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CPA Mining Campaign Thrust

The Cordillera Region remains a major target of local and multinational mining companies for the extraction of its rich mineral resources, mainly gold and copper. Sixty-four Applications for Production Sharing Agreement (APSA) covering 86,033.3575 hectares, and ten Application for Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (AFTA) covering 879,886.95 hectares, Exploration Permit Applications (EXPAs) with 283,285.7237 hectares, and 5 industrial permit (IP) applications with 55.07 hectares are being processed by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in the Cordillera region.

Thus, all pending mining applications cover a total land area of 1,234.005 hectares. Nine APSAs covering 21,054 hectares, four EXPAs covering 11,067.587 hectares and 4 industrial permit have been approved in the region. These are in addition to the ongoing mining operations of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation and Philex Mining Company.

The processing of large mining applications has been proceeding very slowly in our region as well as nationally. Large-scale mining has not been able to attract as much foreign investment as the government had hoped it would since the term of President Ramos. Both the government and the Philippine Chamber of Mines blame the situation on people’s protest, and on certain provisions of laws that the people have used to protect their resources and  defend their rights against large mining.

Thus, the government and the Chamber of Mines have embarked on a campaign to:

• improve the image of large mining in the country and neutralize the protest against it, or at least discredit this protest;

• get rid of the legal impediments to faster expansion and intensification of the industry.

In their image-building efforts, however, government and the Chamber of Mines have found it difficult to contend with the continuing spread of information regarding the adverse impact of large mining, as illustrated by both (a) stories that have recently come out in the mass media on the persistence of the problems that were generated by the massive spillage of tailings intoMarinduque’s Boac river from 1995 to 1996; (b) the data regarding the damage that Lepanto has continually been inflicting on the Abra river valley and watershed since the company started operating in 1936.

In addition are news stories that have appeared from time to time associating the exploration, start-up, or operation of large mines with military and para-military violence inflicted on protesting communities. These include the continuing plight of workers in what is supposedly the country’s highest-paying mining company, Lepanto.

Globally, the mining industry has been striving to improve its image because, worldwide, it has been meeting up with resistance from communities occupying mineral-rich areas and because its bad record has been driving away potential as well as existing stockholders. Stockholders either have become too worried about the future of their investments or have been successfully reached by a growing First World movement for what civil society believers call moral investment.

The global industry campaign started a few years back. Its aim is to significantly influence public opinion that large mining can be socially responsible and environmentally sustainable. This rhetoric has then shaped the draft National Minerals Policy (NMP) mainly influenced by chamber of mines of foreigncountries leading the drive for liberalization of national mining industries.

However, the NMP, as formulated in December 2002, is not just an image-building instrument. It also aims to harmonize Philippine natural resource laws in favor of the Mining Act of 1995. Its authors hope to do away with legal requirements on large mining development, which are provided for in other laws – specifically, the provisions on  Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC)  in the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA); the provisions on ancestral land and ancestral domain in both the IPRA and the National Integrated Protected Areas System or NIPAS Act; the provisions for environmental protection in the Forestry Code, the Fisheries Code, and the Environmental Impact Assessment System; and provisions on both environmental protection and community consent in the Local Government Code.

With the broad nationwide campaign to scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act 7942) for almost a decade now and the persistent protests against the NMP, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was frustrated in her plan to sign the policy before 2003 ends. After almost a decade of a broad nationwide campaign to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and the filing of a petition on the unconstitutionality of the said law, the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional some of its major provisions on January 29, 2004. It ruled as unconstitutional and void the main instrument of foreign capitalist access to large mineral deposits in the Philippines – the Financial or Technical AssistanceAgreement (FTAA), which allows 100 % ownership, operation and management of mining activities under this form of agreement.  

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), concerned national and regional organizations, institutions and advocates welcomed the SC decision and commended the SC justices who gave consideration on the merit of the petition. The SC ruling already put into question the constitutionality of the whole Mining Act. This was partly a victory in our quest for indigenous peoples’ rights, national sovereignty, social justice and environment protection.

But by limiting its decision to the matter of FTAAs and by not junking the whole law as unconstitutional, the SC left a loophole open to foreign exploiters by entering into partnership with Filipino companies and still be able to do theirjoint  quest for profit through large scale mining operations under the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA). This kind of partnerships can be seen inthe Philex-Anglo American cooperation and in the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company's links with Rio Tinto executives.

Against this backdrop, CPA remains committed to pursue and heighten its campaign against large-scale mining to uphold  the rights and livelihood of affected communities, the protection of the environment, and for sustainable use of the people's resources for their own development and progress.  CPA shall continue to strengthen the capacity and vigilance of affected communities and heighten its information and awareness, advocacy and lobby work at the national and international levels. This campaign hopes to prevent additional mining operations in the region, while sustaining protests and other activities to stop the expansion of Lepanto Mining, gain compensation of affected communities and rehabilitation of mined out areas and polluted rivers such as the Agno river and the Abra river by  toxic mine tailings.