Manila, The Philippines / 23 February 2017 – It is the position of TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD or “the Company”) that there exists no ground to validly cancel, terminate or suspend the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) between the government and the Company. There is neither violation of the terms of the MPSA nor of any law, rule or regulation that would merit its cancellation, termination or suspension.
Compliance with law
In light of the recent proclamation to rescind the MPSAs of 75 mining companies on the basis of their projects being located in “functional watersheds,” including TVIRD’s Balabag Gold-Silver Project (the “Project”) in Bayog Municipality, Zamboanga del Sur Province, the Company would like to highlight the following truths in relation to perceived issues of non-compliance:
Section 19 of Republic Act 7942 (or the Philippine Mining Act) provides that mining permit applications shall not be allowed in “proclaimed watershed forest reserves,” thus preventing the issuance of mining permits in these areas. In line with this, the Balabag Project is not located within the vicinity of any lake, spring or tributary enumerated in the country’s list of proclaimed watershed forest reserves or any critical watershed that are included in the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) and National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).
Further to the assertion that DENR’s review of the said MPSA “shows that the contract area is within a watershed, such that in case mining operation will be pursued therein, said operation, given its extractive and disruptive nature, is likely to cause impairment of the ecological functions of that watershed,” the agency neither specified which particular watershed may be subject to the impairment of ecological functions nor did it indicate what particular functions are being referenced. For the lack of study or facts more substantial references to offer than the phrase “likely to cause impairment,” TVIRD deems the cancellation of the MPSA to have no merit.
The entire land mass of the Philippines is covered by watersheds and all environmental professionals are aware that any project regardless of its kind and location throughout the country is within a watershed. Agricultural projects, water supply dams, hydropower projects and urban development are just a few activities that have significant impacts on the watershed environment and certainly impair the ecological functions of watersheds. Some even more so than mining projects. However, many of these projects have moved forward despite a clear “likely impairment” of the ecological functions of the associated watersheds.
By virtue of its MPSA, TVIRD was among the mining companies invited by government to invest in Philippine mining projects and signed contracts with them as partners in mineral resource development. On this basis, TVIRD invested in the development of Balabag and established environmental and social programs for the overall sustainability of its surrounding communities, including the indigenous Subanens. As of December 2016, TVIRD invested in excess of Php1.5 billion on advancing the Balabag project (located within the Balabag MPSA) while head office costs, management time, maintenance expenditures and necessary Capex to bring the Project on-stream will easily bring investments to approximately Php3.0 billion.
By entering into these contracts (MPSAs), both government and the Company are bound to operate in the spirit of fairness and due process. In the case of violations, the law provides for a procedure that includes the filing of appropriate cases and invoking the arbitration clause of the mining agreements. The law further provides that such decisions should be based on reviews conducted by the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
It was only on 17 February 2017 that TVIRD received from the DENR the show cause letter dated 13 February 2017.
“It is on this basis that TVIRD vehemently assails in the strongest terms the arbitrary decision of the DENR to cancel its Balabag MPSA and the complete absence of respect for the sanctity of contracts entered into by both parties for their common development,” said TVIRD President Atty. Eugene T. Mateo.
“Moreover, as TVIRD stands on the threshold of operating in Balabag, who then will sustain the development already put in place – and on which the Company, the LGU and the communities’ common progress hinges?” he added.
The spirit of social justice
“TVIRD believes that social justice is not mutually exclusive to a single entity, organization or agency. But rather, it is the humanization of laws and the equalization of social and economic forces so that justice may be delivered – a principle that the Company has espoused in protecting its communities’ inalienable rights and indigenous cultures, and the equitable distribution of resources,” Operations Vice President Jake Foronda explained.
“As part of the process of acquiring an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), TVIRD underwent a thorough Environmental Impact Assessment that addresses concerns over mines contaminating watersheds and affecting rivers by including infrastructures as part of progressive mine rehabilitation, a tailings storage facility and implementing various water treatment processes,” Foronda continued, citing further that there are no government-proclaimed watersheds within the Balabag MPSA and that every aspect of the project was compliant with all existing DENR regulations.