Anti-mining Lumad leader in Cagayan de Oro killed

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/14 Sept) — A leader of the Higaonon tribe who is a staunch anti-mining activist was gunned down by unidentified assailants while riding home on a motorcycle in the hinterland village of Tuburan, this city Saturday afternoon, police said.

Senior Inspector Allan Engracia Curato ,  commander  of the Lumbia police station said the 64-year old Fausto Orasan, also known as “Datu Sandigan,”  succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds at the back of his body.

“It resulted to his instantaneous death. We found him and his motorcycle lying on the right side of the road,” Curato said in a report.

Curato said empty shells of the 30-caliber M1 Garand rifle and 12-gauge shotgun were found at the scene, indicating that the victim was shot four times by two or more assailants.

City Environment officer Edwin Dael said the death of Orasan, a staunch anti-mining and anti-illegal logging advocate, was a great loss to their campaign to preserve the remaining forests in the city’s hinterlands.

“Datu Sandigan was the moral force why the Higaonons did not join the illegal miners and loggers in the hinterland. He was the soul of our forests,” Dael said.

Dael said Orasan was going to attend a meeting in the city and as usual , rode on his red motorcycle when he was waylaid.

He said a team of Army soldiers from the 43rdCivil Military Operations Company responded to the scene in Sitio Olangon, Barangay Tuburan and reported the crime to the police.

Dael said this is the second time that an attempt was made on Orasan’s life. He said Orasan was also ambushed last year but survived.

Orasan earlier gave up the chance to serve as representative of the IPs in the Cagayan de Oro City Council in favor of another Datu, explaining this would unite the Higaonons in the city instead of divide them into two factions. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)


Sex workers in Davao down to 4,000, NGO says

By Lorie Ann Cascaro | Tuesday| September 25, 2012 |

DAVAO CITY(MindaNews /24 September)—The estimated number of prostituted women (PW) in this city has decreased to 4,000 this year from 6,000 in 2011 because they were trafficked or have fled the city to become sexual workers in other areas, a non-government organization said today (Monday.)

These women and children are part of the estimated 600,000 PWs in the Philippines today.
Jeanette Ampog, Talikala, Inc. executive director, guesting at the Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City Davao, said that human trafficking has become a channel for prostitution to thrive, noting that the recruits below 18 years old mostly end up as sex workers.

She pointed out the reported cases show that recruitment of PWs is rampant in areas where there are mining, military operations and tourism activities.

Among the places she mentioned are Diwalwal in Compostela Valley, San Francisco in Agusan del Sur, both mining areas, and Samal in Davao del Norte, a tourism destination.

Ampog said that the six minors who were earlier rescued in San Francisco bared there are more minor recruits as young as 12 and 14 years old, including two siblings who are from Buhangin this city.

Life cycle
The infamous streets surrounding the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas here tell a life cycle of PWs, Ampog said.

She said PWs are categorized by age groups that have as young as nine years old, and as old as 60 years old, who gets paid as low as P100, or in worst case, for just a cup of coffee.

Lory Pabunag of Lawig Bubai, an organization of some 600 PWs, said the current trend of prostitution involves the first and second generations of the family—the mother and two or three of her children.
Ampog said Talikala, a non-government organization that provides counseling and case management services to PWs here, can only assist 10 percent of the PWs, considering their resources.

She said the government recognizes the problem in prostitution but fails to provide employment and basic social services to women and children, especially those who are victims of prostitution.

“We hope that these women will be given employment opportunities and the children will have access to basic services such as health and education,” Ampog said.

Prostitution is the oldest form of exploitation of women, not the oldest form of women’s profession, she stressed.

Anti-prostitution bill
Mary Ann Sapar, secretary general of Gabriela Southern Mindanao, said the anti-prostitution bill, proposed by representatives of the Gabriela Women’s Partylist, is still pending in Congress.

The bill, she added, will decriminalize and rehabilitate PWs, and penalize customers, pimps or operators of PWs.

She said that Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan will give updates on the bill in a forum on prostitution in Ateneo de Davao University on October 5, which is the international day of “no prostitution.”

The main actors in the forum will be the PWs themselves in order to narrate their experiences and how prostitution has affected their lives even after they decided to stop being a victim, Ampog told reporters.

As part of the commemoration, the Talikala will conduct a free medical mission such as pap smear test, among other medical services for women, on October 3 in its office at 2 Sputnik St., Doña Vicenta Village here. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)


Aquino’s mining policy is unconstitutional

by Dan Gatmaytan

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje recently commented on the new mining executive order expected to be signed by President Aquino. In a statement to the press, Paje said that the new policy would reiterate the “primacy of national law” over anti-mining ordinances.

Paje added that the ordinances would remain until rendered illegal by a “national government agency.”

Paje’s statements echo those made by DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, which were made in 2010. Robredo made similar statements in response to South Cotabato’s resistance to mining. He opined that the province did not have the power to ban open-pit mining and should instead review its Environmental Code that prohibited such mining method.

In a Memorandum Circular dated November 9, 2010, Robredo directed the provincial government of South Cotabato to review its Environmental Code. According to the Memorandum Circular, “[i]n view thereof, you are hereby enjoined to cause the immediate suspension of the implementation of said ordinance pending its review.”

Secretaries Paje and Robredo make statements that are arguably inconsistent with law.

There is no law that prevents local governments from imposing additional strictures to safeguard the environment so long as it does not contradict an express provision of law. The Mining Act of 1995 does not prevent local governments from banning open-pit mining or from adopting measures that protect the environment. The efforts of South Cotabato to ban open-pit mining may be justified as police power measures under the Local Government Code. It is true that local ordinances must be consistent with the Constitution and national laws, but if a course of action is not prohibited by a national law it can certainly be adopted by an ordinance.

Local governments are allowed to add requirements before businesses otherwise satisfying national laws can operate at the local level. In Newsound Broadcasting Network Inc. v. Dy (G.R. Nos. 170270 & 179411, April 2, 2009.), the Supreme Court held that:

Nothing in national law exempts media entities that also operate as businesses such as newspapers and broadcast stations such as petitioners from being required to obtain permits or licenses from local governments in the same manner as other businesses are expected to do so. While this may lead to some concern that requiring media entities to secure licenses or permits from local government units infringes on the constitutional right to a free press, we see no concern so long as such requirement has been duly ordained through local legislation and content-neutral in character, i.e., applicable to all other similarly situated businesses.

In another case, the Supreme Court recognized the power of local government units to prevent the operation of drug stores authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to operate. In that case (Gordon v. Verdiano II, G.R. No. L-55230, November 8, 1988.), the Court held that (then) Mayor Richard Gordon could not disallow the operation of a drugstore after it was allowed to operate by the FDA. “However,” the Court continued, “it was competent for the petitioner (Gordon) to suspend Mayor’s Permit No. 1955 for the transfer of the Olongapo City Drug Store in violation of the permit.”

In other words, while the applicant has complied with the pertinent national laws and policies,

this fact alone will not signify compliance with the particular conditions laid down by the local authorities like zoning, building, health, sanitation, and safety regulations, and other municipal ordinances enacted under the general welfare clause. This compliance still has to be ascertained by the mayor if the permit is to be issued by his office. Should he find that the local requirements have not been observed, the mayor must then, in the exercise of his own authority under the charter, refuse to grant the permit sought.

What is more curious is that both Cabinet secretaries refer to the executive power to declare these ordinances illegal. The President does not have the power of control over local government officials, only the power of supervision. Supervision means overseeing the power or authority of an officer to see that subordinate officers perform their duties. Control, on the other hand, means the power of an officer to alter or modify or nullify or set aside what a subordinate officer had done in the performance of his duties and to substitute the judgment of the former for that of the latter (Hebron v. Reyes, G.R. No. L-9124, July 28, 1958.). The President’s authority is limited to seeing to it that rules are followed and laws are faithfully executed. “The President may only point out that rules have not been followed but the President cannot lay down the rules, neither does he have the discretion to modify or replace the rules.” (The Province of Negros Occidental v. Commissioners, G.R. No. 182574, September 28, 2010).

Robredo’s actions and Paje’s statement suggest that the President has the power to declare ordinances unconstitutional. The President cannot declare ordinances as unconstitutional as that power is reserved by the Constitution to the courts.

If Paje’s statements are accurate, the new mining policy may face serious challenges in our courts.

Dan Gatmaytan is an Associate Professor in the University of the Philippines College of Law.


As govt gears for new mining EO, President reiterates: National law trumps local ordinances

by Chichi Conde,

President Benigno Aquino III on Monday reiterated the primacy of national laws over local laws and ordinances, as local officials brace themselves for a forthcoming executive order (EO) redefining mining policies in the Philippines.

The President made his remarks after around 40 governors last week threatened to challenge the EO expected to be signed by the President, saying it would undermine local governments’ wisdom and control over their own respective areas and resources therein.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, a member of Aquino’s Liberal Party, said the EO would allow the national government to override anti- or pro-mining policies of local executives.

Aquino, prompted to respond to Salceda’s position, said:

“I would like to talk to him (Salceda) but I think the premise of your question is wrong. Where did that happen? I don’t think Joey Salceda would come up with a statement that says the opposite – that a municipal order or provincial ordinance takes precedence over our national law,” he said.

“The Constitution is very, very clear on that. First, ordinance making powers of local governments are limited. Second, they have limited territorial scope. But more than all of these, there is a clause that says local ordinances should be consistent with our national laws,” the President added.

Aquino said for as long as the Philippines is not a federated government and remains to be a unitary government, national laws would always take precedence.

If Salceda was quoted correctly, Aquino said it was “premature” for the governor to be issuing such statements.

“I have not yet signed it. There is still some language I am not comfortable with,” Aquino said.

“But if they feel that their rights are being trampled upon, by allmeans they can go to the appropriate courts. But I am very confident that he (Salceda) would not say that the ordinances that they have promulgated on a local basis will supplant national laws,” the President added.


40 governors oppose new Aquino mining policy—Salceda

By: Kristine Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—At least 40 anti-mining governors would challenge before the Supreme Court the Aquino administration’s mining policy upon its signing by President Aquino, Albay Governor Joey Salceda said.

Salceda said local government executives would oppose the mining policy that was supposed to be signed by President Aquino on Friday but was placed on hold because it put them in an adversarial position to the national government. It would also dismiss their autonomy and independence in favor of national laws and regulations on the mining industry, Salceda said.

According to the Albay governor, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, the mining policy stresses that the national laws take primacy over local laws and ordinances. As such, the national government can override anti- or pro-mining laws set by local executives.

“We consider that provocative. In other words, it’s not conducive to a productive national conversation on the policy,” Salceda said in a forum organized by the International Women’s Media Forum recently.

“It will breed inequality of income and assets, it will destroy the countryside. It’s definitely anti-rural, that EO is anti-LGU,” Salceda said.

He noted that at least 40 provinces have passed ordinances that restrict, regulate or oppose mining, especially metallic mining and large-scale mining. Albay currently has not been accepting mining applications, he said.

The executive order, Salceda said, could not invalidate their ordinances against mining. If the order was signed with this provision, local government executives would definitely go to the Supreme Court to strike it, he said.

“Forty governors are opposing it,” he noted.

“An executive order does not destroy an ordinance, they have to bring it to the Supreme Court to do a short cut. That executive order will not make our ordinances disappear because they are articulation of democratic aspirations,” he explained.

Salceda said Malacañang knew of their opposition to the mining policy. This could be the reason why the President has not signed it yet, he said.

The resistance from the local executives came at an awkward time for the administration. It needs as much support as it can muster from the local governments to keep its power in the provinces for the mid-term local elections in 2013.

Local governments distrust the national government and the mining companies because they have not felt the benefits brought by mining activities, Salceda said, adding that profit-sharing between the local and national branches are skewed to the latter.

His province, for instance, which hosts the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project, only received P3.4 million from the mining company’s revenues. The company’s export value reached P7.7 billion.

“It is a failure when it comes to inter-generational sharing of resources. The basic principle why you allow mining is because it is for everyone including the next generation. Therefore, you should be able to raise sufficient revenues so that future generations would benefit from it,” said Salceda, a former member of the Arroyo economic team.

“The revenues you raise could be invested in things that would benefit at least three generations after you, like roads, bridges, enterprise development. But you can’t do that with P3.4 million,” he said.

Salceda said the mining industry’s track record in the Philippines has been in tatters, with most of the provinces with big mines also being the poorest, he said. Previous mining companies have also failed to rehabilitate their abandoned mine sites. Furthermore, mining operations, which are often militarized, breed tension in communities.

Salceda also called on Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno to resign from his post, saying Jasareno should regulate, not promote, mining activities.

President Aquino was supposed to sign the much-delayed and long-awaited executive order last Friday. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which was in charge of the order, initially planned it to be issued in early 2012. The original plan was to have a comprehensive mining policy that would spell out new regulatory and tax rules for the mining companies.

But last February, this plan was shelved. Instead, it was announced that Malacañang would only issue a policy statement that would lay out the administration’s direction on the mining sector. It also did away with controversial provisions on the valuation of natural wealth and taxation, pending more legal studies on these matters.


Letter to President Aquino: Reject SMI/XSTRATA Mine Proposal in Social Justice

June 8, 2012

His Excellency Benigno Simeon C. Aquino, III
President of the Republic of the Philippines
New Executive Building, Malacañang Palace
J.P. Laurel St., San Miguel, Manila

Your Excellency:


We are gratified that Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI)/XStrata has been denied environmental clearance for the second time for its controversial $ 5.9 billion project straddling South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur and Saranggani. The disapproval, “without prejudice to resubmission” (DENR order dated May 22, 2012), in my view, should be final and absolute. The disapproval should not just be based on the standing ordinance of South Cotabato against open-pit mining, but on appreciation of the incontrovertible information that has emerged on the impacts of the project on the environment and the people of Mindanao.

Several conferences, fora and fact-finding missions have concluded many reasons to reject the Tampakan Mine Project. Let me briefly enumerate some of these risks the mine poses to our human, ecological and cultural heritage:

Slated to become the biggest mine in the Philippines, the Tampakan Mine of SMI/Xstrata covers 10,000 hectares, destroying in its lifetime 4,000 hectares of water catchment forests, including old-growth forests. It risks polluting the water source of communities depending for their livelihoods on six rivers. The biggest river system, the Mal River, will be most polluted as many streams in its catchment will be destroyed and replaced by the tailings dam, which will devastate fisheries and will harm irrigated crops downstream in Davao del Sur, in the event of a dam failure. The Philippines needs more than ever to protect its water catchment if it is going to feed its expanding population and the apocalyptic Climate Change forecast of PAGASA showing a decreased rate of rainfall in Mindanao, the country’s food basket. (data from Goodland and Wicks, “Philippines: Mining or Food?”, 2006)

SMI threatens a total of 812 flora species, 247 (30%) are Philippine endemics and 52 (6%) are mainland Mindanao endemics. 55 species are under the Threatened Species list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. For amphibians and reptiles alone, 28% are Philippine endemics, 18% are Mindanao endemics and 20% are Greater Mindanao endemics (data from the Environmental Impact Study of SMI).

• MINDANAO IS A CONFLICT ZONE. Precisely because of the unstable peace and order condition in the Tampakan site and surrounding areas, SMI facilities have been attacked, burned and partly destroyed on several occasions by aggrieved parties. This area is among the most militarized areas in south central Mindanao today. On the pretext of “clearing the areas of subversive elements,” the Philippine Armed Forces with the CAFGUs have continuously launched military campaigns in that area, intensifying the conflict between Anti- and Pro- mining B’laans and instigating fear and terror in the communities, as documented by the Fact-Finding Mission conducted on April 25 and 26, 2012 by the Social Action Center of the diocese of Marbel.

• THE TAMPAKAN MINE IS A MAJOR THREAT TO FOOD SECURITY. Agriculture is the dominant economic activity in Davao del Sur and South Cotabato. The open-pit mining method would create massive disturbance to the environmental ecosystem currently protecting the water catchments supplying water irrigation and drinking water to Koronadal. Failure of the 500-hectare tailings dam (a real possibility due to earthquake fault lines crossing the site or the eruption of Mt. Matutum, an active volcano, which is 12 kilometers away) would kill people and damage watershed and irrigation infrastructures that support Mindanao’s food basket. There are 80,000 farmers farming 200,000 hectares in South Cotabato valley alone, relying on the river systems and water catchments of the surrounding mountains; SMI/Xstrata admits in their EIS that they will impact six (6) river systems. Scientists also project that several aquifers will also be contaminated. (from Goodland and Wicks, “Philippines: Mining or Food?”, 2006)

In finally rejecting SMI/Xstrata of this particular project, I believe that you are not breaking faith with these foreign investors. The project, from the very beginning was conditioned on the investors showing that it could be implemented without serious environmental and social impacts. Otherwise, why else would Environmental Clearance be required? Their assumption in making their investments, no matter how big or small, was that they could prove the environmental soundness of their project. If through the intervening environmental impact studies (by DENR itself, or by private institutions like NGOs, Academe and Church) it has been demonstrated that the impacts would be disastrous, the President must recognize this and draw the necessary conclusion. In this case, DENR itself must come to the defense of the environment and protect the interests of the Filipino people, living now and the generations yet to come.

For these reasons, I appeal that the Tampakan Mine Project of SMI/Xstrata be disapproved with finality. The disapproval should not be based on the conflict of the national (RA 7942) and provincial (South Cotabato Ordinance No. 4-2010) laws alone, but in the context of social justice and the correlate principle of the common good – the shared human good where relationships to God, to human beings and the environment are honored and respected even in our economic pursuits.

Thank you.

Sincerely in our Lord,

Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ


Conflict over water in 2020: mining or agriculture?

By Carolyn O. Arguillas | Tuesday| June 5, 2012 | Filed under: Top Stories

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 June) – Water will be a source of conflict and could possibly be a reason for war in 2020 if the river basins of Mindanao are not managed properly and the crucial resource is not allocated well, Secretary Lucille Sering, vice chair of the Climate Change Commission, warned in her keynote address at the Mindanao Economy and Environment Summit Monday.

But Sering added that water can also be a “catalyst for unity” depending on how we act now.

Given a reduced rainfall by 2020, potential conflicts over water use have to be defined and studied, she told some 200 participants at the Grand Regal Hotel.

“Mining has been mentioned. Water is crucial… If you see reduction of water in 2020, mining needs water, agriculture needs water and even hydropower needs water. Ano po ba ang uunahin natin sa paggamit sa ating tubig?” (What will be our first priority in using water?), Sering asked.

But she quickly answered her own question. “Hindi lang po natin pag-aaralan kung paano i-manage ang ating river basins kundi paano natin i-allocate itong resources na ito para hindi tayo mag-away-away at maging panibagong rason para magkagyera,” (Let us not just study about how to manage the river basins but also how to allocate water resources so that we will not fight and make this a new reason for war), the Secretary said.

She said Mindanawons need to protect their right to live peacefully and to live with sufficient water.

Talking about water is not that simple, said Sering. “When we talk about water, it means a lot of things. What we do now will really somehow define what will happen to us in the future. What we will do now and how we will take care of it will also really define what will happen in the future. It could either be a source of conflict or a catalyst for unity,” Sering explained.

Citing the climate change scenario of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA), Sering said Mindanao and the entire country will experience reduction of rainfall around 2020.

Mindanao will experience a decrease in rainfall for at least six months from April to September “and when it rains, it will really, really pour so this is where we have to understand and determine how do we manage our waters.”

Sering also pointed to the need to have an economic model that is “unique to Mindanao.”

She took note of what Davao City Planning Officer Roberto Alabadao, representative of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, said on the challenge of balance, “that if you do environment — somehow that was the impression that I got — it’s like anti-development. And maybe we should look at this economic model because we have to have an economic model that’s unique to Mindanao. We now need to review this brown economy. We now need to look at this green economy because we now need to understand if the current economic model is still fit.”

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines green economy as “a system of economic activities related to the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services that result in improved human wellbeing over the long term, while not exposing future generations to significant environmental risks and ecological scarcities.”
Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan, executive director of the World Wildlife Fund, also mentioned mining and agriculture in his presentation. He stressed the need to think about Mindanao’s priorities, given that government and the business sector have zeroed in on mining as an opportunity.

“To a great extent, the key environmental decision that Mindanao has to make today, revolves around the perceived potential of this non-renewable resource and the impacts of mining on the island’s dependence on natural resource, and its core business, i.e, agriculture.”

“Think about this carefully,” he said.

He ticked off statistics on Mindanao’s mineral wealth: an estimated 43% of the country’s chromite reserves, 56% of copper, 63% of nickel, 67% of bauxite and 75% of the country’s gold reserves.

Gold mining, Tan said, stands out as an activity of special concern as this mineral has “almost singlehandedly fueled the proliferation of less stringently regulated small scale and artisanal mining activity.”

But given that agriculture has its own set of requirements that remain unrealized, Tan said Mindanao has to decide “how best to sustain its core business and avoid a case of double jeopardy.”

“Unless it is the collective intention of Mindanao’s leaders to scale down agriculture as its primary economic driver, the difficult decisions on mining have to be made soon and cast in stone,” Tan said, adding that if the non-renewable wealth is withdrawn, “there must be some prior definition of how much of those earnings will constitute a net benefit to the people of Mindanao.”

In her opening remarks, Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chair, narrated how Mindanao, the country’s food basket, “produces 40% of the total food requirements of the country” but with the pace of forest degradation, is at risk of not being able to feed its population of 22 million.

Tan noted Mindanao is consistently a net exporting economy with export earnings, mostly from agri-based products at USD2.19 billion in 2009, that it has improved its product mix over the years and from 1995 to 2007, 71% of its total agricultural exports have been enhanced by added value.

This underscores that Mindanao’s competitiveness is “firmly anchored on the sustained viability of ecosystem services,” he said.

But Tan asked, “how much of this has returned to accelerate the internal velocity of money within Mindanao?”

Tan also aired a concern that needs to be addressed: that while wealth is being created in Mindanao and Mindanao has been a net contributor of savings to the rest of the Philippine economy, Mindanao’s deposits to the banking system “far exceed loans granted for Mindanao projects.”

“This indicates that the banking system effectively withdraws wealth out of the island’s economy. Rather than serving to boost its own ‘natural balance sheet,’ the ‘net income’ of Mindanao is being utilized elsewhere,” he said.

Sering said Mindanao continues to lag behind despite that fact it has the biggest contribution to the national economy.

The two-day Summit, whose theme is “Building Constituency, Managing River Basins, Achieving Green Economy,” is part of the Mindanao Nurturing Our Waters (MindaNOW) program of MinDA that is aimed at “creating champions, building constituency and adapting change in responding to the challenge of ensuring food on the table without compromising the carrying capacity of the environment by caring for our waters.”
The Summit is also timed for the June 5 celebration of World Environment Day. This year’s theme is “Green Economy: Does it include you?” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)


THE INEVITABLE WAR IN TAMPAKAN: Tampakan Fact Finding Mission Article No. 2

Read Article No. 1 – Open Letter to Pres. Aquino and Xstrata, re – tampakan genocide.
View other past FFM articles – shown at the end.

This article will show how data from the recent Tampakan Forum Fact Finding Mission (more information at the end) points to the inevitability of war in Tampakan, site of the proposed Xstrata-SMI gold-copper mine. The ‘loyalty matrix’ below shows the increasing polarization of forces leading towards war.

Analysis –

  • The B’laans (in red) are at the center of conflict, splintered beyond re-integration, the final victims of war. They make up the 25,000 of the affected 40,000 individuals. Is an inter-tribal peace pact possible? Yes, but improbable because both sides are extremely polarized.
  • The President, beleaguered by powerful lobby forces on both sides, does not have a clear stand, postponing a promised EO, sticking to the status quo of contradicting laws (Mining Act versus the IPRA). He has expressed support for both mining and anti-mining groups.
  • Xstrata stockholders in the London and Swiss stock markets are unaware of the human rights abuses against Filipinos. When a Subanen chieftain spoke during a London stockholders meeting of TVI, they were shocked at the inhuman treatment of indigenous people and voted that TVI close its Midsalip mine in Mindanao.
  • National government agencies are predominantly pro-SMI for strange reasons. Note that either you are for or against, nothing in between, meaning if you are pro-SMI you are necessarily anti-people, based on abuses the B’laans are getting from SMI.
  • The DENR temporarily denied the ECC of SMI based on an open pit ban imposed by the South Cotabato government. There are fears the provincial government may succumb to Xstrata-SMI financial and political pressures to reverse the ban.
  • When the ECC was denied, this emboldened Xstrata-SMI to further intensify its mining activities, which is illegal. They have the gall to defy laws and continue committing human rights abuses because they know the government is too weak and incapable of stopping them, and can easily be bought with ‘development funds’ and an illusion of huge tax revenues, which are but a trickle of their profits. Powerful mining multinationals manipulating laws and mutilating weak Third World nations is a global trend. They are emboldened by weak resistance.
  • The British embassy (representing its government) issued a statement in support of Xstrata, keeping silent about the abuses suffered by the B’laans. So it is grouped with the anti-people.
  • Xstrata-SMI turns a blind eye on ongoing conflicts. Is it hoping that conflict escalates as an excuse for the military to raise havoc and leave a no-man’s land for SMI? They know the B’laans said they will never leave and would rather die in their ancestral domain. Do they have a so-be-it response?

The ‘escalation matrix’ below reveals historical events leading to the present stalemate, a situation where outside forces and circumstances have continuously hemmed in the B’laans in their tiny universe, forcing them to the next escalation stage.

Analysis –

  • The role of militarization, with SMI participation through its Australian mercenary, in the suppression of B’laan rights is a crucial factor in the vicious circle of escalation. This suppression is resulting in hunger through denial of food sources and curtailment of freedom to practice their ancient religion, forcing them to adopt more violent responses. This is the essence of the escalation principle.
  • SMI never gave an inch to B’laan demands, hinting that they want to force an escalated conflict as an excuse for militarization and forced relocation. SMI, with its vast financial resources, could have easily paid for damages of crops, and land use rentals, which are a drop in the bucket. They have intensified relocation moves without an ECC, which is illegal.
  • The anti-mining B’laans are agreeable to a peace process through a dialogue with pro-mining B’laans provided there are no SMI and military present. When comments were made that this is a useless exercise, they said they have to exploit all means, no matter how small, because it is the last resort. They do not want to be forced into a pangayao or an inter-tribal war of pro- and anti-mining groups, as this will result in B’laans killing B’laans.
  • The NCIP wants to conduct a survey of pros and antis. Considering the bad reputation of NCIP personnel siding with miners, this is a dangerous move, since they can easily manipulate results.
  • pangayao will necessarily trigger instant total escalation as the antis will be forced to seek NPA help, and the pros military counter-response, resulting in genocide. In this Xstrata-SMI death wish, the cleansing will result in its take over to mine blood-drenched gold? Will President Aquino agree, for a fistful of blood-drenched gold?
  • The Fact Finding Mission was crucial in having the B’laan voice heard and projected in the media. The Church support has two effects – to control growing B’laan anger seeking more violent options; and to assure the B’laans they are not alone in their struggle, so they look more towards peaceful resolution. The Church wants to focus on these peaceful options that will save the B’laans from genocide.

Recommendations towards peace in Tampakan –

  • Complete demilitarization of the mine site area, to be replaced by a civilian monitoring group representing all stakeholders. The NPA can also be asked to stay away through the ongoing peace talks of government and rebels.
  • Ban the military in coordinating with Xstrata-SMI to satisfy its mining interests rather than establish ‘security’ and safety for residents.
  • Work towards an inter-tribal dialogue without outside forces. Let them handle their peace process themselves as they have done for centuries.
  • The government should order Xstrata-SMI to stop all illegal activities, especially continued exploration, road widening, relocation moves, until an ECC is acquired.
  • Ban Xstrata-SMI from giving ‘development funds’ to buy LGU support.
  • sk the British Embassy and Government to clarify their stand on the safety of B’laans, and if this is against Filipino interest, file a diplomatic protest.
  • Work towards the establishment of a ‘peace zone’ implemented in the Arakan Valley and Sagada in the past, where no armed groups are allowed in the zone, where both sides are allowed to monitor the other in terms of presence of arms.


Open letter to Aquino and Xstrata on Tampakan Genocide

Fact Finding Mission Article No. 1

Dear President Aquino and Xstrata-SMI President Peter Forrestal,

I hope this letter gets to you because many Filipinos can no longer stand the insults and abuses being meted on the B’laans of Tampakan, South Cotabato. If you do not do anything about this, there will be a terrible war never before seen in Central Mindanao in defense of the ongoing slow genocide of the B’laans, all for the gold in the hands of foreigners, and the trickle they will give to the government. Are mining forces intentionally inducing conflict as an excuse to kill or drive away protesting B’laans from their ancestral domain, where the gold sits. This letter will be copy-furnished to PMS Malacanang, DENR Secretary Paje, MGB Director Jasareno, CHR, NCIP, and the media.

This article is based on the Church-NGO-led Fact Finding Mission conducted on April 26, 2012, attended by Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), NASSA, Radio Veritas, Commission on Human Rights (CHR), PhilRights, Task Force Detainee (TFD), Legal Rights Center, Social Action Centers of Marbel, Digos and Columbio, and the Passionist Fathers, with inputs from an earlier mission on March 29, 2011, attended by Social Action Center Marbel, 27thInfantry Batallion (IB), CHR, National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), DXCP, and Sto. Nino Parish, Tampakan.

The fact finding mission was prevented by SMI-led pro-mining barricades from entering the venue inside the proposed mine site, so that 27 B’laans with two two-month old babies, had to trek to the Digos Church on 7 motorbikes to penetrate the barricade. No one could stop them from expressing their voices to the world about what is being done to them. Here is what they had to say.

See Tampakan Forum Press Statement for more details at


At present, this is what Xstrata-SMI, a ‘prestigious’ mining firm, fourth largest worldwide, is doing to the B’laans. They have partnered with the 27th Infantry Batallion under Col. Alexis Bravo, with 7 detachments in the proposed mining area, to impose a reign of terror akin to the vicious counterinsurgency campaigns during the Marcos era, as an excuse to suppress dissent against the mining project. They say it is better to die instantly than slowly. Only the vicious resort to slow death. Here is a list of ‘Killing Me Softly’ (KMS) activities of Xstrata-SMI and the military.

KMS No. 1. The B’laans are not allowed by the 27th IB to go to the forest, their source of food, in fear that they would coordinate with imagined NPA elements. Later, they allowed only women, but they had to ask permission first. They are slowly dying of hunger, worse that a bullet in the head.

KMS No. 2. The 27th IB forbids the B’laans from meeting at night in fear of imagined coordination with the NPA. The B’laans congregate twice a month in ‘chapels’ or houses of prayer. The suppression of the B’laans right to religion and freedom to pray is considered as a form of slow spiritual death. On top of denying the body, they deny the spirit, an unforgivable inhuman crime against Indigenous People.

KMS No. 3. The 27th IB conducts random sporadic house raids where they confiscate or throw away clothes, kitchenware, and farm animals. The B’laans right to privacy is violated. Please, Col. Bravo, if you do not know this, investigate the abuses of your soldiers. This is an unforgivable crime against the B’laans. They are human beings. Do not look at them as ‘rebels’.

The connivance between Xstrata-SMI and the military is confirmed by Col. Bravo himself, who admitted in dialogues that SMI indeed approached them and requested for their help. Is Xstrata-SMI involved in military planning? Does it dictate or ‘suggest’ measures not for security but for suppression of dissenters? Those are the $64,000 questions. The employment by large mining multinationals of military forces in Third World countries is a global trend. As long as money flows in, there are no protests.

KMS No. 4. When the ECC was denied in January 2012, Xstrata-SMI’s mining preparation activities surprisingly intensified. They are confident their multi-million-peso PR will break all the hurdles. They continued exploration, widening roads to accommodate huge drilling machines which bore deep 6-inch-diameter holes in the ground. (Such drilling in a network of fault lines, such as in Tampakan, have triggered earthquakes in many places worldwide.) Road widening has destroyed cornfields and sacred burial grounds, contributing to the killing-me-softly of B’laans, both physically and spiritually. When the B’laans asked for compensation, the SMI people simply said the land was no longer theirs. Development activities without an ECC is illegal, but the government seems unable to stop Xstrata-SMI from these blatant violations. These activities also violate human rights.

KMS No. 5. SMI has ongoing relocation efforts inspite of not having an ECC and no Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), which are blatant violation of our laws. They have asked pro-mining mayors, who have received SMI development funds, to be the spokesperson for these illegal moves. SMI imposed deadlines for the B’laans to submit an inventory of their properties so they can be compensated for the relocation. They threatened that non-compliance means no compensation. The B’laans had to sign the inventory, which SMI will consider as evidence they agree to relocation. SMI set up giant streamers announcing relocation, thinking the B’laans, majority of whom do not read, would understand. The B’laans do not know what is going on. Are DENR, MGB, NCIP and CHR helpless to stop these blatant violations? Please let us hear from you.

SMI wants to relocate the B’laans of Bongmal to Atmurok, inspite of knowing there is a long standing tribal feud between B’laans of Bongmal and Atmurok. Are they intentionally inducing tribal war as an excuse for more military control in behalf of SMI?

Dear President Aquino and Mr. Forrestal, why does Xstrata-SMI have the gall to blatantly disregard and violate existing Philippine laws. Is the government tolerating this so that it can get taxes from the mining operations? If not, why is it so helpless. We want some replies.

Read a letter sent by British ambassador to Clive Wicks, who raised concerns about the Tampakan project.


Fact-finding mission blocked from entering Sagittarius mine site

By  | Thursday| April 26, 2012 |

TAMPAKAN, South Cotabato — Members of a multi-sectoral fact-finding mission who trooped to the mines development site of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. on Wednesday  to check alleged military abuses in the area were blocked by groups supposedly supportive of the mining project.

At least three roadblocks were set up in the towns of Tampakan and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur to prevent the fact-finding mission from going to their destination, Rene Pamplona, advocacy officer of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel, said.

He said they are planning to proceed tomorrow (Thursday), with the help Diocese of Digos, to Bong Mal through Kiblawan town.

Bong Mal can be accessed through the towns of Tampakan and Kiblawan, about three hours apart using the General Santos City- Davao City highway.

“The fact-finding team will go to the tribal communities directly affected by the Tampakan project to find out firsthand the real situation there,” he said earlier today.

But even if the group could not go to Bong Mal, they can still gather testimonies as several residents have decided to descend from the mountains to talk with the fact-finding team, he said.

Those who went down were expected to reach the lowland this (Wednesday) evening, Pamplona said.

He said the two-day mission also seeks to gather evidence that the mining firm “does not respect lawful orders.”

An estimated 1,000 tribal members were expected to gather in the mines development site to call on Sagittarius Mines to abandon its project during the fact-finding mission, he said.

Pamplona said there have been complaints from tribal community members that the company, in cahoots with the military, has been allegedly curtailing their religious and cultural practices.

The fact-finding mission came days after militant groups tried but failed to reach the mines development site for a solidarity mission with the tribesmen opposing the Tampakan project.

Last Sunday, militant groups returned after they claimed that two vehicles blocked their way towards the mountains here. They blamed the company and the military for the blockade.

John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communications manager, said that the company is “committed to open and transparent engagement.

“A commitment to ethical behavior guides SMI’s approach to how it responds to actions by stakeholders and how it conducts its business,” he said.

Arnaldo said that SMI has always conducted its business “through genuine partnerships by working ethically, responsibly, openly and with others.”

SMI will continue to talk openly with stakeholders about its plans. This includes engaging in facts-based, reasoned discussions with those opposed to the Tampakan Project in the spirit of transparency, he said.

Lt. Col. Alexis Noel C. Bravo, 27th Infantry Battalion commander, said earlier that soldiers have been deployed in the mines development site due to the security threats posed by the communist New People’s Army.

The military official denied that soldiers were deployed there to protect and advance the interest of Sagittarius Mines.

Since last month, members of the B’laan tribe opposing the mining project have set up barricades in various portions within the tenement of Sagittarius Mines.

The move was triggered by the plan of the mining firm to relocate them from the mines development site.

The blockades were set up Bong Mal, the boundary between Tampakan and  Kiblawan that serves as crucial artery for the mining firm to move around the mines development site.

Before the barricades were put up, there have been indications from some tribal communities in Bong Mal that the mining firm should abandon its venture, despite the project’s touted economic benefits for the residents like jobs, education, health and other basic social services.

Last year, disgruntled tribal members resorted to violence in dismay over the firm’s continued operation in the area. They ambushed workers of a construction firm hired by company resulting in the death of three persons.

Pamplona also said the fact-finding mission will seek to establish that Sagittarius Mines “has been violating” the order of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Last January, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje issued an order denying the company’s application for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the Tampakan project.

Paje cited the open-pit mining ban imposed by the provincial government of South Cotabato in denying the firm’s ECC application.

Paje’s order also directed the mining company to refrain from doing any activities in the area it has applied for.

Sagittarius Mines eventually filed a motion for reconsideration but the Environment department has yet to issue a decision.

Pamplona said the mining firm still has operations in the mines development site even with the DENR order.

The fact-finding mission was composed of representatives from at least three Catholic dioceses in Mindanao, the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., the Alyansa Tigil Mina, Legal Rights Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/ Friends of the Earth-Philippines, and the Philippine Human Rights Information Center, among others.

The group also invited representatives from the Human Rights Commission.

Meanwhile, members of Philippine and foreign workers’ groups will also start today a week-long fact-finding mission on mining-related issues in the Caraga Region.

Foreign delegates coming from labor groups in South Korea, United States, Belgium, Australia, Japan and Germany will join their counterparts from the Metal Workers Alliance of the Philippines, integrated Philippine Electronics Network (iPEN) and other local groups.

The mission in Caraga will look into the mining methods being used by transnational companies and find ways to protect communities and workers “from the destruction engendered by mining operations.”

The mission will also assess the impact of mining operations on employment, environment, and work conditions in the mine sites.

Caraga Region comprises the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Island. (Bong Sarmiento with reports from H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews