By Harald Eraker
- I am willing to risk my life to stop you from carrying out the nickel project on our island. If you do not respect that people on Mindoro have said no, it may lead to dangerous situations. This was the message of Edwin A. Gariguez to the Mindex management during a meeting that took place in the company's head office in Høvik, Norway. Along with Evelyn Cacha he represented ALAMIN, the alliance against the Mindex project in Mindoro, during the visit to Norway from 25 to 30 October 1999.
Together with Cacha, the leader of ALAMIN, the Catholic priest Gariguez, presently hired as political adviser and the right hand of the chairman of the county council where Mindex plans to start mining, had brought an impressive amount of documentation on the opposition against the nickel project.
In the province of Oriental Mindoro, where most of the project will be located (see NorWatch no. 11/99 and 15/99), the following bodies have passed resolutions against the Mindex plans: The province parliament, all the municipalities in the province, the town council in the province capital and other affected towns, the regional development committee, the umbrella organisation of the indigenous people of Mindoro, the organisations that represent the indigenous people living in the mining area, the organisation of the farmers in the province, the Catholic church in the province, and several other organisations and co-operatives.
In spite of this, managing director Anders Hvide in Mindex said to the media during the Philippines' visit to Norway that it is the company that has the support of the local population. Cacha and Gariguez had the following comment to this:
- Hvide refers to two organisations when he talks of the support of his project. One of them, Kabilogan, represents a minority of the indigenous people in the area. Kabilogan has given its support to Mindex, but the organisation was founded earlier this year after the traditional indigenous people's organisations said no to the project. Mindex has given money and gifts to Kabilogan, so it should not surprise anyone that they support the company. The other one is Samahang Liham, which allegedly collected 100.000 signatures in favour of the Mindex project. But we have written statements from members of Samahang Liham that their signatures have been taken as support for the company against their knowledge.
During the visit to Norway, the Philippines had meetings with Bishop Gunnar Stålsett, the religious organisation Mellomkirkelig Råd, representatives of the trade unions Arbeidsmandsforbundet and Norsk Kjemisk, and Bård Bergfall, former employee of the environmental organisation Bellona and expert on chemistry and industrial waste.
The greatest interest was taken in the ALAMIN-representatives' challenge to the Mindex shareholders to sell their shares in the company. According to the Mindex annual report of 1998, the company Topas AS is the major shareholder with 11.58% of the shares. The second largest shareholder has a share of only 3.44%, and the remaining 8858 shareholders only hold very small percentages of the shares.
Because of their connection with the primary sector, Tine Pensjonskasse (the 8th largest shareholder) and Landkreditt (the 14th largest shareholder) were picked out among the 20 largest shareholders. Neither Landkreditt nor its founders Norges Bondelag (the Norwegian Farmers' Association) wanted to meet Cacha and Gariguez. According to Bondelaget, this was a difficult case for them, and they did not want to interfere with Landkreditt's administration of their funds. However, representatives for Tine Pensjonskasse and the Tine trade union were positive towards listening to the Philippines' case, and a formal letter has been sent to Tine Pensjonskasse with a request to withdraw from Mindex.
After their visit to Norway, Cacha and Gariguez continued to England to gain support for their fight against the nickel project.
" I am willing to risk my life to stop you from carrying out the nickel project on our island. If you do not respect that people on Mindoro have said no, it may lead to dangerous situations."
Edwin A. Gariguez to the Mindex management during the meeting in the company's head office in Høvik, 26 October 1999
Norwatch Newsletter 16/99