Under-Mining the Power of Communities

The Politics of Mining and Local Community in the Philippines

Master's Thesis 2006 115 Pages

Pedagogy - Science, Theory, Anthropology



Environmentally critical projects such as mining remain a controversial and divisive issue in mineral-rich communities. Arguably, mining projects bring jobs, revenues to local governments, cash income, and various development projects, such as electrification, paved roads, schools with free or subsidized education, chapels, water system, and other livelihood programs. In many instances, these benefits are very enticing and attractive to locals. However, scientific studies and objective data on mining operations in various communities have found out that mining also brings adverse effects and negative impacts on locals and the environment, such as displacement from homes and traditional livelihoods, dependence on cash income and incursion into their value system leading to consumerism, health problems caused by exposure to toxic materials, siltation of waterways, deforestation, loss of productive land, and pollution of marine environments (Coumans, 1999; Florentino-Hofileña, 1996; McAndrew, 1983; Regis, 2001; Tujan & Guzman, 1998). Environmental advocacy campaigns of both pro- and anti-mining communicate these mining benefits and costs to the locals to convince them either to accept the mining project or join the struggle against the mining project. Given these two scenarios, how do locals decide when a mining project is presented in their community? How do they participate in the decision-making that impact on their economic, political and socio-cultural standing? What influences their participation in decision-making and their decision?

The locals of Rapu-Rapu Island were in that situation in 2001 when a mining project was seeking social acceptability from the local communities. This study revisited their decision and explained why they decided that way. It also took into account the crucial contexts of the decision-making of the locals.

Background of the Study

Since the Brundtland Report of 1987 and the Rio Summit of 1992 on environment and development, “sustainable development” has become the buzzword and rhetoric of development planning and intervention. The basic principle of sustainable development is meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising those of the future generation, thus improving people’s quality of life. The environment is now given a greater role, consideration, and attention in the development paradigm.

Countries have aligned their development plans with the sustainable development framework. The Philippines is no exception. In fact, the Philippine Agenda 21 (PA 21), the blueprint guide for sustainable development which resulted from the Summit, articulates this premise as it:

envisions a better quality of life for all Filipinos through the development of a just, moral, creative, spiritual, economically vibrant, caring, diverse yet cohesive society characterized by appropriate productivity, participatory and democratic processes, and living in harmony and within the limits of the carrying capacity of nature and the integrity of creation.

PA 21 had an eminent influence on the national and local policymaking and policy direction initiatives which deal with the conservation and preservation of the environment and country’s quest toward sustainable development.

As concrete steps toward that quest, several landmark legislations were enacted into laws such as the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992, Mining Act of 1995, and Clean Air Act of 1999.

Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and Mining Industry

Recognized as a mineral-rich country, the Philippines was said to be underperforming in the mineral production. The Mining Act of 1995 was enacted to stimulate the competitiveness, productivity and appeal of the country from domestic to international investors and companies. Hence, there were hundreds of mining exploration applications all over the country from both local and foreign companies.

The new law also sought to address the past mining issues, such as lack of revenue-sharing of local governments, social and environmental obligations of mining companies, consultation and participation in decision-making of locals including indigenous peoples, and ownership of mining operations. It was hailed by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, while it was opposed by environmentalist groups and the Catholic Church.

Then, just a year after its enactment into law, the Marinduque incident happened. The Marcopper Mining Corporation, with the Canadian- Placer Dome as its biggest investor, spilled millions of tons of mine tailings into the Boac River and into the Calancan Bay in central Philippines. This rendered the river biologically dead and affected the livelihood of thousands of locals who eked out a living from it. The incident generated pessimistic perception and negative image of the mining industry and new law. But the Marinduque incident did not stop the Philippine government from pursuing foreign investments, particularly transnational mining corporations, in the effort to revive the moribund mining industry.

Many recognize that the mining industry vitally contributes to the foreign exchange value and Gross National Product (GNP) of a country. Parallel with the government’s major promotion of mining in the country to foreign investors despite the Marinduque incident and other environmental catastrophes, such as the Ormoc flashflood in Leyte in 1991 and Sipalay tailings spillage in Negros Occidental in 1982, the rise of environmentalism, or concern for the environment, especially of anti-mining groups is rising with popular support. While the government takes pride in the new Mining Act as pro-environment and pro-people, concerned environmentalist groups who hardly ever see the new Mining Act as such call for its repeal due to its permission of 100 percent foreign ownership for large-scale exploration, utilization and development of mineral resources. Normally, these environmentalist groups find support and sympathy from the locals, whose interests will be compromised by planned or ongoing environmentally critical projects in their area.

Because the mining industry is often blamed for many catastrophic environmental mishaps, and sustainable development is being widely accepted as an alternative to other development paradigms, the ironic “sustainable mining” is introduced predictably to counter the negative perception of the public toward mining as extractive and therefore destructive. The Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) revised the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Mining Act (RA 7942) to project mining as pro-people and pro-environment in

. . . sustaining wealth creation and improved quality of life under the following principles: (a) That mining is a temporary land use for the creation of wealth, leading to an optimum land use in the post mining stage as a consequence of progressive and engineered mine rehabilitation works done in cycle with the mining operations; (b) That mining activities must always be guided by current best practices in environmental management committed to reducing the impacts of mining while effectively and efficiently protecting the environment. (Department Administrative Order [DAO] 96-40)

Environmentalist groups feel that the two principles espoused by DAO 96-40 to meet the standards of sustainable mining have yet to be practiced. Operationalizing sustainable mining is still dependent in the implementation of DENR’s order and actual compliance of the mining companies. Assuming that these mining companies initiate changes toward sustainable mining, the issues do not end there. Social issues, such as displacement of the locals and their livelihood, labor problems, health concerns, and resource control among others must be addressed too (Ballesteros 1997; Tujan and Guzman 1998; McAndrew 1983; Corpuz 1999).

Decision from the Top

According to a press release issued by DENR in July 2001 and posted on its website, then Secretary Heherson Alvarez issued contrasting decisions on two mining projects--it revoked its Mineral Production and Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with Aglubang Mining Corporation in Victoria, Oriental Mindoro, while it granted an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) to Lafayette Philippines, Inc. (LPI), now known as Rapu-Rapu Minerals Inc. (RRMI).[1] According to then Secretary Alvarez, the first decision was due to the following reasons: the area covered is within the critical Mag-Asawang Tubig watershed; there is strong opposition from local government units (LGUs), nongovernment organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations (POs), and indigenous peoples (IPs); the area cuts across two active fault lines, Aglubang fault line and Central Mindoro fault lines; environmental issues, such as siltation, erosion, flooding, and other impact on biodiversity, had not been resolved; and the area is claimed by several Mangyan tribes as their ancestral domain. Secretary Alvarez, explaining his decisions, says, “The decision we make here today shows that while we are responsibly protecting and conserving the environment, we also take cognizance of the fact that we need to create wealth especially that which comes from the bowels of the earth. These are well-studied decisions, arrived at only after extensive reviews of both mining projects.”

Action and Reaction on the Ground

Although both projects faced stiff resistance and opposition from organized local and national environmentalist groups, there was stronger and wider resistance in Mindoro because of the local government’s active involvement in the resistance, which was absent in the Rapu-Rapu campaign.

Resistance and opposition to mining are not uncommon in the Philippines. For example, an opposition to large-scale mining was manifested by the Subanen in Western Mindanao when they demanded to revoke the exploration permit of the Cozinc Rio Tinto Ltd. of Australia (CRA), a subsidiary of Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ) of Brazil (Tujan and Guzman 1998, 178). In Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, small-scale miners barricaded the mining area of the Canadian Toronto Ventures, Inc. (TVI) to stop its operations (ibid., 162-163). Barricade was also put up by the locals of Itogon, Benguet when they protested the open-pit mining project of Benguet Corporation which resulted to a suspension of the project operation in the area (Caballero 2001, 176). Similar popular protests against large-scale mining were witnessed by the public in various parts of the country, such as Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya and Tuba in Benguet, where mining companies were planning to operate. However, the most controversial resistance was by the La Bugal-B’laan Tribal Association, Inc., of Tampakan, South Cotabato, which brought the case to the Philippine Supreme Court. This resulted in two differing resolutions. On 27 January 2004, the Court declared unconstitutional certain provisions of the Mining Act (RA 7942), such as allowing foreign-owned mining companies to operate in the exploration, development and utilization of the country’s mineral resources, and the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) between the Philippine Government and Western Mining Corporation Philippines (WMCP). Then, in a complete turnaround, the Court issued a 246-page resolution on 1 December 2004, upholding the constitutionality of RA 7942 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR). In the same resolution, however, certain provisions in the FTAA between government and WMCP were found “grossly disadvantageous to the government.”

The ECC issued to the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project serves as license to proceed with the full-scale mining operation after satisfactory findings were obtained at the exploration stage of the project applicant/proponent and full compliance with the requirements set by the law was noted. The ECC refers to the document issued by the Secretary or the Regional Executive Director certifying that based on the representations of the proponent and the preparers (the proponent’s technical staff or the competent professional group commissioned by the proponent to prepare the Environmental Impact Statement [EIS][2] and other related documents), as reviewed and validated by the Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee (EIARC), the proposed project or undertaking will not cause a significant negative environmental impact; that the proponent has complied with all the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment System; and that the proponent is committed to implement its approved Environmental Management Plan in the EIS or mitigation measures in the Initial Environmental Examination. (DENR Administrative Order No. 96-40, series of 1996)

Based on Presidential Decree No. 1586, or the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System, and DENR Administrative Order 96-37, which rationalizes the EIS implementation process, EIS evaluation is done by consulting affected locals through public hearings. This is the time for the opposing groups to air their concerns on and points for or against the planned environmentally critical project. This consultation mechanism ascertains the social acceptability of the project among locals, which is one of the prerequisites for the awarding of an ECC. Two public hearings were conducted on the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project; the first was on 2 June 2000 in Legazpi City by the Senate Committee on Environment, chaired by then Senator Robert Jaworski, and the second was on 15 December 2000 by the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Review Committee. To bolster social acceptability, the local government units (LGUs) endorsed the mining project[3] at the provincial, municipal, and especially the barangay levels in the direct impact areas, such as Malobago, Pagcolbon, and Binosawan.

After an announcement made by DENR on the issuance of an ECC to Lafayette Philippines, Inc., then Senator Robert Jaworski wrote a letter to Sec. Alvarez dated 20 August 2001, calling his attention to Committee Report No. 659, which he and other senators filed in the House of Senate, recommending nonissuance of an ECC to the mining company due to the fragility of Rapu-Rapu, being a small island. The letter states that, “Activities as destructive as mining may not sit well with the natural character of such an environment.”

Rapu-Rapu Island in Brief

Found to be rich in mineral resources, Rapu-Rapu Island, the research site, has been a popular mining area. Since the Japanese occupation (1942-45), this 5,589-hectare (ha) island has been the site of mining operations under the Japanese Imperial Army. Then, Hixbar Mining Company’s operations, having been disrupted by war, took over after the war and mined Barangay Sta. Barbara until the late 1970s. Located north of Lagonoy Gulf, southwest of the Pacific Ocean, and east of Albay Gulf, the island is part of a relatively poor fourth-class municipality, Rapu-Rapu. The other two islands that compose the municipality of Rapu-Rapu are Batan and Guinanayan. Although the island is situated along the so-called typhoon belt or path, the primary means of livelihood of the people are farming and fishing, as in any other rural poor areas.

Social Acceptability of Mining Project

In granting the ECC, DENR was convinced that the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project of Lafayette was able to muster necessary and sufficient support from locals, including the Taboys who established their dwelling in Sitio Lagsingan, Barangay Poblacion, and are believed to be indigenous peoples (IPs) by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and LGUs. As far as DENR was concerned, the majority of the locals welcomed the project into their island, except those affiliated with Sagip-Isla Sagip-Kapwa, Inc. (SSI), a peoples organization composed of Rapu-Rapu residents that actively campaigned against mining the island. The SSI, established through the initiatives of Sta. Florentina Parish of Rapu-Rapu was supported by various religious congregations headed by Bishop Jose C. Sorra of Legazpi City, such as the Redemptorists, the Legazpi Association of Religious (LAR), and the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT). It is also backed by various cause-oriented groups and the three major universities in the Bicol Region, namely, Ateneo de Naga University, Bicol University, and Aquinas University. In fact, Ateneo de Naga’s Institute of Environment Conservation and Research (INECAR) conducted a significant research, of which the results were made the scientific basis for the anti-mining advocacy in Rapu-Rapu Island.

Despite the support of these institutions for the anti-mining campaign, the majority of the locals were found inclined to favor the implementation of the mining project in their island. This was evident at the Senate Committee on Environment’s public hearing in 2000, during which the anti- and pro-mining groups converged. A large part of the audience belonged to the pro-mining group but the anti-mining group suspected that the attendance of the large crowd at the public hearing was “bought and paid.” It was even rumored that the mining company hired some of the barangay officials to facilitate the entry and social acceptability of the mining project among the locals.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Mining to Communities

The key benefit that the mining industry can offer to the country and the locals is the contribution to foreign exchange earnings through mineral exports, revenues, and employment (Tujan and Guzman 1998, 119). Stokes (cited in Ballesteros 1997, 26) opines that mining gives jobs to communities where there is little economic activity, and helps in upgrading people’s skills, thus resulting in their increased earning power. Spin-off industries from the mining operations generate additional jobs aside from the direct jobs in the mining industry which provide the locals with a steady income.

However, Evans et al. (2002, xiii) enumerate the adverse effects of large-scale mining projects in local communities.

The social, environmental and economic consequences of large-scale mining projects can be enormous, and can include the loss of productive and culturally significant land, destruction of environmental systems through the pollution of land, riverine and marine environments, deforestation of sensitive, biologically rich zones, displacement of people, dependence on marginal employment, and destruction of local political structures and value systems leading to increase in alcoholism, domestic violence, child abuse and consumerism.

Was the decision made by locals on mining due to the inadequate information dissemination and education on the incompatible relationship between mining and environment among the locals? The SSI would contest this observation because it was already opposing the mining exploration activities of Lafayette beginning in 1999 and had been organizing the locals to go against the planned mining operation. Or was it possible that the locals really thought they would benefit from mining, contrary to the accusations pressed by environmentalists that only the mining company would benefit from the project? Or was it a case of economic outweighing environmental considerations, particularly the locals’ desire to access resources aside from cash income? How could their decision on mining be understood if the decision came at a time when widespread and popular opposition and resistance to mining was being waged by other locals, as exemplified by the people of Mindoro, Itogon in Benguet, Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte, and the Subanen of Western Mindanao, and if mining was reported to bring destruction and damage to their island from which they obtain their living?

Mining issues in the community

Scientific studies and objective data on mining operations have found to bring ill effects and negative impact on locals and the environment.[4] Adverse effects of large-scale mining, such as displacement of locals from their homes and traditional livelihoods, siltation of waterways, deforestation, dependence on cash income and incursion into their value system leading to consumerism, loss of productive land, pollution of marine environments, and health problems caused by exposure to toxic materials, among other things, were communicated to the locals through the advocacy efforts of the SSI movement. The major issue here is the inevitable displacement of traditional livelihood, such as farming and fishing, in lieu of provisional mining jobs. Assuming that the mining project will hire locals, these people who are farmers and fisherfolks will then be working in the mine, which, in turn, will allegedly bring environmental damage to the island from which they source their living. Also, the mining project requires a vast tract of land,[5] so locals occupying and farming that land will have to be relocated.[6]

So, why did locals decide in favor of the mining project in Rapu-Rapu in spite of the displacement and alleged damage it would cause, unlike how other locals in Mindoro, Itogon in Benguet, and Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte contended against the mining projects in their respective areas?

Significance of the study

The study hopes to contribute to the field of human ecology, which helps increase our understanding of the relationship between humans and their environment. It examines how physical, political, economic, and sociocultural contexts influence the decision made by locals who, in turn, engage those various contexts. It also investigates the dynamics of their decision-making when their approval or consent is sought, knowledge of which is useful for organizations or agencies involved in policymaking and project planning. Moreover, since it shows how locals make decisions on an environmentally critical project like mining, as well as their considerations for making such decisions, the study can generate findings useful for the implementation of participatory methods in development and research. It can likewise enrich the literature on advocacy campaigns, as it presents how locals perceive and support advocacy agenda which they regard as sensitive and responsive to their realities.


The case of locals of Rapu-Rapu Island is not new. There have been previous decisions of locals with regard to mining projects in the Philippines.

Decision making by individuals and groups is an important study area in social research. For this reason, different authors employed various definitions of decision: “[a] choice between alternatives,” “a choice among several modes of actions,” “selection of a proposed action to solve the problem,” and “agreement to proposals,” among others (Hofsteede 1971, 21-22). Skinner (2001, 11) defines decision as a “conscious, irrevocable allocation of resources with the purpose of achieving a desired objective.” For the purpose of this study, however, decision is an action or inaction, i.e., whether or not to accept a large-scale mining project.

While not necessarily referring to mining projects, Hofsteede (1971) finds that the participation, nonparticipation, and extent of the role of village leaders can make a difference in the village members’ decision making, implementation, evaluation, and aspiration to participate in community projects. These include such activities as building community halls and constructing or repairing irrigation canals, bridges, and small dams.

For political decision, the focus group discussions (FGDs) conducted by the Institute of Philippine Culture, Ateneo de Manila University to determine the worldview of the voting poor (composed of rural and urban residents) indicated the locals’ influences in choosing a candidate, from the most influential to the least. They include the media, family, church, political parties, self-reflection, surveys, academe/school, organization/ affiliation, and celebrity endorsers (IPC 2005). The IPC report identifies the external factors in decision making and the extent to which these can influence the voting decisions of the poor.

In the study by Blolong (1996), the locals took into account the season for economic decision particularly fishing and farming time. The livelihood (fishing and farming) of the Ibatan had been limited only to typhoon-free periods and timed according to the typhoon cycle, being located in Batanes, a typhoon belt area.

Decisions of locals

Resurreccion and Sajor (1998, 28) note that “local people make decisions based on their own knowledge of resources” and their ambivalent positions on environmentally critical projects, such as mining and logging. The locals either resist, support, or have no stand at all on these kinds of projects, and are often caught in the web of politics and power relations among social actors. Therefore, it is “important to unravel the multiple dimensions of power in such encounters to show how local people--the ‘victims’--are able to cope with and assert themselves in the contestation” (ibid., 40).

One relevant case is that of the B’laan in Tampakan, South Cotabato, and the Australian-based Western Mining Corporation (WMC), which explored 99,387 hectares (ha) of land encompassing the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Davao del Sur, and Saranggani in 1996. The mining project disturbed the balance of local politics in Tampakan, as the municipal mayor, who was a mining operator at the same time, tried to hold on to power and his slumping small-scale mining enterprise. Meanwhile, the former mayor, a political and business rival of the incumbent mayor, contracted an agreement with the mining company, WMC, regarding mining rights in the area. The mayor, who felt that the project was not transparent since there was no consent of local officials, was irked at the agreement and issued a stoppage order for the mining operation, making it difficult for WMC to operate in his jurisdiction. Eventually, by WMC’s request, the mayor lifted the stoppage order. Since then, WMC has been careful not to antagonize the opposing sides of local power (Florentino-Hofileña 1996, 104-109).

The mining debate is oftentimes known in the national level through national newspapers where the government and mining companies sign memorandum of agreements for mining investments while communities, local church, non-government organizations (NGOs) and sometimes, politicians wage their opposition against the planned mining project. These contrasting scenes manifest the depth and width of the issues confronting the mining industry and local communities. While the government attracts and welcomes mining investments, various sectors of society openly oppose them. Many literatures describe the resistance exerted by these groups against mining. There is a seeming mistrust by these groups on the government’s capability to enforce environmental laws and on the mining companies’ sincerity and accountability.

In Marinduque, Catherine Coumans (1995) writes about the struggle of the local Catholic church, together with some locals, NGOs, and astute politicians against Marcopper Mining Corporation, partly owned by the Canadian company Placer Dome, Inc. She takes account of the ideology of the struggle, the social movement organization which is Basic Christian Community – Community Organizing (BCC-CO), and the patronage among locals.

Another story of resistance by locals and NGOs against large-scale mining which successfully stopped the mining exploration was that in Itogon, Benguet, in 1991, when the people of Dalicno barricaded part of Benguet Corporation’s exploration area. Then, they voiced out to then DENR Secretary Fulgencio Factoran the community’s environmental concerns, such as decrease in water supply and destruction of livelihood (i.e., traditional small-scale mining), including the discovery of archaeological sites in the Dalicno area by archeologists of the National Museum. An investigation followed, resulting in the suspension of Benguet Corporation’s operations in the area (Caballero 2001, 176).

Jessica Cariño (1992) also investigated the resistance of the locals with some assistance from the NGOs in Itogon, Benguet against the open-pit mining project by the Benguet Corporation which started mining the area in 1903 using underground or tunnel-type mining. The open-pit project was just an expansion of the existing mining operation called Antamok Gold Project (AGP). She found out that the opposition which was from the locals mostly composed of small-scale miners in the area “was based on the perceived adverse effects of open-pit mining on the people’s ancestral land rights, livelihood, environment and culture” (ibid. 1992, 5). There was an organization named Timpuyog Daguiti ti Itogon (TDUI), or Union of the People of Itogon that conducted protest rallies, barricades, pickets, and marches against the open-pit mining operation. These activities were done by the locals “on their own initiative, with minimal prodding or support from the outside” (ibid. 1992, 13).

In Palawan, Yasmin Arquiza (1997) talks about the opposition of two tribes to mining projects while the province’s top officials including the governor and two congressmen have favored the projects. The Pala’wan tribe of Española town expressed their hostility on the cement project with mining of limestone and shale of Fenway Resources Ltd. of Canada and Central Palawan Mining and Industrial Corporation. According to Pala’wan leader, Tito Mata, in Pala’wan culture, “ a man is nothing if he cannot feed his wife and children. Food, and the land where it comes from, are more precious than gold” (ibid. 1997, 63). Meanwhile, the Tagbanua of Berong, Quezon town were threatened by the planned Nickel mine project of Filipino-owned Long Point and Stellar Gold Corporation of Canada. In the survey commissioned by the mining company, less than half of the residents showed support for the project. But the mining company was backed by the Ilongo councilmen of the barangay. The barangay became divided because of the project.

Divided communities

Division among the local residents faced with a mining project has been common phenomena. In Sablayan, Mindoro, the Mindoro Nickel Project of Mindex was endorsed by a Mangyan group, the Lupang Ninuno Kabilogan Mangyan, Inc. (LNKMI) which gave its Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) while the provincial federation of Mangyan, the Kalipunan Para sa Lupaing Ninuno questioned the endorsement of LNKMI which was “a newly organized group with questionable credibility, with most members employed by Mindex” (Environmental Science for Social Change – Bishops Businessmen Conference 1999, 81).

To show the bifurcated stance of locals on mining, the book, Mining Revisited: Can an Understanding of Perspectives Help?, presents communities which are pro- and anti-mining.

It may also happen that community members will be totally in favor of a new development in their area. They are convinced that this is the best way to go and see the mining operation as a golden opportunity to develop their community. With mining investments comes schools, health services, roads, electricity, jobs, a chance to better themselves. This type of community that wholeheartedly welcomes the mining company is also the exception (Environmental Science for Social Change – Bishops Businessmen Conference 1999, 85).

A case in point is Sitio Padcal, Camp 3 in Tuba, Benguet. Philex Mining Corporation has been credited for doing improvements and social services for the community. Interestingly, a neighbor community of Camp 3 in Tuba, Benguet is against the expansion of Philex to its area. Upon hearing that Philex planned to expand its operation into their area, barangay Ansagan council made a resolution opposing any mining activity in their area. They feared that mining activity would dry up their water sources which supplied their irrigated farms.

A united community is hard to maintain in the face of a mining project. In Mainit, Mt. Province, the locals strongly opposed any mining activity in their area in the 1930s. Newcrest Exploration Philippines, Inc. signified to explore the area and there were some locals who were amendable with it.

In the round of consultations with indigenous peoples in 1997 prior to Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), IP groups stated that “it is possible for an entire community to have one opinion and be united on one position on issues affecting them. An entire community can agree and settle on a position of unity” (ibid. 33). In the end, however, “decisions from the communities will always be determined by how much of the burden of their daily survival can be eased. There can be no other decision from the community but that which extends their human lives further” (ibid. 33).

The present study looks at the decision of the locals in the physical, political, economic, and socio-cultural contexts. Unlike the studies of Caballero (2001), Cariño (1992), Arquiza (1997) and ESSC-BBC (1999), the locals in Rapu-Rapu are not small-scale miners nor indigenous peoples but fishers and farmers. For the locals of Rapu-Rapu, there is no direct competition from Lafayette for the marine resources. In contrast with the small- scale miners, the mining companies in Itogon, Benguet and Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte are in direct competition with locals for mineral resources. Although the study would look into the resistance, it would not delve into the ideology that drives the struggle unlike the study of Coumans (1995). In other cases where resistance successfully stopped mining operations, this study would investigate why the resistance put up by SSI was not successful compared to the resistance of other locals in Itogon, Benguet, and Sablayan, Mindoro. Since many studies are about the resistance of the locals, less is written about the acceptance of locals of environmentally critical projects such as mining. This study hopes to contribute on the understanding of locals’ decision to accept mining projects.

Human ecology

To better understand the decision or action of an individual or group of people is to study that person or group in relationship with his/her or their environment. The biological discipline of ecology provides an insightful frame of analysis for the functional relationships between humans and nature (Geertz 1970). According to Sutton (2004, 2), however, human ecology is more specific, “being the study of the relationships and interactions between humans, their biology, their cultures, and their physical environments.” He dichotomizes the broad field of human ecology into two major subdivisions: human biological ecology, or adaptation through biological means; and cultural ecology, or adaptation through cultural means. In addition, Leatherman and Thomas (2001, 114) introduce “an emerging human ecology defined not only to include adaptations to the natural environment, but to sociocultural conditions as well.” There is a recent development in human ecology, says Sutton (2004, 24), which is “the rapid spread of political ecology.” He explains that “political ecology is concerned with the day-to-day conflicts, alliances, and negotiations that ultimately result in some sort of definitive behavior” (ibid.). It pertains to politics and power over resource use, privileging the role of politics and power in environmental issues cutting across global to local arenas. However, Sutton argues that a major drawback of the political ecology approach is that “it discredits local people and all their incredible accomplishments by labeling them as ‘mere victims’” (ibid., 25). With this view, Vayda and Walters (1999 cited in Sutton 2004, 25), are led to suggest that the approach be dropped and “a holistic, event-centered ecology be upheld.” Besides, political ecology may not account for the distinctly and peculiarly ecological characteristics of the environment, as in the case of Rapu-Rapu. Nonetheless, Sutton (2004, 25) notes the broadening of the view of political ecology by going beyond politics and bringing back biology and culture into the picture. He cites the Journal of Political Ecology as an example of this development. There is a return to the wide scope of human ecology, which deals with biology and culture as a means of adaptation.

This was a significant progress in human ecology, which, for a long time, had provided explanations for specific aspects of human behavior in small-scale and simple communities which shared some features of the social organization of animal population, but had also shown problems in dealing with ideational elements of human organization and with complex societies (Hutterer and Rambo 1985, 2). While actions or decisions related to survival functions and material needs of humans and some organisms, such as food, shelter, and reproduction, are comparable, there are ways in which actions or decisions of humans differ from those of other organisms. Two of these are related to the concepts of adaptive behavioral process, involving decision making and choice (Bennett 1976, 166) and cultural values. In Adaptive Dynamics, Bennett (ibid.) highlights the element central to this study--the role of human choice or decision.

Adaptive dynamics in human ecology, states Bennett, refers to the “behavior designed to attain goals and satisfy needs and wants, and the consequences of this behavior for individual, the society, and the environment” (ibid., 270). This behavior can be viewed at two levels of analysis; one, microsocial--looking at the behavior “in specific contexts of purpose (innovative, manipulative, coping, etc.) . . . depending upon the sanctioning values,” and two, macrosocial--locating the meaning of the behavior in the social systems (ibid., 271). Adaptive behavior referring to both “active and passive aspects of purposive behavior of humans in systems” can be understood by using the concept of culture, which commonly pertains to a “set of values, precedents, models, or styles (cognitive maps), which the individual can choose in order to guide his decisions and actions either on the basis of conscious choice, or unconsciously as the result of conditioning received in socialization” (ibid., 272-273).

This concept of adaptive dynamics conforms to the definition and under-standing of Sutton (2004) and Leatherman and Thomas (2001) about human ecology when they talk about adaptation to the environment.

Since the concept of environment has broadened to include the social, economic, and physical (Leatherman and Thomas 2001, 115) and (McAndrew 1983, 11) or, in another conception, it can be lumped into two kinds of environment--the biophysical, and the social-political-economic (Hawley 1998, 11), the understanding of human action can be gleaned from the physical, political, economic, and sociocultural contexts of the environment. Sutton (2004, 8) points out that these contexts and their conditions are dynamic, meaning, they change and vary in both time and space.

Connecting cultural values and human ecology, Hutterer and Rambo (1985, 5) define values as mental constructs which are the immediate bases of human action, and further explain that values “enable humans to execute comparative assessments of the state of the world with regard to certain qualities; i.e., things, actions, ideas, and so forth are assessed to be more or less good, true, ethical, pleasant, or beautiful.”


Values, as defined by Jocano (1997, 16), “are made up of assumptions and beliefs which our culture endorses as appropriate bases for responses to events, facts, and states.” Alternatively, Lynch (1973, 5) mentions values as “standards used in the making of a decision.” Here, values become essential in explaining a group or collective action, such as the decision of the locals on mining. In this study, two types of values are tackled: values attributed to others and values attributed to nature.

Many of the previous studies have focused on Filipino values attributed to others.[7] Examples are the fourth edition of Four Readings on Philippine Values, by the Institute of Philippine Culture, Ateneo de Manila University, Social Acceptance Reconsidered, by Frank Lynch, S.J., and Reciprocity in the Lowland Philippines, by Mary Hollnsteiner. In the latter two works, the discussion on pakikisama (getting along with others) and utang na loob (debt of gratitude), respectively, are of great significance to this study. This study, however, does not assume that the Tagalog terms “pakikisama” and “utang na loob” are similar to their translated terms in Bikol, “pakikiiba” and “utang na boot.” Although Lynch’s literative incorporating various surveys and studies on social acceptance, including pakikisama, is national in scope, he still uses the Tagalog term.

Social acceptance, according to Lynch, “is enjoyed when one is taken by one’s fellows for what he is, or believes he is, and is treated in accordance with his status” (1973, 8). This is the highest aim and goal of people in the lowland Philippines, followed by economic security, or the ability to meet material needs, and social mobility, or the movement to a higher class. Lynch cites numerous studies[8] highlighting thematic social acceptance as highly valued by the rural people, lower class, poorly educated, traditional, employed, and males (ibid., 48), who somehow correspond to the profile of Rapu-Rapu’s locals. Facilitating social acceptance are two intermediate values: smooth interpersonal relations (SIR), which “may be defined as a facility at getting along with others in such a way as to avoid outward signs of conflict” (ibid., 10), and sensitivity to personal affront (often called amor propio). SIR can be gained and maintained by pakikisama (concession), euphemism, and the use of a go-between. Pakikisama, or concession, refers to the “lauded practice of yielding to the will of the leader or majority so as to make the group decision unanimous” (ibid.).

Reciprocity, as defined by Hollnsteiner, is “that principle of behavior wherein every service received, solicited or not, demands a return, the nature and proportion of the return determined by the relative statuses of the parties involved and the kind of exchange at issue” (1973, 69). Based on her field data from a fishing village in Obando, Bulacan, she classifies reciprocity as contractual, quasi-contractual, and utang na loob. Reciprocity in the form of utang na loob happens “when a transfer of goods or services takes place between individuals belonging to two different groups” or economic statuses (ibid., 73). She then explains that the recipient of the goods or services is obliged to return the favor with interest or the expected return can also be partial and incomplete (ibid., 85).

Ortigas and Regalado (1977, 18-21) outline some cultural patterns of the rural people. One of these is the distrust of the rural people in large-scale social activities, which explains their resistance to the presence of outsiders, as well as their suspicion and cynicism toward the latter. The entry of a large-scale foreign mining company in Rapu-Rapu runs contrary to this cultural pattern. What stabilizes this distrust of the rural people and enables them to accept a large-scale foreign mining company? Another pattern is personalism, in which a program or activity is judged in terms of the person in-charge. This is somewhat similar to authoritarianism, which produces an “extreme deference to people of wealth or position.” If it is the person in authority initiating a program or activity, the rural people tend to exhibit pakikisama and thus support the program or activity. Who were the persons who backed the mining project in Rapu-Rapu? It would be crucial to identify these persons to understand the decision of the locals better.

Hennig (1983, 57) contends that knowledge of the situation or context of the action is important in understanding behavior. He suggests to look into the “group membership and the resultant linkage to others,” since the Filipino is inextricably associated with various groups, such as the family, barkada (peers), religious groups, or kin.

Values attributed to nature

However, owing to values attributed to nature, members of a group may not always unanimously agree on collective actions. In most cases, collective actions are borne out of conflict, tensions, and contradictions. According to Smith (2003, 1-2), “decisions that affect the environment are typically multi-faceted.” Clash of values, especially environmental values, is to be expected. In the study by Suzuki (1970 cited in Bennett 1976), there are three values attributed to nature--nature as a resource to be exploited, nature as having an intrinsic value, and nature as having an instrumental value. These are incompatible and incommensurable with each other (Smith 2003, 21). For example, they apply to minerals underneath the ground in a variety of ways. Some people would see the minerals as something to be exploited for man’s whims and desires, while others would treat the minerals as having an instrumental value for other ends, such as a source of income. At an extreme, the minerals could be viewed as gifts from God, and as a show of respect, the people would never touch these minerals because of their intrinsic value. Smith (ibid.) recognizes these pluralism of and conflict in values in environmental politics, and the diversity of values that characterizes human actions.

Bennett (1976, 141) presents the findings of a series of surveys done by Tatsuzo Suzuki which show the Japanese attitudes toward nature (see table 1 for the results). Meanings may be assigned to the categories made by Suzuki in relation to the three values attributed to nature. The “conquer nature” category is analogous to the value of nature as a resource to be exploited, while the “make use of nature” category is comparable to the instrumental value of nature. “Adapt to nature” can be considered as implying the intrinsic value of nature. Although the Japanese attitude toward making use of nature is relatively constant at 40 percent, the tendency to conquer nature is slowly gaining ground and consistently getting higher. This could be due to Japan’s rapid technological and economic growth.



illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source : Suzuki (1970).


[1] RRMI is a subsidiary of Lafayette Mining Limited, an Australian company that will pursue its polymetallic project in Rapu-Rapu, Albay, from which gold, silver, copper, and zinc will be mined.

[2] EIS “refers to the document(s) of studies on the environmental impacts of a project including the discussions on direct and indirect consequences upon human welfare and ecological and environmental integrity. The EIS may vary from project to project but shall contain in every case all relevant information and details about the proposed project or undertaking, including the environmental impacts on the project and the appropriate mitigating and enhancement measures” (DENR DAO 96-40).

[3] http://www.mgb.gov.ph/mining%20issues_Lafayette_070903.htm.

[4] See McAndrew, 1983; Tujan and Guzman, 1998; Coumans, 1999;Florentino-Hofileña, 1996; http://www.adnu.edu.ph/institutes/INECAR/pospaper1.asp

[5] In the approved mining rights, 407 hectares are currently being developed by Lafayette (http://www.mgb.gov.ph/mining%20issues_lafayette_070903.htm).

[6] The Lafayette website reports only 29 families were displaced from the development site (htt://www.lafayettemining.com/articles/default.asp?id=2)

[7] See, for instance, Talisayon 1990; Hennig 1983; Romero 1999; Jocano 1997; Miralao 1997; Enriquez 1994; Arce 1998; Hollnsteiner 1973; and Lynch 1973.

[8] Among the studies cited are the national surveys of Peace Corps (1966); Baguio Religious Acculturation Conference (BRAC) Filipino Family Survey (1967); Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities (PAASCU) and IPC (1970); Guthrie and Azores (1968).


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Ateneo de Manila University – Institute of Philippine Culture
Environmental politics social movement mining local communities decision-making Philippines




Title: Under-Mining the Power of Communities