Breaktime

Human rights volition

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The question now on the Sabah issue is one on human rights. Whether the Philippine or Malaysian governments like it or not, the Sabah issue will remain an irritant between them, flaring up now and then, exposing both to international scrutiny.

Reports said the Malaysian government charged with “terrorism” some of the supposed Filipinos arrested in Sabah, allegedly for fomenting trouble in connection with the claim of the Sultan of Sulu over the territory.

The big question is: Will the supposed “Filipinos” get a fair treatment in Malaysia?

Already, human rights groups here and abroad described as “outrageous” the decision of the Malaysian government to block some Philippine government relief agencies and humanitarian organizations from the so-called conflict areas in Sabah.

The Malaysian government never really had an admirable record on matters like democracy and human rights. Malaysia is known in this part of the world as a police state, particularly during the time of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. In one speaking engagement in Manila, Mahathir advised his Filipino hosts to exercise democracy “sparingly,” in effect, advocating that the upholding of human rights would only encourage dissent.

His successors in the Malaysian government apparently now espouse the same view.

The Philippine government could only provide lawyers to the Filipinos charged with terrorism in Malaysia. In the words of President Aquino, the move was really an “obligation” of the Philippine government. He wanted to ensure that the supposed “Filipinos” would be given due process. In other words, he was talking about human rights.

The trial of those Filipinos will certainly lead to more issues. Now that the world is watching, some sectors are talking about an international body to look into the alleged atrocities committed by the Malaysian government.

“A long hard look at Malaysia’s performance on fundamental human rights is in order.… Countries should call Malaysia to account for failing to address abuses against migrants and refugees, and for its continuing use of preventative detention,” said Elaine Pearson, Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch.

Of its own volition, the Malaysian government refused to sign any international agreement on human rights, insisting that they would only consider such treaty if it would go along with the Malaysian legal system—meaning, that the treaty would allow detention without charges.

By the way, the UN Human Rights Council is set to take up the Malaysian government’s record on human rights—again—sometime this October. That may be an interesting event.

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In the recent mining trade show in Hong Kong dubbed “Mines and Money,” in which mining firms from all over the world got to meet investors to discuss their projects, more than 300 companies reportedly took part in the event. Only two of those came from the Philippines.

It was an event where more than 3,500 institutional investors from all over the world, armed with billions of dollars, reportedly came for some look-and-see on new mining ventures.

The two Philippine companies were TVI Resources, which has copper-zinc and gold projects in the two Zamboanga provinces, and Intex Resources, which has nickel interests in the two Mindoro provinces.

It seems that, in the local mining scene, the companies still consider their prospects to be dim, despite the good signs that the Aquino administration, particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, has shown lately.

For one, the DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau recently started to again accept applications for mineral exploration. Then the DENR allowed Philex Mining to resume copper operations in Benguet after almost seven months. The company even paid more than P1 billion in “fine” to the government for the tailings that spilled into waterways in the province. Those were definitely forward steps. Yet local mining companies still did not seem to be hot about telling the world’s biggest funders about their projects.

Anyway, the CEO and president of TVI Resources, Jon Steen Petersen, announced during the company’s presentation to investors in Hong Kong, that the company would put up the first nickel refinery in the Philippines.

That should only be consistent with the brand-new mining policy laid down by our leader Benigno Simeon (aka BS) in his famous Executive Order 79, which calls for an increase in value-added in our mining sector. The Aquino administration thus wants projects like the nickel refinery of TVI Resources—at least on paper.

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