"Exhibiting You" - Story

In the Land of Mines

Our Struggle to Protect our Land Against Large-Scale Mining

By: Eunice
Submitted: 02/16/2009

I walked with other women in the frontline to resist mining explorations in the Mindoro.

In 2002, in the height of anti-mining campaign, I wrote “Rin-ay,” a novella which tackled the possibility of mining in Mindoro. It evolves around the story of Rin-ay, a Mangyan woman who became a mining engineer in Sablayan. Although militarization takes a huge toll on many organizations, the women and men of Mindoro are still very much active in defending our land against foreign intrusions.

Mining applications in the Mindoro Island is Damocles’ sword. Since the latter part of the 1990’s when mining applications in Mindoro flooded at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the people resisted. This also led to massive militarization in Mindoro. Many men are speaking out against mining in Mindoro, but women's voices are still left unheard. This paper is an attempt to narrate the possible impact of development projects such as mining to women as well as the views of women in the mining operations.
Mindoro Bio-Geographic ZoneOriental Mindoro covers a total land area of 436,472 hectares while Occidental Mindoro has 587,985 hectares. Forests cover in the Mindoro Biogeographic Zone includes mossy forests, pine forests, old growth forests, residual forests, extensive forests, and grasslands. There are also endemic plants and flowers in Mindoro which include Mindoro Jade vine. The 2002 Final Report on Philippine Biodiversity Conservation identified Mindoro, particularly the mining site, as extremely high conservation priority areas for plants and birds and terrestrial animals.

Agriculture is the primary source of income in Mindoro, followed by marine resources. Occidental Mindoro has about 28.7 million metric tons of mineral reserves. Mindoro has the third-largest nickel laterite deposit, according to reports. A community organizer of a mining firm mentioned that Saudi Arabia is nothing compared to the richness of Mindoro. There are already existing small scale mining of minerals in the area like the quarrying, marble and jade mining. The province of Oriental Mindoro has decided to place a 25-year moratorium on all major mining projects in the region. The people of Mindoro celebrated but not for long because on December 1, 2004, the Supreme Court declared that the Mining Act of 1995 is not unconstitutional. Hence, the government declared a war against the people.
The Mining Industry in the PhilippinesBy 2010, as projected by DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes could be a “mining country” because of the upward trend of country’s mineral production value since 2002. A country can be called a “mining country” according to the 2002 WB study if the industry contributes at least 6% to the total exports. Inspite of the grim realities in the industry and the continuing resistance of the people, the government still believes that the mining industry will be for the total development and industrialization of the nation.
The Mining Act of 1995As part of globalization, the country braced to opening to large foreign owned companies through the initiation of liberal laws. One of these is the infamous Mining Act of 1995 otherwise known as Republic Act No. 7942 or An Act Instituting A New System Of Mineral Resources Exploration, Development, Utilization And Conservation. Hailed as the most “foreign-friendly” mining policy in the world, the then President Fidel V. Ramos signed it into law on March 6,1995.

Under this law, foreign investors shall be granted 100% control of equity. Transnational mining corporations are also assured of bonanza of rights and incentives. These include the following: a five year tax holiday renewable to another five years; 100% repatriation of profits and capital in US dollars; tax-free capital investment; double acceleration of depreciation cost; and rights that guarantee unhampered mining operations such as water rights, timber rights, encasement rights (right to evict), arbitration rights and arbitration method to resolve disputes. It guarantees the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), a contract involving large-scale mining operations with an investment of not less than $50 million. The agreement has a term of 25 years and renewable for another 25 years.

FTAA can be converted into MPSA (Mineral Production Sharing Agreement). Under this agreement the government shares in the production of the Contractor, “whether in kind or in value, as owner of the minerals. In return, the Contractor shall provide the necessary financing, technology, management and personnel for the mining project.”

Status of Mining Applications in Mindoro

As of January 2008, there were 92 mining applications in Mindoro according to MGB. From 1995, six Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA) covering a total of 474,336 hectares or 33% of Mindoro Island. In 2006, the Provincial Government of Occidental Mindoro approved the MT survey for the so-called development stance.

Aglubang Mining Corporation, the local partner of Intex Resources Philippines, a Norwegian company, has been given MPSA in 2002.

The Mindoro Nickel ProjectDubbed as the Mindoro Nickel Project, was a billion dollar venture of a Norwegian company, MINDEX Resources Development, Inc. Mindex was issued an exploration permit on March 14, 1997 by MGB-Region IV-B to a 9,720 hectare concession for nickel/cobalt deposits in the Municipality of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro and Victoria, Oriental Mindoro.

After series of protests and passage of resolutions (which were done mostly by the Province of Oriental Mindoro) against the mining operations, there was a short lull. In 2007, Intex Resources Philippines Inc. whose Norwegian parent firm Intex Resources ASA came into the scene, claiming a more responsible and friendly approach in promoting the so-called sustainable mining. Aglubang Mining Corporation remains as local partners.

The Mindoro Nickel Project is said to be ambitious. With the company’s vision of “responsible mining with innovative exploration and development in focus”, Intex claimed that theirs is the most environmentally safe type of mining.

The company claimed that they will employ surface-near mining without blasting or employ open-pit mining and strip-mining. Immediate rehabilitation and reforestation shall be done after each mining activity. The mining concessions cover four major rivers responsible for the irrigation and water sheds in Mindoro Island. Mindoro Island, particularly, Occidental Mindoro is now the food basket of Region IV. Mining industry is seen as the key to economic development not only of the Philippines but many of our local leaders.

Resistance to MiningSince 1997, the people resist mining activities in the province. The Rio-Tuba experience in Bataranzza, Palawan which is being mined by Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation is also in its way both to economic and environmental destruction. The mining strategies in Rio Tuba will be replicated in Mindoro according to critics.

Because of massive anti-mining campaign, Mindoro is a hotspot, declaring an all-out offensive against the revolutionary movement including the activists. The Municipality of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro unanimously passed Ordinance No. 2007-GO03B, prescribing a 25-year moratorium on mining activities. Besides, Mindoro is promoted not as a mining province but as a premier destination for eco-tourism.

Impact of Mining on WomenBy opening our province to the mining companies, some job opportunities are created for our people.

Women are tied up with nature. Women first bear the negative impact of the so-called development.

Indeed mining can bring prosperity to the nation. Especially if the mines extracted from the land is utilized for industrialization and not for export wholly to highly-industrialized countries. For hundred of years, our country is mined yet we remain poor. The revitalization of the mining industry through the Mining Act of 1995 is seen as the key towards industrialization and countryside development. Mining is not only a social but a theological issue. Coincidentally, the top-brass in Intex and other mining concessionaires applying in Mindoro are all men!

Minerals that are mined do not benefit the people of the land, but are taken out of the country. Will the poor people of my land benefit from it? Will the mining industry in Mindoro save the starving child of a Mangyan or free our country from debt?

Minerals like copper, nickel, gold and iron are non-renewable resources. The stewardship of the earth is our responsibility; women and men alike. God placed us in a Garden known as Mindoro. If we let Intex and other mining companies to exploit our lands, we are liable first to the Creator and to our children. Until the Mining Act of 1995 is scrapped the people must remain vigilant to protect our land. The women of the organization used informal way during the massive anti-mining campaigns. Years after our anti-mining activities, we are again gaining ground. The people of Mindoro, particularly the women is not against mining. What we are against is the intrusion of foreign mining companies to plunder our minerals. We are against large-scale mining because of its sure damage to the environment and the people.

Mindorenos in particular and the Filipino people in general want sustainable mining – a mining industry that will benefit the majority of the people and will help bring abut a more humane and prosperous society.

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