ATM Statement on Reversal of Mine Closure Orders
2 years into the Duterte Administration, mining activists are frustrated
We, the Alyansa Tigil Mina, strongly express our frustration over the announcement of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) that it will overturn the closure orders against 22 mine operations. Our alliance firmly believes that there is enough sound basis from the DENR Mining Audit in 2016 that led to the closure and suspension orders of these 26 mining projects last February 2017.
We are deeply concerned that DoF Usec. Bayani Agabin told reporters last week that the initial results of the MICC review will be recommending to President Duterte the resumption of mine operations. This, allegedly after the MICC technical review teams reported that the mine companies have complied with the technical and legal requirements in their operations. The mining companies and their areas of operations were not revealed, with Agabin only citing that 3 nickel mines and 1 chromite failed the review.
We see the results of this MICC review as both questionable and suspicious. It is regrettable that at this very early stage of the MICC review which only covered the legal, technical and environmental compliance aspects of the mine operations, Usec. Agabin had to make a sweeping statement that was open to misinterpretation by the general public.
The social impacts, ecological costs and economic trade-offs of the mining projects have not been included yet, and so to recommend the reversal of the closure and suspension orders is premature at best, and a biased position of a government official at worst. ATM is frankly not surprised that Usec. Agabin has a very friendly demeanor to the mining industry, since he came from their ranks as a former mining executive.
It is important to emphasize that the decision to close or suspend the 26 mines were based on audit reports done by a multi-sectoral team headed by DENR officials. The audit reports cited illegal tree-cutting activities, non-compliance with ECC conditions and even violations of environmental laws as some of the basis of the closure or suspension orders.
Mining-affected communities have provided numerous and verifiable evidences on the negative impacts these mining operations have brought.
In Nueva Vizcaya, potable water supply in Didipio, Kasibu town have dried up, even after the gold-mining operations of OceanaGold Phils., Inc. (OGPI) were ordered suspended. The provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya even has digital images proving that OGPI had illegally operated outside its mining tenement, a violation that is a basis for the cancellation of a mining contract.
In the town of Sta. Cruz, Zambales, four nickel mining projects were canceled after more than 800 hectares of irrigated rice lands were destroyed and about 1,000 fishers and fishpond owners lost their livelihoods due to river and coastal contamination of nickel laterites.
In Palawan, Citinickel and Berong Nickel were ordered suspended, after their operations were reported to have caused siltation in the river and coastal waters.
In Homonhon Island, Eastern Samar, 3 mining projects were cancelled after they caused destruction of a watershed and siltation of coastal areas. Residents have also reported unregulated tree-cutting in the area, but unclear if tree-cutting permits were issued.
In CARAGA region, where more than half of the cancelled mine projects are located, mining operations were reported to be mining in watershed areas, siltation of coastal areas, and negative impacts to the island’s eco-system. In the town of Cantilan, Surigao del Sur, Marcventures Minerals Development Corp. (MMDC) continue to destroy forest and ancestral lands within the Mt. Hilong Hilong Protected Area and the Carac-an Protected Watershed area. These two landscapes with protected area status are clearly no-go zones for mining as stipulated in Exec. Order 79. The ecosystem has been crippled to the extent that flashfloods and landslides occurred in the area early this year after a typhoon, prompting an investigation by DENR.
ATM joins mining-affected communities in resisting the continued operations and planned expansion of these mining projects. The full enforcement of the mine closures has not been implemented. The environmental destruction and social sufferings have continued despite the closure and suspension orders.
ATM together with the rest of environmental rights defenders and land rights defenders will never hesitate to support communities in blocking the reversal of these mine closure orders.
It is important to remind the MICC that its review process is still incomplete, particularly if the social and health aspects of mine operations have not been incorporated in the assessment process. The DOF and the DENR must exercise prudent leadership in the MICC, and avoid making hasty remarks about its recommendations on the mine closure orders.
We demand that the MICC make a public disclosure of their findings and recommendations as soon as possible. Equally important is the disclosure of the methodology and tools used by the technical review team in their assessment. This track is only consistent with the preferred policy and practice of President Duterte on freedom of information.
We also demand that the MICC conduct public consultations and validation exercises with the mining-affected communities about the results of the MICC review. These consultations should provide space for meaningful participation of communities and their support groups of environmental NGOs and human rights organizations.
Knowing full well that the MICC is only recommendatory, and that the President will have the final say on the fate of the cancelled and suspended mining contracts. We strongly urge President Duterte to give clear instructions to the MICC about the operations of these open-pit mining projects, and for him to remind the MICC that open-pit mining has destroyed forests and watersheds.
On the occasion of the second year of the Duterte administration, we reiterate the following calls to President Duterte:
1.Given the failure of the MICC to take into account the social, health and peace costs of mining operations, we urge the President to uphold the mine closures and suspension orders. A revamp of the MICC is in order for while it has done everything in favor of mining operations, it has done little or nothing in alleviating and addressing the suffering of mining-affected communities.
2. Executive Order 79 (EO 79 or the Responsible Mining policy) must be fully implemented, and we strongly encourage Pres. Duterte to enforce the “no go zones”, the performance audit of mine operations and the moratorium on mining applications.
3 DAO 2017-10 (Ban on open-pit mining) must be fully implemented, and an Executive Order strengthening its implementation should be issued by President Duterte as soon as possible.
4. DAO 2017-07 (Mandatory participation in EITI) must be fully implemented, and Pres. Duterte should instruct DENR Sec. Cimatu to ensure the compliance of all mining companies to this administrative order;
5. Given the current serious risks and threats posed by climate change (e.g., flashfloods, landslides, erosions, extreme weather events, etc.), we appeal to the Office of the President to consider establishing a moratorium on mining operations, especially in areas characterized as highly susceptible to climate change risks or are highly-vulnerable geo-hazard zones.
6. With the reduced rice production capacity of the Philippines, and reduced fish-catch brought by coastal contamination and climate change, a direct threat to food security is now present. We ask Pres. Duterte to instruct Dept. of Agriculture Sec. Manny Pinol to issue the maps of Special Agricultural and Fisheries Development Zones (SAFDZs) that are considered as no-go zones for mining and other destructive practices.
7.Pres. Duterte should issue an order declaring all functioning watershed areas in the Philippines, as well as small-island ecosystems, to be no-go zones for mining and other destructive practices.
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