By DONNA RABANG PETA
Northern Dispatch www.nordis.net
TAGAYTAY CITY – Concluding with a declaration that the “Philippines is not for sale”, delegates to the Third People’s Mining Conference here, shared their resolutions and declarations at a multi-sectoral joint protest action in Mendiola, Manila to commemorate the passage of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 on March 3.
On the theme, “Heighten our Struggle for Land, Life and Environment. Stop Mining Plunder!” the Third People’s Mining Conference held from March 1-2 in Sta. Rita, here, had over 200 participants from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao representing people’s organizations, sectors, non-government organizations (NGOs), church groups, environmental advocates, local government officials, representatives from Defend Ilocos Against Mining Plunder, and Amianan Salakniban (Defend the North).
The said conference was organized by Defend Patrimony, Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines (CECP), Ecumenical Bishop Forum (EBF), Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan), Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) and Stewards of Creation. It was formally opened with a tribute to all the martyrs and defenders of the environment, and a keynote address of Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Teddy Casiño, who is also the chairman of House Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development.
Casiño discussed how the mining policy of President Benigno Aquino III government is adversely affecting and destroying communities covered by mining operations.
He also tackled the impacts of Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which liberalized the country’s mining industry, caused horrendous environmental destruction and provided plunderous advantages to large mines, especially foreign corporations, instead of economic development opportunities to Filipinos.
Experts on mining and environment and leaders of progressive peoples’ organizations added more data on the state of mining industry and human rights, its massive impacts on communities and the environment, and the people’s struggles against mining liberalization and plunder.
Testimonies from different regions showed how large mining operations resulted in massive landslides, pollution, water contamination, and other forms of environmental and agricultural degradation and destruction.
These were detailed in various experiences of communities in Abra River in the Cordillera who are affected by the operations of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMCo), cases in Palawan, Bicol, Surigao del Norte as reported by the delegates.
From the sharing, it was revealed that the most affected by corporate and destructive mining operations are the fisherfolks, workers, peasants and the indigenous peoples (IP) mostly, the and small-scale miners as threats of eviction from their communities and loss of livelihood hang over their heads.
Clemente Bautista from Kalikasan said, “Large-scale and destructive mining is not sustainable especially in this time of climate change. We cannot deny that the issue of mining is connected to the issue of climate change as recent disasters that swept mining-affected communities in Visayas and Northern Mindanao tend to show.
“The vulnerability of communities to extreme weather events exponentially increases, and mining disasters such as mine tailing spills, landslides and flashfloods are the result of their forest-clearing operations,” he added.
Rep. Raymond Palatino of Kabataan Partylist shared the provisions and updates on House Bill 4315 (People’s Mining Bill). Dubbed as a pro-people and pro-environment bill, co-authored by progressive partylist groups such as Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Partylist, Anakpawis and Act-Teacher Partylist, the bill is now being pushed for approval in Congress.
This aims to reorient the mining industry towards the country’s local development, environment and for the people’s welfare, Palatino said.
“Finance secretary Purisima himself admitted that mining revenue collection contributed only a meager 0.16 percent of the total revenue collection of the Philippines. This disproves any suggestion made by mining lobbyists such as the Chamber of Mines in the Philippines that the full opening up of our mineral resources to large-scale foreign mining corporations will facilitate development of our marginalized communities.”
Maita Gomez of Bantay Kita said the collection from Excise Tax is only 1.07% from the large scale, small scale mining and non-metallic mining activities.
Delegates from lawyer sector pointed out that the Writ of Kalikasan may be used as an alternative in filing cases related to environmental damage like mining related cases.
All the participants actively attended the simultaneous workshops on large-scale, small-scale mining, magnetite, oil and gas, climate change and disaster and human rights to draw out a three- year plan of action for the anti-mining campaign.
From the sharing of Defend Ilocos and Amianan Salakniban, more than 210,000 hectares all over the country are being approved for magnetite or black sand mining. Cagayan Valley, Pangasinan, Ilocos Region, Negros Occidental, Leyte and Zamboanga del Sur are the most affected regions for this type of mining operations.
There are also ongoing operations in the regions of Negros Oriental, Surigao del Norte, Bulacan, Zambales and Zamboanga del Norte.
From the presentation, based on the data of Mines and Geosciences Bureau (Jan. 31, 2012), large companies operating in magnetite mining include the Colossal Mining Corporation, holder of five individual exploration permits from the province of Pangasinan to Cagayan Valley and the Massart Mineral Resources, Inc (with assignment from Grand Total Exploration and Mining Corp.) which has exploration permit in 28,766.77 hectares of Negros Occidental.
There are other big mining companies holding exploration permits like the Altamina Exploration and Resources Inc. which holds a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) covering 9,588.24 hectares from Pangasinan to Ilocos Norte approved by the former President Gloria Macapal Arroyo.
The Grand Total Exploration and Mining Corp. and Mina Fortuna Integrated Mineral Resources holds more than 200,000 hectares for magnetite mining applications all over the country specifically in Regions three, one, two, eight and the CALABARZON.
The president of the Grand Total Exploration & Mining Corp. and Mina Fortuna Integrated Mineral resources is Rommel V. Singson. High Density Mineral Resources, Inc. is presided over by Randy V. Singson.
Philippine Alliance Mineral Development Corporation is previously the Grand Total Exploration which has an application for magnetite mining in Region 2, Bicol, Western Visayas and Region 12.
Human rights workshop reports also showed that areas with mining operations are also the most militarized and showing more cases of human rights violations.
The mining conference was concluded with a unity statement supporting the reorientation of the Philippine Mining Industry towards nationalization, development and environmental safety. And, statement of support for the passage of the People’s Mining Bill crafted by the people’s organizations. This proposed People’s Mining bill was consolidated with other similar legislative initiatives in Congress for the proposed Mineral Resources Act of 2012.
The conference also resolved to heighten the struggle for land, life and the environment, and to stop the manipulation of FPIC consultations in the areas of indigenous peoples. The resounding call was for the government to declare a moratorium on mining operations and the ongoing process of mining applications. Support the grassroots initiatives against large-scale and destructive mining in the country.
Delegates and friends celebrated the success of the conference with a solidarity night with their songs, dances, reading of literary compositions, poems and cultural presentations from the indigenous peoples groups.