Aquino’s ‘null, void’ declaration of South Cotabato mining ban a gross disrespect of UN Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons

August 3, 2015

By Kalikasan PNE
A visualization of the Tampakan mining site  by Parsons Brinckerhoff for Swiss miner Xstrata.

A visualization of the Tampakan mining site by Parsons Brinckerhoff for Swiss miner Xstrata. Image from Rappler

Environmental group Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) expressed its outrage over news that Pres. Noynoy Aquino has nullified the environmental code in South Cotabato province that prohibits open-pit mining operations, and that Aquino ordered the Department on Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to process the resumption of the Tampakan mining project, one of the potentially largest and most destructive large-scale mines in Asia.

Aquinos brazen voidance of the environmental code in South Cotabato to give way to the Tampakan mine coincided with the released statement of Dr. Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, expressing alarm over deception, killings and rights violations towards indigenous peoples in the controversial project. This is a gross disrespect not only to the UN rapporteur, but most especially to the communities, institutions and peoples movements who continue to suffer from and resist militarization and displacement that the Tampakan mine has been inflicting for more than two decades in Mindanao, said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment.

Dr. Beyani conducted his official visit from July 21 to 31 this year to look into various cases of socio-economic displacement in the Philippines, including communities rendered homeless by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and bakwits (evacuees) from Mindanao due to armed conflict and development aggression.

In his statement, Dr. Beyani said The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement require a threshold of compelling and overriding public interest in order for development-induced displacement to take place. This does not appear to be apparent in this case. Dr. Beyani further said that he urge[d] the Government, in consultation with indigenous peoples themselves, to give greater attention to addressing the causes of displacement whether it be due to the militarization of their areas or due to development projects.

Despite the recent reiteration by the South Cotabato local government that it is holding its ground in its decision to not allow open pit mining in the province, the same technology to be utilized by the Tampakan mine, a news report quoted South Cotabato governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes saying that Malacanang has declared the environmental code null and void.

Fuentes said the provincial government will pursue legal cases if the mining project, owned by the Sagittarius Mines Inc. and local big business group Alcantara and Sons (Alsons) will continue its operations. The Tampakan projects is previously owned by Anglo-Swiss giant Glencore, which recently pulled out its investments amidst varying forms of massive peoples resistance.

We support the local governments pronouncement that it will dig in and persist with its opposition to the Tampakan open-pit mine. We have proven our people power when we kicked out Glencore from Mindanao, and we must strengthen the peoples resistance further to ensure the defense our communities, ecosystems, and natural resources, said Bautista.

The issue of the Tampakan mine was raised as a main concern in the recently concluded International Peoples Conference on Mining 2015, held in Quezon City, Philippines, in which more than 140 participants from over 29 countries gathered to discuss and strategize various mining concerns and campaigns.

Despite its pull-out, Glencore is still accountable for the ongoing social costs and persisting environmental threats of the Tampakan mine as it played a significant role in utilizing atrocious tactics in attempting to push the project towards commercial operations. We will work together with the various groups across the globe from the recently held International Peoples Conference on Mining to coordinate efforts in holding Glencore and the Aquino government to their ongoing crimes to the people and the environment, said Bautista.

“This further exposes Aquino as a haciendero bureaucrat who criminally neglected our people and environment, and will come down in Philippine history as one of the worst lame duck puppets of foreign miners and plunderers we ever had in Malacanang,” ended Bautista.###