Press Release
February 5, 2013

Privilege Speech of Sen. Serge Osmeña on Philex Mine Waste Spill


Ladies and Gentlemen, an increasing number of national and regional networks of concerned organizations have written to me, urging for the conduct of a senate inquiry into the massive mine waste spill at the mine site of Philex Mining Corporation in the province of Benguet.

You may recall that, on August 2012, the country witnessed a mine tailings leak of unprecedented proportion. In a letter of 26 September 2012 to Philex, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department Environment and Natural Resources found that the penstocks of the only operational mine-tailings pond or Pond "C" of Philex in Benguet had collapsed, causing the discharge of over 20.6 million metric tons of mine wastes that is about 20 times more than the infamous Marinduque Mining Disaster that left Boac River dead over a decade ago.

This huge discharge drained out to the Balog and Agno River systems, which provide the water requirements of San Roque Dam for agricultural irrigation and power generation while serving a number of municipalities in the province of Pangasinan, like San Manuel. The excess water from San Roque Dam drains into the Lingayen Gulf.

Yet, from the time it first happened in August 2012 up to the present, there are no clear government findings and ruling on the toxicity, accurate volume of total discharges, and, more importantly, their impact to the communities directly and indirectly affected [i.e. health, livelihood, etc.] by this massive spill.

Philex Mining Corporation refer to the findings by DENR-MGB as mere "allegations" and would rather rely on the findings of its own technical people, lawyers and consultants (GMA News, Oct. 2, 2012) and insists that the cause of the massive spill was force majeure which, it claims, exempts the company from fines imposed by DENR-MGB.

On the other hand, DENR-MGB says that the over 20 million metric tons of mine wastes discharged was computed as of 26 September 2013 while reports show that the leak was plugged only in November 2012. How many more millions of tons leaked in those 2 months?

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines specifically noted that "there were other accidents in this mining site including the collapse of a dam wall in 1992 due to a weakened foundation caused by an earthquake xxx. As it is, these mining accidents could not just be justified as "force majeure events"."

Mr. Dela Cruz of the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrukultura (MASIPAG) says "we strongly believe that this case should not be just laid to rest in computed monetary terms. This recent mining industry-created environmental and social havoc is more than what meets the eye of both the public, the stakeholders and our policy makers vis-à-vis state regulations, transparency, corporate responsibility and accountability."

Task Force Indigenous Peoples Rights (TFIP) also says "We also believes that the Senate needs to come up with recommendations regarding accountability of mining companies for their operations that cause irreparable damage on our rivers, mountains and the environment."

The appeals posited finds multi-sectoral support expressed to me in writing from the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), Gitib Inc., an alliance of IP organizations; Antique Human Development Program Inc. (AHDP), UNORKA Pilipinas, which are federations of farmers, landless farmworkers, and farm laborers organizations; Philippine Miserior Partnership, Inc. (PMP), a rural development network; Igorota Foundation Inc., an IP-Environment organization; Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT); Bishop Manguiran of the Diocese of Dipolog; Kalikasan Peoples Network for Environment (KALIKASAN PNE), a network of environmental organizations; KATRIBU, and indigenous peoples partylist; Shontoug Foundation, a rural development outreach organization, and the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (SIHM), a religious organization.

The Constitution makes it a clear responsibility of the State to protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature (Sec. 16, Art. II).

We owe it to our people, the country and ourselves to know the TRUTH about the massive leak, its impacts to the affected communities, the LGUs and our ecosystem.

Therefore, in the interest of TRANSPARENCY, FAIRNESS AND JUSTICE, I strongly and respectfully request that the appropriate committees of the Senate initiate proper INQUIRY, in aid of legislation, even while the Senate is on recess.

This effort will significantly inform and enable us to intelligently and effectively review, assess, modify or revise applicable laws, particularly the Mining Act of 1995 (RA 7942), among others, to make it more responsive to current challenges of the time.

Thank you.

News Latest News Feed