Don’t use Philex workers to mask greed – indigenous peoples


MANILA — Some members of Trade Union Congress of the Philippines-affiliated Philex labor unions and local government officials performed a cañao ritual in front of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Natural Environment and Resources (MGB-DENR) this week. They urged the government to lift the suspension order on the operations of Philex mines following the mine tailings accident since Aug 1 last year.

Philex’s Padcal mine site was shut down after a massive mine tailings spill, estimated to have reached more than 20 million metric tons, were dumped into the Balog and Agno rivers. Prior to the shutdown, the company had estimated bigger revenues from its expected half-year haul from the mines.

“It has been more than six months since the mines were ordered closed. We are afraid Philex might shutdown and we might eventually lose our jobs if they do not re-open the mine site,” said Renerio Lardizabal, president of the Philex supervisory employees union.

“We are asking President Aquino and the DENR to lift the suspension order and allow the operation of the mine so that we can continue to work without anxiety of losing our jobs,” said Alex Bedongen, president of Philex rank-and-file employees union.

As about 300 of these supervisors and rank-and-file employees picketed the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau this week (Philex has at least 5,000 employees), petitioning for the reopening of Philex’s Padcal Mines in Benguet, the indigenous partylist group Katribu condemned Philex mining company, accusing it of deceiving the public by using the workers and the issue of workers’ welfare.

“Philex likes to give the impression that it is the workers’ welfare that drives them to push for the resumption of their operations, but we doubt that is the case,” Kakay Tolentino, KATRIBU Partylist Secretary General, said in a statement. Tolentino urged Philex to “not make its employees an excuse for their greed.”

“Job security in the Padcal mines should not be placed in peril because of the company’s negligence and greed,” Kakay Tolentino, KATRIBU Partylist Secretary General said. “In the first place, it is the company, not the workers, who are at fault in the tailings dam collapse,” she said. As such, she said the “workers should be paid their due.” But apparently, not at the price of opening the area to further dangers from Philex’s unsafe mining practices.

Philex Mines’ unsafe mine and anti-labor practices

Tolentino said Philex’s disregard for its employees’ welfare has been witnessed by everybody when its Padcal Mines were shut down due to the company’s faulty mining practices in August last year.

“Philex was negligent of safe mining practices,” Tolentino said, explaining that “it is the company’s rapacity that, in fact, resulted into the worse mining disaster in Philippine history.” She asked Philex not to force “the workers to shoulder the brunt” again.

A discharge of mine wastes from Philex’s overutilized, lone active tailings pond occurred on August 1 last year. Workers who asked not to be named told that Philex had been told it should have rehabilitated its other tailings pond and constructed a new one considering this lone active tailings pond’s lifespan was fast approaching (it ended early last year, in fact).
In the aftermath of the tailings spill, casual employees were dismissed, and regular employees and management teams were immediately roped in to conduct the rehabilitation of the environment and cleanup of affected areas in Balog and Agno rivers which connect to San Roque dam.

“Even during such rehabilitation operations, they (Philex) have not treated their workers’ safety as their priority,” Tolentino said. Today, the impact of the 20-million ton minespill has yet to be made public.

Katribu cited workers’ reports that the miners were compelled to work 24 to 48-hour shifts and were exposed to hazardous work conditions in the aftermath of the Tailings Pond 3 collapse. Plenty of workers were also reportedly relieved from work.

“The workers were compelled to clean up after Philex, regardless of age, medical, and physical condition. They had no choice but to sleep in tents in the riverbanks—which was always in danger of overflowing because of the tailings pond breach—because the cleanup site was a three-hour journey from their homes. These unfit labor conditions are further worsened by the company’s reluctance to pay overtime and night differentials,” Tolentino said.

The same dangerous working condition was reported to by sources from among workers last year. But in a statement this week, TUCP union leader, Associated Labor Unions president Michael Mendoza, said their affiliate leaders in Philex unions “commended” the Philex management for “continuing, until today, the full salaries, wages, benefits and privileges of all Philex workers.”

Philex will reportedly be allowed to operate temporarily only after paying the environmental violation penalty which will be used to compensate affected claimants and rehabilitate affected areas and other penalties. The company used to say it will challenge the government computations, but according to the TUCP, Philex has now “satisfied” these obligations, hence there are supposed to be “no other obstacles” for lifting its suspension order.

But in fact there are bigger obstacles, the Katribu Partylist said. “This unprecedented amount of mine waste spill could cause irreparable damage to the river, mountains, ecosystems, and people. Philex must ensure that its rehabilitation plan and reconstruction is secure not only for the environment but for the workers too.” (

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  1. wag magsalita kung di nyo naman alam ang tunay na nangyayari. Panay kayo tira wala naman kayo maitulong o maibigay na solusyon. sabi ni ganito sabi ni ganyan, mga anti’s mga yan alangan na magsabi ng maganda tungkol sa Philex. More power to philex!

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