Bantay Kita Statement on the Gold Mine Workers and Residents Buried Due to the Landslide in Maco, Davao de Oro
On Wednesday, February 7th 2024, at approximately 7:40 PM a devastating landslide struck the gold-mining mountain villages in Maco, Davao de Oro in barangays Elizalde, Mainit and Masara which buried homes and two buses carrying over two dozen passengers. Maco’s disaster agency has reported (as of writing) 11 deaths, 110 missing persons and 1,166 families evacuated from their homes. Approximately 31 residents have survived with injuries.
Standing in unwavering solidarity with all community members affected by this catastrophe, Bantay Kita believes in holding government agencies and mining companies accountable to adhere to the utmost standards of disaster risk management and hazard assessments in mining areas. In the wake of escalating natural calamities, exacerbated by the climate crisis, and further intensified by extractive industry operations, we call on mining companies and government officials to place paramount importance on community safety, protection and safeguarding of climate mitigating ecosystems.
The impacted region was close to a mining site that employed people in three shifts to run its 24- hour operations. Mine workers from APEX Mining Co. Inc. Maco Gold Mine have been identified as amongst the missing persons. The mine workers were waiting to be transported home in two buses when the landslide struck and buried the coaches.
The landslide in Maco was induced by easterlies, torrential rains and flash floods occurring in Davao Region, SOCSKSARGEN, Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Southern Leyte, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. The mountainous terrain, heavy rainfall, widespread deforestation and blasting operations in the mining area are key triggers to landslides. Landslides in Masara were also triggered in 2008 and 2013. Another landslide happened five days before the big tragedy, however mining operations continued.
Indigenous and local communities hosting large-scale mining continue to bear the brunt of natural disasters from climate catastrophe. In this case, indigenous communities of the Mansaka tribe are amongst the most vulnerable as the community faces forcible evacuation due to this landslide.
We further urge government agencies and mining companies to undertake Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA) approaches to hazard mapping which enables the mapping of multiple scenarios for a particular hazard under climate change. The Probabilistic Risk Assessment Approach to hazard mapping has been recommended in 2017 by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Philippine government through the 2017-2022 and 2023-2028 Philippine Development Plans and the 2019 Climate Change Commission resolution, yet implementation has not been effectively disseminated nationwide.
As a mineral-rich country, the Philippines draws significant mining investments but raises environmental and socio-economic concerns, especially for indigenous communities in mining regions. Bantay Kita (BK) partners with these communities in order to develop projects focused on providing tools for socio-economic and cultural development. One of BK's projects targets indigenous livelihoods affected by mining, promoting new technical skills to reduce dependency on mining activities. During my immersion experience, I had the opportunity to visit Jabonga, Santiago, and Anticala tribes, witnessing one of these initiatives in action. What do these three communities have in common? They all host extractive operations.
Jabonga and Santiago
Host rich natural resources and prospering through traditional livelihoods that provide most of the community's needs, it's important to avoid dependence on mining companies and find solutions that reduce this dependence. The ultimate aim of this visit was to set up a sewing and beading workshop for the women of the communities. As such, last December, Bantay Kita donated two (2) sewing machines to the Mamanwa & Manobo communities. The aim is to teach them how to use these machines so that they can first meet their own needs (e.g., their family's needs) and then eventually, when they are more comfortable, they can produce to sell. Like sewing products, the goal of a beading workshops is to teach them this new skill to eventually sell. Once this art is mastered, these traditional jewelry pieces hold significant value. For example, a necklace can fetch up to around 5,000 PHP. Therefore, the end goal is for them to be able to produce enough to eventually enhance their livelihood.
Although this initial meeting was not a workshop like the previous ones, I still learned a lot about this community and some of BK's projects. During this meeting, I had the chance to visit part of the community's land, accompanied by people from the community itself. I was able to visit the watershed and learn more about the community's resource management and related challenges. While visiting the community, I learned more about certain livelihood projects, including tree planting across their land. This project was developed with the aim of developing agro-ecological practices to diversify crop production and, in due course, develop their livelihoods.
Before my initial meetings, I had certain questions in mind about some aspects. For instance, how would these activities be concretely beneficial in the long-term and integrated into their daily lives? How would cultures and traditions be taken into account in the development of these workshop? Would the communities be receptive to these workshops and sharing their experience with me, an “outsider”? However, following the meetings, I noticed several other interesting points that addressed my questions. For example, one of the first things I observed during the workshops is that they primarily focus only on women. As a matter of fact, mining activities affect many people, but often the most vulnerable are women, particularly those from indigenous communities in this context. These specific workshops focus on integrating women into development activities and providing them with equal opportunities for growth. Furthermore, I noticed that the cultural aspect had been included in the activity. For instance, not only were the activities led by two women from the Manobo tribe, but one of the workshops focused on beadwork, specifically Panuhugtuhog (Barcena, 2023), a traditional form of beadwork from the Manobo tribe. It’s a great way to ensure that cultures and traditions are respected while incorporating new skill to ensure livelihood. Apart from that, as a foreign intern, I was a bit apprehensive about how communities would respond to sharing with me, especially due to the language barrier. However, participants seemed receptive not only to participate to the workshops but also to sharing the difficulties and challenges that the communities were facing. During my visits, I also had the opportunity to visit certain places like the hot springs in Santiago and learn more about the importance of preserving natural resources, especially as a means of sustenance for these communities. I also learned more about about the resource management process and overall resource projects such as the cacao and abaca plantation which is one of the major livelihood activities. In short, despite the fact that I was a foreigner and that some subjects can be sensitive, the communities were very welcoming and didn't hesitate to share with me and seemed mostly curious.
Barcena, Nida Grace P. 2023. “Panuhugtuhog: Keeping Manobo's traditional beadworks sustainable”. PIA. https://pia.gov.ph/features/2023/08/11/panuhugtuhog-keeping-manobos-traditional-beadworks-sustainable
About the author
Camille Thom is currently an intern at Bantay Kita. As of this posting, she is enrolled as a graduate student at the Université de Montréal.
Call for views on progress in EITI implementation of Requirement 1.3 on civil society engagement in the Philippines
The Philippines joined the EITI in 2013. In February 2022, the Philippines’ Validation against the 2019 Standard found that the Philippines had achieved a “moderate” overall score in implementing the EITI Standard. In May 2023, the EITI Board agreed that a targeted assessment of EITI Requirement 1.3 on civil society engagement should be undertaken in the Philippines commencing on 1 January 2024.
In accordance with the agreed procedure, the EITI International Secretariat is seeking stakeholder views on the Philippines’ progress in implementing EITI Requirement 1.3 on civil society engagement between February 2022 and January 2024. Stakeholders are requested to send views to Gilbert Makore (GMakore@eiti.org) by 1 January 2024.
The EITI Standard requires that the government, extractive companies and civil society are fully, actively and effectively engaged in EITI implementation. The Secretariat is in particular seeking views on the following questions:
Civil society engagement in the EITI will be assessed in accordance with EITI Protocol: Participation of civil society. Stakeholders are requested to provide input on the Philippines’ adherence with the protocol.
Any concerns related to potential breaches of the protocol should be accompanied with a description of the related incident, including its timing, actors involved and the link to the EITI process. If available, supporting documentation should be provided. Stakeholders may also indicate which provision of the civil society protocol they consider the breach(es) to relate to. Responses will be anonymised and be kept confidential.
The Secretariat is seeking views on the following questions related to civil society engagement:
Are civil society organisations able to engage in public debate related to the EITI process and express opinions about the EITI process without restraint, coercion or reprisal?
For purposes of the protocol, ‘civil society representatives’ refer to civil society representatives who are substantively involved in the EITI process, including but not limited to members of the multi-stakeholder group. The ‘EITI process’ refers to activities related to preparing for EITI sign-up; MSG meetings; CSO constituency side-meetings on EITI, including interactions with MSG representatives; producing EITI Reports; producing materials or conducting analysis on EITI Reports; expressing views related to EITI activities; and expressing views related to natural resource governance.
For the full details of this call, kindly check the EITI website:
Bantay Kita stands strong in opposing Mining Reform House Bill 8937 (Committee Report No. 720), for its deliberate measure to decrease the current mining royalties and shadowy provisions on profit-based royalties and windfall tax design. While the current mining fiscal regime lacks strong accountability measures to ensure human, environmental and economic due diligence within the Philippines’ mining industry, this proposed fiscal regime provides more protection from financial risks of mining companies and decreases wealth shares of mining host communities.
Beyond the economic externalities of the proposed mining bill, HB 8937 will also lead to the intensification of social, environmental and cultural impacts of extraction upon mining-affected communities.
Salient features of House Bill 8937 include:
The increased complexity within the proposed mining fiscal regime poses detrimental consequences to exacerbating social, environmental and economic inequities across the nation. The proposed tax reforms have the potential to intensify inadequate transparency measures within mineral production and revenue agreements, calling for an increased risk of tax evasion and corruption.
The Philippine mining sector contributes a minuscule 0.6% to the GDP, with large-scale mining provinces host to some of the nation’s highest poverty incidences. The alleged aim of the proposed fiscal regime is to raise national revenues within the mining industry. However, by alleviating tax burdens for corporations and dispossessing governments and local communities of their revenue share, the proposed tax reforms underline the government’s prioritization of corporate profit maximization at the expense of community livelihoods and critical ecosystems.
Rapid scale-up of renewable energy remains a primary solution to addressing the climate crisis across nations and within the 2023 Philippine Energy Plan and 2023 Philippine Development Plan. A global and national energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy has called for the insatiable demand for critical minerals necessary to produce low carbon technologies. The Philippines is host to the fifth largest nickel reserves, and fourth largest copper and cobalt reserves, globally, which remain the leading raw materials for the production of green technologies.
Mineral reservation areas are located in Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Norte, Palawan, and Tawi-Tawi, where the majority of the nation’s nickel reserves lie. These areas are host to some of the Philippines’ most biodiverse ecosystems yet remain amongst the most climate-vulnerable and economically marginalized. The decreased government and community shares in the proposed mining bill will challenge the current weaknesses of the government in the implementation of safeguards to protect mining-affected communities from the loss of critical ecosystems, watersheds, and livelihoods resulting from the increasing attractiveness of mining in the Philippines under the proposed mining reform and global transition mineral demand.
The nation is under increasing global pressure to provide the critical minerals necessary for the energy transition, with international and domestic corporations looking to expand transition mineral mining in the Philippines to capitalize on global demands.
Moreover, the Philippines contributes 0.35% to global greenhouse gas emissions, yet remains amongst the top three nations most vulnerable to climate change. The alleviation of tax burdens remains a financial incentive for domestic and foreign investors to expand rampant mining operations in the Philippines. Increases in mining operations alongside a lack of human and environmental rights due diligence will lead to the continued devastation of critical climate mitigating ecosystems, leaving mining affected communities - and the nation as a whole - increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters, livelihood loss, and food insecurity.
Bantay Kita calls on the Congress to uphold public interests and reject House Bill 8937.
By Angela Asuncion
The province of Dinagat Island is a vast area rich in biodiversity and immense natural beauty. The island remains a critical habitat to approximately 100 bird and 400 plant species, with 20 globally threatened species listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Dinagat remains home to some of the Philippines' most extensive bonsai forests, with endemic flora, wildlife sanctuaries and vital watersheds providing sustenance to local communities. Several watershed areas within Dinagat act as critical climate mitigating ecosystems. Typhoon Odette was the third category five typhoon to hit the Philippines in the last two years, with Dinagat being one of the most severely impacted regions. As the island remains amongst the most vulnerable regions in the Philippines to climate change and, resultingly, the increasing severity of natural disasters, the protection of these watersheds remain fundamental to food and water security, flood control, and disaster risk reduction.
Dinagat Island is located in the Caraga region, the mining capital of the Philippines. Juxtaposed against its natural beauty is Dinagat Island's mineral richness. Dinagat is a national leader in nickel ore production, with PHP 4.01 billion in gross outputs in 2019 (MGB, 2019).
In 1939 the province was declared a mineral reservation area due to its abundance of mineral richness. There are approximately 19 approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) and three joint operating agreements for large-scale mining operations. Mining claims encompass over half, 58,709 out of 80,212 hectares, of Dinagat Island's land mass. Although the province is known for its biodiversity, the primary land use in Dinagat has prioritized mining concessions. The islands' decades-long proclamation as a mineral reservation has led to overlaps between conservation areas and mining concessions.
Although the Caraga region is known as the mining capital of the Philippines, it remains one of the most impoverished areas in the archipelago, with poverty incidences between 30-60%. Approximately 36% of families in Dinagat Island possess an income below the poverty line. However, rampant mining operations have led to extreme socio-environmental devastation across the island.
Livelihoods and critical water and mangrove ecosystems have become decimated from siltation and chemical runoff from mining operations. On top of surviving a global pandemic and the impacts of Super Typhoon Odette, one of the world's most severe natural disasters, farmers share stories of zero harvests during the past two years due to the spillover effects of nearby mining which has devastated the agricultural capacity of the land.
Community members have demanded accountability from the mines, but the companies profiting from this socio-environmental destruction have made a lack of reparations. To date, there remains a lack of regulatory oversight holding mining corporations accountable for the negligence of their operations. The infinite beauty of the region and the sustenance of the people relying on the land for survival in Dinagat remain threatened by the unruly impacts of unchecked mining operations. Today, affected local communities, farmers, fisherfolk, and women stand firm in their fight for land, water, food, identity and life. It is critical to ensure mining accountability safeguards are put in place, which prioritize local community livelihoods and the essential protection of climate-mitigating ecosystems over profits. Local communities are demanding change, aiming to hold corporations accountable, and we here at Bantay Kita are here to support them.