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Mining in the Philippines A Tale of Two Powers


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Mining in the Philippines
A Tale of Two Powers

Asian Magazine for Human Transformation
Vol. 46, No.2, February 2012
pp. 4-8


Published in: Education, Technology, Business
    No to mining in Palawan AND other
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  • Ang yaman ng Palawan ay yaman ng Pilipinas It is known as the Philippines’ Last Ecological Frontier. It has 40% of our country’s remaining mangrove areas, 30% of our coral reefs, at least 17 Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and 8 declared Protected Areas (PAs). It is unmatched anywhere in the country
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Mining in the Philippines A Tale of Two Powers

  1. 1. ARTICLES44 IMPACT • February 2012
  2. 2. ARTICLESMining in the Philippines A tale of two powersMining in the Philippines today is a tale of two powers, the Church and Gov- ernment, at loggerheads with each other on two aspects of the issue—the legal and the moral or geoethical. It is a tale of incredible wealth and in- credible danger to life and health. It is a story of a captive state showing of late a desire to be freed from captivity. It is a challenge of stewardship and an invitation to respect the national patrimony. It is an area fraught withsystematic human rights violations and environmental degradation. It is an activity crying out for a Code of Ethics and, overall, a hope for sustainable action and productive responsibility.By Charles Avila This hardcore, you may be surprised, with the implementing rules and regula-T had you followed the Mining Philip- tions (IRR) of the Philippine Mining Act he mining issue is at my age now pines 2011 conference last September in that only requires (in the IRRs Sec. 16) what the logging issue was when Manila—yes, this hard-core is now sur- the donation of one percent for SDMP I was much younger—so much rounded by a soft-core of NGO support of a companys gross output. The pressmoney made, so little revenue to govern- in the form of the Philippine Business for release came out only days after the min-ment, so fast in creating an incredibly Social Progress (PBSP) and also the World ing conference.4rich few, and so slow in realizing that a Wildlife Fund (WWF). The electric word is Palawan, just likeseemingly unlimited natural resource was What, you may ask, are these two do- Rapu-Rapu was earlier. The “No to Miningin fact really finite, resulting ultimately in ing on this side of the divide? The PBSP in Palawan” movement is considered bythe utter destruction of our forest cover and says their linkage with the Chamber is the Chamber at the top of their list of “roadthe phenomenon of deathly floods alternat- aimed at ensuring that “a collective in- blocks against mining” alongside “theing with agro-fatal droughts and horrible dustry program on reforestation and con- Alternative Mining Bills in Congress, theconsequences for climate change. tribution to the national greening program, ban on open pit mining in South Cotabato In the mining issue now, however, are schools and education, IP development (with other provinces following suit), themuch higher stakes in health and wealth and and community development should be Writ of Kalikasan against mining firms inlife and in the corruption of governance— monitored annually through a Scorecard.”1 the Zamboanga Peninsula following a peti-for which reason, perhaps, the divide They also proudly affirm, however, that tion filed by a Cebu-based NGO, and,” thebetween the two, Church and government, “in the battle of the media, the PBSP Chamber emphasizes, “the seeming biasonly gets deeper and nastier. can provide a softer image of the mining against the mining industry by National Yes, government—from the Congress industry.”2 I thought of highlighting each Commission on Indigenous Peoples of-that gave us the Mining Act to the Executive word of that last line. ficials who allowed the proponents of theBranch that so eagerly implements it and And the WWF, for their part, says ‘No to Mining in Palawan’ movement tothe Judiciary that upheld it – forms one side that they are quite concerned that we face make a presentation to NCIP personnelof the divide. Principally active on this side a climate change-defined future and the without giving the same opportunity to theis the Chamber of Mines—a powerhouse of mining industry can make or break this industry [meaning the Chamber].” 5some thirty-six mining companies as regu- future.3 By staying close to the Chamber The other side is the Church. Definelar members, six non-metallic exploration of Mines they want to assure us that they Church in any way you want: as a singlecompanies as associate members, forty- could then keep an eye on the potential institution or as churches, as religiouslythree equipment manufacturers and supply culprits. motivated change makers in civil societycompanies together with top-notch legal They may have been quite impressed or in ecclesial communities, as Mag-firms as special members, four associations or even instrumental with a mining group isterium to include Pope and Bishopsas affiliate members and three professional in Palawan claiming to have poured in together, or Bishops alone in each diocesesocieties as professional members. And P224 million in 2010 for a Social Develop- and as a group—or as a mixed commis- FILE PHOTOmany of them are strongly in bonds with ment and Management Program (SDMP), sion of Bishops with their authority, orbig global foreign corporations. exceeding by 100 percent its compliance as Religious Orders with their charisms Volume 46 • Number 2 5
  3. 3. ARTICLES FILE PHOTOunited in serving God’s people, or as an the Church denounces as immoral. urgent, “What do you do with teemingEcumenical Communion, or as a vibrant We have here a situation reminiscent broods of robbers?”laity representing 96 percent of those who of the early Christian era during the late The early Christian philosophers ledhumanly compose what believers consider Roman Empire when both Western and by St. Augustine’s teacher, Saint Ambrose,to be a divine institution. When it comes to Eastern Church leaders denounced Roman quondam Governor and later Bishopthe issue of mining, this Church diversely law, no less, as immoral in its idea and of Milan, Italy warned the “capitalists”defined is, today, one — 90% one, and practice of the absolute ownership of Earth of his time that mining should, first ofquite tenaciously growing in unity for a by a few for the benefit of a few at the cost all, follow the “tantum…quantum” (socause they consider transcendent of all of nature’s destruction, in violation of the much…as much) principle, formulated aadministrations and legislation. integrity of creation and the intention of couple hundred years earlier by Clement the Creator. 6 of Alexandria in the Catechetical schoolsA Tale of the Legal and the Moral This was almost two millennia before of that city in Egypt: mine only what you Government says that what they do, modern science caught up with the major need of the earth’s finite non-renewablewhat they propose, what they advocate living faiths in observing that the Universe wealth. There ought to be, as always, ain the area of mining – are all legal. At had a beginning (13.7 billion years ago), proportionality of means and time the Supreme Court declared has a continuing story and humans betterotherwise, viz. that the whole thing was understand what it is all about. A Tale of Incredible Wealthnot legal and not constitutional. However, From the Church’s viewpoint, what But before we get any deeper on thisit changed its mind in record time: now is legal is a matter of factual contingency. side, let’s go back to the first to hear out itseverything is legal, and constitutional. It is another thing to determine whether urgencies. Here we hear that the PhilippinesAfter all, the Supreme Court is supreme the human legal arrangement is just. If it is a part of earth that is so incredibly richand, right or wrong, the law is whatever were to be unjust, said Saint Augustine in gold, silver, copper, nickel, chrome andthat Court says it is. of Northern Africa in the fifth century of zinc that there is now a consensus among Unfazed, the Church, on the other the Common Era, “What would the great governments and industry in the valuationside, talks of morality, of ethics, of what empires be but teeming broods of robbers?” of the mineral wealth within the territorialis right and wrong—not only describing By “human law therefore—by the law of limits of the Philippines at more than a tril-what is, but prescribing what ought to be. the Emperors” you can do many things lion dollars’ worth, at least. If you checkAnd it has come to this—that, in the area of that you ought not to do. But, of course, with the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureaumining, what the Government calls legal, with that the question only becomes more of the state, they’ll proudly inform you 6 IMPACT • February 2012
  4. 4. Mining In The Philippinesthat their estimated value of Philippine ment shall: protect mining investments producing mines, the metallic sector grewMineral Resources at 10% Potential [for and remove all interferences to mining by 39% in terms of gross production value.the period 1973-1996] goes to a Grand projects [italics supplied]. National and By volume of production, gold was up byTotal of US$2,115,600,326,005 inclusive local policies affecting mining are being 11% (from 36.814 MT to 40.89MT); copperof metallic, industrial or non-metallic, and harmonized toward a friendlier regime by 16% (from 49,060MT to 58,412MT) andenergy materials together. 7 for the mining industry. As a case in nickel by 59% for direct shipping ore and If you have time, go to the basement point,” the Secretary spoke rather boldly, 55% for nickel concentrate.”9museum of the Central Bank at Roxas “the government commits to pursue the The Secretary spoke of 22 large-scaleBoulevard and see for yourself how our [highly controversial] Tampakan project operating mines, investment aggregateforebears made sashes of gold in complex and resolve all attendant issues prior to amounts of a little less than US$4 billionloop-in-loop techniques some of them its implementation, even if it decides to over the last six years and hopes of reach-weighing over one kilogram each at lengths advance its timetable from 2016 to 2013, ing US18 billion by 2016.75 centimeters or more. See the earrings which we seriously encourage.”8 And for its part the Chamber added,with hollow hoops of zigzagging golden Less than a year later, in fact early this “Last year mining investments in our coun-wire from which dangle multiple spangles month — it was the office of the Bishop try reached $955.85 million and could haveconnected by golden log wire, and the dag- of Marbel Diocese that announced, to the easily gone over the $1 billion mark hadgers or sword handles of gold, the armbands, shock of some and the pleasant surprise some projects not been delayed. Miningnecklaces, bracelets and dresses made of of many that documents they had obtained investments could be much higher if onlygold…things of golden beauty that make showed that the same DENR Secretary some issues and concerns are resolved.”10you sit back and think how rich, indeed, were had “rejected the ECC application of And the one to blame most of all, said aour ancestors long before any Western eye Sagittarius Mines Inc. because of the Wall Street Journal article much earlier,spied this mineral-rich archipelago. open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato.” is no less than the Church, identifying In fact, don’t be surprised to hear again The churches had worked hard with the in particular the leadership of Sorsogonand again from DENR sources during local government for such a ban. Appar- Bishop Arturo M. Bastes. 11mining conferences how our country has ently some battles were being won with And what would be these issues andmore than seven billion metric tons (BMT) the war far from over. concerns that the Chamber referred to? Weof metallic mineral reserves and 51 BMT Going back to that policy speech in Sin- would now have to go to the other side forof non-metallic deposits – with values so gapore, the DENR had gladly announced: some enlightenment.much bigger than our GDP or our external “In 2010, the Philippines became the 3rddebt. The Philippines has the fifth largest biggest producer of nickel ore behind Rus- A Tale of Incredible Dangermineral resources in the world. So, their sia and Indonesia, vaulting over Australia This “other” side quiteside asks: “What are we waiting for? We and Canada….with government support the simply says that themust lure those big investors in.” Philippine mining industry has been grow- current ambition of Leading in the charge of this brigade ing well in the last five years. With favorable is the government’s DENR Sec- metal prices and retary, no less, who intoned, the opening “the Philippine govern- of new FILE PHOTO Volume 46 • Number 2 7
  5. 5. ARTICLESlarge-scale extraction at whatever health Needless to say, if these questions are _____________and environmental costs for the exportation not answered correctly, that is, in a pro- 1 Quoted in Chairman, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines Closing Remarks Mining Philippinesof more minerals than is actually necessary people context, even big amounts set aside 2011is, indeed, an immoral ambition. for Social Development and Management 2 Ibid. In mining, says this side, the question Programs (SDMP) would be nothing more 3 eodem locoshould be articulated correctly: “Shouldn’t than a temporary cover-up for the unbear- 4 “Mining firm exceeds social compliance” by Melody M. Aguiba, The Manila Bulletin, Sep-we only allow the development of our min- able stench of irresponsible mining. tember 25, 2011eral resources for our own use or should At a time of high prices in the world 5 Chamber President’s Welcome Remarks, Miningwe do so mainly for money-making by a market, mining can easily cause widespread Philippines 2011, September 14, 2011 6 The information on early Christian teachings arefew in the world market?” More precisely, devastation to the environment all through found in Charles Avila Ownership: Early Christian“Is the current utilization of our mineral the length and breadth of this archipelago, Teaching, Sheed and Ward, London, Orbis Books,endowment designed to serve the basic by employing open-pit and submarine mine New York, Wipf and Stock, Oregon, and Allenneeds of our people who live and work waste disposal methods—often fatal to John Publishing, Manila. I have taken liberties in summarizing papers and discussions on geoethicsin a backward agricultural mode of pro- people’s health and sure-shot destructive propounded by the Bishops members of the Rapu-duction? Is it geared to addressing the of the environment. Rapu-Rapu was a case Rapu Fact Finding Commission. A lot of theseneed of our national economy to making in point. Lafayette Mining was rushing be- appear in speeches and papers by Bishop Arturoa successful leap to becoming a strong cause of high prices in the market and started Bastes, SVD, DD and Bishop Jose Rojas DD. 7 MetallicMinerals–est.valueUS$464,966,247,400;industrial state?” operating even when not yet ready to comply Industrial or non-metallic – $ 71,765, 078, 605;and Or isn’t the current utilization of with the conditionalities of their Environ- energy minerals – $1,578,689,000,000. For moreour mineral advantage being used again mental Compliance Certificate. Advanced details, vide etiam website for “Mining Potential in the Philippines”: to develop underdevelopment technologies—better or best practices from tions/gmo2/mpotential.htmin our land? Isn’t it a fact that for too other countries were not adopted, in the 8 Speech at Asia Mining Congress 2011, April 6,long a time our mineral resources were interests of profit maximization. 12 2011, Singaporeextracted purely for the benefit of the And the government that was sup- 9 Ibid. 10 Chamber President’s Welcome Remarks, Miningdeveloped nations’ economies and for posed to be regulating the firm was in Philippines 2011, September 14, 2011the super-profitable advancement of a-nobody-home-somebody-else-is-in- 11 James Hookway, “Church Effort Slows Philippinea few mining companies [a situation charge mode. I Mining,” WSJ, 2-13-09 12 vide summary of the Rapu-Rapu Commissionthe social encyclicals refer to as “neo- report:”]? (To be continued next issue) Commission-Report.pdf. FILE PHOTO 8 IMPACT • February 2012