People’s Mining Bill filed in Congress

PROGRESSIVE lawmakers from the House of Representatives filed Wednesday a landmark bill seeking to scrap the country’s current law on mining and replace it with a pro-people, pro-environment, and pro-development Philippine mining law.

Filed earlier this afternoon, House Bill 4315, or the People’s Mining Act of 2011, seeks to reorient the Philippine mining industry towards serving the needs of domestic and self-reliant economic development, national industrialization, and agricultural modernization.

The bill was introduced by Bayan Muna Reps. Teodoro Casino and Neri Colmenares, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael V. Mariano, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio L. Tinio, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino, and Gabriela Women’s Party Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emerenciana De Jesus.

Environmental groups, indigenous peoples and farmers leaders, scientists, Church groups, youth, and civil society organizations from the Defend Patrimony alliance went to the House of Representatives to witness the filing of the bill.

“Fifteen years of disasters, poverty, and human rights violations under Republic Act 7942 (the Mining Act of 1995) is enough. It is high time for policy-makers to repeal this destructive and dirty law 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,” said Frances Quimpo, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC).

“This bill considers previous alternative proposals from civil society organizations, including the People’s Mining Policy (PMP), a progressive policy framework for the Philippine mining industry, drafted by Defend Patrimony in 2005. It seeks to build a Philippine mining industry based on the principles of social justice, respect for people’s rights and welfare, environmental conservation, defense of national sovereignty and patrimony, national industrialization, and agricultural modernization,” Quimpo said.

“The bill seeks to put into place a more strategically-oriented and consultative system for planning, implementing, and monitoring Philippine mining projects. It positions mining as a fundamental component for attaining national industrialization and supporting the country’s agricultural industry, not as a mere resource which foreign investors can endlessly deplete in exchange for money,” she said.

“At the same time, the bill integrates proposals culled from the painful lessons of our past and present experiences with mining liberalization, especially in response to rights violations and environmental destruction,” she added.

Among the main features of the bill are:

·         Centralized and strategic planning of the Philippine mining industry through the crafting and implementation of a National Industrialization Program and a National Mining Plan.

·         Reorienting the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) as a scientific research institution under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with exclusive right to conduct exploration activities and identify strategic mineral resources needed for the country’s development.

·         Creation of Multi-Sectoral Mineral Councils for designated mining areas, composed of representatives from the government, stakeholder groups, and affected communities, which will approve and monitor the conduct of mining activites in the area.

·         Upholding the rights and welfare of Philippine mining industry workers, indigenous peoples, and local communities

·         Provision of appropriate support and protection to Filipino corporations and professional science and technology workers to increase their participation in the industry.

·         Prohibition of the controversial Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAAs) stipulated in RA 7942, whose constitutionality was questioned before the Supreme Court.

·         Prohibition on the employment of state and paramilitary forces to protect mining projects.

·         Stronger and stricter provisions ensuring environmental sustainability, access to justice, and protection of human rights for affected communities.

“We are challenging more lawmakers from Congress and the Senate to consider and support the People’s Mining Bill,” Quimpo said.

This proposal comes fifteen years after the passage of RA 7942, which liberalized 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. Campaign group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment noted 27 anti-mining activists killed since 2001, the start of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term.

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