11 October 2010
Environmental groups presented the result of the environmental investigative missions (EIM) which probed the dangers and effects to communities by foreign mining projects in the country. Scientists and representatives from different sectoral groups visited the mining-affected communities of Tampakan Gold Mining Project in the provinces of Davao Del Sur and Sultan Kudarat, on August 26-28 and magnetite mining operations in Cagayan province on September 10-12, 2010.
The groups found out that destructive mining projects approved by the Arroyo administration continue to wreak havoc and disunity in the communities in the time of the newly elected president who promised to be different from its predecessor.
“Our findings in the mining-affected communities in Cagayan, Davao del Sur and Sultan Kudarat contradict the pronouncement of President Aquino during his 100-days report that local communities are the ones which will decide if mining project will be allowed. Actually during the first 100-days of PNoy, these mining projects were supported or allowed by the national government in spite of the strong opposition from the communities,” said Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), one of the main organizers of the EIM.
Corrupt practices are still being employed by the mining operators and opposition of local communities also remain unheard by the current administration.
“Results of our investigations show those foreign mining corporations and their local partners either deceive or forced the people to accept their mining projects. In Cagayan province, the opposition of several local government units at barangay and municipal level stated their opposition but the provincial government still allows mining to operate in their areas,” said Bautista.
“In Davao del Sur and Sultan Kudarat, people were not informed of the negative impacts that the large-scale mining would bring to their livelihood and environment. The mining corporation promised the B’laan and peasant communities that large-scale mining will affect their forests, water sources and agricultural lands, but the company reports and an assessment of the proposed mining plan reveal otherwise ,” said Finesa Cosico, of the scientist activist group AGHAM- Advocates of Science and Technology for the People.
The group reported that magnetite mining in the municipalities of Aparri, Lallo and Calamaniugan in Cagayan province have already caused flooding, decreased fish catch, and water pollution along the communities in Cagayan River. While there is a high probability that Tampakan gold mining project will negatively affect the water sources, agricultural land, and forests in Davao del Sur and Sultan Kudarat as well as the culture of the Indigenous peoples in the area.
Tampakan gold mining project is owned by the Swedish mining company Xstrata and Australian company Sagitarrius Mining Inc. In Cagayan, Chinese and Taiwanese mining companies like Shaitan Cagayan Sand and Gravel Corporation, San You Philippines Mining Trade Ltd., and Lian Xing Philippines Stone Carving Corporation were given permits by the provincial government to operate.
According to the groups, recent moves of President Aquino demonstrate his bias towards the mining projects and its proponents. He has given orders and mediated to reverse the decision of the local governments to disallow mining in their jurisdictions.
On June 2, 2010, a stoppage order was issued by Mines Geoscience Bureau (MGB) Region 2 refraining San You Mining to continue its blacksand mining and processing operations along the Cagayan river. However, on July 7, 2010, a week after PNoy inauguration, MGB Region 2 lifted the stoppage order.
In June 28, former South Cotabato Governor Daisy Fuentes signed an Environment Code which bans open-pit mining method, a resolution that is blocking the operations of the Tampakan gold mining project. Gov. Fuentes said that she does not believe that the mining project would benefit the tribal mining communities, and it may even pollute and dry up major rivers in province. But on July 17, President Aquino instructed Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje to intervene on the issue and talk to the South Cotabato provincial government. MGB in the region stated that the Environment Code violates the mining policy of the national government.
“The results of the EIM as well as the actions of President Aquino clearly reveals that the new administration is just continuing the anti-people and anti-environment mining policy and programs of the past Arroyo administration. President Aquino is gradually showing its true colors and demonstrating who his real boss is, that is the foreign mining corporations and not the Filipino people as he claimed. This is bad news for the communities but worse news for Mr. Aquino, as we vow to continue asserting our rights to a healthy environment and our patrimony,” Mr. Bautista ended.