By the PHILIPPINE TASK FORCE FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S RIGHTS (TFIP)
This day (March 3, 2020), marks the twenty-fifth (25th) year of the enactment and implementation of R.A. 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. This law introduced the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) that can be entered into by private mining corporations (Filipino or foreign owned) with the Philippine government.
The FTAA, when one looks at it in face value, is an agreement wherein a private corporation simply assists the state in extracting minerals for its use in economic and industrial growth. However, in essence and in its application, it is a huge business venture openly offered to private corporations (even foreign ones). It provides lots of incentives to investors such as tax holidays, easement rights, among others. Foreign companies can own up to 100% of mining operation and are allowed to repatriate 100% of their profits. To put it simply, there is no economic gain for the country in a FTAA and even in any mining agreement as permitted by R.A. 7942. This is true despite the adverse effects of large-scale mining to the environment and to the people. The global parameter, “ease in doing business” is aggressively employed for mining ventures without regard to the violations of rights of the people in host communities.
To date, we are aware of three FTAAs (in various stages from application to renewal) in indigenous peoples’ territories in the Philippines:
(1) The Sagittarius Mines, Inc.’s Tampakan Mining in B’laan territory across 3 provinces in SOCCSKSARGEN region. The operations of SMI were suspended in 2012 due to the open-pit mining ban by the provincial government of South Cotabato. The FTAA it holds is expiring this month but an earlier decision by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau approved its renewal for another 12 years. Meanwhile, the open-pit ban is being disputed in court and the company is optimistic that it will be invalidated.
(2) The OceanaGold Philippines, Inc.’s FTAA expired last June 2019 and the company is currently processing its renewal. The indigenous peoples (Ifugao) in Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya are maintaining a barricade up to now to prevent the reentry of equipment and personnel of OceanaGold. The mining operations in Didipio are now suspended pending the decision of the renewal of the FTAA. The Ifugao in Didipio and even the provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya are against the renewal of the FTAA.
(3) The Cordillera Exploration, Inc. (CEXI), an affiliate company of the Nickel Asia Corporation, is applying for an FTAA (AFTA 08) 43,523 hectares in Benguet, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur. The people are already opposing this application this early as they are aware of the effects of Lepanto’s almost a century of mining operations in Mankayan, Benguet. The application is still pending approval as FPIC process and the environmental impact assessment, among other requirements are still ongoing. The Nickel Asia Corporation is the biggest and one of the oldest nickel mining companies in the country. It owns Taganito mining Corporation in Surigao del Norte, Dinapigue Mining Corporation in Isabela and Rio Tuba Mining in Palawan.
These FTAAs will ravage ancestral lands and displace thousands of indigenous peoples from their homes, communities and livelihoods. The potential destruction to the environment and depletion of resources (water, forest, biodiversity) is so great that they will be to the detriment of host communities, future generations and to the Filipino people as a whole.
The Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights (TFIP), with indigenous peoples around the country call for the following:
1) No to the renewal of the FTAAs of Oceana Gold and Tampakan Mining. Reject the FTAA application of Cordillera Exploration, Inc.
2) Junk the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
3) Pass the Peoples Mining Bill in Congress to halt the plunder of our mineral resources due to the liberalization of the mining industry.
4) Let the mining industry serve national industrialization and recognize indigenous peoples’ rights to land, resources and self-determination at all times. # nordis.net