“Lots of smart people believe that only one commodity rises in an inflationary environment: gold”. The mining industry is said to benefit from the global financial crisis as prices of gold increase making it a safe investment for anybody who distrusts the financial institutions nowadays.
DENR Secretary Lito Atienza expressed optimism for more investment coming from China, London and Australia. While China is benefiting from the ore exports from the Philippines and making investment on agriculture and mining, two of the biggest mining companies in the world, BHB Billiton of London and Oceangold of Australia, have already existing operations in mining priority areas in the country. “Mining investment could hit $1.5 billion this year given a possible second-half rise in demand, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CMP) said”. While retail stocks will now be open to the public to augment investment on mining.
Last January 20, 2009, a Mining Financial Forum sponsored by the Chamber of Mines took place to reveal more incentives to mining and cast off doubts of its benefits. “Local governments would now be able to get their share of tax revenue from mining activities within four months of payment instead of waiting for years”. This new incentive will make mining more acceptable to the local government and address issues on its promised economic benefits opposition have raised in the past. The same treatment is expected regarding royalty fees for the affected indigenous communities.
Around 400 Mamanwa community members in Taganito and Urbiztondo, Claver, Surigao del Norte have barricaded since January 29 to demand their 1 percent royalty fees from the annual gross income of Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC) in their ancestral land. Three (3) more mining companies are operating inside their domain: Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation (OSMC), Case Mining Company and Platinum Group Mining Company (PGMC). After 46 years of operation, only in 2006 that the Mamanwa signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Company for a financial assistance. On February 19, TMC finally relented to the Mamanwa demand and deposited P51 Million to the account of the Asosasyon sa Madazaw na Panagkaisa nan mga Tribong Mamanwa sa Taganito ug Urbiztondo (Ampantrimtu). The largest royalty payment so far made by a mining firm to an indigenous people in the Philippines. However TMC requested to assist the Mamanwa in the formulation of their Ancestral Domain Management Plan (ADMP) while doubts linger whether the Mamanwa will really benefit from the amount due to individuals and groups with vested interest who have brokered the settlement. Besides, leaders of the tribe are now arguing over their share of the huge amount than allocating it wisely for the benefit of their community.
Other mining companies are expected to pay their expected tax revenues to concerned LGUs and follow the example of TMC to improve their acceptability as more anti-mining activities thwart their operations. The opposition, however, who stood by the belief that there are no amount of royalties and local taxes can compensate for the damage on the environment, abuse of human rights, food security and conflicts brought about to the IP communities, are expected not to easily backtrack:
- House Bill 5888 intends to permanently ban and criminalize mining of precious minerals in Cagayan de oro city as a result of the flash floods it experienced recently gains support from the civil society and Church.
- The Compostella Valley government declares 2 mining villages of Mt. Diwalwal in Monkayo as not fit for human habitation or “no man’s land” due to the extensive mining operation in the past.
- Nine (9) barangays of Rizal of Zamboanga del Norte passed ordinance against the entry of Philex Gold Philippines Inc. (PGPI) gearing up to resume its operation in Murcielagos bay.
- Some 1,500 town folks of Buguey, massed at the Capitol of Tugegarao last February 12 to air disapproval of mining operation by a South Korean firm in Mananga village due to its possible environmental hazard and effect on thousand of hectares of land.
- The Subanen in the hinterlands of Siocon staged a barricade anew to prevent TVI Resources Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD) from doing blasting and drilling operations in the sacred Canatuan mountain.
- The provincial government of Apayao seeks consultation with the mining and logging companies before they can start their operation
- Bishop Lucilo Quiambao expressed alarm over Radio Veritas on the reports of a local organization Sagip Isla that Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project has been asking the local residents to sign blank sheets of paper in exchange of tickets for rice distribution of 10 kilos
- Clergies in Mindoro joined by Senator Aquilino Pimentel and members of the “Mining Working Group” headed by Frank Nally call to halt mining that will threaten the rice supply in Oriental Mindoro province. A Norwegian Company, Intex Resources is planning to put up a nickel plant over an area which produces “51% of the province’s rice requirement”.
- The local government of Cantilan, Surigao del Sur, manifested support to the mounting opposition of the local governments of Carrascal and Madrid, Church and farmers organizations against the issuance of ECC to Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MMDC) to commence mining operation on March 16, 2009.
- Alarmed by the more than 300 mining applications in Palawan, a group of anthropologists and social scientists from United States of America, France, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and Australia, engaged in various studies and researches on the environment, issued a statement calling the Arroyo government and local government officials to stop mining in the province. Palawan is considered as the last frontier signifying biodiversity and untapped resources.
- Sister Stella Matutina of the Order of St. Benedictine accused army soldiers of illegally detaining her and three other companions in Barangay Taytayan, Cateel town in Davao Oriental. “The four arrived in Barangay Taytayan, a small rice farming community in the town of Cateel, last Feb. 16, to investigate reported illegal mining activities and conduct information drive on the environment”. The soldiers released them eight hours later.
- Last February 27, thousands of residents in the coastal town of Buguey trooped to the Provincial Capitol to air their grievances on illegal mining operations in the town famous of which is the black sands that abound in the shore. They argued that the disturbance of the surface of the shore will weaken its defenses against the floods and typhoons which the town is prone to experience.
- On March 3, Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) leaders, representatives of MACQUITACDG, APIT TAKO-Mankayan, Tignayan dagiti Babbai iti Minasan a Lepanto (TBML) and Cordillera Peoples Alliance picketed the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company’s main office in Makati City to air their grievances and demands towards the company on its unjust labour practices and against the expansion of its operations.
- On February 9 in the UK, UK Bishops and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines call for a moratorium on new mining in the Philippines . They urge a review on the existing mining projects and a withdrawal of international investment in mining until ‘proper procedures’ are in place to protect human rights and the environment. Their report provides evidence that mining is causing large-scale ruin of island environments and people’s livelihoods, in particular undermining food production and sustainability.
What is more alarming is the move by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the Philippines to pass Resolution No. 737 early this February proposing “Amendments to Sections 2 and 3, Article XII of the1987 Constitution to Allow the Acquisition by Foreign Corporations and Associations, the Transfer or Conveyance Thereto, of Alienable Public Lands and Private Lands .” The “material basis of the nation’s existence” would be put under the control and management of the foreigners leaving most Filipinos deprived of their source of life. Based on studies, foreign investments in the Philippines are not actually after land ownership but on laws and policies and mechanisms in place to protect their business so much from graft and corruption than from the loss of capital. The resolution is being debated now in Congress, watering down the opposition who are already deficient in number. Anti-mining advocates and those lobbying for the extension of CARP throng the streets to protest against the resolution but also the majority in Congress who are riding on the argument that the resolution does not need a referendum to change the Constitution but a simple act of congress will do.
Members of the “Working Group on Mining” in the Philippines who have visited mining locations in Mindoro and Mindanao in February “warned that the large-scale mining proposed for the Philippines threatens to wreak havoc, compounding a legacy of deforestation and habitat destruction. The extraction process damages food production, particularly rice, and imperils fisheries”. There report came out in a statement “Philippines:Mining or Food” calling for a national moratorium on mining, prioritization of food production, upholding of the rights to food and stop on human rights abuses. They further warned that if mining cannot be stopped in the country, “the threat of real hunger becomes quite immediate and real. The working group came up with recommendations to all the stakeholders of mining but more importantly clarified what responsible mining means:
Towards a Definition of “Responsible Mining”
“Responsible Mining” is where:
(a) Social and environmental impacts are very low (e.g., in deserts) or absent, and can be mitigated.
(b) Fully informed agreement of impacted communities to proceed is obtained through the FPIC of indigenous communities & the broad community support of all other impacted communities
(c) Benefits and compensation for the impacted people are high and long term, and unambiguously outweigh possible impacts and effective monitoring and grievance mechanisms must be in place.
“Responsible Mining” avoids the following:
(a) Densely populated areas (no forcible displacement of humans);
(b) Zones of social conflict; Ancestral domains & Indigenous Peoples.
(c) Conservation units & biodiversity areas e.g., National Parks, watersheds, wetlands.
(d) High rainfall; typhoon prone belts; cyclone areas; Active seismic faults, tectonic areas, earthquake prone areas; Steep slopes, especially where protective forest has been destroyed, above food- and fish-producing areas; erosion-prone and landslip
“Responsible mining” is a jargon to mean Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) among the mining companies. It simply means proper compliance to the mining application processes and to come up with infrastructure and community development projects worth millions of pesos. So when Xstrata Copper, a Swiss mining company owning a sizeable investment in the “Tampakan Copper project”, is required to be responsible, it came out with a hefty P23 million-worth of community development projects: reforestation, roadside greening, scholarship grants, medical outreach and livelihood programs. It is the company five-year commitment plan for the improvement of host and neighbouring communities. This is what the company boast of aside from complying with the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP), Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the Contingent Liability and Rehabilitation Fund (CLRF). But these initiatives do not take into account the free prior and informed consent of the community (FPIC) of the indigenous peoples and the surrounding communities impacted by the project. The Church, civil society organizations and affected tribes continue to assail the mining company for its impact on the environment and failure to gain their consent. Consequently, a staunch anti-mining leader, Eliezer Billanes, was murdered last March 10, 2009, following a dialogue with barangay officials and military about death threats he received from leading protests against the mining operation in the area.
Since mining industry has stepped up to become a viable option in bracing up for the impact of the global crisis, more concerted effort and emergency measures are needed to safeguard the rights of the affected communities. Democratic consultations and transparency of information in all phases and level of mining activity should be conducted genuinely to muster a wider FPIC from both the directly and indirectly affected communities. While a more stringent application of laws on environmental standards both at the local and international levels should be applied to mining operations. Setting aside all these requirements, the government should put priority on agriculture to ensure food security and sustainability of environment before any venture into mining. This requires a moratorium on mining and review of the existing policy to be able to craft a new mining act that is truly pro-Filipino.
 PDI, Silver Lining seen for mining industry, January 22, 2006, pp. B1-B2
 excerpt from the report, “Philippines : Mining or Food?”, by Robert Goodland and Clive Wicks of the Working Group on Mining in the Philippines
 The Tampakan project is touted as the largest undeveloped copper deposit in Southeast Asia.
– dani conejar