A Double-Edged Sword? Implications of Mining for Environmental Security in the Philippines

In late 2005, FESS began an environmental security assessment framework (ESAF) study of the Republic of the Philippines. In conjunction with the Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi, the research team conducted a preliminary series of interviews in October 2005, meeting with 83 elected officials, civil servants, military personnel, policy experts, academics, civil society professionals, and private sector representatives in Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Capiz, Davao, Manila, Negros, and Palawan. The research team examined such issues as ethnic and political tensions; mining; agriculture; illegal logging; natural disasters; tourism; water quality and sanitation; energy; and environmental health. Based on this first round of meetings, which brought to light a number of strong linkages between mining and potential conflict, the research team decided that the study would focus on mining as the most significant sector for the future of environmental security in the Philippines. In February 2006, the FESS-Croft team returned to visit mine sites and conduct interviews in Albay, Benguet, Manila, Palawan, Sorsogon, Surigao del Norte, and Zamboanga del Norte. Over the course of this second phase of the field study, the FESS-Croft team met with 75 government officials, civil servants, academics, Catholic clergy, civil society professionals, and private sector representatives.

The ESAF report, "A Double-Edged Sword? Implications of Mining for Environmental Security in the Philippines," details the study's findings, including the country's pre-existing sources of instability, which complicate efforts toward national unity and social cohesion, as well as the conflict-prone nature of the country's mining sector. While noting a powerful tendency toward polarization in the debate over mining in the Philippines, FESS's research found a broad spectrum of mining practices. The report describes four cases that reflect various points along that spectrum, although determining that with few exceptions, responsible mining is yet to become a reality in the Philippines.

Three scenarios described in the study illuminate different potential futures for the country and its mining sector. An initial scenario, which plays out over time baseline trends identified in the study, suggests the potential for events that may destabilize an already volatile political scene and inhibit the flow of foreign investment. The second scenario, which is much less likely than the first although plausible, envisions the interaction of a number of variables in ways that generate conflict. The third scenario posits significant change from current trends, foreseeing positive change based on a number of important realizations by key stakeholders. It is more optimistic than the first two scenarios, but is based on a recognition of the shared interest of all parties in moving past the unproductive debates of the past

Additional actions on the part of both government and the private sector are needed if the mining sector is to be productive and stable. There are important steps that civil society and the donor community can take as well. The report outlines some of the most important actions that can be taken.

Philippines ESAF Study Findings Presented at the "Mining Opportunities in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region" Conference


In June 2006, FESS's research collaborator, Professor Katsuaki Terasawa of the Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi, attended the "Mining Opportunities in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region" held June 16-17, 2006 in Laos, PDR. The event, organized by the Greater Mekong Subregion Business Forum, addressed investment opportunities, regulations, local partnering, licensing, and best practices. Terasawa presented an overview of FESS's Philippine study and findings, and submitted to the conference a paper co-authored with FESS researchers Jeffrey Stark and Jennifer Li entitled, "Environmental Safeguards and Community Benefits in Mining: Recent Lessons from the Philippines." Now revised as a FESS Working Paper, the piece provides an overview of the ESAF study, including the study methodology, the legacy of mining in the Philippines, recent mining cases that have polarized the public debate in the country, and lessons learned and recommendations that may contribute to responsible mining practices in the Greater Mekong Subregion, and other developing regions.