German group urges probe of abuses near mines
July 6, 2012 · , "German group urges probe of abuses near mines", March 19, 2012, http://philippines.ucanews.com/2012/03/19/german-group-urges-probe-of-abuses-near-mines
A GERMAN fact-finding group has appealed to President Benigno Aquino to look into alleged mounting human rights abuses near mining communities in the Philippines.
The group, headed by Michael Reckordt of the Philippinenbeuro (Philippine Office), told journalists Friday that the presence of government soldiers in mining communities in the Cordilleras and Mindanao are sowing fears among the tribal people.
Reckordt cited the case of the $5.6-billion mining project of Sagittarius Mining Inc. and Xstrata in Tampakan, South Cotabato. “Compared to my last visit in the Tampakan mining area in 2010, the situation has gotten even worse. The extra-judicial killing of Eliezer Billanes, for example, remains unresolved,” he said.
“We support the call of the indigenous communities for an independent investigation in the conflict by the Commission on Human Rights,” he added.
Daniel Arias of the Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance to Stop Mining) said the presence of military groups in the areas is already a form of harassment for the indigenous people, forcing them to leave their ancestral domains. “In spite of the fact that [the tribal people] are against the entry of SMI-Xstrata, we found the mining company is still in the area, continuing exploration and even commit offensive acts against communities,” he said.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources on January 12 denied the application of SMI-Xstrata for an Environmental Compliance Certificate, citing a provincial ban on open pit mining.
“What’s happening in Tampakan is not an isolated case,” said lawyer Grace Villanueva of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Friends of Earth Philippines. “Almost all mining communities, particularly indigenous communities, face the issues of militarization and human rights violations.”
The group said a human rights impact assessment must be conducted in Tampakan “and not only the total economic valuation as reportedly provided in the new mining policy to be issued by Aquino.”
The president has been consulting with all stakeholders in the mining industry for the new mining policy expected to be released this month.
The presidential palace on Monday assured the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) that the administration is working for a new mining policy that would “thoroughly” address the concerns of the stakeholders.
“We can assure the Philippine Stock Exchange that we will be very thorough with the discussion and the final drafting of the executive order,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
He said the administration is hoping that the EO on comprehensive policy guidelines for mining in the country would satisfactorily address the concerns of all stakeholders.
Asked about the reluctance of some mining firms on proposals to increase the government’s share in mining revenues, Lacierda said that the Department of Finance believes that “there’s greater need for revenue sharing” in terms of mining but the formula to compute the government’s “fair share” is still being finalized.