining's contribution to the country's sustainable development (i.e. economic and social growth and environmental protection)

o Create an inter-agency council on mining and ensure participation and transparency in the mining industry

o Conduct public bidding/public auction of mining rights/tenements (abandon "first come, first serve" policy) for areas with known mineral resources

o Create an entity that will formulate standards, technicalities and financial framework of identified "frontier land" or "greenfields."

o Demand operational and financial reports from the mining contractors at all stages of the mining cycle

o Maintain revenue baseline data and properly account for all taxes and fees generated from mining

o Conduct verification at the national, regional and local levels of taxes and fees payable to Government, and monitor all existing and possible entry and exit points

o Provide alternative livelihood for displaced mining workers (especially in illegal mining operations)

o Properly account for and make public the Social Development and Management Programs (SDMPs) and the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEPs)

o Ensure appropriate social protection measures are in place for vulnerable and marginalized sectors affected before, during, and after mining activities (i.e., labor-market programs, social and health insurance, and social safety nets)

o Explore the possibility of compulsory and mandatory insurance coverage for the affected environs and communities, as well as perpetual liability for the maintenance and rehabilitation of post mining sites (i.e., setting up trust funds or heritage funds with specified uses)

o Study the possibility of adopting the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of the USA commonly known as the Super Fund

o Include in the Final Mine Rehabilitation and Decommissioning Plan (FMRDP) the determination of the final land use of the area once mining has been completed and the provision of funds by the mining companies for the said development Increase penalties for all mining-related offenses and enforce strict measures (including labor related laws) aimed at catching and penalizing offenders (including foreigners actually doing mining)

o Craft a definition of Medium Scale Mining and the rules that will govern its operations

o Clarify the definition of small-scale mining and its scope, including who can apply for SSM contracts (should allow for mining associations and not be limited to individuals and cooperatives only).

o Provide for regulatory rules over traders and middlemen in the sector

o Enact a Comprehensive Mineral Code to cover the mining sector

Agenda 2: Adopt international best practices to promote good governance and integrity in the sector

o Create a Task Force Against Illegal Mining ( i.e. go after foreigners who are mining illegally)

o Implement a 'One-Stop-Shop' process for mining applications

o Provide additional staff and equipment to concerned government agencies (i.e., MGB, BOG, NCIP, BIR)

o Determine individual roles of agencies concerned and fix overlapping tasks and functions (i.e., MGB v. NCIP, MGB v. LGUs, etc.)

o Support the participation of the Philippines in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)

o Formulate mechanisms to monitor Human and Labor Rights Violations and develop operational linkages with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and DOLE to assist victims

Agenda 3: Ensure the protection of the environment by adopting technically and scientifically sound and generally accepted methods as well as indigenous best practices

o Identify additional areas closed to mining (i.e., prime agricultural lands as determined by the Department of Agriculture, priority eco-tourism sites as determined by the National Ecotourism Council, critical areas and island ecosystems, among others)

o Create a separate environmental protection commission/agency to handle environmental regulation functions of the DENR

o Adopt Programmatic and/or Sectoral Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System (PEISS)

o Use the geo-hazard maps/mufti-hazard maps for the country and forecast of climate change impacts to determine "go" and "no-go" areas for mining based on areas reserved by law and executive issuances

o Consider the impact of the New Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases for mining operations

o Strictly and consistently enforce environmental laws, rules and regulations.

Agenda 4: Enforce the primacy of national laws over local issuances and harmonize laws, policies, and regulation

o Enforce primacy of national laws over LGU issuances

o Push for the amendment of laws to remove gaps and conflict (i.e., conflicting jurisdictions of MGB with NCIP, LLDA, and LGUs in certain mining areas, no clear laws for mining in island ecosystems, where to mine and not to mine, etc.

o Stipulate the utilization of LGU share in mining revenues in mining laws, rules and regulations

o Study direct access of LGUs to their shares and increase LGU share

Agenda 5: Ensure a fair, adequate, and equitably shared economic benefit for the country and the people

o Reinforce State ownership of all mineral resources including valuable miners s in mine wastes and mill tailings and get government's due share when utilized, without prejudice to liabilities of mining contractors for the said wastes and tailings facilities

o Establish mineral reservations for the development of strategic industries for the collection of royalties from mining contractors, which shall be prospectively applied

o Encourage and promote the use of foreign technical assistance (FTAA), joint venture and co-production agreements in mining contracts (with appropriate guidelines on formula to be used; to facilitate negotiation of better sharing schemes (e.g. 50-50 net of taxes)

o Study the possibility of applying appropriate Home State rules and regulations on foreign mining companies operating within the Philippines through bilateral agreements

o Develop with the participation of the private sector and the academe a road map for the establishment of value-adding and/or downstream processing of minerals in the country

o Ensure inter-agency coordination relative to Government share in mining revenues; and hasten LGU access to their share in mining revenues (similar to PEZA share)

o Study how LGUs can get direct access to their share (similar to PEZA)

o Review existing taxes, fees, and incentives being given to mining companies (Review the Omnibus Investment Code/IPP) and leveraging employment generation/jobs

o Update the mineral commodity profile, conduct studies and build database on new markets, products and available technologies towards the development of downstream industries

o Consider tapping 3`d party international auditors to validate the volume and value of mineral exports in the Philippines

o Study existing fiscal schemes, processes, and procedures being utilized for oil, gas, and other energy-related extractive industries being utilized by DOE (If found feasible, could lead to proposed legislation)

o Study possibility of imposing "windfall profits" tax or share on mining companies (If found feasible, could lead to proposed legislation)

o Amend provision of the Philippine Mining Act on incentives for the mining industry

Agenda 6: diver efficient and effective management of the mining sector, both large and small scale

o Provide additional staff and equipment to concerned government agencies (i.e., MGB, BOC, NCIP, BIR)

o Engage in training and capacity building measures for concerned NGAs and LGUs (i.e., DENR-MGB, BOC, NC{P. BIR, etc.)

o Establish a public, accessible, and comprehensible database which consolidates all relevant data from all concerned stakeholders and sources (which includes maps under the proposed one-map system for government of mining areas, protected areas, ancestral lands and domains, among others)

o Implement a 'One-Stop-Shop' process for mining applications

o Ensure the declaration of Minahang Bayan areas pursuant to RA 7076 and the operationalization of Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Boards (P/CMRBs) in all SS mining areas

o Complete cultural mapping to identify Indigenous Peoples (IP) areas to complete the ancestral domain delineation process and address IP concerns/recognition of {P rights

o Streamline and improve the EPIC and certificate precondition process Ensure proper working and safety conditions for mine workers and people from nearby communities/ensure that proper benefits are given to mine workers (i.e. PhilHealth, Pag-lbig, SSS. Hazard Pay and Insurance)

o Ensure the social preparation for !Ps who will be affected by mining

o Explicitly clarify the preferential rights of the IPs

o Create a Task Force Against Illegal Mining (i.e., go after foreigners who are fining illegally)

Aquino says mining EO out by June 22

MANILA, Philippines - The much-awaited executive order on the government's mining policy may be out by Friday, June 22. 

In a press briefing in Davao City on Wednesday, June 20, President Aquino said he is hoping to release the mining E.O. within the week, or after some details, especially on the revenues received by the government, are fine-tuned.

"The basis to impose higher fees or royalties, etc, is also being fleshed out," he told reporters after he attended the ARMM Convention on Local Governance. 

He reiterated his previous concern about the economic, legal and environmental issues that hound the industry. He said the part on revenue sharing will determine if legislation is needed to ensure a better share for the government.

"Presently, it's about 2% (of income taxes paid), if my memory serves me right. The total taxes involved will not even reach 10% of what they are making from the extraction of our resources. That's not fair. We get less than 10% (from the mining companies), but we [pay] 100% in case there's a problem," he said, referring to the difference between the economic returns and costs. 

He also reiterated the 78 placed designated as eco-tourism areas where mining cannot take place, as well as designate the "minahan ng bayan" areas where small scale miners can operate.

He said small scale miners will be subjected to more regulation under the new mining policy. 

President Aquino himself sought for the comprehensive review of the government’s mining policy and the industry’s environmental and economic impacts. He was also concerned with safety issues and the dislocation of indigenous peoples.

On Tuesday, June 19, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said the final draft of the EO has been submitted for President Aquino's approval

In a statement, Ochoa described the proposed EO as an effort to "strike a balance between interests or supposedly conflicting interests between the mining industry and the environment, among others." 

Ochoa said the proposed mining policy, if approved, will harmonize conflicting policies on mining. This is a critical issue. Conflictling national and local policies have resulted in various problems in the industry. 

“Hopefully, we will be able to put some order in approving and in handling mining applications,” Ochoa said.

The mining EO was supposed to be issued last February but mining companies asked to get more involved in the crafting of the mining policy. -

Monday, June 18, 2012

World’s richest woman raises Fairfax stake

Photo by AFP / Tony ASHBY

SYDNEY – The world’s richest woman Gina Rinehart has boosted her stake in ailing Australian media giant Fairfax to 18.67 percent as she bids to win a board seat, it was revealed Monday.
The mining billionaire increased her holding from 12.58 percent, according to a regulatory filing.
She has been critical of the company management and her move came as Fairfax said it would slash 1,900 jobs and erect paywalls on its flagship titles in a major overhaul towards a digital future.
As part of the plan, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne will shift from broadsheet format to a more compact, tabloid size and two printing facilities will be shut.
Rinehart, who is worth Aus$29.17 billion (US$29.48 billion) according to an annual index by Business Review Weekly, has so far been unable to secure a seat on the Fairfax board despite being the company’s biggest shareholder.
Her initial move into the company earlier this year prompted the government to flag stronger media ownership laws amid concerns that the tycoon, who has been critical of the government, wanted to build her influence.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mining in the Philippines: Creating Growth Opportunities for All?

An article written by Thomas Graham taken from

Any comment? Read on...


Despite having some of the biggest mineral reserves in the world - including gold, copper, manganese and iron- mining has long been a hot and -at times- controversial topic in the Philippines. A strong anti-mining movement led by the influential Catholic Church, in addition to poor infrastructure and security concerns, have at times kept investors away, whilst the recent review of mining legislation leading to the government moratorium on mining has merely served to add more fuel to the debate. In fact, on a global level, given the growing levels of resource nationalism prevalent today, whether in stable emerging markets like Indonesia and South Africa or in developed nations such as Australia and Canada, it appears that doors everywhere are harder, more expensive or just plain dangerous to open. Much of this is due to growing perceptions that the industry is taking away from local communities more than it is putting in. With this in mind, Voices That Matter got together with Mr. Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez, President of the Chamber of Mines in the Philippines, to discuss the role the mining industry can play in promoting the inclusive, sustainable growth demanded by the current Filipino government under President Aquino.
Whilst different pressure groups tend to paint the picture of a mining industry which destroys both the local environment and rural communities, the industry itself has perhaps been slow to stand up for itself. Mr. Romualdez feels it is unfortunate that the public is not able to see a more balanced version of the events, and he is particularly keen to promote the role the mining industry has been playing in supporting local communities: “Corporate Social Responsibility is just a new, modern term for something which mining companies have been putting in practice for years. In certain cases we provide goods and basic services to communities where the government failed to do so. We have built schools and infrastructure where there is none.” In terms of the environmental concerns, Mr. Romualdez admits that mistakes have been made in the past, but links this to the mistakes made all over the world in terms of environmental damage ever since the evolution of our increasingly industrialized society: “Some of these issues of environmental sciences have perhaps only come to the fore in the past 10-20 years, so perhaps for some older companies there was no real understanding, in the past, of these concerns. However, as mining companies became aware of them, they quickly started to address them.”
Strangely, at a time when growth from emerging economies has driven demand for natural resources to record levels, the relative importance of the mining sector to the Philippines’ overall economic growth appears to have been downplayed. However, to not recognize the significance of the role mining could play in the Philippines’ economic development would be a major mistake, according to Mr Romualdez: “There are different catalysts of growth in any economy, and mining is definitely one of those. It has also been a key factor in driving foreign investment in the country. It is also vital because it is the basic necessity of any economy. Everything that you enjoy in the world today either has been mined or grown. This is a key element which people fail to understand or grasp.”
Therefore, at a time when legislation regarding the mining industry is being debated by the powers that be, it is vitally important that the Philippines is able to present legislation which is both fair to the local population and also attractive to foreign investors. Mr Romualdez feels it is particularly important that the Philippines gets things right, as this may in turn set important precedents for the Filipino economy at large: “All forms of infrastructure development, energy or major manufacturing projects will experience similar concerns to those which we are currently facing, whether regarding the implementation of local/national planning, or community/ environmental concerns. Governance issues are at play in the Philippines. How these projects move forward will clearly indicate how other similarly placed projects will experience challenges.”c
Overall, Mr Romualdez is clearly confident that the newly revised legislation can be both “comprehensive” and “strict” enough to satisfy the justifiable interest of environmental and community-focused group, and yet reliable and fair enough to attract investors into the sector: “Given the highly mineralized nature of the Philippines, and this country’s highly-skilled and experienced labour force, I think investors will see that you have a wonderful business opportunity here in the Philippines.”
This will not only benefit foreign investors, but most importantly it will benefit the Filipinos themselves: “The biggest misconception is that we are preparing the mining industry for the benefit of others, and not for the Filipinos themselves. In fact, we are preparing it for the Filipinos; we are simply using the fact that there are other people interested in utilizing those minerals and benefiting from them. Our view is that we’re creating an atmosphere from which there is a win-win for all around. Filipinos can utilize the resources which belong to them to provide opportunities for opportunities for investors, or for those that have the skills set and would like to work within it.”
Through guidance from the Philippines’ Chamber of Mines, as well as the implementation of best practices from a number of the country’s most respected players in the mining sector, perhaps mining can play a major role in the Philippines’ quest for inclusive, sustainable growth after all.

Monday, June 11, 2012

High-paying mining jobs bring big-city woes to small Australian towns

Despite a six-figure salary, Russel Wise is worried he will soon be homeless after receiving an eviction order from the one-room trailer he has rented since taking a job in an Australian coal mine in 2009.
"There aren't too many options around," says Wise, who like thousands of other Australians, was lured to the little town of Moranbah in the coal-rich northeast by high-paying jobs and in the process triggered a housing crisis of big-city proportions.
"The owner wants to build more modern, multi-dwelling units to house more people the mining companies can bring in and out on rotation, so I've got to go. Simple as that," says Wise.
The property crunch engulfing Moranbah and other communities peppering the Bowen Basin, a 60,000-sq-km (23,200-sq-mile) moonscape of open pit mines supplying most of the world's coal for steel making, is one of a swelling number of downsides associated with the Australian mining boom.
Add to the list rising food prices, constant truck traffic, outbreaks of sexually transmitted diseases and near-non-existent health care to name a few, according to town residents, health professionals, mine workers and community advocates interviewed by Reuters.
Jetting in employees on charter flights from mostly large cities to work 12-hour shifts for two weeks straight and then fly them home for a week off has long been commonplace in Australia's remote mining locations, where no towns exist.
But the growing demand for commodities in Asia is encouraging mining companies to dig deeper and faster than ever before near established communities like Moranbah, requiring thousands more workers than local townships can supply.
Mining company executives say they are trying to attract more employees to move permanently to the towns with their families to alleviate some of the problems associated with mobile work forces, but it is proving a hard sell.
A recent survey of mine workers suggested at least half have no interest in relocating permanently to mining towns, which can be lacking in social outlets much beyond a local pub and fast-food restaurants.
"This place is okay when you're working, but on a pyjama day I'm bored stiff," says Richard Spaffey, who is sub-contracted to a mining company based in his hometown of Perth, 3,600 km (2,200 miles) away, referring to a day off. "I'll head into town and the ratio of men to women will be fifty to one."
A prostitution advocacy group, called the Scarlet Alliance, is appealing to the government for help in servicing the mining communities, promoting regulated sex work as a safe alternative to unsupervised liaisons that can cause the spread of disease.
By one government estimate, Australia will need an extra 89,000 mine workers over the next five years.
As a result, mining towns like Moranbah are bracing for even greater population growth around the mines.
One of Australia's richest people, Andrew Forrest, who made billions mining iron ore, is heading a group aiming to train 50,000 Australian Aboriginals to work the mines.
Also, despite opposition from unions, Prime Minister Julia Gillard last month said more than 1,700 foreign workers could be brought in to work constructing one mine alone under special visas, underscoring the sector's dire need for labour and opening the door to further jobs immigration.
In the United States and across Europe, jobs fairs promoting work in Australia's resources sector already draw thousands of attendees.
"What this says loud and clear is that it is important for resources sector companies to be able to offer accommodation options," says Michael Roche, chief executive of the Queensland Resource Council, which lobbies on behalf of coal mining.
Australia is also easing immigration rules for farm workers applying for visas from Pacific islands like Papua New Guinea and Fiji to compensate for an exodus of workers from sugarcane fields to better paying mining jobs.
A programme is even under way to pay unemployed people to move to rural mining communities to work jobs indirectly connected to mining.
These too can be lucrative. In Moranbah, the local Dominoes pizza shop can't find enough drivers to pay A$25 per hour to make deliveries. On the outskirts of town, a billboard advertises electricians' jobs starting at A$60 an hour. The currency is roughly the same value as the U.S. dollar.
Three to a bed
John Wood, a property manager for Moranbah Real Estate, says many of the town's long-term residents had sold their homes by mid-2011 for hefty profits to investors now renting rooms for as much as A$1,800 a week.
"In many cases, the mining company subsidises the rent, so someone might only pay A$65 of that each week," he says. "It's actually got kind of slow. There's not much left out there to sell."
According to the Queensland Resources Council, 72 percent of workers renting accommodation receive subsidies.
In some instances, this has led to "hotbedding" or sharing of a single bed by up to three workers who stagger their shifts to keep out of each other's way.
Mining companies are trying to keep up with the population explosion by erecting thousands of modular workers' "villages" around the towns, but are seen doing little else to alleviate burdens on the community.
"Almost universally, people have noticed that FIFO (fly in, fly out) workers have increased levels of mental stress and mental illnesses (and) quite significant increases in alcohol and other drugs," Dr David Mountain, of the Australian Medical Association, told a parliamentary hearing in April.
Dr Reyno Nieuwoudt doubts few if any of the four doctors working at his private clinic on a Moranbah side street will be around by the end of the year, driven away by the workload.
"On average, we'll see up to 70 patients a day each and that's way too many," Nieuwoudt says. "That's way above the healthy average and quite frankly impossible to sustain."
Last week, the doctor who ran Moranbah's only other medical clinic closed and moved away. The town has been without a dentist for more than a year.
"At this pace, I won't be here much longer either," Nieuwoudt says.
As more mines are dug, there is a growing belief in Moranbah that mining companies prefer mobile work forces because it relieves the company of a responsibility to provide housing.
But Stephen Dumble, asset president of BMA, a joint venture between BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi which operates six coal mines, says BMA is constantly trying to recruit permanent residents. They are cheaper in the long run, because non-resident employees mean higher turnover, boosting costs for recruitment and training.
A survey by the regional council of Isaac, which takes in the Bowen Basin, suggests non-resident workers on average last about 18 months before becoming "tired" and quitting.
"Over the next two years, we will build 383 houses and townhouses across Central Queensland and we are spending A$54 million refurbishing a further 450 family homes," Dumble says. - Reuters

Friday, June 8, 2012

Filipino protests slam Australian military pact

Protesters in the Philippines reject a proposed
Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia, June 6.

Anti-war and progressive groups in the Philippines have asked for Australian support against a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between Australia and the Philippines currently before the Philippines Senate for ratification.
On June 6, there were two anti-war protests against the VFA, which is seen as part of a US-led military build up in the Asian region aimed at China.
The US used to operate huge military bases in the Philippines under the Marcos dictatorship. After Marcos was toppled by peoples power uprisings, these agreements were revoked.
However, subsequent Filipino governments have used VFAs to effectively re-base significant US military forces in the Philippines, particularly in and around the southern island of Mindanao. There, insurgent left and Moro national liberation groups say US special forces and even drones have been used against them.
Article 5, para. 1 of the Philippines-Australia VFA provides that the "Visiting Forces" may temporarily use such defined land and sea areas, air space or facilities, of the Receiving State mutually determined by the Parties, for "combined training, exercises, or other activities mutually approved by the Parties."
Filipino anti-war activists are concerned that a VFA with Australia will be used to help further repress liberation movements.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said each year Australia spends $4-4.5 million on “bilateral military cooperation”. These include “high level policy talks, training of approximately 130 Philippine defence personnel in Australia, and visits by senior officials”.
The military relationship, says DFAT, is “focussed on counter terrorism, maritime security and assistance to the Philippines Defence Reform Program”.
During former Philippines President Gloria Arroyo’s visit to Australia in May 2007, a bilateral Status of Visiting Forces Agreement was signed. This pact is now being considered for ratification by the Philippine Senate.
Reihana Mohideen from the Party of the Labouring Masses (PLM) told Green Left Weekly: “About 50% of the US war fleet is in the Asian region (it is projected to rise to 60% by 2020) and the anti-war movement here sees Australia as the major military partner of US imperialism in the region.
“The VFA with the US was signed in 1998. It has allowed a permanent presence of US military forces in the Philippines without having permanent bases like there used to be under the Marcos dictatorship.”
It has allowed a permanent US military presence, Mohideen said, especially in Mindanao under the guise of ongoing military exercises.
“We know they have participated with intelligence personnel in on-the-ground operations against Moro liberation movement. We have had reports, recently, of drone attacks very similar to those being carrioed out by the US in Pakistan. This is a stepping up of covert and overt military intervention in the Philippines.
“Another aspect is the question of who has legal jurisdiction over these ‘visiting’ military forces. And it has been found that the Philippines has no juridiction.
“There was a case of the rape of a young woman by a US soldier a few years ago where the US asserted its legal jurisdiction over the offender.
“In the light of this experience we now have a similar agreement that has been signed with the Australian government. It is only now that this agreement has come before the Senate that the movement has been made aware of its existence.”
Australia, added Mohideen, is the “number one military ally of US imperialism in the region”. She said Australia had its own direct interests, such as mining.
“Australian mining companies are ravaging Indigenous communities in Mindanao and in central Philippines. This is a real concern.
“The Senate is now deliberating the ratification bill. It has been delayed because seven Senators now oppose it. If eight Senators oppose it this will block the bill when it is reconsidered in July.
“So we are calling for urgent solidarity from the movement in Australia in our struggle to block this military agreement which is going to be detrimental to the people of the Philippines.”

Letter to President Aquino: Reject SMI/XSTRATA Mine Proposal in Social Justice

June 8, 2012
His Excellency Benigno Simeon C. Aquino, III
President of the Republic of the Philippines
New Executive Building, MalacaƱang Palace
J.P. Laurel St., San Miguel, Manila
Your Excellency:
We are gratified that Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI)/XStrata has been denied environmental clearance for the second time for its controversial $ 5.9 billion project straddling South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur and Saranggani. The disapproval, “without prejudice to resubmission” (DENR order dated May 22, 2012), in my view, should be final and absolute. The disapproval should not just be based on the standing ordinance of South Cotabato against open-pit mining, but on appreciation of the incontrovertible information that has emerged on the impacts of the project on the environment and the people of Mindanao.
Several conferences, fora and fact-finding missions have concluded many reasons to reject the Tampakan Mine Project. Let me briefly enumerate some of these risks the mine poses to our human, ecological and cultural heritage:
Slated to become the biggest mine in the Philippines, the Tampakan Mine of SMI/Xstrata covers 10,000 hectares, destroying in its lifetime 4,000 hectares of water catchment forests, including old-growth forests. It risks polluting the water source of communities depending for their livelihoods on six rivers. The biggest river system, the Mal River, will be most polluted as many streams in its catchment will be destroyed and replaced by the tailings dam, which will devastate fisheries and will harm irrigated crops downstream in Davao del Sur, in the event of a dam failure. The Philippines needs more than ever to protect its water catchment if it is going to feed its expanding population and the apocalyptic Climate Change forecast of PAGASA showing a decreased rate of rainfall in Mindanao, the country’s food basket. (data from Goodland and Wicks, “Philippines: Mining or Food?”, 2006)
SMI threatens a total of 812 flora species, 247 (30%) are Philippine endemics and 52 (6%) are mainland Mindanao endemics. 55 species are under the Threatened Species list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. For amphibians and reptiles alone, 28% are Philippine endemics, 18% are Mindanao endemics and 20% are Greater Mindanao endemics (data from the Environmental Impact Study of SMI).
• MINDANAO IS A CONFLICT ZONE. Precisely because of the unstable peace and order condition in the Tampakan site and surrounding areas, SMI facilities have been attacked, burned and partly destroyed on several occasions by aggrieved parties. This area is among the most militarized areas in south central Mindanao today. On the pretext of “clearing the areas of subversive elements,” the Philippine Armed Forces with the CAFGUs have continuously launched military campaigns in that area, intensifying the conflict between Anti- and Pro- mining B’laans and instigating fear and terror in the communities, as documented by the Fact-Finding Mission conducted on April 25 and 26, 2012 by the Social Action Center of the diocese of Marbel.
• THE TAMPAKAN MINE IS A MAJOR THREAT TO FOOD SECURITY. Agriculture is the dominant economic activity in Davao del Sur and South Cotabato. The open-pit mining method would create massive disturbance to the environmental ecosystem currently protecting the water catchments supplying water irrigation and drinking water to Koronadal. Failure of the 500-hectare tailings dam (a real possibility due to earthquake fault lines crossing the site or the eruption of Mt. Matutum, an active volcano, which is 12 kilometers away) would kill people and damage watershed and irrigation infrastructures that support Mindanao’s food basket. There are 80,000 farmers farming 200,000 hectares in South Cotabato valley alone, relying on the river systems and water catchments of the surrounding mountains; SMI/Xstrata admits in their EIS that they will impact six (6) river systems. Scientists also project that several aquifers will also be contaminated. (from Goodland and Wicks, “Philippines: Mining or Food?”, 2006)
In finally rejecting SMI/Xstrata of this particular project, I believe that you are not breaking faith with these foreign investors. The project, from the very beginning was conditioned on the investors showing that it could be implemented without serious environmental and social impacts. Otherwise, why else would Environmental Clearance be required? Their assumption in making their investments, no matter how big or small, was that they could prove the environmental soundness of their project. If through the intervening environmental impact studies (by DENR itself, or by private institutions like NGOs, Academe and Church) it has been demonstrated that the impacts would be disastrous, the President must recognize this and draw the necessary conclusion. In this case, DENR itself must come to the defense of the environment and protect the interests of the Filipino people, living now and the generations yet to come.
For these reasons, I appeal that the Tampakan Mine Project of SMI/Xstrata be disapproved with finality. The disapproval should not be based on the conflict of the national (RA 7942) and provincial (South Cotabato Ordinance No. 4-2010) laws alone, but in the context of social justice and the correlate principle of the common good – the shared human good where relationships to God, to human beings and the environment are honored and respected even in our economic pursuits.
Thank you.
Sincerely in our Lord,
Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ
Rector of Ateneo de Davao University