Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 31 September 8 - 14, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
Gov't Takeover To Bring In More Mining Giants to Diwalwal
of a 3-part special series which began in last week’s issue of Bulatlat.com
takeover of the Diwalwal gold mines by the environment department, its
secretary, Heherson Alvarez, says will benefit thousands of beleaguered small
miners. But there are fears that Alvarez’s offer is a trap all laid out for
the small miners who will be gobbled up by giant mining TNCs.
CARLOS H. CONDE AND DAISY C. GONZALES
DIWATA, Compostela Valley Province - Franco Tito, the pistol-packing barangay
chairman of Diwalwal, is the first to admit that, by entrusting their fate in
the hands of government, thousands of miners and their families in Diwalwal are
actually gambling their future. "We know that. But either we try this
alternative or peace and stability will never come to Diwalwal," Tito says.
Tito spoke with his constituents in Diwalwal, explaining to them the scheme that
DENR Secretary Heherson Alvarez wants implemented. "This could be our
chance to finally be recognized, for us to finally own Diwalwal," Tito told
the miners. "But if this fails," he added, "we will continue the
fight." The crowd cheered.
be honest with you," Tito added, "all we have right now is the word of
Secretary Alvarez, who promised to help us. We've dealt with the government for
so long that many of you might not be as optimistic as I am today. But he has
given his word and I respect him. All we have is his word."
Administrative Order 2002-18, Alvarez outlined the plan for the government
takeover: the government takes over Diwalwal, troops are sent in, the mining is
stopped, a technical working group is created to implement a so-called mine
management plan, declare 8,100 hectares as a mineral reservation area, issue
service contracts to the small miners, the mining resumes, build a common mine
tailings pond, relocate the miners and their mineral processing plants, with the
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas buying all that gold.
to Alvarez, the bottomline of the plan is to enable the small miners to have
more share of the riches of Diwalwal. After a three-month mining stoppage in
which the DENR will "rationalize" the mining in the area, Alvarez said
those who "dig like rats in the tunnels" should have more share from
Diwalwal's gold. The ideal sharing, he said, would be 60% in favor of the miners
and 40% to the financier.
seemingly decisive entry of the DENR has been applauded by the small miners. But
there are those who are apprehensive about the outcome of all this. The whole
government plan in Diwalwal is, after all, anchored on the law that created the
problem there in the first place: Republic Act 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995.
As the Mount Diwata Coalition itself acknowledged in a letter to
President Arroyo in March, "the existence of RA 7942 guaranteed the entry
of (Southeast Mindanao Gold Mining Corp.) in Mount Diwata and served as their
instrument to suppress our rightful claim to the gold-rush area."
the Alvarez plan will be "under the regime of RA 7942," the same law
that allowed the entry of Southeast, which is being accused of forcing the small
miners out of Diwalwal through violent means, a charge that it has consistently
Catalino Corpuz, a convenor of MineWatch Asia Pacific and the campaign officer
of the Tebtebba Foundation that advocates anti-mining campaigns in the country,
says that under the law, there is no impediment for big and multinational mining
companies to enter Diwalwal. "RA 7942 heavily favors the big miners,"
he told this reporter in a long-distance phone interview from Baguio City, where
he is based.
Paye, the team leader of the technical working group Alvarez formed to plan the
operation of the 729-hectare gold-rush site, had conceded that, because of the
Mining Act, both foreign and domestic investors could come in.
the Canadians have expressed interest in investing in Diwalwal. Marcopper, the
company that transferred its exploration rights over Diwalwal to Southeast for a
token one peso, is partly owned by Placer Dome, one of Canada's biggest mining
Chamber of Mines of the Philippines has also pledged "assistance" to
Alvarez in the "rehabilitation" of Diwalwal. The chamber also offered
the "services" of its technical staff from such mining companies as
Philex Mining, Lepanto, and Benguet Corp. This staff will design the tailings
dam in Diwalwal. The chamber also offered "technical support in terms of
consultancy services on mining and mineral processing operations."
says these are signs that the big mining firms "have long-term goals for
Diwalwal." He says the issue of Diwalwal "is not the rehabilitation of
the area but the right of the small miners, which they have been asserting.
Unfortunately, the big mining firms see Diwalwal as commercially viable and it
is their long-range interest to take over the area," Corpuz says.
Mining Act, he says, "is very deceptive because while on the surface it
recognizes the rights of small miners, it is actually a legal way of temporarily
recognizing them but later on, through some machinations, they will be evicted.
There have been cases like that."
says the DENR will justify the entry of big mining firms in Diwalwal by invoking
"national interest." The DENR's Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Corpuz
adds, has identified 10 "world-class gold deposits" in the Philippines
and "they want it declared as something akin to export-processing
zones." Corpuz says he won't be surprised if Diwalwal is one of the 10 and
would become, as a result, of national interest.
to the MGB, some P2.95 billion Diwalwal gold were sold to the BSP buying station
in Davao in 2000; that's 35% of the country's gold produced by small-scale
miners. From 1985 to 1998, some P36 billion worth of gold was bought by the BSP
says the government's gambit in Diwalwal is to pacify the situation there in the
short term and, later on, allow big miners in. "When you think about it,
the small miners have walked into a trap," Corpuz says.
Corpuz, one of the most notable anti-mining advocates in the country, says he
doesn't know of any instance anywhere in the Philippines where a government
takeover of a mining area benefited the small miners. "There is no such
success story," he says.
urges the Diwalwal miners to view their situation in a larger context. He says
the government has a National Minerals Policy, which was prepared by the DENR's
MGB. The mining industry is said to be pressuring President Arroyo to issue a
memorandum order endorsing the policy, which, according to the participants of
the Philippine Conference on Mining held in Baguio last May, is geared toward
the exploitation of the 10 "world-class" ore deposits in the
Philippines by "hastening the
resolution of many of our conflicting laws" on mining, ultimately to favor
big mining companies. One such conflict is the challenge posed to the Mining Act
by anti-mining advocates, chief among them indigenous peoples.
policy also pushes for the so-called "responsible mining under
globalization" - a thrust that the mining industry is earnestly lobbying.
In November last year, Artemio Disini, president of the Chamber of Mines of the
Philippines, said "we have to keep waving the flag to attract
investors." He said the mining industry needs foreign investment to
"either reopen or explore new mines."
MGB, which boasts of such words as "sustainable development in mining"
in its website, says that the Mining Act is "a primary tool to revitalize
the mining industry," which can only be done, as far as Disini and other
miners are concerned, if big and foreign mining firms invest in the Philippines.
Horacio Ramos, the MGB's director, said in a letter published in the bureau's
website that in order for Filipinos to enjoy the fruits of mining, "the
government has taken the policy to expedite the grant of mining tenements,
especially exploration permits..."
critics like Corpuz, all this can only mean one thing: what the DENR has is a
recipe for disaster. "There can be no 'sustainable development through
responsible mining' for so long as the country's economic policy is an
export-oriented and import-dependent one," Corpuz wrote in a paper at the
mining conference. He was referring to the extractive nature of Philippine
mining, which, under the Mining Act, allows foreign firms to wholly own mining
rights, enjoy tax holidays, and expatriate their capital and their earnings,
almost leaving nothing to the communities they oftentimes ravage. In the case of
the disaster in Boac, Marinduque, Marcopper and Placer Dome have yet to fully
compensate the residents there and haven't even fully acknowledged their
a phone interview, Corpuz says the government should nationalize the mining
industry. In the case of Diwalwal, he says, "we can use our gold as capital
to strengthen our capacity for international trade. As such, we have to adopt a
moratorium on gold mining until such time that we have a capacity to mine it at
a very low production cost."
point is, Corpuz says, "we were said to be the No. 1 producer of gold in
the world once upon a time and we are still among the biggest, but our country
has never gotten rich out of it precisely because the government favors big and
foreign firms while the local communities, the direct beneficiaries,