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Vol. V,    No. 20      June 26 - July 2, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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Copyright 2004 Bulatlat


Oust-GMA to End Mining Liberalization, Conference Declares   


A national conference on mining held recently concluded that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo serves as an instrument of corruption and plunder by foreign mining corporations and declared her ouster as an urgent agenda.





For participants to the Second People’s Mining Conference, realizing the ouster of the Macapagal-Arroyo government is not just a strategic objective but a matter of urgent necessity. Arroyo has come to symbolize a mining rush nationwide that primarily benefits transnational mining corporations while leaving the people destitute and displaced as well as killed and ill because of militarization and diseases caused by large-scale foreign mining.  


That is why on the first day of the conference held June 11-13, participants did not hesitate to momentarily leave the conference venue on a call to join a rally demanding the president’s ouster a few days after evidence surfaced which confirmed widely held suspicions that the president cheated in last year’s elections. 


At the end of the conference, participants formalized their support to calls for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to step down from Malacañang in a declaration which also advances the reorientation of the domestic mining industry through a People’s Mining Policy.


Arroyo’s corruption and plunder


Conference participants were one in condemning Arroyo for being an instrument of corruption and plunder by mining TNCs.


For prioritizing TNCs over Filipinos “who more than foreigners, have the willingness and capability to develop the local mining industry,” Franco Tito, barangay captain of a small-scale mining community in Mt. Diwata, Campostela Valley, said President Arroyo “is more fit to be the president of foreigners and not of Filipinos.”


Tito accused the President and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of deception and corruption in managing gold-rich Mt. Diwata through the Natural Resources Mining Development Corporation (NRMDC), a government-owned corporation. He expressed suspicion that the NRMDC intervened in small-scale mining operations in Mt. Diwata in order to pave the way for the entry of mining TNCs.


“They (national government) are deceiving the people that they came to Mt. Diwata to enforce peace and order only to offer our place to foreign investors in mining roadshows in Manila and abroad,” he said. 


Among 23 priority mining projects nationwide which the government through the DENR is offering to foreign investors is the Mt. Diwalwal (also Mt. Diwata) Direct State Gold Utilization project.


Tito said President Arroyo could also be cited for corruption for profiting from small-scale miners in Diwalwal. He said since the NRMDC came to Mt. Diwata in 2001, the national government has been getting 15 percent of the gold ores small miners have been digging up as excise taxes. In exchange, the government promised to build a tailings dam, but up to now no dam has been built.


Tito said a part of the proceeds from the tax goes straight to the president’s social fund which he also said he believes was used during Arroyo’s campaign in the 2004 elections.


Tito estimated the amount that Diwalwal small-scale miners have already paid the NRMDC at P150 million. The NRMDC also undertakes gold mining operations in Diwalwal.      


In another case, Dr. Orencio Pusing, leader of the Aroroy Gold Panners Multipurpose Cooperative in Masbate accused the DENR of playing deaf to charges of corruption against a DENR local executive who favored the return of Atlas Consolidated Mining Company (ACMDC) through a dummy foreign-funded mining corporation under questionable circumstances. Pusing said ACMDC forfeited its right to the mining project for failing to pay P82 million in excise taxes. He also charged Filminera, ACMDC’s dummy, of human rights violations by forcibly driving away small-scale miners, including a small-scale miner who was shot and wounded reportedly by a Filminera guard last April.   


ACMDC’s copper project in Toledo, Cebu, is under similar circumstances. On President Arroyo’s order, the company’s unpaid tax obligation was cancelled to pave the way for ACMDC’s resumption of operations in Cebu.


Both the Aroroy and Cebu mining projects are included in the 23 priority projects of the government. 


Deaths, displacement and diseases


The government’s mining projects are causing deaths, displacements and diseases. Most victims are indigenous peoples.


In Central Luzon, two Aeta leaders were abducted and found murdered last February. Their deaths followed after they voiced opposition to the expansion of operations of Benguet Corporation’s Dizon Mine which is encroaching in Aeta ancestral territories in Zambales, Bataan and Pampanga.


In Surigao provinces where five of the 23 government mining projects are found, scores of government military, police and para-military forces are deployed. This resulted in the forcible evacuation of over 2,000 Manobos on the first week of June. Two of their leaders have been killed. Meanwhile, four peasant leaders are missing up to the present. 


Manobo Datu Jalandoni Campos, who participated in the mining conference, said they believe the militarization is connected to mining and energy projects of the government. In nine Manobo communities where the mass evacuation took place, a few months before scores of military men descended in Brgy. Diatogon, Andap Valley, Surigao del Sur, the Department of Energy allegedly gave the go-signal to Benguet Corporation for its coal mining project in the area.


Meanwhile, an outbreak of diarrhea was confirmed by local health authorities in Rapu-rapu island, Albay province, according to conference participants from the Bicol region. Three-fourths of the island is the site of a pollymetallic project of Canadian and Australian Lafayette Mining which started its operations on the first week of June.  


People’s mining policy


A major highlight of the mining conference, according to Trixie Concepcion, spokesperson of the Defend Patrimony, which spearheaded the conference, is the adoption by conference participants of the People’s Mining Policy.


Concepcion said the People’s Mining Policy seeks to disengage the local mining industry from its export-orientation and dependence on foreign investments.


“Whatever benefits of mining should be guaranteed to accrue to the national interest and the Filipino people’s needs for national industrialization, genuine agrarian reform and agricultural modernization, as well as to basic needs for housing, consumer goods and the general upliftment of lives of Filipinos,” Concepcion said. She added this can only be done by starting the development of downstream mining industries, stressing that mineral inputs should be used for improvement of domestic industries and not the economies of rich countries.


Concepcion, however, stressed that the first thing that must be done is the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995.


But for the participants of the Second People’s Mining Conference, first and foremost must be the removal from office of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.


“For as long as Arroyo sits in Malacañang, the people and the environment can never be safe from mining TNC plunder and globalization,” said Clemente Bautista of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE).


The conference was organized by Kalikasan-PNE, Tebbteba Foundation, Samahang ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan (Agham), Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp) and the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines. Bulatlat




© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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