PH's Investment Treaties Threaten Mining Rules - Report

Manila Bulletin, May 29, 2016 | Go to article overview

PH's Investment Treaties Threaten Mining Rules - Report


The Philippines has been urged to halt negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the EU-Philippines Free Trade Agreement and to review existing bilateral investment treaties because these agreements could severely constrain the government's ability to regulate polluting mining operations, a new report by an international research and advocacy group stated.

In its report entitled "How investment agreements threaten regulation of the mining industry in the Philippines", the Transnational Institute (TNI), an international research and advocacy institute committed to building a just, democratic and sustainable planet, the Philippines was cited as one of the five countries worldwide with the highest overall mineral reserves with a web of investment treaties which severely constrain the government's ability to regulate or close polluting mines.

"This legal straitjacket will become even tighter if the EU-Philippines FTA and the RCEP proceed," the report said.

According to the report, mining firms have been one of the main corporate sectors worldwide to take advantage of investor-state dispute (ISD) mechanisms to sue states for regulation of mining. So far, the report said mining firms have sued governments for a total of $53.

ISD mechanisms give corporations the right to sue states if they take any measures - including public interest legislation - that might threaten profits. ISDS mechanisms are included in most new FTAs. Nevertheless, several governments are starting to reconsider their commitments to ISDS as they recognize the danger that it poses to their sovereignty.

TNI said that its extensive research highlights how ISDs give corporations far-reaching rights that curtail governments' sovereignty and drain limited public budgets.

The report noted that the Philippines has a network of investment treaties including 31 bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and seven Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), all of which have investment protection chapter. These include treaties with Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and the UK -- all host nations of major multinational mining companies.

"All of these treaties, bar very few exceptions, allow investors to sue the government at international arbitration tribunals if they consider that their profits have been unduly affected," the report said. …

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