Thursday, March 5, 2015

Philippine Mining Act of 1995: A Curse To The Environment And Communities

This is a press release courtesy of Jude Baggo, Public Information Officer of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance.

On March 3, 1995, Republic Act 7942 otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act was passed into law. As a law liberalizing the mining industry, the Mining Act was hailed to boost the country’s economic growth. The law was also hyped to bring rural progress and development especially in communities hosting large scale mining corporations.

20 years after the passage of the law, the promises of economic growth, rural progress and development are pure myths and far from becoming a reality. More than economic growth, the Mining Act paved way for the massive plunder and destruction of natural resources, displacement of communities, and violations of the collective rights of indigenous peoples over our ancestral domains and natural resources as experienced by the Igorot communities in the Cordillera from decades of large-scale mining operations.

Some of the oldest and biggest mining operations in the country are found in Benguet province – the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, Philex and Benguet Corporation. These mining operations have left permanent scars to the residents of Mankayan and Itogon municipalities and other affected communities due to the destructions wrought by the mining operations on their ways of life, the environment, and to robbing the future of the next generations.

At the onset, large mining firms have been exploiting our natural resources for gold, copper and other minerals for the sake of super profit, while leaving mountains flattened, excavated and hollowed; rivers and creeks contaminated; and people’s livelihood lost. While mining firms indulge in gold extraction, communities face constant risks and dangers from impending disasters as a result of mining activities. The experiences of mining-affected communities in the Cordillera region are a living proof and witnesses to the impacts of large scale mining operations.

The ground subsidence and massive sinking of communities in Mankayan which claimed lives and destruction of livelihood, the collapse of Philex’s tailings dam 3, and the continuing pollution of rivers are only a few of the serious environmental crimes committed by Lepanto, Philex and Benguet Corporation. In spite of these, Lepanto aims to further expand its operations in partnership with trans-national companies such as the South African Goldfields Mining Ltd. while Philex continues to use its tailings dam 3.

At present and due to the liberalization of the mining industry in the country, mining companies continue to target the Cordillera region for the extraction of gold, copper, silver and other minerals, with numerous mining applications covering more than 60% or 1.2 million hectares of the region’s total land area. These mining applications are coupled with militarization and violations of the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and mining companies. These are a cause of trouble and chaos in communities. For instance, the manipulation by the NCIP-Kalinga in the FPIC process in favor of the Makilala Mining Company in Guinaang, Pasil, Kalinga is in no way a move that promotes our rights as indigenous peoples. FPIC violations are similarly experienced in other Cordillera communities.

The mining industry is among the least contributors to the country’s wealth contrary to the government’s claim of bringing about prosperity to the country. In 2012, a study conducted by IBON revealed that the gross-value added (GVA) of the mining industry, which government itself measures, registered an average of 1% in 2000-2011. The mining contribution only peaked in 2007 at only 1.63 percent. IBON also added that while the GVA in mining in absolute terms has been increasing on average albeit in a slow pace, the share of mining’s GVA to the gross domestic product (GDP) is actually decreasing on average after peaking in the 1970s.
The Mining Act of 1995 has been selling-out our national patrimony to trans-national corporations. Let us be reminded of the salient points of the Mining Act which clearly put mining firms in a pedestal while alienating and plundering our own lands and resources for greed and profit:
·100 percent foreign ownership of mining projects;
·Foreign company can lay claim to 81,000 hectares onshore or 324,000 hectares offshore;
·Companies can repatriate all profits, equipment and investment; Companies are guaranteed against expropriation by the state;
·Excise duties are cut from five to two percent and tax holidays and deferred payment are allowed until all costs are recovered;
·Losses can be carried forward against income tax;
·The government commits itself to ensuring the removal of all obstacles to mining, including settlements and farms;
·Companies are promised priority access to water resources within their concession;
·Companies are given the right to sell gold directly to the international market without Central Bank intervention;
·Mining leases last 25 years with an option of a 25-year extension.

The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 is clearly anti-people and anti-environment. Worst, it does not protect the Filipino people from foreign mining firms. The people are neither benefitting from, nor in control, of these resources.

The Philippine government must heed the voice of the people: Uphold indigenous people’s rights. Scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. Nationalize and industrialize the mining industry for the people.