[Statement] DENR-MGB is lawyering for the mining industry and creating confusion -ATM

Quezon City – The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is dispensing fake news.

Our alliance denounces in the strongest possible terms the attempt of the MGB, particularly its Regional Director for Region 12, EngineerFelizardo Gacad Jr to promote destructive mining in South Cotabato.

In an article at Manila Standard, Dir. Gacad was quoted as stating that the Tampakan project is “expected to go in full swing in the coming months, with the fresh endorsement from the national government reportedly coming out soon.” Gacad allegedly claims as well that “a timeline has been released for the reactivation of SMI’s Environmental Compliance Certificate.”

These are big words and in reference to a major and controversial mining project such as Tampakan, will have serious repercussions.

But the statements are incredulous and absurd. Coming from a Regional office of the MGB that has consistently refused to listen to local resistance against the Tampakan mining project, we are unconvinced but not surprised.

We dare Dir. Gacad to present any order or memo from the Office of the President that such instructions were actually transmitted. Even if such a far-fetched directive was issued, we remind Dir. Gacad of the following important and substantial issues:

1. DENR Administrative Order 2017-10 (Ban on Open-pit Mining) is still in effect, and President Duterte has publicly declared that he supports and will continue to implement this policy. As recent as Sept. 30, 2019, Sec. Panelo reiterated this clear stand of Pres. Duterte on the ban on open-pit mining.

2. Executive Order 79 (EO 79) or “Institutionalizing and implementing reforms in the Philippine Mining Sector, providing policies and guidelines to ensure environmental protection and responsible mining in the utilization of mineral resources” is still in effect. Section 1 of EO 79 stipulates the “areas closed to mining applications”. The Tampakan Mining Project even violates DENR regulations when more than 3,000 hectares of the proposed mine are 1,000 meters above sea-level.

3. South Cotabato has a Provincial Environment Code passed in 2010 that prohibits open-pit mining. This provincial ordinance is still in effect. Newly-elected Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr. has said that any request to review or amend this local ordinance will not be coming from him.

4. The Tampakan mining project has failed to secure the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of more than 1,000 indigenous peoples from the B’laan tribe that will be impacted by the mining project.

5. The land-use conflict between indigenous peoples (ancestral domains), agrarian reform beneficiaries (CARP areas), protected areas and the mining tenements has not been settled.

6. At least three watershed covering four provinces with over 270,000 hectares will be directly impacted by the mining project. The Hydrology Impact Study for this project has not been disclosed and meaningfully discussed with stakeholders.

We do not know from what planet Engr. Gacad is getting his information giving him misplaced optimism about the re-activation of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the Tampakan Mining Project. Clearly, there are numerous and considerable issues that need to be addressed, even before the national government can consider re-activating this mining project.

Dir. Gacad must also realize that there is no conflict between a national law and the local ordinance against mining. Clearly, there is a conflict between two national laws – the Philippine Mining Act and the Local Government Code.

If Dir. Gacad insists on his flawed interpretation that national laws should prevail over local ordinances, we suggest that he take his case to court. That will be the only consistent behavior of the DENR-MGB, since they have always lawyered for the mining industry, and taken the side of mining companies, against the will of the people.

This latest attempt of DENR and MGB Region 12 to sow confusion is a clear example of why “responsible mining” does not exist in the Philippines.

Rene Pamplona, Advocacy Officer of Convergence for Integrity and Environmental Justice (CIEJ), based in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, added that “We believe that the FPIC underwent questionable processes, and that negotiations for the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) were done in bad faith. So essentially, the FPIC is not valid, and the Tampakan project does not enjoy acceptability from the Blaans, and we are afraid that conflicts will escalate, if the mine is allowed to push through.”

Finally, we demand the following:

1. DENR and the MGB must immediately disclose to the affected communities and the LGUs the alleged directive or instruction from Office of the President or from Malacanang for the re-activation of the ECC for the Tampakan Mining Project

2. MGB Directo Wilfredo Moncano must explain what parameters they are using in making such outlandish and absurd policy pronouncements recently abut mining. These include the alleged “interim renewal” of FTAA # 1 in Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya and this unbelievable claim of the re-activation of FTAA # 2 of the Tampakan Mining Project. Clearly, MGB is disobeying the policy directions of Pres. Duterte on the ban on open-pit mining.

3. DENR Sec. Roy Cimatu must order right away a review process of all these questionable pronouncements by MGB. Obviously, the MGB and DENR are promoting the mining industry by disregarding the still existent rules and regulations within DENR itself. Sec. Cimatu must also ensure that MGB (and other bureaus within DENR) is complying with all environmental laws and all other national laws that are related to local environmental governance.

4. NCIP must immediately review all the documents and reports submitted to their office, including the documented cases of human rights violations related to the Tampakan mining project.

For more details:
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator – (+63917) 549-82-18 / nc@alyansatigilmina.net
Rene Pamplona, CIEJ — (+63965) 288-42-66 / blackthorns1725@gmail.com

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