Environmental and indigenous peoples groups denounce Arroyo’s midnight mining deals

Press Release

Progressive environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment voiced out worry over a number of mining projects that are being negotiated and given the go signal to operate on the remaining days of President Arroyo in office.

The midnight deals cited by the groups are the Canadian nickel miner MBMI Resources Inc. (MBMI) that has been approved into a Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) and the supposedly government-owned Philippine Mining Development Corp. (PMDC) that is set for bidding for rights to the Mt. Diwalwal area.

“These midnight deals exhibit that there is no letting up in the Arroyo government’s push for the sell out of our country’s mineral resources to foreign bidders before her term ends. The approval of MBMI’s mining concession smack out the existing 25-year mining moratorium imposed by the Palawan provincial government since 2009. The Arroyo government is in its last ditch effort to gain kickbacks sacrifices Palawan rich biodiversity, ecological integrity and indigenous people communities,” said Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

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MBMI, whose objective is to become a major supplier of high-grade nickel products to primary industrial consumers in Asia as said in its press statement, and its Philippine partners have an interest in nine nickel-projects in the Philippines, covering an area greater than 22,000 hectares. One project is in Palawan known as the Philippine ‘Last Frontier’ and is declared as part of UNESCO ‘Man and Biosphere Reserve’.

“In the case of selling out of the mineral rich area of Diwalwal, the Arroyo government remains deaf and blind to the local opposition of small scale miners, indigenous peoples and local businessmen in the area. In spite of the protests and dissent that have been expressed, the government refuse to take notice and continues to favor the profit-hungry foreign mining companies over the plea of the people and communities for a healthy environment and genuine development,” Mr. Bautista explained.

Lumads, peasants, small-scale miners and communities of Diwalwal, Compostela Valley Province held a protest vigil to oppose the takeover of large-scale mining corporations of gold-rich Mt. Diwata area. Groups such as NAGKADIWA (Nagkahiusang Katawhan sa Diwalwal), environmental rights groups PANALIPDAN Southern Mindanao and PASAKA have been campaigning for the reversal of the sell-out of Diwalwal since last year yet the government is still intent on pushing through with the takeover of Diwalwal.

According to Mr. Bautista, “The privatization of Mt. Diwalwal will not only lead to the depletion of our gold and mineral resources but also to massive displacement of 45,000 residents whose family members are mine workers employed by local small-scale to medium-scale mining corporations.”

The group also pointed out the nuances behind the claim of PMDC that only Filipino-owned corporations are allowed to bid for the 729 parcels, saying that among the bidders, Philex would most likely win the bid. Records show that Philex has its own share of mining related pollution cases in 1990, 1995, and 1992 with its copper mining operations in Benguet.

“Philex as the country’s largest mining company is definitely controlled as well by foreign corporations and countries. Philex does the dirty work of drilling and open pit mining only for the minerals to be sold to private corporations who gain from the high prices of metal in the international market,” said Francis Morales, acting secretary general of PANALIPDAN Southern Mindanao.

Instead of selling out Mt. Diwalwal, PANALIPDAN – SMR said the better option is to nationalize Mt. Diwalwal.

“By nationalization we mean the state should take over the control of the industry, regulate and plan its usage. In particular, we should reverse the policy of exporting our minerals. These minerals should instead be used for the needs of the people and not for the benefit of the huge capitalist nations such as the US, China, Canada and Australia with their corporations that have anchored their economic profits and industrial mineral needs on our own resources,” said Morales.

The groups are then calling for presumptive president elect Noynoy Aquino “to reverse these deals and immediately cancel the contracts and permits of these large-scale mining companies that undermines the people’s control over resources and rights to a healthy ecology.”

“Mrs. Arroyo and her cohort Mr. Ramos must also be prosecuted for the environmental destruction and displacement of mining-affected communities that were caused by the large-scale mining projects they have facilitated,” ended Bautista. (Bulatlat.com)

Reference:
Clemente Bautista
National coordinator Kalikasan PNE
Francis Morales
PANALIPDAN-SMR Secretary General

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