Cantilan, Surigao del Sur – “All we have is courage,” says Chito Trillanes, spokesperson of the local Catholic diocese’s Social Action Center amidst a pending issue between Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation (MMDC) and activists in this town.
Lack of transparency and accountability
Apparent lack of transparency and accountability on the side of MMDC and regulatory bodies in the area led to poor management and poor results of mining operations in this town. Rivers polluted with silt, mountains denuded, farmlands devastated, and indigenous people groups left uncompensated are but manifestations of the problem in this area.
This has raised the alarm for local residents because Mt. Hilong-Hilong is an important water source and is also declared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as a “priority conservation” area. The company has been found to be mining on areas beyond its mineral production and sharing agreement (MPSA) and regulatory permits it applied for. The company also failed to submit an environmental protection and enhancement program and a final mine rehabilitation/decommissioning plan which is required by law.
A temporary environment protection order (TEPO) was issued by a local court against MMDC dating back to November 2010 as response to the growing environment problem. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau also found enough evidence to suspend the operations of MMDC in April 2014. Operations, however, did not cease to this day despite cases filed in the regional trial court.
The Philippine Mining Law of 1995 mandates mining companies to ensure safety and protection of the environment they are operating in. The law also requires them to create a mine rehabilitation fund which is intended for “physical and social rehabilitation of areas and communities affected by mining activities”. The reconciled 2013 PH-EITI report, however, found discrepancies in the amount the MGB has received and what MMDC remitted.
After the suspension order was served, MMDC conducted cleanup of its stockpiled ores which civil society organizations (CSOs) alleged as a continuation of mine operations. MGB issued seven ore transport permits (OTPs) from April 25 to April 30 and two more both dating July 15 which earned the company P580 million. Because the company has been operating beyond its MPSA, these ores are considered illegally mined. CSOs in the area urge that proceeds from these illegal dealings of MMDC be returned to the government and serve as a ground for the cancellation of MMDC’s MPSA.
The Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH EITI)
The EITI is a global standard of reporting and disclosure of information by companies and government agencies involved in the industry to promote an open and accountable management of natural resources. Being transparent and accountable increases social acceptability of mining operations and lessens conflicts in areas they are operating in because it helps builds trust among stakeholders. Participating in the EITI report is a means for companies in extractive industries to be more open and have a basis for discussion with other stakeholders. There is also a higher chance of development in communities because there is engagement in the process.
Lack of transparency breeds mistrust and conflicts as evidenced in this case. The defiance of MMDC and its apparent violations found by the MGB did not work to the company’s advantage.. The company’s extracted ore almost halved after the suspension was served.
The Philippines is a candidate country since May 2013 and is among 49 countries in the world implementing EITI.