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
government plan converting the controversial Diwalwal gold-rush site into a
mineral reservation area partly aims to calm down small miners’ unrest. That
may be a tall order, a small miners’ spokesman says, because the entry of big,
foreign mining investors will only bring a bigger trouble in the community.
CITY - Was the takeover by the government of the Diwalwal gold-rush area a
victory for the small-scale miners, particularly the subsistence miners?
is at present the big question in Diwalwal as the government announced that the
lion's share of Diwalwal's gold would go to big miners after all. On Thursday,
Horacio Ramos, director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources'
Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), announced before a briefing attended by
President Arroyo in Diwalwal that 75% of the 8,100-hectare Mineral Reservation
Area (MRA) will be allotted to large mining companies, including foreign ones.
The small-scale and subsistence miners, who currently occupy 729 hectares within
the MRA, will be allotted 25% of the MRA, said Ramos.
particular area, which is said to be the richest in gold, had been the target of
a company called Southeast Mindanao Gold Mining Corp., which is controlled by
people with links to the Canadian-owned Marcopper Mining Corp. The small miners
had resisted the entry of Southeast, which partnered with JB Management and
Mining Corp. (JBMMC), resulting in a long-running conflict and, eventually, the
is not cleat at this point whether the contentious 729 hectares are part of the
75% that will be opened to large-scale and foreign mining. Ramos said at the
briefing that the technical working group the DENR has created to plan the
rehabilitation of Diwalwal is now "progressing toward converting the
Diwalwal area into a mineral reservation that would allow large-scale and
said President Arroyo will sign on Oct. 11 the order declaring the 8,100
hectares as the MRA. He also pointed out that the 75% share for large miners
"actually fits the Diwalwal situation" in which both small-scale and
large-scale miners are operating.
present operations in Diwalwal, he also said, are "not real small-scale
mining operations. (These) involve the use of explosives and medium-scale
operations. And that's one of the reasons, Madame President, why we are
proceeding to convert the area into a mineral reservation area."
one point, the President asked Ramos about the fate of the small miners once the
big miners come in. "We will review the arrangement if it is
acceptable," Ramos replied.
are about estimated 40,000 people in Diwalwal, most of them miners in companies
such as JBMMC, Blucor and Helica, the so-called Big Three in Diwalwal that DENR
Secretary Heherson Alvarez described as "large-scale" mining
operators. The small miners in Diwalwal - those who work in the mines of the Big
Three and those who mine purely for subsistence - have been struggling for
years, since Diwalwal's discovery in 1983, to be recognized by the government.
They have also been fighting the entry of Southeast, which, through JBMMC,
allegedly used violent and divisive means to gain control of the area, a charge
that Southeast and JBMMC denies. (See main story.)
Tito, the barangay chairman of Mount Diwata, the official name of Diwalwal, has
said that the small and subsistence miners do not want to be booted out of the
area or to be employed by big mining companies such as Southeast-JBMMC.
"We, not just the big miners, should be given a chance to grow," he
said. The good thing about the government's plan on Diwalwal, he said, is that
it is supposed to eliminate the employee-employer relationship that has been a
bane for the farmers.
that goal, however, can be a problem once the big and foreign firms come in. As
Alvarez himself admitted, what Diwalwal needs at this point are mining
companies, such as those from Canada, Australia and South Africa, that have the
equipment and technology for large-scale mining. "All we ask," Alvarez
reportedly said, " is for these companies to be fair to their
month, Alvarez declared that the small and subsistence miners - "those who
dig like rats in the tunnels -- in Diwalwal -- should be given more share of the
gold. Most of the miners in Diwalwal -- with the exception of JBMMC, which pays
its workers a measly daily wage of P150 a day, according to miners -- get 40% of
the total gold ore production while the companies get 60%. However, that
hundreds, if not thousands, share the 40%.
entry of the big miners, including foreign ones, is assured under the
government's scheme in Diwalwal, which is anchored on the Mining Act, which, in
turns, allows foreign mining companies tremendous benefits, including 100%
ownership. The Canadians and Australians, who own some of the world's largest
mining companies, have expressed their intention to invest in Diwalwal.
Apparently, the Americans are, too, if the presence of U.S. ambassador Francis
Ricciardone in Diwalwal during President Arroyo's visit on Thursday is any
Tito criticized the planned entry of foreign mining companies. "The entry
of the big ones here will cause trouble. Filipinos should be given priority
because even without government support, we managed. Government should help the
small miners so we can become big, too," Tito a Mindanao news agency last
City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who was tasked by Malacañang to keep the peace in
Diwalwal while the takeover was being done, also expressed disapproval of the
entry of foreign firms. "What we should prohibit are those who are not
(Filipinos). This thing about accepting Australians, Canadians, Japanese, that's
crazy. (Filipinos) first," Duterte said. Carlos H. Conde/Bulatlat.com