Thursday, May 25, 2006

Debate Over Repeal of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (Part 1)

Manila Times Monday editorial, Fallout of Rapu-rapu takes up the current debate over the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which has boiled over because of the government- appointed panel's recommendations regarding Lafayette Mining (via PDI) and the counter charges that the panel had pre-judged what it was tasked to factually investigate. Yet, this is only a minor skirmish in a wider debate that broke out after the Supreme Court reversed itself and declared that law constitutional in December 2004, thus re-energizing the Philippine mining industry.

The Manila Times lays out the situation:
The Arroyo administration had gone to great lengths in trying to revive the mining industry, which was being choked by socioeconomic, legal and environmental concerns. We cannot help but note the irony here, considering that the country’s vast natural resources remain largely untapped. We have the fifth-largest reserves of gold and copper in the world. Our gold reserves are estimated at 967,180,197 metric tons, and our copper reserves, 5,301,507,657 metric tons. We have nine million hectares of potential mining land, yet only 1.4 hectares are covered by mining permits. Nine years ago, 17 metallic mining firms were operating in the country. In 2002 the number dropped to 7. Mining companies employed a little over 100,000 workers. Thousands more toiled in small mining operations, concentrated mainly in Diwalwal. The industry was going nowhere.
Filipinos have long lamented with ill-concealed envy, the petroleum riches of countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. These are places where prosperity is literally being pumped out of the ground as a black liquid sold all around the world. Yet there has not been universal rejoicing in the Archipelago over the reports by the Mining and Geosciences Bureau of the Dept. of Enviroment and Natural Resources that we may have over 900 billion US dollars worth of gold, copper, nickel and other valuable minerals just waiting to be mined. An impressive array of forces, led by the Catholic Bishops, the local and international environmental movement, the liberal Press and Academe, as well as the Left in general are calling for REPEAL of the Mining law and seem unalterably opposed to mining as an economic activity. As a first foray into this vast topic, I have chosen the following Statement on the blog of CBCP's head as representative of these forces:

FOR THE AFFIRMATIVE: Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, President, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines
A Statement on Mining Issues and Concerns:Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell”(Num. 35:34)

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

We are Pastors. We listen to the voice of the flock and take care of them. In our task to care for them, we reiterate our concern for the Earth.

In 1998, we in the CBCP issued “A Statement of Concern on the Mining Act of 1995”. We declared that the government mining policy is offering our lands to foreigners with liberal conditions while our people continue to grow in poverty. We stated that the adverse social impact on the affected communities far outweigh the gains promised by mining Trans-National corporations (TNCs). In our statement we also forewarned that the “implementation of the Mining Act will certainly destroy environment and people and will lead to national unrest.”

We reaffirm our stand for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995. We believe that the Mining Act destroys life. The right to life of people is inseparable from their right to sources of food and livelihood. Allowing the interests of big mining corporations to prevail over people’s right to these sources amounts to violating their right to life. Furthermore, mining threatens people’s health and environmental safety through the wanton dumping of waste and tailings in rivers and seas.

Our experiences of environmental tragedies and incidents with the mining transnational corporations belie all assurances of sustainable and responsible mining that the Arroyo administration is claiming. Increasing number of mining affected communities, Christians and non-Christians alike, are subjected to human rights violations and economic deprivations. We see no relief in sight.

President Arroyo’s “Mining Revitalization Program” is encouraging further the entry and operation of large-scale mining of TNCs. Alarmingly, the mining tenements granted through the program have encroached into seventeen (17) of important biodiversity areas, into thirty-five (35) of national conservation priority areas, and thirty-two (32) of national integrated protected areas. The promised economic benefits of mining by these transnational corporations are outweighed by the dislocation of communities especially among our indigenous brothers and sisters, the risks to health and livelihood and massive environmental damage. Mining areas remain among the poorest areas in the country such as the mining communities in CARAGA, Bicol and Cordillera Regions. The cultural fabric of indigenous peoples is also being destroyed by the entry of mining corporations.

Moreover, we are apprehensive that the proposed deletion of the nationalist provisions in the Constitution by the Constitutional Commission (CONCOM) can pave the way to the wholesale plunder of our National Patrimony, and undermine our Sovereignty.

· To support, unify and strengthen the struggle of the local Churches and their constituency against all mining projects, and raise the anti-mining campaign at the national level;
· To support the call of various sectors, especially the Indigenous Peoples, to stop the 24 Priority Mining Projects of the government, and the closure of large-scale mining projects, for example, the Rapu-rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay, HPP Project in Palauan, Didippio Gold-Copper Project in Albay, HPP Project in Palawan, Didippio Gold-Copper Project in Nueva Vizcaya, Tampakan Copper-gold Project in South Cotabato, Canatuan Gold Project in Zamboanga del Norte, and the San Antonio Copper Project in Marinduque, among others;
· To support the conduct of studies on the evil effects of mining in dioceses;
· To support all economic activities that are life-enhancing and poverty-alleviating.

As we have said in our 1998 statement, “even our best efforts will come to nothing without the help of God, our Creator. We invoke upon you the grace of the Holy Spirit who renews the face of the earth. With gratitude in our hearts we ask the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, to obtain for us a renewed land and a converted people.”
There is much, much more along this same vein among the international leftist and radical environmental groups which agree with Archbishop Lagdameo and the CBCP, at this Mines and Communities Website.

To Readers: I would appreciate links to articles and posts on either side of the debate.

STILL ON DA VINCI CODE AND THE GNOSTICS: A conversation with Dom Cimafranca of the Village Idiot Savant is ongoing with his most recent riposte Of Gospels and Apocrypha, here.


ricelander said...

Re Mining Debate. Dean, you might find these link helpful:

If I may use an analogy, it's like being that proverbial rich spoiled kid who can't grow to maturity because he knows he won't go hungry even if he parties all day everyday.

I am for exploiting our minerals but it helps to know the pitfalls.

Lord Dracula said...

I believe that God has placed those resources for the people to utilize. So I am for mining.

What I am afraid of is a Marcopper-like incident in a large scale. Mining is not bad per se, with the proper safeguards. And that's the problem. How can we ensure that safeguards will be strictly be complied with? Can we have the best safeguards in the first place, with a government that seems to bungle on things technical? Will companies engage in cost-cutting measures by paying only lip service with regards to safety guidelines compliance?

And of course, it must be ensured that the people living near mining sites will benefit, also the miners risking their lives. Since it is not a white collar job, mostly likely the salary would be a pittance.

Without Borders said...

when a cebu pacific plane went down years ago killing more than 200 people, no one cried lets ban aviation. when 17 kilograms of fishes died supposedly because of the rapu-rapu tailings spills, the bishops cried lets ban mining. where is the consistency here? thousands die of smoking each year, no cried lets stop the tobaco industry.

Dominique said...

Hi, Dean, thanks very much for the link. I'll post responses over the weekend.

Without Borders said...

You visit Asia Times Online, particularly this link: for the latest and extensive discussion on mining.

Rizalist said...

Thanks for the link David. Great article by the way...

Amadeo said...

Anybody familiar with the Diwalwal gold mining area in Monkayo, Davao? By way of introduction, here's a link:

The claim there is that Diwalwal made the Philippines the biggest gold producer in SouthEast Asia and No. 8 in the world. Though as far back as the time of Marcos, the country was already among the top 10 in the world.

I'm familiar with the area and its operations. And at some early point, we made small investments in processing and smelting. A visit to the PNB branch in Davao will show the extent of mining in the area.

Juan said...

For me, to mine or not to mine is not the question.

But,How do we draw the line between 'Good' Mining and 'Bad' Mining.

Criteria, standards, contingencies, benefit/cost, etc.

Unless and until that critical line is set I am for a moratorium and repeal to make way for a new sustainable mining act.

At the rate mining had gone so far, accelerated by GMA, there will be none left before we can get our 'acts' together -- nothing left but dead silted rivers and a 'toxic' environment.

Rizalist said...

MABUHAY-- Lots of other countries faced the same problems we face, and they have safe, efficient, productive mining industries. It's not as if what has to be done is unknown. Responsible mining is a reality in the world. Others have already proven it. But we take the attitude that mining is inherently an evil and malevolent activity, so we just have to suffer in poverty our present "Eden."