companies and affected
communities attempt to dialogue
By Gina Mission
recent media forum on mining, Gerry Brimo, chair of the Chamber of Mines in the
Philippines and president of Benguet Mining Corporation, asserted that a meeting of the
minds among stakeholders in the mining industry can be achieved. But for his part, Gil
Reoma, chair of Green Forum-Philippines said that never the twain shall meet.
Even as the opposing camps keep up the debate on the pros and cons of mining, a new book, "Mining Revisited: Can an Understanding of Perspectives Help?" by the Environmental Science for Social Change, Inc. and the BBC, states that an understanding of the different perspectives of the stakeholders is necessary to address all the issues of the mining industry.
Organized by the Bishops-Businessmen's Conference (BBC), the forum brought together miners, communities affected by mining operations, anti-mining activists, government officials, academics and the to media to "talk". It was an attempt by the BBC to "reconcile the differences in mining perspectives among stakeholders.
The briefing notes on the BBC-published book say that mining has been the focus of much suspicion "due to its poor track record, unfavorable environmental image, and an ill-informed public." The forum, hosted by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility(CMFR), the Environmental Science for Social Change, Inc, and the Bishops-Businessmen Conference (BBC), was the first of a series of initiatives to raise public awareness of issues concerning the industry.
The book explores four perspectives in mining: the development perspective, the church’s perspective, the perspective of the anti-mining community, and the perspective of mining companies.
The development perspective argues that mining has a rightful and important role to play in the development of the national economy, provided it is properly regulated and supervised.
The church's perspective attempts to clarify the role of the church in national development, i.e., offer people the opportunity "to be more" by "awakening their consciousness through the Gospel."
The people against mining assert that mining benefits only a few, while it wreaks havoc and causes damage to the country with the destruction of its natural resources.
For its part, the mining company's perspective is that the technology has so developed and practices and procedures have so
improved that mining can actually be carried out without destroying the environment.
Free and Prior Informed Consent
The Philippine mining industry has long been saddled with "contentious" issues, such as alleged manipulation in the acquisition of free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous communities affected by the acquisition of mining rights. According to Green Forum’s Reoma, FPICs are "being undertaken in a manner that does not allow a thorough understanding of how mining will impact on the lives of the people in the community."
An example of the absence of "informed consent" is the Manobo-Mamanwa tribe in Santiago, Agusan del Norte in the Caraga Region that entered into a memorandum of agreement with Mindoro Resources Limited (MRL), allowing the company to mine in their area. The agreement was reached through the tribe's "representative," Ernesto Morada, a non-IP earlier "adopted" by the tribe. A month later, when MRL began exploration of the site, the tribes people began asking what the company was doing in their "territory."
The FPIC is a requirement for all mining companies, as provided under both the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the Indigenous People's Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. It is meant to be a potent tool for cultural communities to assert their rights and protect their culture. However, it was rendered inutile when the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued Administrative Order No. 3 which recognizes mining agreements, contracts, and permits made before the implementing rules and regulations of the IPRA took effect in
Other contentious issues against mining are: economic dislocation, cultural degradation, and division in the community. Underhanded tactics like bribery, manipulation, or downright intimidation, Roema said, are usually employed to obtain the consent (or the FPIC) of the community.
The industry strikes back
Brimo, however, does not think these should be considered mining issues. "We have the Philippine Mining Act which has very strict provisions against environmental degradation. We have a government agency that regulates the industry. We have communities who will not give us their consent if they don't see we deserve to mine in their communities. We have very strict environmental compliance (laws). We have all the NGOs watching our backs. How else can we get away with all these?" he asked.
The problem, Brimo said, is that mining issues are used and blown out of proportion to advance certain ideological agenda. Without naming names, he said that it is rebel groups that are most against mining. "But if only people will listen to the arguments raised by the other stakeholders, yes, we can achieve an understanding of perspectives. But while people's minds remain closed to other views, we will
never be able to reconcile the issues," Brimo added.
Brimo lamented that people conveniently live in the past. "We have to leave the past behind. Those incidents in the past, we can't possibly use them as basis to oppose mining," he said. For one, there were no decent environmental laws then. But now, he asserted, "We have a mining law that is very extensive," and "world-class environmental rules and regulations to follow."
Mining, he continued, is the most-closely monitored industry in the country. Mining companies are bound by "very stringent" laws. The country is very rich in mining potential, he said, but it will remain a potential if left untouched.
"What we need is proper implementation of laws and use of the right technology. It is ridiculous and illogical to refuse mining just because you are scared of mining accidents that are not even true. Not one mineral-rich country has ever refused mining," Brimo said.
CyberDyaryo | 2000.01.27