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Human Rights should take Precedence and it cannot be Sacrificed in the name of 'Responsible Mining'-Tampakan Forum
On Mining
Thursday, 04 July 2013 12:06
Human Rights should take Precedence and it cannot be Sacrificed in the name of 'Responsible Mining'
We at the Tampakan Forum welcome with affirmation the thorough work done by Dr. Brigitte Hamm, Ms. Anne Schax and Mr. Christian Scheper of the Institute for Peace and Development ( INEF)  as presented in the Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA)  of the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project, an independent study commissioned and published  by MISEREOR, the German Catholic Bishops’ Organization for Development Cooperation and the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund (Fastenopfer) in collaboration with  the Swiss protestant development organization Bread for All.
The conduct of a Human Rights Impact Assessment by an independent and third party institution is a welcome initiative. It provides a better understanding of a pressing business and human rights issue in the country today. Such is the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project, being heralded by both the government and the industry as the biggest single investment in the Philippines which will purportedly bring in humongous economic benefits to the country and raise the community’s “standard of living”.
The furor it has created stupefied observers, revolted the directly affected as well as different stakeholders. The exchange of views, opinions and positions for or against the project spanned many years already. It has divided families, communities, and ostracized constituents from their governments while on ground zero, the unfolding of once feared scenarios into actual events and incidents is now happening. Noticeably, concrete responses and appropriate immediate interventions from supposed authorities is a gaping gap to date.  If any, drastic and insensitive measures that have only aggravated the situation from bad to worse.
We see the impact study on human rights as an essential element to pave the way for a more in-depth, properly informed and objective discussion of the issues at hand. It would do well for government to read it carefully and critically. It may well be an indictment of its conduct vis-a-vis human rights, indigenous peoples, environment and the stewardship of Creation.
The HRIA under the frame of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights is a valuable human rights tool to guide businesses in upholding respect for human rights in every step of their work process, and to establish effective remedies. Likewise to provide guidance for the state to protect human rights by effectively enforcing regulation and to draw attention from all stakeholders to uphold the primacy of human rights. It is so as the HRIA report on Tampakan Project clearly pointed out its actual and potential impacts in a given complex context of the human rights of the most vulnerable groups especially indigenous groups, farmers and irrigators.
Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), a subsidiary of the Philippines Glencore-Xstrata, has certainly made a study on the environmental and social impact of the effects on health according to the Philippine laws. However, none of the companies involved in the project has so far done an impact study on human rights in accordance with the Guidelines. The Philippine government has neither made nor requested the study, no more than the Swiss state has required the parent company to undertake one. This does not and cannot downplay the fact of the dire need for an independent HRIA.
The HRIA had delved into a context which is characterized by a combination of government failures, prevailing poverty, a high level of marginalization and discrimination against indigenous groups, especially in terms of basic services, and a generally volatile conflict situation.
It pointed out already existing and potential high risks to the human rights of vulnerable population should the project proceed, as the rights to an adequate and meaningful information and participation, livelihoods, health, education, culture, and the fundamental right to life, security, and liberty.
Against the backdrop of the key predicaments outlined by the HRIA as precarious to such a project, the conclusion that under such situation and existing conditions, “a responsible open-pit mine of this magnitude does not seem feasible” has only corroborated the earlier critique of the Tampakan Forum which was presented in a public forum organized by the Provincial local government of South Cotabato last September 23, 2011. The blatant disregard for fundamental human rights was also one of the key findings by the Tampakan Forum-led fact-finding solidarity mission last April 2012. These prior documents were made available to all the stakeholders for consideration and appropriate action but sadly it seemed it has been relegated to the background by the concerned government authorities, and has not been taken seriously if not altogether vehemently denied by SMI.
We have always reiterated that the Philippine state is the primary bearer of the responsibility for the fragile situation in the Tampakan area, while SMI and its mother company, Xstrata carry great responsibility.
This project will result in the expulsion of more than 5,000 indigenous people from their ancestral domain. It is located on a site of importance with regard to the supply of drinking water in the region. A site also threatened by earthquakes and by an active volcano. The mining company’s promise and assurance comes in the form of techno-fix mitigating measures to master all existing environmental risks.
From the outset, Tampakan Forum totally agreed with the SMI’s consultant engineers who determined that: “The Tampakan Mine has a high potential for loss of life and high environmental damage if the facilities fail” [page 42 Waste Management Report. Appendix A. SMI Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) 2011]. We totally disagree that Xstrata/Indophil/SMI can design the facilities to survive seismic activity and climate change including tropical cyclones forever.
The way mining has been done in the country for the past 50 years, render the fact that the state at the moment, does not have the institutional capability to evaluate and regulate mining. This presents a quandary on what constitutes “responsible” mining and how will it be measured and applied to specific situations.
Incoherent information and lack of meaningful participation, dependency of basic services on the future of the project,  imbalanced power relationship between SMI and affected  communities, insufficiency of established grievance mechanisms, accumulating grievances and triggers of violent conflict are predicaments that any good and responsible government will be hard put not to simply ignore. Its actual occurrence and manifestations right under the nose of a mining company that claims to be responsible speaks for itself the truth behind this venture that cannot be simply swept under the rug.
While we may agree with the principle that the business of mining and human rights can be possible in any other context, notwithstanding the key recommendations of the HRIA, it defies sane reasoning on why should the Philippines permit such a mine and carry the known and unknown risks and costs forever. The trade-offs far outweigh the temporary economic benefits being dangled by the mining company and its promoters and brokers in the government.
The HRIA on Tampakan only strengthens the resolve of the Tampakan Forum in pushing for the 10 point Human Rights Agenda in Mining which includes among others the calls to Respect, protect and fulfill IP Rights, to self determination (FPIC), Protect women human rights defenders and IP women in mining areas, protect our environment and right to safe sound and balance ecology, stop the killings of human rights defenders, stop displacement of rural folks, protect the rights to food, water, housing and access to means of subsistence, stop militarization and deployment of investment defense forces, justice for all victims of mining related HRVs and Stop development aggression.
Human Rights are fundamental to us as human beings. It is enshrined in international conventions and covenants. It is enshrined in our own constitution. It is embedded in our faith – Imago Dei – in the image and likeness of God. Human rights cannot be sacrificed in the name of ‘responsible mining’.
Even as we call on and address the HRIA recommendations to the present administration of President Benign Aquino Jr., the UK and Swiss governments and the mining companies SMI, Glencore-Xstrata and Indophil, the Tampakan Forum, renew our demand for the cancellation of the FTAA .The proposed Tampakan mine should not be allowed to proceed. *This is an official statement of the Tampakan Forum, a technical working group of several civil society organizations monitoring the Tampakan mining situation.
https://www.facebook.com/notes/philippine-misereor-partnership-inc/human-rights-should-take-precedence-and-it-cannot-be-sacrificed-in-the-name-of-r/682563195093560
Human Rights should take Precedence and it cannot be Sacrificed in the name of 'Responsible Mining'
We at the Tampakan Forum welcome with affirmation the thorough work done by Dr. Brigitte Hamm, Ms. Anne Schax and Mr. Christian Scheper of the Institute for Peace and Development ( INEF)  as presented in the Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA)  of the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project, an independent study commissioned and published  by MISEREOR, the German Catholic Bishops’ Organization for Development Cooperation and the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund (Fastenopfer) in collaboration with  the Swiss protestant development organization Bread for All.
The conduct of a Human Rights Impact Assessment by an independent and third party institution is a welcome initiative. It provides a better understanding of a pressing business and human rights issue in the country today. Such is the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project, being heralded by both the government and the industry as the biggest single investment in the Philippines which will purportedly bring in humongous economic benefits to the country and raise the community’s “standard of living”.
The furor it has created stupefied observers, revolted the directly affected as well as different stakeholders. The exchange of views, opinions and positions for or against the project spanned many years already. It has divided families, communities, and ostracized constituents from their governments while on ground zero, the unfolding of once feared scenarios into actual events and incidents is now happening. Noticeably, concrete responses and appropriate immediate interventions from supposed authorities is a gaping gap to date.  If any, drastic and insensitive measures that have only aggravated the situation from bad to worse.
We see the impact study on human rights as an essential element to pave the way for a more in-depth, properly informed and objective discussion of the issues at hand. It would do well for government to read it carefully and critically. It may well be an indictment of its conduct vis-a-vis human rights, indigenous peoples, environment and the stewardship of Creation.
The HRIA under the frame of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights is a valuable human rights tool to guide businesses in upholding respect for human rights in every step of their work process, and to establish effective remedies. Likewise to provide guidance for the state to protect human rights by effectively enforcing regulation and to draw attention from all stakeholders to uphold the primacy of human rights. It is so as the HRIA report on Tampakan Project clearly pointed out its actual and potential impacts in a given complex context of the human rights of the most vulnerable groups especially indigenous groups, farmers and irrigators.
Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), a subsidiary of the Philippines Glencore-Xstrata, has certainly made a study on the environmental and social impact of the effects on health according to the Philippine laws. However, none of the companies involved in the project has so far done an impact study on human rights in accordance with the Guidelines. The Philippine government has neither made nor requested the study, no more than the Swiss state has required the parent company to undertake one. This does not and cannot downplay the fact of the dire need for an independent HRIA.
The HRIA had delved into a context which is characterized by a combination of government failures, prevailing poverty, a high level of marginalization and discrimination against indigenous groups, especially in terms of basic services, and a generally volatile conflict situation.
It pointed out already existing and potential high risks to the human rights of vulnerable population should the project proceed, as the rights to an adequate and meaningful information and participation, livelihoods, health, education, culture, and the fundamental right to life, security, and liberty.
Against the backdrop of the key predicaments outlined by the HRIA as precarious to such a project, the conclusion that under such situation and existing conditions, “a responsible open-pit mine of this magnitude does not seem feasible” has only corroborated the earlier critique of the Tampakan Forum which was presented in a public forum organized by the Provincial local government of South Cotabato last September 23, 2011. The blatant disregard for fundamental human rights was also one of the key findings by the Tampakan Forum-led fact-finding solidarity mission last April 2012. These prior documents were made available to all the stakeholders for consideration and appropriate action but sadly it seemed it has been relegated to the background by the concerned government authorities, and has not been taken seriously if not altogether vehemently denied by SMI.
We have always reiterated that the Philippine state is the primary bearer of the responsibility for the fragile situation in the Tampakan area, while SMI and its mother company, Xstrata carry great responsibility.
This project will result in the expulsion of more than 5,000 indigenous people from their ancestral domain. It is located on a site of importance with regard to the supply of drinking water in the region. A site also threatened by earthquakes and by an active volcano. The mining company’s promise and assurance comes in the form of techno-fix mitigating measures to master all existing environmental risks.
From the outset, Tampakan Forum totally agreed with the SMI’s consultant engineers who determined that: “The Tampakan Mine has a high potential for loss of life and high environmental damage if the facilities fail” [page 42 Waste Management Report. Appendix A. SMI Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) 2011]. We totally disagree that Xstrata/Indophil/SMI can design the facilities to survive seismic activity and climate change including tropical cyclones forever.
The way mining has been done in the country for the past 50 years, render the fact that the state at the moment, does not have the institutional capability to evaluate and regulate mining. This presents a quandary on what constitutes “responsible” mining and how will it be measured and applied to specific situations.
Incoherent information and lack of meaningful participation, dependency of basic services on the future of the project,  imbalanced power relationship between SMI and affected  communities, insufficiency of established grievance mechanisms, accumulating grievances and triggers of violent conflict are predicaments that any good and responsible government will be hard put not to simply ignore. Its actual occurrence and manifestations right under the nose of a mining company that claims to be responsible speaks for itself the truth behind this venture that cannot be simply swept under the rug.
While we may agree with the principle that the business of mining and human rights can be possible in any other context, notwithstanding the key recommendations of the HRIA, it defies sane reasoning on why should the Philippines permit such a mine and carry the known and unknown risks and costs forever. The trade-offs far outweigh the temporary economic benefits being dangled by the mining company and its promoters and brokers in the government.
The HRIA on Tampakan only strengthens the resolve of the Tampakan Forum in pushing for the 10 point Human Rights Agenda in Mining which includes among others the calls to Respect, protect and fulfill IP Rights, to self determination (FPIC), Protect women human rights defenders and IP women in mining areas, protect our environment and right to safe sound and balance ecology, stop the killings of human rights defenders, stop displacement of rural folks, protect the rights to food, water, housing and access to means of subsistence, stop militarization and deployment of investment defense forces, justice for all victims of mining related HRVs and Stop development aggression.
Human Rights are fundamental to us as human beings. It is enshrined in international conventions and covenants. It is enshrined in our own constitution. It is embedded in our faith – Imago Dei – in the image and likeness of God. Human rights cannot be sacrificed in the name of ‘responsible mining’.
Even as we call on and address the HRIA recommendations to the present administration of President Benign Aquino Jr., the UK and Swiss governments and the mining companies SMI, Glencore-Xstrata and Indophil, the Tampakan Forum, renew our demand for the cancellation of the FTAA .The proposed Tampakan mine should not be allowed to proceed. *This is an official statement of the Tampakan Forum, a technical working group of several civil society organizations monitoring the Tampakan mining situation.
https://www.facebook.com/notes/philippine-misereor-partnership-inc/human-rights-should-take-precedence-and-it-cannot-be-sacrificed-in-the-name-of-r/682563195093560

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