Mining and Mindanao: what fate awaits communities?
September 21, 2007 § 2 Comments
A friend Penelope Sanz, an anthropologist and a part-time journalist, has gone deep into both probing mining communities and met with mining firms.
I think she has an extensive and intensive field work on mining in Mindanao. I have always wanted to cover communities as there are both interesting and shocking stories to tell from the mouths of people there.
She has written on how the mining industry has affected human rights and the lives in general of the indigenous peoples. But most newspapers were not able to publish it for some reasons.
So when I found some of her articles from old files I decided to post them here.
Mining and Mindanao: what fate awaits the communities?
MAKATI CITY — Inside the ballroom of the New World Renaissance Hotel on February 3, some 200 men in business suits from Australia, Canada, China, United States and Russia were unperturbed by announcements from officials of the Philippine government and the Chamber of Mines that a crowd of protesters was picketing outside the hotel.
In fact, the delegates would never have heard of the protest if the officials didn’t mention it and explain it as proof of a “vibrant democracy.” But even if they heard, not one of them appeared bothered.
Delegates at the lobby would not have known, too, that there was an opposition to their presence as the protesters, among them Igorots clad in G-string, held their picket along Pasay Road, the back of the hotel.
A day earlier, while the businessmen were busy introducing each other at the opening of the international mining conference dubbed “Open for Business: Mining and Minerals as New Drivers of Growth,” men and women in casual attire gathered at the Pergola Grill in Kamuning, Quezon City, a number of them cursing the Supreme Court for dismissing with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by the La Bugal Bla-an Tribal Associations.
In effect, the mining conference’s title, “Open for business” was timely, since the high court had reaffirmed there are no more obstacles to the entry of foreign capital into mining, allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of mining operations, instead of the usual 40% share.
As investors in the Renaissance hotel discussed the prospects of their ongoing and future mining operations in the Philippines, in the restaurant in Kamuning, participants to the forum of the Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance to stop mining) cried “rape of the patrimony.”
The Supreme Court decision was handed down on February 1, 10 days after it was filed and just a day before the start of the mining conference.
As if to rub salt to the Alyansa’s injury, Supreme Court Justice Artemio Panganiban, the ponente of the December 1, 2004 and February 1, 2005 decisions, spoke at the mining conference and was in fact introduced to the delegates by Chamber of Mines president Benjamin Romualdez as “a very courageous gentleman who has put together a most compelling, most comprehensive decision the Supreme Court has ever seen.”
Last year, it was the mining industry that cursed the Supreme Court while those against the Mining Act celebrated the high court’s January 27 decision declaring portions of the 1995 Mining Act unconstitutional. That decision also nullified the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of the Australian firm Western Mining Corporation (WMC) over a huge area straddling three provinces, and all provisions concerning FTAA and other permits that can be granted to foreign-owned corporations.
The Philippine government through the Department of Environment’s Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau, filed a motion for reconsideration, and on December 1 last year, the Supreme Court reversed its ruling.
On January 22, the La Bugal association filed a motion for reconsideration but this was “thrown away after 10 days by the SC without even summoning the DENR and other parties to respond to the motion,” Atty. Marvic Leonen, chair of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Inc. – Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK) and lead counsel for the La Bugal-B’laan Tribal Associations, said.
Leonen noted that when La Bugal won after seven years of court hearings, the SC gave the mining proponents’ motion for reconsideration enough time for intervention and oral argument. In the case of La Bugal, it took only ten days for the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition “with finality.”
That the final decision came on February 1, the day before the opening of the Mining Conference, was a major reason for the mining advocates’ grand celebration, capped with a dinner at Malacanang.
And there was a grand reason to celebrate: there was no longer any obstacle in getting foreigners to invest in large-scale mining in the Philippines.
The Philippines’ mineral-rich lands were now “open for business.”
Indeed, the Philippines is now open for business, including its patrimony, says Leonen. The FTAA allows foreign-owned corporations (FOC) 100% ownership of at least 81,000 hectares. It also grants FOCs water rights, timber rights and easement rights.
An 81,000 hectare mineral land is almost thrice the size of Camiguin (29,000 hectares) and Digos City (28,710 hectares) and larger than Valencia City (62,163 hectares)
Leonen argues that this contradicts the 1987 Philippine Constitution which stipulates that the state may “enter into co-production, joint venture or production sharing agreements with Filipino citizens or corporations”.
The exploration, development and utilization of resources is “not anymore Filipino first policy but foreigner-owned first policy,” he said.
Romualdez outlined the contributions of a revitalized mining industry – it could yield about P 57 billion in additional tax revenue for the government, jobs and livelihood especially in far-flung areas, among others.
The next day, glowing reports about the prospects of mining appeared in the national dailies and radio and television networks – how mining could pay for our foreign debt, our budget deficit, how it could generate an estimated 1.2 million jobs, etc..
The reports, filed mostly by business reporters garbed also in business suits, did not mention major policy changes announced during the conference, changes that cannot be quantified monetarily but whose impact on the communities is immense, such as the scrapping of the requirement for mining firms to obtain the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the Lumads (indigenous communities) affected by the mining project, during the exploratory stage.
The impact of the revised policies on the lives of the Lumads in the faraway jungles of Mindanao, where most of the mining projects are, apparently could not be felt from the concrete jungles of Makati, where the mining investors, along with government officials, decided, from the confines of an airconditioned ballroom, what fate awaits the Lumads and other communities in mineral-rich Mindanao. (Tomorrow: Mine Mindanao)
Mining and Mindanao:
what fate awaits the communities?
2nd of three parts
MAKATI CITY — Mining oppositionists nationwide would not have been surprised by the Supreme Court ruling on December 1 if they had been monitoring developments in Mindanao’s business sector.
In September last year, the 13th Mindanao Business Conference (Minbizcon) submitted its 13-page eight point action agenda to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Davao City, “outlining the business sector’s recommendations and commitment in pursuit of federalism and revitalizing the mining industry, among others”.
It called on Ms Arroyo to “facilitate the immediate resolution of the constitutionality issue of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 to eliminate the apprehensions of investors in mining developments in the Philippines.”
What “facilitate” meant and how it will be done, given that the executive and judiciary are independent branches of government, Minbizcon did not elaborate. At that time, the constitutionality issue was already in the hands of the Supreme Court, the final arbiter.
The MinBizCon also wanted the National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to facilitate the process of Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Lumads (indigenous peoples) and accelerate the identification of “real indigenous peoples/indigenous cultural communities” in specific areas. It also wants NCIP to “be neutral and objective in arriving at FPIC consensus.”
The Minbizcon also urged the NCIP “to embark on an information program with the Mindanao Business Council, on the benefits of mineral development in accordance with the promotion of the approved ancestral domain management plan” of the Lumads.
Set up simultaneously with the creation of the Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM), the Office of the President for Mindanao (OPMin), the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCO) and the Mindanao Business Council (MBC) during the Ramos Administration (1992-1998), MinBizCon has, over the years, positioned itself to be the voice for Mindanao’s development.
For instance, policies and economic reforms in Mindanao and the Philippines for that matter, are reflected in MinBizCon’s resolutions e.g. oil palm plantations, experimentations and introduction of GMO (genetically modified organisms) in agricultural communities in Cotabato and Bukidnon, roll-in and rollout (RORO) shipping.
In terms of minerals development, it was in the 11th MinBizCon that the issues and concerns of the mining industry in the Caraga Region were endorsed to Ms Arroyo in 2002.
The future is in Mindanao
Globally, the Philippines ranks third in gold, fourth in copper, fifth in nickel, and sixth in chromite, according to National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Romulo Neri
But the Philippine mining industry’s future is in resource-rich Mindanao. The island has 80% of the country’s deposits of copper, nickel and gold according to a policy paper prepared by the MBC for the 12th MinBizCon held in Cagayan de Oro City in October 2003.
Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s “landmark decision upholding the constitutionality of the Mining Law in our country and the extent of foreign participation in large-scale mining,” the Arroyo Administration is now in full gear to sell the mineral resources of the Philippines.
For starters, the one-stop shop for mining applications is now going to be administered by former Foreign Affairs Secretary and Minerals Development Consultant Delia Albert who was appointed special government envoy to “facilitate and expedite the approval of mining applications”.
According to Chamber of Mines of the Philippines president, Benjamin Romualdez, 11 of the government’s 23 flagship mining projects are found in Mindanao which is also home to “at least least half of the 37 exploration projects.”
At the dinner with the miners in Malacanang on February 3, President Arroyo announced that applications for Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) and Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) will now be approved within six months. This means that the Environmental Compliance Certificate has to be approved in two months while the processing of the Certificate of Pre-Condition and the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Lumads is expected to be completed in three months, Engr. Leo Nazareno, Officer-in-Charge of DENR’s Tenement Division, said during the conference workshop.
Obtaining the FPIC, as provided by the NCIP Administrative Order NO.3 Series 2002, usually takes about 180 days.
The FPIC and the certificate of pre-condition are “instruments of empowerment” under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997. It aims to protect the primary rights of the Lumads in the “implementation of development projects, programs, activities and other business or profit oriented investments within their ancestral domains to ensure their economic, social and cultural well-being”.
It was enacted in response to the “negative experiences of the indigenous peoples against development projects that destroyed our ancestral domain,” Vicky Tauli, a Kankanaey, who is the Executive Director of Tebtebba Foundation and member of the United Nations’ Forum on Indigenous Peoples, explained.
But at the mining conference on February 3, Environment Secretary Michael Defensor announced that the FPIC of the Lumads will no longer be required of mining firms during exploration stage.
Defensor disclosed that the NCIP had announced during a cabinet meeting in December 2004 that “they will not anymore require the FPIC for the exploration because these are just holes that are being stuck on the ground to test the minerals.”
“What is important for FPIC is when the mining activities commence,” he said.
“But what Defensor is not saying is that the exploratory phase is no longer mineral testing for that is already proven, but an exploration on how the operation is going to be conducted and how it will cost them,” Joan Carling, chair of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, said.
Exploration activity causes disturbances and makes communities more vulnerable to human rights violations, he said, adding that scrapping the requirement for an FPIC, is “unacceptable.”
“It gives no space for the (Lumads) to say no to activities that destroy their land. Most importantly, it deprives us of our right to manage and develop our resources,” he said.
Tauli noted that even the rights of non-Lumad communities to disagree with mining development will be “railroaded with these new national policies.” (Tomorrow: Mining and Peace)
Mining and Mindanao: what fate awaits the communities?
By Penelope C. Sanz/MindaNews
Last of three parts
MAKATI CITY (MindaNews/22 February) – On February 5, when delegates to the international mining conference were given an optional tour of the mining sites, peace advocates from the Mindanaw Peaceweavers network trooped to Davao City from various parts in Mindanao to update each other and to discuss mining and its impact on the peace-building processes in
By then, the Sulu crisis had not received full-blown media attention and the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was moving ahead as both sides were preparing for the resumption of informal talks in Kuala Lumpur this month.
The February 1 decision of the Supreme Court dismissing with finality the motion for reconsideration of the La Bugal Tribal Association, was a cause for worry among peace advocates.
In several areas in Mindanao, the entry of big mining firms has been causing division among communities.
Mining advocates, however, contend that the industry’s promised jobs generation would help bring about peace.
Former President Fidel Ramos, who signed Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, told delegates of the international mining conference at lunch on February 3 that the mining industry is the key to the Philippines’ economic woes and a “powerful weapon for mass upliftment
in our fight against poverty.”
At the dinner she hosted in Malacanang the same day, President Arroyo told mining investors that the revitalization of the mining industry "spells more jobs, more roads, more bridges, more classrooms and books and computers in them, and potable water and electricity for every barangay."
Indeed, in theory, the prospects of the mining industry appear very promising, particularly when mind-boggling figures are presented.
Romulo Neri, director of the National Economic Development Authority, said the potential mining wealth of the Philippines is “estimated to have an approximate value of $ 840 billion or P47 trillion or ten times the annual GDP.”
Neri says this figure is 15 times the total foreign debt of $ 56 billion.
In practice, it has yet to be determined how much of the foreign mining firm’s earnings will be returned to their home countries and how much will be retained in the Philippines.
Lawyer-anthropologist Gus Gatmaytan, in his discussion of “Resources War: Mining in the Philippines,” told the Mindanao Peaceweavers that in theory, the provisions of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) “can prevent such an intrusion (of the mining firms) into their territory.”
In practice, however, all communities, upland or otherwise, “are inevitably divided if not by class, then by ethnicity, religious affiliation, access to power or opportunity, among others.”
This division, Gatmaytan said, gives multinational companies “room for inventing or exploiting leaders and local organizations that are supportive of its interests, to attack the unity and cohesiveness of a community, and so confuse the question of free and prior informed consent.”
“With some local people on their side, a company can claim its investment and operations are welcome in the community, contrary to the claims of its detractors,” he said.
Benedict Andersen’s “imagined communities” is known among anthropologists but what is evolving at the moment is being referred to as “invented communities.”
Local Governments Secretary Angelo Reyes’ message to the mining investors on February 3 was very simple: with regards to peace and order which is a concern that has been repeatedly asked during the conference, “the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police will ensure the investors’ safety.”
Reyes was once chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He also served as Defense Secretary.
It should be noted that countries engaged in Bilateral Investment Trades (BITS), the host country ensures the protection and security of the investments its partner(s) have. The Philippines has at least 40 BITS, among them with Australia, Canada, and the USA. Many Australian and Canadian mining firms have applied for mining permits in the Philippines.
Whether or not it was in reaction to what Reyes said, no one can say. But in Mindanao, two rebel groups issued statements on the same day, February 7, warning that mining could yet bring more unrest.
The Communist Party of the Philippines in a statement said the Arroyo administration is “strategically deploying its units in areas where foreign mining concessionaires are to operate.”
”With the AFP and PNP serving as the armed mercenaries of foreign mining companies, the Filipino people will never know peace,” it said.
The CPP added that the military is “giving special attention to Mindanao, where there are large deposits of oil, natural gas, gold, copper and other minerals.”
“The people of Mindanao, including the Moro people, are bound to intensify their armed struggle in defense of the environment and their livelihood against the plunder and rape of their resources by foreign mining companies,” it said.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) warned mining companies against exploiting mineral deposits in rebel strongholds pending the resolution of the ancestral domain issue.
Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief peace negotiator, said exploitation of mineral resources in their areas still need to be addressed when both panels meet to discuss ancestral domain.
“These [mining ventures] can be a source of irritant or armed confrontation and might even seriously affect the talks,” Iqbal warned.
He claimed that “it is not proper” and even risky for the government to approve contracts with any local or international companies to undertake mining activities in areas where many of their forces are located.
He also said many of the still untapped mineral resources such as gold, copper and silver are located in areas with MILF presence particularly in the vast lands between Lanao Del Sur and Maguindanao, in the mountain ranges of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Talayan, Datu Piang, North Upi, South Upi, in Maguindanao; Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat; Columbio, Sultan Kudarat; in the Davao provinces; in the Zamboanga Peninsula; Sarangani, and South Cotabato.
Mining was also among the contentious issues between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Philippine government.
Although it signed a peace agreement with the government on September 2, 1996, the MNLF, then undivided under Nur Misuari, objected in 2001 to the passage of RA 9054, the law that supposedly amended RA 6734, the Organic Act creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), to allow for its expansion based on the 1996 peace pact.
Misuari repeatedly said then that the law rendered the ARMM even less autonomous.
One of the provisions the MNLF objected to was the identification under RA 9054 of minerals, fuels, oils, all sources of potential energy, and other natural resources, including lakes, rivers, lagoons, forests and watersheds as among those exempted from the ARMM’s control, exploration, utilization, development and protection as ancestral domain.
Under the 1996 peace agreement, the control and supervision over these natural resources "except strategic minerals which will be defined later" were to be vested in the ARMM.
The MNLF argued that the identification of these "strategic minerals" was done "unilaterally, arbitrarily and unconscionably" by the government, thus violating the peace agreement’s provision that the identification be done both by the MNLF and the government "with the positive contribution of technical experts from the Organization of Islamic Conference."
The MNLF then said that this "gross violation of the agreement… strikes at the heart of the jurisdiction of the ARMM over mines and minerals within its territory."
It said the new law would “rob the native inhabitants of the region of their birthright over their God-given natural resources.”
For both the Lumad and Moro in Mindanao, the struggle for land continues.
(Penelope C. Sanz/MindaNews)