Posted tagged ‘natural resources’

WATER RIOTS IN MANILA: TOO SOON!

August 5, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening from the Philippines!

A water crisis is now looming big in Manila (the entire metropolis), the Philippine’s premier big city. The western side of the big city is particularly badly affected by pilferages and spillages (over 55% lost), thus reducing the volume of water available to around 7 million people more or less.

Such a situation has been causing panic lately on urban residents, a panic that could lead to water riots. The western side of the big city is flatlands, which renders it vulnerable to floods and consequent destruction of water pipelines during calamities. Contrast that to the eastern side that comprises of highlands where watershed areas are nestled.

Just recently, the palace officials in Manila have been pronouncing the mobilization of army troops to help deter possible water riots. This is a new twist in the history of army missions, as the mission is one of police task in an urban setting (most army missions comprise of anti-insurgency tasks in rural hinterlands).

The outbreak of water conflicts right at the heart of Manila appears  culled from the futuristic narratives of Isaac Asimov. The sci-fi genius prophesied (right after World War II) that the future will see communities divided between suburban highlands and urban lowlands. The residents of the suburbs, whose living comfort in gated villages is accompanied by robot sentinels, will comprise the upper class, while those of the urban lowlands, who will be exposed to the hovels of pollution, will comprise the lower class.

The urban-suburban divide seems to be gelling so fast in this country today. The water crisis caught palace officials and utilities bureaucrats flatfooted, even as they have been acting in near-hysteria fashion. A water war right in the big city is looming ahead, and there’s nothing in the management textbooks of the officials that can offer them quick solutions to an escalating crisis.

I do recall well that in the late 1990s, when I went back to graduate school to hone my skills in development policy via retooling with state-of-the-art analysis and social technologies, we already forecast the possibility of water wars (during classroom discussions). At that time, certain towns in the Cordilleras (mountain range to the north) began matter-of-factly to quarrel over water source and distribution. And so the challenge for us development workers was to craft mitigation measures that can deter such wars.

As soon as the new millennium began, Singapore and Malaysia did have some diplomatic confrontation regarding the issue of Singapore’s access to water sources found in Malaysia. The water source, so to speak, was getting depleted, thus slowly disabling Singapore from meeting its water needs. Desalination was the strategic solution to the problem, a surefire solution by Singapore’s visionary leaders that averted another conflict between the two polities (the earlier conflict led to Singapore’s separation from the Malaysian federation).

Certain policy experts and development workers are quite prepared for the eventuality of water wars in this 2nd world country, true. But those in the palace and even the legislature just may not have that luck of being exposed to new policy and institutional tools to deal with water-based conflicts.

Certainly too, the local execs and bureaucrats of Manila are unprepared for such a gargantuan crisis and eminent conflict based on water access and distribution. They haven’t retooled, and I know this for a fact based on my interaction with local officials known to me in the big city. They are mired in the old world, a world that is long gone (10 years ago in today’s context of rapid change is too long a time gone).

A water-based Asimovian nightmare is shaping up fast in Manila, and probably in other mega-cities around the world as well, a nightmare that is over-stretching the competencies of Establishment bureaucrats and politicians. The crisis exacerbates the urgency for urban lowland dwellers to leave the flatlands once and for all for the greener and water-rich highland suburbs, which could be the lowlanders’ panic complex response.

As an analyst and development practitioner, I am critical of any decision to use police state tactics to resolve the crisis. Scare tactics won’t let the problem fade away at all. The stakeholders better do their homework well, by getting together to dialogue, think and act. Through good all consensus they can configure what course of action to take that includes desalination of waters off Manila Bay.

Meantime, I am now all the more discouraged from ever residing or working in urban flatlands. Safely niched in Manila’s western highlands and suburban Calabarzon for the longest part of my life, I’d now rather heed the Asimovian option of better living in the suburbs, with or without the robot sentinels in our subdivision villages.

[Philippines, 23 July 2010]

[See: IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com,

UNLADTAU: https://unladtau.wordpress.com,

COSMICBUHAY: http://cosmicbuhay.blogspot.com,

BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com, ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com,

ARGONZAPOEM: http://argonzapoem.blogspot.com]

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MAPPING OUT CHANGING ENVIRONMENT

August 24, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Mapping out changing environment to constitute an atlas is a new, exciting area in geo- mapping.

Below is a recently launched atlas on Africa concerning changing environment, by the United Nations Environment Program.

[10 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to eldis.org database news.]

Africa: atlas of our changing environment

Produced by: United Nations [UN] Environment Programme (2008)

This African atlas is the first publication to use satellite photos to depict environmental change in each and every African country during the last thirty years. Through an array of satellite images, graphs, maps, and photographs, this Atlas presents a powerful testament to the adverse changes taking place on the African landscape as a result of intensified natural and human impacts.

The atlas is composed of three parts:

  1.  
    • the first part provides a comprehensive overview of Africa’s geographical attributes, highlighting issues such as land degradation and desertification, water stress, declining biodiversity, deforestation, increasing dust storms, rising pollution and rapid urbanisation
    • part two presents examples of transboundary environmental issues related to shared lands and waters, migrating animals and people, and pollutants that drift over borders of neighbouring countries. It highlights both emerging challenges and success stories in addressing these issues
    • part three contains brief profiles of every African country, their important environmental issues, and a description of how each is faring in terms of progress towards the targets under the UN’s Millennium Development Goal 7, which is to ensure environmental sustainability. “Before and after” satellite images from every country highlight specific places where change is particularly evident.

Observations and measurements of environmental change illustrated in this Atlas help gauge the extent of progress made by African countries towards reaching the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. It is argued that this book contributes to the knowledge and understanding that are essential for adaptation and remediation.

Available online at: http://www.eldis.org/cf/rdr/?doc=38210&em=310708&sub=enviro

SAVE THE PHYSICAL ECONOMY

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Writ 23 March 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

Globalization is not only destroying the nation-state. It has also been destroying the ‘physical economy’ that is the economic foundation of the nation-state. All in the name of the greed of the financier oligarchs, who bred the monstrous ‘virtual economy’ founded on predatory finance.

 

The New Nationalism, as contended in my meaty article on the same, argues strongly for a restoration of the physical economy of affected nations. The USA, which produces 22% of the world’s gross economic output, is now in the phase of advanced decay as its physical economy had been looted and eventually destroyed by predatory financiers. There is now way that we citizens of the global community can’t be concerned about this, as the eventual crumbling of this megalithic economy will redound to global economic turbulence that can lead to global war.

 

In East Asia we all witnessed the horror of the economic meltdown in the late 1990s. Though the impact of that meltdown is hardly felt today, we saw the horror of it just the same. We peoples of the region simply felt so helpless as the contagion smelted the mightily growing economies here, beginning by destroying the currencies and ending with the crash of the physical economies.

 

Incidentally, East Asia has a better chance to weather the storms being caused by predatory globalization. The physical economy here has better chances of being secured, even food security has better chances of crystallizing contrasted to the crashing economies of the USA and Europe.

 

The lesson should be clearly read by every development practitioner: destroy not thy physical economy if you want peace and development to go on in sustained levels. Absent the physical economy, and the nation will crumble, leading to civil disturbances and uprisings and even to global conflicts among the world powers.

 

Below is the entire subsection regarding the physical economy culled from the New Nationalism article.

 

Continue to stimulate growth through the ‘physical economy’.

 

This writer strongly argues that the greatest driver of the economy must be the ‘physical economy’. By ‘physical economy’ we refer to the combination of (a) agriculture, (b) manufacturing, (c) infrastructure, (d) transport and (e) science & technology (S&T) whose results further induce ‘production possibilities’ in the sectors a-d. An economy that is prematurely driven by the service sector, growing at the expense of the physical economy, will create imbalances in the long run, failing in the end to meet the needs of the population. A premature service-driven economy would be subject to manipulations by predatory financiers, who would do everything to destroy the national currencies and consequently the physical economy of the nation as well. An economy driven by derivatives and every kind of speculative pursuit is a ‘virtual economy’ such as what has dominated the USA since the era of Reaganomics.

 

I would hazard the thesis that our national economy moved to a service-driven phase prematurely. Look at all the fiasco after our ‘physical economy’ had rapidly declined in GDP contributions since the early 1990s, as the service economy advanced in its stead! Relatedly, the over-hyped Ramos-era ‘Philippines 2000’ economy was largely a ‘bubble economy’ driven by speculation and portfolio capital, and was more in kinship with the ‘virtual economy’ than any other one. We have not fully recovered from the bursting of that bubble, even as we are now threatened with another bursting of sorts—of the debt bubble, leading to fiscal crisis.

 

It pays to learn our lessons well from out of the immediate past experiences. And the clear message sent forth is: get back to the physical economy and re-stimulate the concerned sectors, while simultaneously perfect those services where we have proved to be competitive, e.g. pre-need sector, retail, restaurant/f&b. We should also strive to learn some key lessons from other countries’ positive experiences such as China’s, whose economy continues to grow enormously, and grow precisely because it is the physical economy that primarily drives it up and lead it—at an enormously rapid rate—towards development maturity, permitting China to outpace the USA’s economy on or before 2014 (using GDP Purchasing Power Parity indexing).

 

SOCIAL CAPITAL FOR MINING

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

[Note: The author is a political economist and social development consultant. The paper was delivered in a panel lecture at the Kamayan Forum, Kamayan Restaurant, 12 noon-2 pm, 19 November, 2004.]

 

 

            This paper advocates for an alternative framework regarding mineral resource extraction. It begins with the contention that mining must be considered as primarily a community undertaking, whether the community be national or local. As such, mining must necessarily depart from market-driven models of extraction, or from state-centered models of development, and proceed to a community-oriented or constituency-based engagement.

 

            To be able to comprehend the theme of this paper, let me begin with a story. About four (4) years ago, a former university student of mine at the University of the Philippines Manila informed me that a mining engineer wished to establish a (mining) foothold in the Cordillera. Accordingly, the engineer heard about my mystical background, and was interested to know if there are indeed precious metals in the proposed project site. That is, the engineer expected me to communicate directly to the invisible elemental entities in the area and ask their permission to establish a mining project.

 

            Not only that. Having heard about my background as a political economist, with diversified interest and studies in indigenous culture, the mining firm he represented wanted to know what acceptable methods to employ in flushing out the indigenous people residing in the area. 

 

            To cut the story short, I declined the offer, even as I registered my vehement opposition to the sordidly profit-oriented venture of this engineer. If mining has to prosper at all, it must begin with the reality that there are people who have been settled for many epochs in the area of extraction. A win-win solution to the mining problem must be executed, not by expelling the local residents but precisely by involving them in the venture.

 

            Let me now share to you another story. In 1998, at the height of the Asian financial crisis, my consulting firm then, the Phoenixkonsult, contracted a project with a client. The project was about yellow clay extraction, with Bicol as the project site. In a small town in Bicol is found yellow clay, a rare material that has various industrial applications as well as aesthetic uses. Incidentally, the area also has some Aeta-related residents as well as marginal peasants.

 

            Being then the board chair of the corporation, or being in a central position to direct the developmental strategies of the firm, I strongly proposed that the project involve the residents in a number of ways.

 

First of all, in the feasibility study preparation, the residents can be tapped as eco-scanners to identify possible sites where the material was highly concentrated. Also, the same residents will be constituted into a cooperative, properly trained in social entrepreneurship, and invited to be co-investors in the mining project through their cooperative. A third involvement would be to tap those residents who are physically capable enough as human resource for the extraction and production activities.

 

            Such a scheme is what social scientists and development practitioners like myself refer to as tapping ‘social capital’. Mining should not just be regarded as investment capital, but should also consider the vast wealth of social networks—‘social capital’—that can wield tremendous powers of production. Studies in comparative political economy have shown that developmental pursuits that tapped ‘social capital’ ended up more appreciably better than those that failed to do so.

 

            The development experiences of Brazil are particularly instructive. As documented by such social science luminaries as Peter Evans (see Evans’ works on ‘state-society synergy’), those projects in agriculture, irrigation and urban-based infrastructure and housing in Brazil where a state-civil society partnership was consistently used, turned out really good in results. On the other hand, those projects that were largely state-centered or market-driven and insulated from the community networks eventually faltered, as indicated by typical experiences in most Third World economies.

 

            In today’s evolving global context, state-centered development has become ridiculously passé. In this old framework, the state performs the role of a ‘provider state’—giving out everything such as candies and shelter units to helpless people waiting for the ‘Santa Claus’ dole outs. Such a framework had proved to be disastrous in results. Not only did it reinforce a strong dependency syndrome among the people, it also led to vicious poverty instead of eradicating this malaise. It need not be stressed that much money went to the pocket of state officials and contracting firms’ managers through this old framework.

 

            The new framework delimits the state’s role to that of an ‘enabler state’. In this framework, development efforts are properly the tasks of market players, who possess the investment capital, and civil society players, who possess the vast social networks of ‘social capital’. The state then builds the policy environment and strong institutions that can support and sustain various developmental efforts.

 

            I strongly contend for a ‘social capital’ approach to mining. In this approach, the first thing to do is to recognize the institutional capacity building efforts of people who live in the areas of resource extraction. Stewardship agreements must be concurred between market players and community or social enterprises of the folks, with the state serving as a mediator or facilitator. I am very optimistic about the positive results of this scheme, compared to market-driven and state-centered approaches.

 

            You see, when people, through their social enterprise groups, are motivated to co-direct development projects, the people themselves will do so much to zealously guard and monitor the entire project or enterprise venture. The bonus for indigenous peoples is that they have easy access to the spirit world, to the nature beings in the area (called ‘elementals’ by mystics), beings that can also be tapped to guard the project.

 

            Now, go back to the cranky old models (market-driven and state-centered), and remove the indigenous peoples from the scene of a gargantuan development effort. What will you have?

 

It would be instructive to recall the Celophil and Chico dam projects, both Cordillera-based, that proceeded from the old frameworks. The disastrous offshoots of the projects became the fuel for insurgent groups, largely peopled by the I.P.s, to wage zealously bloody campaigns against the colossal projects.

 

            There is no further reason today for the likes of the Celophil and Chico projects to be repeated. We must have learned lessons from their failures at this juncture. But it seems that those who now wish to revive a mining sector that has been in the doldrums for two (2) decades to go the route of Celophil and Chico.

 

            I wish not to further highlight the folly of any idea today that wishes to pursue development by expelling people like they were deadly toxins. Many advocates of win/lose pursuits are well placed in government even as they dominate the corporate sector.  They simply couldn’t see the folly behind their antiquated approaches, blinded as they are by greed.

 

            As a final statement, let me declare that the framework elaborated in this brief paper is not an official policy framework of state. Rather, it is a policy framework that should be discussed among various quarters and social sectors, the state included. The state after all comprises of a plurality of framework trends operating in a vast array of bureaucratic mechanisms. There is no such thing today as a monolithic state with a singular framework dominating the policy environment. Rather, the state is a fluid field for contestation by various interest groups that are all aiming to influence the shaping of the policy environment.

 

            But this I am optimistic about: if given a chance to prosper, a ‘social capital’ framework for mining will sell like very hot cake. I am very sure about this forecast. And may the communications enclaves allow this idea of ‘social capital’ for mining to germinate and percolate, because whether we like it or not this will be the direction of resource extraction in the foreseeable future. Bar it from crystallizing, and the result will be more resentments leading to more vicious insurgencies. Permit it to galvanize, and the whole nation becomes heroic in the eyes of the international community for setting new precedents. So, which option is the better choice?

 

OBSERVATIONS AND POSSIBLE ADVOCACY POSITIONS REGARDING THE MINING SECTOR

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Date: 10 February 2005

 

[Written for the Office of the President/multi-agency task force on mining advocacy.]

 

BACKGROUND

 

The paper summarizes the observations of this analyst regarding the mining sector. Some prospective advocacy positions are advanced at the concluding part of the report. The references were largely the Mining Act and related reports coming from the DENR

 

Being a constituency-enabling agency, this organization most appropriately considers the ‘constituency criterion’ in addressing problems/issues of advocacy. That is, in regard to mining, the relevant question is: do the constituency groups benefit at all from a revitalized mining sector? This paper will try to answer this question in particular.

 

DEFINITION OF TERMS

 

For easier comprehension, a number of key terms are operationally defined as follows:

 

State: Government of the Republic of the Philippines, with all of its agencies and instrumentalities.

 

Market: All economic institutions aimed at seeking profits, notably: single proprietorships, partnerships and corporations.

 

Civil Society: Non-profit institutions, specifically: NGOs, Peoples Organizations or POs, brotherhoods/sisterhoods & civic clubs, associations (in the generic sense) and cooperatives and social enterprises (civil society with market functions).

 

Community: Territorially-bound, localized grouping of people, with associational life and unique culture.

 

Constituencies: Social sectors, localized community groups.

 

POTENTIALITIES, BARRIERS, ADDRESSING PROBLEMS

 

The developmental and wealth-producing potentials of the mining sector are enormous. The sector is noticeably in the doldrums though. Inspite of the enormous levels of mineral resources possessed by the nation, the (mining) sector produces only around 1% of the GDP, and employs merely 104,000 human resources or 0.30% of the labor force.  Barriers to entry of market players combine institutional, policy, fiscal, technological, environmental, infrastructural and micro-level productions factors. A combination of technological, environmental and financial factors led to the closure of big metallic mineral producers in particular (i.e. Atlas , Marcopper, Lepanto, Dizon).

 

Legislative measures were enacted to address the policy side of the sector.  Among these are: (a) Presidential Decree No. 1899, “Establishing Small-Scale Mining As A Dimension In Mineral Development,” and (b) Republic Act No. 7942, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. DENR Administrative Order No. 96-40 was put into place in 1997 to serve as the administrative framework of the sector.

 

A debate raged for some time regarding the constitutionality of the Mining Act. The debate had since been resolved, with the Supreme Court deciding to defend the legality and propriety of permitting foreign investors to engage in mining within the Philippine territory, both onshore and offshore, at a 100% ownership scheme. The SC decision finally resolved a key policy barrier, and is expected to lead to synergy of efforts between the state and the market to revitalize mining activities and increase mining’s contribution to GDP in the short run.

 

POLICY ENVIRONMENT AMID SHIFTING POLITICAL REALITIES

 

Based on a review of the Mining Act of 1995, it can be inferred that the policy environment for the sector had become more definitive. Such a definitiveness had encouraged more market players to signify their intention to participate in the sector, from exploration to extraction. However, ambiguities lie in the operational side of the policy, which has implications to revising the present policy. It is quite premature to say though that a comprehensive national policy on mining prevails, this being the product of series of trilateral talks among state, market and civil society players.

 

As can be observed from the introductory provisions of the law, mining intervention is largely a state-market synergy. To quote Section 2 (Declaration of Policy) of Chapter 1 (Introductory Provisions):

 

It shall be the responsibility of the State to promote their rational exploration, development, utilization and conservation through the combined efforts of government and the private sector…

 

Such a policy statement that delimits mining to a state-market synergy, without civil society provision, is explained by the fact that liberal economic policies were the wave of the past three (3) decades when the law came out. The ‘ideological field’ changed the states’ role from ‘provider state’ to ‘enabler state’, while providing greater space for market players to operate—presumably on ‘level playing field’. The policy regime comprised of: liberalization, deregulation, privatization, decentralization, tax reforms, downsizing, and liberalized currency exchange.

 

However, while the policy statement excluded civil society, the other chapters of the law provides for the roles of civil society players along the various phases of mining operations. Invariably mentioned were the following players: NGOs, cooperatives, associations, indigenous cultural communities or IPs, and local communities. This is in addition to small-scale miners covered by previous laws.

 

Such a recognition of civil society as industry stakeholder is a response to the broad challenges posed by a strong civil society on state and market players to fast-track the  redistribution of power, resources and values. Even traditionally market-oriented sectors and engagements must provide space for civil society to participate in the sector, while corporate social responsibility turned into a powerful wave in the corporate world.

 

In sum, using a typical cost-benefit analysis, the policy environment has become more definitive so as to ensure that a revitalized mining would economically benefit market players, most specially but not exclusively corporate players, as well as government coffers in terms of added taxation (e.g. excise tax). However, there are remaining kinks concerning the social and economic benefits of communities and constituencies, or civil society, that must be addressed. Hopefully, a Comprehensive National Policy will eventually address the ambiguities in the constituency side of the equation.

 

While relevant issues concerning civil society stakeholders are not sufficiently addressed, thorny questions will be raised and tensions will prevail during the implementation of the Mining Act. Many detractors will claim that civil society has been reduced to a kibitzer in the Mining Act and related documents, a contention that is not altogether invalid. The Mining Act campaign of government will also be largely biased for market players in the absence of more definitive provisions for civil society benefits. The constituency side must therefore be addressed with immediacy and dispatch, to avoid making the mining sector a mitigating factor in destabilization campaigns.

 

 

PROVISIONS CONCERNING CONSTITUENCIES/CIVIL SOCIETY

 

Non-Governmental Organizations

 

Among the functions of NGOs is policing mining activities. Ch. 2 (Authority of the  Bureau) stipulates that “the Director may deputize, when necessary, …duly registered nongovernmental organization (NGO) or any qualified person to police all mining activities.”

 

Another important role of NGOs concerns the environmental side of mining. Section 70 (Environmental Impact Assessment) under Chapter 11 (Safety and Environmental Protection) stipulated the following:

 

That a completed ecological profile of the proposed mining area also constitute part of the environmental assessment. People’s organizations and nongovernmental organizations shall be allowed and encouraged to participate in ensuring that contractors/permittees shall observe all the requirements of environmental protection.

 

 

Indigenous Peoples

 

The Mining Act was very clear about IPs as stakeholders in the sector, from the exploration phase through the post-production phases such as royalty provisions. Chapter 3 (Scope of Application) contained two (2) relevant sections on IPs, to note:

 

Sec . 16. Opening of Ancestral Lands for Mining Operations. No ancestral land shall be opened for mining operations without the prior consent of the indigenous cultural community concerned.

 

Sec. 17. Royalty Payments for Indigenous Cultural Communities. In the event of an agreement with an indigenous cultural community pursuant to the preceding section, the royalty payment, upon utilization of the minerals shall be agreed upon by the parties. The said royalty shall form part of a trust fund for the socio-economic well-being of the indigenous cultural community.

 

It can be remarked that the provisions are progressive enough. However, Section 17 does not contain specific  benchmark ceilings that define how much can the IP community receive as royalties. In the absence of such a benchmark ceiling, the IP group can end up at the losing end, as royalties can be defined in the marginal figures by the mining companies involved. Also, corrupt leader-officials from the IP side can appear on the scene to aggrandize a large portion of the royalties.

 

Not only that. IP groups can always cite the USA case as the most progressive instance of IP treatment. In the USA today, various ‘affirmative action’ measures have taken place to ensure that the native Americans become co-owners of gambling centers, tourist spots and various market concerns in their localities. Many native Americans today own middle class residential structures and live middle class lives precisely because they all benefit as being co-owners rather than just be treated as beneficiaries of trickles from ambiguous royalties. The mining sector doesn’t seem to be prepared to cross swords with any IP group citing the USA case.

 

Cooperatives and Associations

 

Cooperatives and associations were clearly stipulated as among the permissible participating market players in the sector. They were lumped up together with partnerships and corporations, notably in Chapter IV (Exploration Permit). The chapter defined the geographical limits of operations by market players, without discriminating against any particular form of stakeholder.

 

Whether in onshore or offshore operations, the limits applying to partnerships and corporations will likewise be benefited by cooperatives and associations. Let us cite for example Secion 22 (Maximum Areas for Exploration Permit):

 

 

(a)    Onshore, in any province –

For partnerships, corporations, cooperatives, or associations, two hundred (200) blocks.

(b)   Onshore, in the entire Philippines –

For partnerships, corporations, cooperatives, or associations, four hundred (400) blocks.

      © Onshore, beyond five hundred meters (500 m) from the mean low tide level –

For partnerships, corporations, cooperatives, or associations, one thousand (1,000) blocks.

 

Corollary provisions in Chapter 5 (Mineral Agreements) also stipulated the same stakeholders as participating market players. The chapter set the limits on maximum areas for mineral agreements, without discriminating against any form of stakeholder, inclusive of cooperatives and associations.

 

There was no clear definition, however, of association. Just exactly what sort of associations can participate in mining intervention in a given area? This question must be answered by the operating guidelines affecting the sector.

 

[Note: 1 block approximately equals 81 hectares.]

 

Marginal Miners

 

Aside from stating that a previous law (RA 7076) already defined the scope and limits of participation by small-scale miners in the sector, the Mining Act also contained important provisions affecting the said miners. Chapters 4 and 5 referred to them as ‘individual miners’, with maximum ceilings of geographical areas considerably smaller that those of partnerships, corporations, cooperatives and associations.

 

Mining Communities

 

The Mining Act also cared to ensure the development of mining communities. Chapter 10, titled “Development of Mining Communities, Science and Technology,” articulated on provisions about the locality being a beneficiary of a mining intervention within its folds. Section 57 (Expenditure for Community Development and Science and Mining Technology) states: “A contractor shall assist in the development of its mining community, the promotion of the general welfare of its inhabitants, and the development of science and mining technology.”

 

Another section of the same chapter, Sec. 61 (Donations/Turn Over Of Facilities), defined how a mining community can benefit from the post-operational facilities left behind by a mining operator. The section stipulates the following:

 

…Prior to cessation of mining operations occasioned by abandonment or withdrawal of operations, on public lands by the contractor, the latter shall have a period of one (1) year therefrom within which to remove his improvements; otherwise, all the social infrastructure and facilities shall be turned over or donated tax-free to the proper government authorities, national or local, to ensure that said infrastructure and facilities are continuously maintained and utilized by the host and neighboring communities.

 

Labor

 

First of all, the latest mining law is very friendly towards children, and strictly prohibits child labor. Section 64 (Mine Labor) under Chapter 11 (Safety and Environmental Protection)  contained the following unambiguous provision: “No person under sixteen (16) years of age shall be employed in any phase of mining operations and no person under eighteen (18) years of age shall be employed underground in a mine.”

 

Labor in FDI (foreign direct investments) controlled firms have relevant provisions for Filipino labor, as contained in Chapter 10 (Development of Mining Communities, Science and Technology). To cite the key provisions:

 

Sec. 59. Training and Development. A contractor shall maintain an effective program of manpower training and development throughout the term of the mineral agreement and shall encourage and train Filipinos to participate in all aspects of the mining operations, including the management thereof. For highly-technical and specialized mining operations, the contractor may, subject to the necessary government clearances, employ qualified foreigners.

 

Sec. 62. A contractor shall give preference to Filipino citizens in all types of mining employment within the country insofar as such citizens are qualified to perform the corresponding work with reasonable efficiency and without hazard to the safety of the operations. The contractor, however, shall not be hindered from hiring employees of his own selection, subject to the provision of the Commonwealth Act No. 613, as amended, for technical and specialized work which in his judgement and with the approval of the Director, required highly-specialized training or long experience in exploration, development or utilization of mineral resources: Provided, that in no case shall each employment exceed five (5) years or the payback period as represented in original project study, whichever is longer…

 

While the provisions are sterling instances of ‘affirmative action’ measures for Filipino labor, certain quarters can raise the howl that labor is treated in the traditional way as wage labor. There is no provision at all that stipulates a far more progressive scheme on profit sharing. We may as well anticipate such howls to come, added to another age-old issue of  ‘nationalization’ pertaining to the sector.

 

Environment

 

The concern for ecological balance was taken up in one whole chapter (Ch. 11/Safety and Environmental Protection). This chapter signifies the changes in developmental approaches, in that this time around development cannot be left to market forces alone. The risk to a purely market-driven development is the further degradation of the environments and destruction of human habitats mitigated by severe ecological damages. Section 63 stipulates provisions on mines safety and environmental protection. Section 64 defines mine labor, as previously mentioned.

 

Other interesting and relevant sections are: Section 68 (Reports of Accidents), which penalizes mining firms that fail to report mining-related accidents within a given time; Section 69 (Environmental Protection), which mandates participating market players to undertake an environmental protection and enhancement program; Section 70 that mandates the conduct of Environmental Impact Assessment, with civil society participation as mentioned earlier; and, Section 71 (Rehabilitation) that requires contractors and permittees to “technically and biologically rehabilitate the excavated mined-out, tailings covered and disturbed areas to the condition of environmental safety…,” with stiff penalties for failing to undertake rehabilitation.

 

 

EFFECTING WINNABLE ADVOCACY BY CLARIFYING POLICY & OPERATIONAL AMBIGUITIES

 

This analyst argues that the mining campaign could be a potentially winnable one, and can be a focal point to reverse prevailing perceptions about the state. It is further argued that the crux of the winnability lies in providing clearer, unambiguous guarantees to the social benefit & acceptability aspect of the entire mining sector. The following positions are advanced for deliberations and adoption:

 

v  Draft a Comprehensive National Mining Policy. Such a policy must pay respect to the evolving trend of tripartite state-market-civil society synergy in all forms of developmental endeavors and all phases of program and project execution. The national policy must ensure that constituencies are co-partners in the sector and are not just mere kibitzers that can ‘perform a role’ when contingencies arise.

 

v  Call for a Mining Summit that should involve precisely the three (3) sectoral stakeholders, namely: state, market, civil society. The output of the summit should be clear, definitive and doable policy agenda that can serve as input for the drafting of the national policy and revision of the mining act to incorporate the changes in the policy framework.

 

v  Revise the mining act in accordance with the summit covenant drafted and adopted thereof. The law should not just limit the participation of NGOs to monitoring activities and the conduct of EIAs but should be broadened to include  participation in the periodic review and assessment of the entire mining industry and drafting of policy covenants in the succeeding years.

 

v  Define specific benchmark ceilings for the royalties that should go to the IP communities where mining is involved. Such a ceiling should not be lower than five percentum (5%) of the income after taxes derived from the specific cite. [5% is the standard brokerage fee in various enterprises.] The accounting system that can define the benchmark should likewise be clearly defined. The basis for the royalty should be ‘social capital’, which means that the norms, values, institutions of the community must be properly valuated and regarded as equity or equivalent for royalty purposes.

 

v  Define clearly what ‘association’ means, by defining who can constitute an ‘association’ that can participate as a market stakeholder. Should local, broad-based community associations be involved in mining, as co-partners of partnerships, corporations and cooperatives, than the ‘social capital’ of the members should be considered as an equity capital equivalent to no less than five percentum (5%) of the authorized capital requirements for the concerned mining project.

 

v  Stiffer penalties on those market stakeholders that violate child labor policies should be added to the mining act. Section 64, Chapter 11 of the law should be amended accordingly.

 

v  Provide incentives to partnerships and corporations that will share profits to their laborers. The higher the percentage of profits shared to the workers at any given time, the greater the incentives, notably tax incentives.

 

 

END