A Call to Senators: Review and Investigate Mining Projects Approved by Mike Defensor

Alyansa Laban sa Mina
Posted by Bulatlat.com
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

Our worst fear has been confirmed: that Mike Defensor all along had been the defender not of the environment but of mining interests when he was still Environment Secretary.

His current involvement with Geograce Resources and Nihao Mineral Resources International, securing juicy mining contracts, leaves a bitter taste in the mouth for mine-affected communities who are suffering because of mining projects he approved. Being a senior manager to two mining companies now, while not illegal, shows the height of callousness and betrays his supposedly impartial stance when he decided on mining conflicts when he was DENR Secretary.

Mindoreños can never forgive Defensor. He unceremoniously reinstated in 2005 the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) for Mindoro Nickel Project owned by Intex Resources, which was previously cancelled by former Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez in July 2001. Following an uproar from both civil society and local government officials, Alvarez ordered an investigation and later cancelled the project based on the following findings: 1) the area is an important watershed, 2) strong opposition by the Local Government Units and the people, 3) lack of valid written agreements with all groups of indigenous peoples, 4) not economically feasible, 5) there are two earthquake fault lines within the concession area, and 6) substantial breach of MPSA terms. In November 2001, President Gloria Arroyo upheld the MPSA cancellation.

But on March 16, 2004, following an appeal by Intex (formerly Crew Mineral Resources), at the height of the presidential election campaign, the Office of the President reversed itself and reinstated the cancelled MPSA, recommending “that the case be remanded to the DENR for the proper hearing and investigation, if appropriate.”

Secretary Defensor never conducted investigation and hearing, and never bothered to inform the various stakeholders of the decision despite widespread opposition to the project. Mindoreños only learned about the reinstatement after Intex/Crew released a press statement in London. And on Nov. 10, 2005, Defensor issued Intex/Crew a clearance to proceed citing alleged resolutions of endorsement by the municipal councils of three directly affected municipalities in Oriental Mindoro. The municipal councils of Victoria, Pola, and Socorro immediately passed respective resolutions denying Defensor’s claim that they issued such endorsement, and reiterated their strong opposition against the mining project. The protestation was never heard.

Unfortunately, Defensor’s successors in the DENR were no better than him. The call of civil society and the local government officials for a DENR investigation on the irregularity of the reinstatement of Mindoro Nickel Project remains unheeded.

We are therefore calling on the Senate, a more independent and credible government institution, to conduct an investigation on the irregularities in the granting and reinstatement of mining permits in this country. We, the mine-affected communities have nowhere else to go to ventilate our plight. We are now resigned that our predicament will never be heard by the Arroyo administration, which is gung-ho in selling our communities to mining companies including those with close ties to Malacañang. This administration has been bending rules to accommodate the interest of mining companies, and we the communities become the unwilling collateral victims of this impunity.

We ask the Senate to conduct an impartial investigation and provide necessary legislative intervention to put a stop on this blatant insensitivity to mine-affected communities. Mining permits issued by Defensor and other DENR Secretaries that are being held suspect of irregularities should be thoroughly investigated.

As the national government’s callousness and indifference persist, everyday our human rights are continuously being violated. All in the name of so-called “national interest”—the much abused phrase which for the Arroyo administration seems to simply mean “patronage and greed.” (Bulatlat.com)

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