Paje’s letter says DENR is denying the ECC ““until the issues and concerns on the use of open pit mining method shall have been clarified and resolved by the Company (SMI) with the Provincial Government of South Cotabato”. This statement shifts the arena to local government, away from the DENR-EMB, who approves licenses and ECCs. South Cotabato has an open-pit ban in place. SMI hopes to operate the largest mining project in Philipine history in Tampakan, the fifth largest worldwide.
This article replies to SMI’s PR blitz amid mounting protest over a potential mega-disaster from its tailings dam. A Business World article on January 12, 2012, written by Loella D. Desiderio hints of SMI’s next move. It will attempt to make the national government pressure the local government to abandon the open-pit ban. Chamber of Mines of the Philippines Vice President Rocky Dimaculangan was quoted, “The (local government) ordinances are an affront to the authority of the national government to manage the country’s mineral resources.” On the contrary, forcing the lifting of the ban is an affront to local government’s autonomous authority as provided by the Local Government Code (LGC).
Shrewdly, the article skirts around the core issue of environmental damage from open-pit mining, and focuses only on government policy, with the intent to pressure South Cotabato to lift the ban. View Youtube documentary “Killer Dam” at – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoYTNEli8gA. See also reply to SMI based on an earlier article in the Business Mirror at – http://www.sisterraquel.com/2012/01/eastwind-journals-16
The article begins with a veiled threat on the government, “… industry officials said the lack of action by the national government and the proposal to hike taxes may prevent investments from flowing into the sector this year.” The source is not identified. Could these ‘industry officials’ be executives from SMI and TVI, whose operations are affected by the open pit ban, as cited in the article? TVI has an open pit copper mine in Canatuan, Zamboanga del Norte.
Dimaculangan’s statement is a clear disregard of the core issue of the interest and common good of local residents who may be affected if the mega-tailings dam, with a capacity of a staggering 1.5 billion metric tons of toxic waste, and sitting on top of a mountain, collapses. Sendong gives us a message that the best dams can still collapse, like the 32 ones worldwide in the last few years. If the dam collapses towards Davao del Sur in the east and acid residue from the open pit the size of hundreds of football fields flows towards Koronadal Valley in the west, about 3 million people and half a million farmers in Mindanao’s breadbasket may be affected. This may cause famine and insurgency growth. The issue is the toxic waste will be left in perpetuity or forever on top of the mountain long after SMI and Xstrata have left with their huge profits.
The article bemoans the potential damage to foreign multinational investments without discussing potential damage to the vibrant agricultural economy of Mindanao, citing that the Dipolog Regional Trial Court granted an injunction against the ban because “the firm would suffer grave and irreparable damage if it stops its mining operation.” It talks of the ‘legal rights’ of foreign multinationals with a clear disregard for the legal rights of Filipinos of Mindanao. What has happened to us Filipinos, protecting foreign interests to the detriment of our own kind?
TVI President Eugene Mateo says, “the Philippine Mining Act is not being respected”. How about respect for the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, and the farmers? These two laws contradict each other. One addresses profits of big foreign firms and government in partnership, the other addresses livelihood and survival of small people. These laws must be reconciled with primacy on people not profits.
Finally, the article has the gall to suggest that reversing the open pit ban is the government’s problem, not the industry’s, suggesting that the courts would be the last stand, another veiled threat. Mateo says, “They (national government) must intervene in the courts.” They want a court battle because they are confident the Supreme Court is on their side. The Supreme Court reversed an earlier decision declaring the Tampakan license (FTAA) of SMI as unconstitutional. They must think erroneously that our courts can be pressured to accede to vested foreign interests.
Dimaculangan says the mining industry prefers increase in fees on environmental crimes rather in taxes so they can earn more. But the government prefers increase in taxes so they can earn more. This tug of war on earnings is at the expense of the Filipino people. The partnership between foreign multinationals and government is a form of ‘internal neo-colonialism’, where the government endangers its own people for the sake of more revenues.
Finally, the article cites a ‘mining study group’ aiming to strengthen the current Mining Act regarding mining interests, while environmentalists are also coming up with its own set of amendments to protect the environment and people’s interests. In truth, the prevailing basic issue in mining today is the primacy of the Filipino people over profits for governments and multinationals. No to mining that destroys people and nature. We welcome a reply from SMI and TVI.
Bernie Lopez eastwind journals firstname.lastname@example.org