- Published on Thursday, 23 August 2012 22:26
Philippines: New Executive Order On Mining Passed - Will Palawan Be Saved?
President Benigno Simeon “PNoy” Aquino, III, signed Executive Order No. 79 series of 2012 last July 6. A first read of the new mining executive order cheered up communities and advocates campaigning for the protection of the province of Palawan against large scale mining operations.
(The EO may be downloaded here )
ATM’s Position Paper on the new mining policy is also available here . However, despite gains for the Palawan campaign, it remains to be a policy found to be inadequate in addressing the concerns of mining-affected communities, specifically the indigenous peoples.
EO 79 and some gains identified
Section 1 of the said EO identifies Areas Closed to Mining Applications, including protected areas and prime agricultural lands covered by Republic Acts 7586 and 6657, respectively. Tourism development areas and other critical areas, including island ecosystems are also considered as no-go mining zones.
Other provisions included the full enforcement of environmental standards and use of Programmatic Environmental Impact Assessment that studies the impacts of development activities at different levels. It also constituted the Mining Industry Coordinating Council that will ensure the proper coordination and implementation of the new policy.
After the release of the said document, the government is expected to start addressing concerns raised about mining, including the lack of baseline data, policy inconsistencies, economic valuation of natural resources, need to increase government share from, and effects of environmental degradation.
In summary, the EO focuses on establishing environmental safeguards and the need for a new revenue sharing scheme, to maximize the country’s profit from mining. It did not make mention of other concerns of communities, not only in Palawan, but also in other mining-affected areas, such as social impacts and human rights violations.
EO 79 revitalizing the Palawan campaign
After the release of the new mining policy, communities and advocates in Palawan and other island provinces were elated upon learning about the no-go zones or areas that will be closed to mining in Section 1.
An accompanying directive of EO 79 was an instruction to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to “desist from processing mining applications in Palawan and enhance the strict implementation and periodic review of the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan with the PCSD”.
The reaction of several organizations in Palawan, including the Palawan NGOs Network Inc. (PNNI) and the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) vary. It is seen generally as a win for the Palawan advocacy, even including that of other island provinces such as Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon.
However, there seems to be a gray area on the continued operation of mining companies in Palawan that were previously awarded concessions before the policy issuance. Groups expected, that considering Palawan as a fragile island ecosystem, a complete mining ban be implemented.
The Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) finds that the order specifically on stopping the processing of mining applications in the island is a small gain, meaning that the pending 429 mining applications will no longer be processed. On the other hand, “processing” may be interpreted arbitrarily, as for advocates, this should mean that all MPSA exploration holders who are still going trough the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and SEP Clearance process in order to continue and develop and utilize minerals must no longer be processed.
Indigenous peoples on the other hand are firm in their decision to not allow mining in their ancestral domains, as they know its devastating impacts to their lands and the threats it will bring not only to them but also to the future generations.
ALDAW further states, “the new mining EO has been a huge disappointment for all of us, indigenous peoples, environmental organizations and concerned citizens… The attempt to cope with the pressure posed by escalating anti-mining sentiments has been rather inadequate and mostly cosmetic.”
Last July 27, ALDAW launched a video documentary entitle, “Palawan: Our struggle for Nature and Culture” showing the cultural values of Palawan and the encroachment of mining operations in ancestral domains.
Policy shift still needed
Despite some gains from the new EO, there is still a need to push for a new mining policy that will shift the development export-oriented paradigm being adopted by the current Administration.
The Palawan campaign against mining does not stop there. Groups and communities in the area are still closely monitoring the actions of PCSD, DENR, the provincial government, NCIP, and local government units. Engaging these agencies in the proper implementation of the EO and its directives is essential.
The LEBACH case
Indeed, the passing of the new executive order on mining is already producing its own effects. Last week, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has intimated to a local mining company from illegally conducting activities in Brooke’s Point municipality (Palawan). Lebach Mining and Develoment Corp. (LMDC) was prevented from conducting consultative assemblies with indigenous peoples.
For previous advocacy actions against LEBACH see Philippines: Lebach Mining Company And Palawan Government Officials Lambasted With Questions During Peaceful Demonstration - No Answer
In a memorandum order dated August 14, 2012, sent to Palawan NCIP Provincial Office headed by Engr. Roldan V. Parangue, Regional Director Roberto L. Almonte instructed that the processes of FPIC (free, prior and informed consent) covering the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) of Lebach Mining ‘is hereby suspended until such time that the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Executive Order 79 series of 2012 shall be officially issued.’ ‘A formal notice shall be issued should the requirement of the law shall be accomplished warranting for the resumption of FPIC process,’ ordered Almonte, head of NCIP Regional Office No. IV.
Parangue and his Palawan team continued to conduct consultative assemblies in six tribal villages in Brooke’s Point from August 6 to 11 despite the issuance of Executive Order 79 on July 6, 2012, that is ‘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’.
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina said, “EO 79 and the President’s Directives to Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development is clear—to desist from processing mining applications in Palawan. It is also no secret that the indigeneous community in Brooke’s Point are against the entry of Lebach Mining. It is really hard to understand why the Provincial NCIP office is so adamant and so excited to assist the mining company, and disregard the opposition of the IPs.”
Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) Area Head Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda Mayo-Anda also said that while the Implementing Rules and Regulations of E.O. No. 79 are yet to be promulgated by the concerned agencies, it would be more prudent on the part of the NCIP to hold in abeyance all applications for the FPIC processes and Certificate Preconditions in Palawan, considering the intention of President Aquino in issuing the E.O. No. 79.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Ensure that the whole province of Palawan (a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve) be considered a no-go mining zone, in accordance to the new EO 79
- Make sure that the implementation of EO 79 will result, not only, in the non-processing of mining applications in Palawan, but that it will also lead to the cancellation of existing mining applications as well as to the halt of all MPSA exploration holders who are still going trough the FPIC and SEP Clearance process. This entails that the MPSAs of MacroAsia, Lebach, Ipilan and Hillborough should no longer be allowed to continue.
- Seriously push for a new mining policy that will shift the development paradigm being adopted by the current Administration which still adheres to the export-oriented foreign investments framework of exploiting the Philippine’s mineral wealth — at the expenses of the environment while sacrificing the future Filipino generations.
- Give due and adequate consideration to the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (a law currently lodged in Congress) which presents a framework for the responsible utilization of the national mineral resources and gives high consideration to the protection of environment and to the rights of communities. This law, in fact, aims at addressing the gaps and flaws of the current Mining Act of 1995.
2. Copy your messages to the attention of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)
and of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD)
3. Sign the no-2-mining-in-palawan petition launched by the Save Palawan Movement no2mininginpalawan.com and the ALDAW Petition to stop the encroachment of mining corporations and oil palm plantations on Palawan ancestral land http://petitiononline.com/PA2010/petition.html
For more information, please feel free to contact:
Artiso Mandawa, ALDAW Chairman, (0905) 614.56.31
Source: ATM - ATM (the Alliance Against Mining) is the largest anti-mining network of which ALDAW is also a member.
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