Monday, March 20, 2017

Mining, destabilization, Benham – don’t panic

Published March 18, 2017, 10:00 PM By Fidel V. Ramos

“Duterte: ‘Mining firms funding destabilization plot’ – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday accused some mining firms of financing what he called a ‘destabilization’ plot against his Administration.”
— Manila Times, 14 March 2017
During a presscon in Malacañang with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez last 13 March, President Rody Duterte said mining firms were funding the political opposition to undermine his Government.
  1. Duterte made the statement as he defended anew Environment Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez for ordering the closure of mining firms alleged to have violated mining regulations. Only last 11 March and on other occasions afterwards, the President said he was willing to lose p70 billion in mining tax revenues, as he reiterated his support for Lopez. Showing photos of the ill effects of destructive mining, P. Du30 slammed mining companies that had failed to follow regulations.
Having watched the hearings of the Commission on Appointments almost all week on television, and knowing personally DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, DOF Secretary Sonny Dominguez, plus some of the mining people quite well, it occurred to this writer that there is a happy solution to be found in between the contending positions – if only there is sincere dialogue among the concerned stakeholders away from the glare of unhealthy publicity. Also, it is important for the President to stop talking as if our government is about to collapse because of destabilizing attempts by powerful opponents.
No way. All P. Digong has to do is to get a daily 10-minute briefing jointly from his National Security Adviser Jun Esperon and Presidential Security Group commander General Rolando Bautista (or their deputies), and he’ll find out that there is no such destabilization plot because it takes much, much more than the DENR and its “audits” to cause an incumbent government’s downfall. Secretary Gina and Secretary Sonny are both correct in their arguments, because they are just trying to do a good job – according to their respective mandates.
  1. Du30 appears to begin to panic by talking about conspiracies by people whom he can easily discipline. By constantly repeating the now-dirty word “destabilization,” P. Digong is driving away potential investors, tourists, and other foreign assets, while unduly alarming our own people. This is probably one reason our peso is down to P50.30 to $1.00, while the cost of basic commodities keeps rising.
On the other hand, this writer believes that the huge anticipated revenue loss with the closure of most mining activities countrywide of some p70 billion will not kill the country. Somewhere is a win-win solution – and p. DU30, Gina Lopez, and Sonny Dominguez need not lose their jobs, and so could Filipinos preserve the environment – similar to our successful Benham rise claim where the DENR, thru its national mapping and research information authority (NAMRIA), also played a leading role in this major inter-agency/inter-disciplinary endeavor.

The impact of executive order 45, s-1993
It will be recalled that on 05 january 1993, through the issuance of EO 45 by then President FVR, the government approved a synchronized, common reference system for the accurate surveying and mapping of natural resources, administrative and cadastral boundaries called the Philippine Reference System of 1992 (PRS92).
In the various local government offices around the country, DENR officials painstakingly explained to local chief executives and their constituents in at least 42,000 barangays the impact of this new program that transformed and integrated all the cadastral surveys and maps of the DENR Land Management Sectors to resolve and minimize overlaps and other inaccuracies under the old system of land mapping known as the Triangulation Network of the Philippines.
PRS92 ensures a unified, consistent, and reliable geographic information database used in many planning and policy/decision-making activities of both government and private organizations. These activities include, land reform and administration, infrastructure and energy development, social and environmental initiatives, marine and ocean affairs, disaster and risk mitigation, and scientific and engineering studies. PRS92 also seeks to improve the economic status of the country, alleviate poverty, promote sustainable development, and support public order and safety. (NAMRIA’s PRS92 Newsletter, 1st Quarter 2009, Vol. II No. 1).

The recent emergence of the Benham Rise issues has heightened the importance of that 24-year-old adoption of PRS92, which in its earlier stages was assisted by the Australian government. Its provisions are as follows:

Executive Order No. 45
Adopting the Philippine Reference System of 1992 (PRS92) as the Country’s Standard Reference System for surveys
Whereas, the NAMRIA is mandated to establish a nationwide geodetic control network of control points that serves as a common reference system of all surveys in the country;
Whereas, the Natural Resources Management and Development Project of the DENR in cooperation with the Coast and Geodetic Survey Department of NAMRIA has completed the establishment of the first order geodetic control network in the Philippines through the use of the global positioning system (GPS);
Whereas, the new network is now capable of supporting the integrated surveying and mapping programs of the Government for sustainable management and development of the environment and natural resources, and for infrastructure activities;
Now, therefore, I, Fidel V. Ramos, President of the Republic of the Philippines, do hereby order:
Section 1. The new geodetic control network, known as the Philippine Reference System of 1992 (PRS92) is hereby adopted as the standard reference for all surveying and mapping activities of the country.
Section 2. All new surveys and maps shall henceforth be referred to the new network. All old surveys shall be integrated into the new network including the adjustment of the coordinates of their corresponding maps. There shall be a transition period up to year 2000 to allow integration of the old surveys, after which only PRS92 shall be recognized as the standard reference system for all surveys and maps in the country.
Section 3. The DENR shall promulgate the guidelines to implement the provisions of this Order.
Section 4. This Order shall take effect immediately.
Approved in the city of Manila, Philippines, this 5th day of January, in the year of our lord, nineteen hundred and ninety three. Signed by FVR and chief presidential legal counsel Antonio Carpio.

Benham Rise: how the shelf was won
While surfing the internet in search of background material on Benham Rise, this writer ran into a previous article of the DENR with regard to the implementation of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS).
This little-known article describes the first major expansion of the Philippines’ maritime boundaries since the late 1970s when it declared its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This happy outcome is a tribute to the quiet and diligent work and collaboration by a team of public servants, scientists, and legal experts who pursued the claim for over a decade.
In their article with above title, authors Dr. Jay Batongbacal (Professor, UP College of Law, and legal advisor, Technical Working Group, Philippine Extended Continental Shelf Project) and Efren Carandang (deputy administrator, NAMRIA, and project manager, Philippine Extended Continental Shelf Project) narrated:
“The story of the Philippine claim to Benham Rise began with a workshop in 2001 to assist the DFA and the DENR’s NAMRIA with regard to the implementation of the Law of the Sea. Ms. Suzette Suarez of the UP Institute of International Legal Studies (UP-IILS) organized the workshop to discuss the requirements for claiming extended continental shelf (ECS) areas for the Philippines. Dr. Teodoro Santos of the UP National Institute for Geological Sciences (UP-NIGS) identified and proposed Benham Rise, then a relatively unknown area of the Pacific Ocean east of Luzon, as a possible ECS area in addition to areas west of Palawan. This resulted in an inter-agency Memorandum of Agreement among key government agencies and the academe to work together to make the ECS claims.
“Under then Administrator (retired police general) Diony Ventura, the NAMRIA set itself to the task of conducting the extensive hydrographic surveys required as a basis for the claim. They commissioned a desktop feasibility study by the Norwegian firm BLOM-ASA with Norwegian assistance. Afterwards, the NAMRIA’s coast and geodetic surveys department sent its two survey ships, the “Presbitero” and “Ventura,” on several cruises to the pacific to map the seabed beyond 200 nautical miles away and more than 5000 meters deep.”
Note: from NAMRIA’s brochure on “BRP Hydrographer Presbitero” and “BRP Hydrographer Ventura,” it was stated, among others, that these vessels were purchased through state-to-state soft-loan facility from the Spanish government, which president FVR visited in SEPTEMBER, 1994. They were built by Factorias Vulcano shipyard in Vigo, Spain from 14 may 1997 to 04 august 1998.
“Presbitero” arrived in manila on 16 October 1998, after brief stops in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore and test surveys in Sulu Sea and Surigao Strait. “Ventura” arrived in manila on 07 January 1999.
Prs92 and the vessels “Presbitero” and “Ventura” surely served as solid foundations for our Benham Rise ecs victory.

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