Released on March 09, 2020
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) remains steadfast in its campaign to repeal the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and replace it with the Alternative Minerals Management Bill. An alternative that has strict safeguards that will uphold the rights of communities affected by mining, and ensure the protection and conservation of the environment.
On March 3, 1995, former President Fidel Ramos signed into law Republic Act No. 7942 or most commonly known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. The bill was enacted as an effort to revitalize the Philippine mining industry and increase foreign investment.
Attracting foreign investments was achieved through the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA). The FTAA was embedded within the law allowing multinational companies to own 100% of mining rights. It provided the requirements that would enable the legitimization of foreign ownership and control of our country's minerals and natural resources. Additionally, generous tax incentives are provided through a tax and duty-free capital equipment imports, four-year income tax holiday, value-added tax exemption, and income tax deduction with accelerated depreciation.
This Philippine Mining Act of 1995 determined the agreements for mineral exploitation, worsened by Former Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Executive Order 270-A in January 2004. All factors that led to the aggressive promotion of large-scale, environmentally destructive mining in the country. As of July 2019, a total of 707,077 hectares are mineralized lands or areas where there are mining operations.
Challenging the Law
(Ka Lorenzo Pulido from Didipio Earth Savers Multi-Purpose Association explaining the effects of large-scale mining in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya)
Anti-mining groups made up of environmentalists, indigenous people's organizations, and church groups challenged the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 for its unconstitutionality. However, the Supreme Court declared the Mining Act as constitutional in December 2004 following the shift of the Arroyo Administration. This was done so to aggressively promote large-scale mining to attract and increase foreign investments. Various local government units responded by passing a resolution banning open-pit mining to prevent large-scale mining companies from operating in their areas.
Nonetheless, anti-mining groups continue to oppose the Mining Act opting for an alternative minerals management bill. An alternative that ensures the protection of the environment and upholds the rights of the communities affected by mining. As opposed to the environmental damages and human rights violations that stemmed from the current Mining Act.
Several incidents have been documented since the enactment of the 1995 Mining Act, despite its promotion of waste-free and efficient mine development. In March 1996, Marcopper mines in Marinduque spilled out 3 million metric tons of mineral tailings into the Boac River. The spill resulted in the contamination of the river's freshwater, a source of their food and livelihood, resulting in the displacement of 400 families in the area. In July 2012, the Nicua Mining Corporation operating in McArthur, Leyte, released mine wastes in Lake Bito, resulting in fish kill. In November 2012, the Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation in Narra, Palawan spilled waste into the nearby river and irrigation system that affected farms and a fish pond.
These incidents are just among the few that have been documented that resulted in the dislocation of thousands of families, degradation of communities' health, loss of livelihood, and the massive environmental destruction. Besides these incidents post-mining operations, several mining companies have evicted, and in the worst cases, threatened the lives of indigenous peoples, upland farmers, and fishers in order to operate their mining companies.
Thus, anti-mining groups continue to oppose this policy that falls short in ensuring that the country's forests, freshwater sources, and seas are protected. Most of all, they continue to oppose it because of the lack of protection and respect it provides to indigenous communities or communities living within the vicinity of mining operations.
Shrinking Democratic Spaces
(Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator, Alyansa Tigil Mina, reiterates the increasing threats experienced by environmental defenders)
ATM, together with its local partners in the sites-of-struggle affected by mining, has been at the forefront of advocating for an alternative minerals management bill. However, due to the current stand of the administration on rights and environmental defenders, it has become harder for defenders to advocate against environmentally destructive mining.
According to the Global Witness Report in 2018, the Philippines rank 1st in being the most dangerous place for environmental activists. Activists who are at the forefront of stopping destructive mining operations, illegal logging, and development aggression, have been the victims of intimidation, falsified legal suits, and violence.
The institutionalization of the whole-of-nation approach through Executive Order No. 70, s. 2018 has only increased the risk amongst environmental activists who oppose the continued aggressive development practices. This policy enables individuals and groups from destructive mining operations to act violently against those who would oppose their harmful practices.
In this context of violence, mining companies and their allies have grown brazen in their pursuit to continue operating to increase their bottom line. There has been an increase of midnight deals in mining particularly during the 2016 election campaign period. Between March 2016 to June 2016, 44 large-scale mining-related transactions in DENR failed to undergo due process. More recently, the repealing of the late environment Secretary Gina Lopez closure order of 21 and suspension of 5 mining companies.
Despite the suspension and cancellation orders, however, the 26 mining companies continued to operate after submitting a Motion for Reconsideration. It is stated in Executive Order (EO) 79 that once a mining company appeals to inter-agency Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) and/or the Office of the President, its status shall remain ‘business as usual’.
In December 2018, DENR together with the MICC, resolved the appeals of 13 mining companies. Three out of the 12 mining companies that were previously ordered closed were resolved to remain closed; 9 companies were resolved suspended, and 1 suspension order was lifted. The removal of these companies' cancellation order enables those who have been proven to break environmental laws to continue to operate.
Profiting from the mineral resources of the country is the focus of the government. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR, together with the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (CoMP), are actively campaigning for "responsible mining." A concept that has not been successfully implemented in any single mining operation. ATM asserts that this concept will only increase corporate and state corruption because it highly depends on the ability of the government to enforce the policy. Additionally, compliance with the safeguards mentioned in the proposed concept is voluntary for large scale mining companies. More so, Congress continues to push for easing foreign ownership by advocating for charter change and lobbying for bills.
It is clear that the existing policies, as well as the current political context, detract the campaign to protect and conserve the environment. But most of all, it threatens the lives of community members in mining areas. The continued profit-seeking nature of mining companies, supported by some government agencies, is even more alarming, given the global climate emergency. Thus, it is essential not only for the government to act on these abuses but also for the masses to advance policies that are pro-people and pro-environment.
President Duterte should make good on his promises – on an executive order on ban open-pit mining, and endorse the passage of an alternative minerals management law. Additionally, he must support the struggle of environmental defenders and prevent their continued vilification.
(Environmental groups support the passage of an Alternative Minerals Management Bill)
The alliance, its members and partners, and communities who resist large-scale mining in their area will continue to be vigilant and challenge the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. ATM will carry on with empowering and supporting women, indigenous peoples, and the youth. We will persist on the fight to uphold human rights, climate justice, and social justice. Ultimately, we will continue to push for more sustainable alternatives and campaign for a more inclusive and pro-people mining law.
For more information, please contact:
ATM National Coordinator