Activists, IP troop to Malacanang; denounce large-scale mining destruction

ENVIRONMENTAL activist groups, indigenous peoples (IP), and militant activists marked the 16th year of the Mining Act of 1995 with a protest in front Malacanang Palace.

“Sixteen years of environmental plunder, community displacements, land grabbing, and human rights violations are the results of the implementation of the Mining Act which liberalized the local mining industry,” explained IP leader Pia Malayao, spokesperson of Defend Patrimony.

“Despite promises of reforms and leading the people to the ‘matuwid na daan,’ the new Aquino administration still continues this exploitative economic policy and implement the same old mining program of the previous Arroyo administration,” she said.

The protesters led by the Defend Patrimony! Alliance, a multisectoral network opposed to foreign mining plunder and destruction of natural resources, tore down an effigy of President Noynoy Aquino driving a mining backhoe.

Defend Patrimony said that the effigy symbolically shows that President Aquino is now the number one promoter and implementor of liberalization and large-scale mining in the country.

The Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act 7942 was passed on March 3, 1995, sponsored by then Senator Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. When she became President, Arroyo formulated the Philippine Mining Revitalization Program in 2003 which the Aquino administration continues to implement.

The government mining policy and program sees foreign investment as the key to the development of the mining industry, thus giving special privileges and rights to foreign mining corporations.

One of the controversial provisions of the Mining Act is that foreign corporations are allowed to have 100% ownership of mineral lands and operations in the country despite being explicitly prohibited in the Philippine Constitution.

“Scores of our rivers became biologically dead or polluted, over a million hectares of our lands are now owned by private and foreign corporations, thousands of hectares of our forests were lost, and billions of dollars of our mineral resources were brought out of our country because of mining liberalization. Are these reasons not enough for the government to stop this policy and scrap the Mining Act,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of environmental group Kalikasan PNE.

Based on the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) data, almost $9 billion worth of minerals and mineral products was exported abroad from 2006 to 2009.

Meanwhile only $110 million or 1.2% of the mineral value exported was collected as direct revenue of mining (Php43=$1). As of July 2010 there are 28 operating metallic mines in the country and government granted 676 mining permits covering 1,042,531 hectares of mineral lands.

Kalikasan PNE noted that 27 anti-mining activists were killed since 2001.

Defend Patrimony denounced the Aquino administration and demanded that it immediately change its mining policy and impose a mining moratorium on new mining projects and operations in the country. The groups also pushed for the passing of House Bill 4315 or the People’s Mining Bill which seeks to reorient the Philippine mining industry towards serving the needs of domestic and self-reliant economic development, national industrialization and agricultural modernization.

Frances Quimpo, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC) said that “It is high time for policy-makers to repeal the destructive and dirty Mining Act and replace it with a policy that will reorient the Philippine mining industry towards a more sustainable, rights-based, and scientific policy that will serve the needs of the Filipino people foremost.”

This proposal comes sixteen years after the passage of RA 7942, which allowed foreign access and control in every aspect of the domestic mining industry, including exploration, development and utilization. However, the economic gains from the mining liberalization program remain scant and dubious at best.

The opening up of the country’s mining industry to more unregulated foreign investments has also spawned more environmental tragedies, such as the Rapu-Rapu mine tailings spill and fish kills in 2005.-D’Jay Lazaro

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