Executive Order 79: Masterful deception and greenwashing
This is the official press statement of Kalikasan Partylist on the executive order on mining signed by the Philippine president on July 6, 2012
The Palace EO will not cure the chronic ills of Republic Act 7942 or the controversial Mining Act of 1995. At best, it is a band-aid solution to the already festering, rotting and gaping wounds caused by the liberalization of the Philippine mining industry. At worst, it engages in greenwashing to justify more profit-taking by foreign and large-scale miners.
We are not the very least impressed with the environmental provisions outlined in the EO. The areas that it identifies as closed to mining applications (Sec. 1) are already outlined under various laws, particularly the NIPAS. However, there are loopholes in the NIPAS law, which require Congress to officially declare a particular area as a protected site—an expensive and long process—and does not give adequate protection to conservation areas. As of 2012, there are still only 240 protected areas nationwide. Unless a biodiversity and mineral-rich area is officially declared a protected area, there is still a chance that mining companies will be able to control them.
Environmental groups such as Kalikasan Partylist have filed bills in Congress, such as HB 4315 (People’s Mining Bill) which expand the list of areas where mining should not be allowed, including environmentally-critical areas, areas vulnerable to acid mine drainage, geohazard and climate disaster-prone areas. These were not included in the current EO.
The EO attempts to put in place environmental standards, but it leaves the task to the DENR, whose track record in handling the mining disasters of the past—such as the Marinduque and Rapu-Rapu mine spills—has not proven its capacity and credibility to safeguard people’s interests to strictly monitor mining operations. It even lacks resources to strictly monitor mining operations, to the point of depending on mining proponents to do its job.
Still oriented towards mining liberalization
More than giving a few environmental concessions, the crux of the mining EO’s deceptive nature lies in its failure to reverse the orientation of the current mining industry: away from liberalization and towards national industrialization.
While it gives lip service to build “value-adding activities” and “develop downstream industries” (Sec. 8), the EO dismally fails to outline how it can reverse the export-oriented and import-dependent nature of the current Philippine mining industry as a first step towards developing downstream industries. The EO seems to adopt the proposal of civil society to come up with a National Industrialization Plan (NIP). It proposes to build a national program and road map in the next six months based on the NIP and the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) already in existence since mid-2011.
However, the PDP (which is the actual existing document) itself is premised on developing the mining industry through more incentives for big and transnational businesses, big infrastructure projects such as large-scale mining, and public-private partnerships across various economic sectors—incentives that contradict any semblance of national industrialization. The EO does not change the current mining industry’s orientation.
Deceptive mining ban
The mining EO says that the government will not grant new permits until new laws for revenue sharing are put into place (Sect. 4, Grant of New Agreements Pending New Legislation). However, it will still consider as valid all existing mining contracts and concessions approved before the EO becomes effective---this includes the virtual avalanche of 771 permits signed by the government in recent years. Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau shows that as of June 30, 2012, the government has already approved around 771 kinds of large-scale permits covering 1,009,161.21 hectares or almost 1/30 of the country’s total land area (see below).
Another sign of deception is that the EO will still allow the granting of exploration permits, which can be later on upgraded or used as a basis for the application of MPSAs and other production permits or, worse, used as a cover-up to continue a modicum of extractive activities. EPs also do not require Environmental Compliance Certificates. The exemption of Exploration Permits from the ban should be suspended in the EO.
Lastly, while the EO proposes to undertake a review of existing mining contracts for possible renegotiation, the document’s language practically assures a favorable outcome for mining permit holders as the outcome shall be “mutually acceptable” to the government and the mining sector. It remains conspicuously silent on whether the terms of renegotiation should also be acceptable to the other stakeholders, such as affected communities.
Overriding of LGU mining moratoriums
The mining EO furthermore directs LGUs hosting mining operations to “conform to the regulations, decisions and policies…promulgated and taken by the National Government” (Sec. 12). What does this mean for the various provincial and local governments that have instituted local moratoriums on large-scale and open pit mining over the years, in response to the strong clamor of grassroots communities?
In elegant language, the EO effectively overrides and subverts these decisions by local governments and communities who have not allowed large-scale mining to commence in their municipalities. These include the 10 mining moratoriums declared by the provincial governments of Romblon, Negros Occidental, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Marinduque, Samar, Western Samar, Northern Samar, Batangas and South Cotabato as of March 2011. These mining moratoriums were the victories of very hard struggles waged on the ground by advocates and local officials.
Disenfranchising small miners
Another flaw in the EO is its attempt to limit the areas available to traditional small-scale miners (Sec. 11). Rather than support and develop the domestic small-scale mining (SSM) industry – which provides the bulk of jobs for poor Filipinos in the mining industry—the EO seems to be more interested in letting foreign large-scale players take over the areas for expansion. It seems to be tightening the reins on SSMs to give way for more foreign and large-scale mining.
Consultation mechanisms still wanting
The EO will set up a new Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), composed of the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation government clusters, the Justice Secretary, DENR, NCIP and ULAP, to oversee implementation and conduct consultations. This new national-level structure—which clearly lacks representatives from civil society, affected communities and the academe to name a few—can not assure thorough consultation and dialogue. The current administration, sadly, still has yet to prove its track record with regards to setting up multisectoral and multipartite bodies, which end up dependent on funds from the very companies that the DENR monitors or from conditional foreign aid.
The EO also contains various provisions to processes mining permits faster, such as the one-stop shop, which will also impact on the quality and reach of consultations.
Struggle for a People’s Mining Policy continues
Pres. Aquino’s EO on mining promised a lot and fell short of its expectations from civil society and grassroots communities after much fanfare and suspense. The final awaited EO copy makes clear that the Palace has addressed only the concerns of foreign business but brushed away legitimate concerns by mining affected communities and environmental groups.
In exchange for a few concessions and government shares, the EO will allow corporations more unhampered access to the country’s vast mineral wealth. It pays lip service to the clamor for national industrialization but does not attempt to support genuinely domestic industries in PDP and in the EO.
It will allow the wholesale export of finite supplies of minerals that could have otherwise been used for building national industries. It will subvert local decisions of communities and LGUs to not allow mining in their municipalities. It will not change the orientation of mining liberalization, which has resulted in massive plunder of mineral wealth, environmental destruction, human rights violations, and community displacement.
The Palace has repeatedly boasted that the new EO will stand the test of the Constitution even if it is questioned before the Supreme Court by LGUs, without making public its full contents. Today, as the Judicial Bar Council makes public the line-up of nominees for the next Chief Justice (CJ), we urge the public to be vigilant over how the next Supreme Court CJ will handle the issue of the mining EO. Kalikasan Partylist supports the clamor by provincial governments, the Church and countless communities to protest this mining EO in the courts, in Congress, in communities and in the streets.
Kalikasan Partylist challenges the Aquino administration to rethink this EO and support the passage of House Bill 4315, also known as the People’s Mining Bill. Now consolidated with other alternative mining bills in Congress, these proposals concretely open up the discussion on how mining should contribute to genuine development for the Filipino people. #
Reference: Lisa Ito-Tapang, Public Information Officer, Kalikasan Partylist, +632.434.3173