The leadership of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, a regional federation of indigenous peoples’ groups, recently dismissed the creation of the Regional Minerals Development Council as a move to fast-track the mining applications in the Cordillera.
BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 30, September 2-8, 2007
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. north of Manila) – The leadership of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), a regional federation of indigenous peoples’ groups, recently dismissed the creation of the Regional Minerals Development Council (RMDC) as a move to fast-track the mining applications in the Cordillera.
Windel Bolinget, CPA secretary-general, claimed that the formation of mineral development councils nationwide is meant to revitalize the mining industry as a “priority agenda of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration.”
The Cordillera RMDC was created on Aug. 28 to coordinate the smooth facilitation of mining projects in this highland region and assist the Mineral Development Council in implementing mining programs of the Arroyo administration.
The CPA, however, said that this will hasten the exploitation of vast tracts of mineral lands by big companies in the region.
“It aims to remove the obstacles, legal and otherwise, for any mining application,” Bolinget pointed out. He said the RMDC is fast-tracking these mine applications as a result of lobbying by mining companies in Malacañang.
The move, pointed out Bolinget, is a move that would “disregard democratic processes” to which local government units and affected communities are entitled to. As the RMDC is directly under the Office of the President, applications would be facilitated while they would “disregard democratic processes” under the guise of mine investments, Bolinget said.
“How will the NCIP, strictly enforce the ‘no free, prior and informed consent, no mine project’ principle with that set-up?” asked Bolinget.
He added that some 1.2 million hectares or 66 percent of the total 1.8 million-hectare land area of the region have been covered by applications for mining explorations and operations by big mining companies. With most communities opposing such projects, the said, RMDC will facilitate the applications of these companies, he added.
Bolinget foresees a strengthened indigenous peoples’ opposition to the creation of the council as most Cordillera communities had seen the ill-effects of mining in several areas of Benguet.
Benjamin Philip Romualdez, president of the Chamber of Mines, on the other hand, welcomed the creation of mineral development councils in a recent interview with national media. He said the councils will “at least address issues to a certain degree.” He estimated that in the next five years starting 2008, foreign investments would hit $1 billion a year. He added that in 2010, mining investments could reach a total of as much as $10 due to fast entry of foreign investments.
Since the Supreme Court reversed its earlier decision declaring the Mining Act of 1995 as unconstitutional, multi-national mining companies had been interested in investing in the country. The Philippines has vast unexplored gold, copper and nickel resources potentially worth trillions of pesos.
The Mineral Development Council (MDC) was created under Executive Order No. 460 in 2005.
In the Cordillera, the RMDC will be headed by Regional Executive Director Samuel Peñafiel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera Administrative Region (DENR-CAR). Other members with permanent and alternate representatives come from the regional offices of the Departments of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Agrarian Reform (DAR), Agriculture (DA), Labor and Employment (DoLE), Finance (DoF), Trade and Industry (DTI), and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Presidential Management Staff (PMS), National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).
The Chamber of Mines is expected to name its representative to the Cordillera RDMC. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat