DH: In August last year, a mining delegation from the Philippines held business fora in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to promote mining investment opportunities in the Philippines. We were surprised to see the Department of Natural Environment and Resources (DENR) Secretary Mike Defensor heading the delegation.
JP: President Arroyo and the Philippine Government have really been promoting mining for the past two years as one of the country’s major industries. There is a lot of opposition to the new Mining Act. Everybody including the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines came out against it. Apparently the Catholic Bishops are practically the only people the government cares to listen to. After the Bishops’ statement came out, the government said they will re-evaluate the minerals policy and the Mining Act. And, there have been a few changes since last year’s Philippine Mining Road Show visited Australia.
Mike Defensor is now the Presidential Chief of Staff and President Arroyo has appointed Angelo Reyes as the new DENR Secretary. Reyes is ex-military. He had previously held various positions of power including Chief-of-Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines until January 2001. According to some analysts, he’s been appointed as head of the DENR to enforce the mining policy; being ex-military he could facilitate militarisation of the mining areas and ease the way for exploration. Others see him as someone who could enforce environmental policies. Neither Defensor nor Reyes know anything about managing the environment or natural resources. They are just doing as they are told, following orders. A week after Angelo Reyes was sworn to office, he went to South Africa and to Canada a month later to sell the Philippines for mining.
DH: And you told me earlier that you are no longer with Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth (FOE).
JP: That’s right. I work on my own now and I do my own research. The only campaign I brought with me since I left FOE is Didipio because the community there are also Cordillerans and my work now is focussed on the Cordillera mountains. The Didipio campaign is very important because it is the first FTAA (Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement) to be granted since the Supreme Court ruled in September 2004 that FTAAs are not in violation of the Philippine Constitution. Although Climax-Arimco won the case in the Supreme Court, the true test is if it ever becomes operational, it will be the key for other foreign mining companies to come into the Philippines and take what they want. The Didipio Dinkidi Project is 100% foreign owned. The old 60/40 Filipino/foreign ownership rule no longer applies under the new Mining Act.
DH: What’s the next legal step for the community’s protest campaign?
JP: Right now there’s a case pending in the Regional Court to cancel the mining company’s Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC). Climax-Arimco did not comply with the requirement to get local consent. In their first ECC application, they did not get the consent of the barangay as required. So they rewrote their Environmental Impact Assessment saying they would seek consent from the municipal government, but they were not able to get that consent either. As they have failed to get consent on two administrative levels, the DENR should cancel the ECC.
DH: Let us say the company somehow gets approval of its Environmental Impact Assessment and meets the compliance regulation, can the mining then go ahead?
JP: Yes, that is why I’d like a large focus of the campaign to be here in Australia - the stockholders are here and this is where the bulk of the funds come from. In the Philippines there is only so much we can do campaign-wise unless the government suddenly decides to revoke the mining contract. In fact if you look at the mining contract of Didipio, the company could be there for more than 100 years. The new mining law allows for that kind of extension as long as they keep finding new gold deposits. Also, the bank that is funding Climax is the ANZ (Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Limited).
DH: Would not a claim for recognition of the land as ancestral domain stop the mining operation?
JP: In theory it would because under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act  there’s a need for free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples concerned before any mining or even exploration can start. The problem is that lately the NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples) which is the responsible government commission, along with the Mining and Geosciences Bureau have been helping the mining companies get their certification of consent. And we notice that they don’t take “no” for an answer. The communities can say “no” a hundred times and they keep coming back to different community leaders until they say “yes” just once and that’s it.
DH: Has the Didipio community put in a claim for recognition of ancestral domain?
JP: The problem in Didipio is that the majority of the residents are Ifugaos who migrated into the Nueva Vizcaya valley and some went up into the Caraballo Mountains and settled. Didipio is one of the highest settlements in the Caraballo Mountains. Mostly they engaged in rice farming, the usual traditional Ifugao livelihood. For Ifugaos, land ownership is very defined. For instance, land is usually only passed on to the eldest and if the eldest wants to pass on to others, they can do that. But more often, land is not equally distributed so what happens is that some of the others either have to work for the eldest or get their own lands or move out to some other place to look for viable land for their livelihood.
DH: So, the Ifugaos cannot make an ancestral domain claim upon Didipio because it is not their ancestral domain. Is that what you are saying?
JP: Well sort of. The law is not too clear on this. Because they’ve been there for such a long time now they may be able to claim for ancestral domain, but the law is so vague that they may not be.
DH: And who are the original people of Didipio who were there before the Ifugaos came?
JP: The Ilongots – the hunter-gatherers of that area who were displaced by the Ifugao community. But now the Ilongots and the Ifugaos work together, especially on the mining issue.
DH: Then the Ilonggots could make a claim for their ancestral domain and a coalition of Ilongot and Ifugao peoples could prove to be quite a strong force. Is anything being worked out along this approach?
JP: Unfortunately nobody’s working on that because there are a myriad of groups involved in the Didipio issue. I suppose I’d like to see an ancestral domain claim being made, but the fact is that the dominant people in Didipio are the Ifugaos, not the Ilongots, so the Ifugaos control most of the community’s decisions. I could probably suggest this to them but I don’t know how the Ifugaos would react to having their lands declared as someone else’s ancestral domain and the mining company can just as easily use this as a point of conflict between the communities. That’s exactly what they’ve done in some areas. The mining companies go to some ancestral domain holders, who are not necessarily representative of the whole community, they get their consent and then use it as a basis for an application.
DH: Typical divide and rule tactics. Has it now reached the stage where the campaign has nowhere to go and that’s why you are here to promote it in Australia?
JP: Well, the campaign has some way to go yet in the Philippines. The investors have already put a large amount of money into the Dinkidi mine in Didipio. This is Climax Arimco’s only asset at the moment. They won’t let go of it very easily considering it’s the only thing they have as a prospect and it’s a very large gold deposit. There needs to be a campaigning base here in Australia starting with the Filipino community and the students at this conference. There’s an opportunity here that hasn’t been tapped. The stockholders are here. The company itself is based in Sydney. It would be good to start something here to help with the campaign in the Philippines.
DH: Could you go through the points of action you outlined in your presentation?
JP: These are the actions that can be taken here in Australia:
However, there is a new development that was just announced today. Climax-Arimco is going into partnership with one of the bigger mining corporations based in New Zealand. This might make campaigning more complex especially since Oceania has much more funds than Climax-Arimco.
DH: Evelyn Padua from BIBAK Qld.  also at the conference today. Evelyn, BIBAK members, friends and family had to work at a fast pace to raise the money for JP’s tickets from the Philippines and onward to Sydney and Melbourne.
EP: I’m very glad that even with the difficulty of fundraising we managed to get him over here so that he could present the case of Didipio and network with other people in similar situation. It’s an encouragement for JP when he goes back to the Philippines to tell the people over there not to give up and carry on the fight against the mining in Didipio and the other mining that’s happening in the Cordillera. He can say to them, “Look we are not the only ones that are doing this, so we’d better keep going.
DH: You are an Ifugao but you’re not from Didipio. How did you get involved?
EP: I got involved because the majority of the people in Didipio are Ifugaos. A lot of Ifugao people have settled around Nueva Vizcaya because it’s very close. Didipio is a neighbouring town to Ifugao.
DH: Were mining issues discussed at the International Igorot Consultation held in Melbourne in April this year?
EP: There was an overview of the mining operations and the ones that are being proposed around the Cordillera. Most of the discussion focused on the impact of mining - the disastrous effect upon the people who work in the mines and upon the people living in the mining areas. Some of the old mines have now closed because they are no longer economically viable, not producing enough profit.
The next IIC will be in 2008 in Banaue and there we can drum up more of the issues that concern the Indigenous people in the Cordillera and in the Philippines.
DH: Evelyn, JP — it’s a date!
1. Republic Act No. 8371, otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, protects the rights of indigenous peoples and created the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
2. BIBAK stands for Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao and Kalinga — the names of five areas in the Cordillera region of the island of Luzon.
1. Oxfam Australia, Mining Ombudsman, Didipio Case Summary
& 2003 full case notes are downloadable at
A full case investigation of Didipio will be published by Oxfam Australia in 2006.
2. Tauili-Corpuz, Victoria. Background & Guide on Engaging the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People, Tebtebba Foundation, Philippines, 2004, pp.85 87. [Download at http://www.tebtebba.org]
3. Gobrin, Gerado & Andin, Almira. Development Conflict: The Philippine Experience, Minority Rights Group International and KAMP, November 2002. [Download at http://www.minorityrights.org/ in English and Tagalog]
4. Investment Liberalization, RA 792 (Mining Act of 1995) and Its Impacts on Indigenous Peoples, Upland Communities and Rural Poor, and on the Environment: The Case of Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya and Manicani Island in Eastern Samar, Citizens Assessment of Structural Adjustment (CASA) Philippines, Thematic Group Workshop, c.2002. [Download at http://www.saprin.org/global_rpt.htm]
5. RA 8371, Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 and its implementing rules and regulations. [http://www.ncip.gov.ph/mandate/ipra.htm]
6. Climax Mining Limited: Dinkidi Project website at http://www.climaxmining.com.au/dinkidi_project.html
7. Santonico Ferrer, Catia-Isabel. Participatory Territorial Diagnostic as a Tool for the Analysis of Conflicts on Land and Natural Resources: The Case of Malabing Valley (Luzon, Philippines), Masters thesis in International Development and Cooperation, University of Pavia, 2003.
You can contact JP Alipio at the Cordillera Conservation Trust on this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org