Forest Destruction due to Mining –
The Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR) blames the expansion of agricultural lands for the
decrease of forest cover while the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA)
points to large-scale mining as the major cause of forest destruction in
BY MA. LEONEZA B. RIGONAN
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY – Who is
telling the truth?
The Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) blames the expansion of
agricultural lands for the decrease of forest cover while the Cordillera
Peoples Alliance (CPA) points to large-scale mining as the major cause of
forest destruction in the region.
DENR Director Augusto
D. Lagun admitted that the Cordillera region, known as the watershed
cradle of the north, is threatened by the decrease of forest cover in the
area. He said that land use conversion, which transforms forest areas into
agricultural land is the major cause of the decrease in the region's
forest cover. He added that forest fires and natural removals or illegal
logging are also among the causes.
DENR data showed that
the region’s remaining forest cover about 665,603 hectares (has.) out of
the 1,553,599 has. total forest land area. The same data showed that Abra
forest covers 98,790 has. of the 308,522 has. total forest land area;
Apayao, 232,199 has. out of 343,627 has.; Benguet, 100,977 has. out of
214,523 has.; Ifugao 72,955 has. out of 224,695; Kalinga, 84,949 has. out
of 267,550 has.; and Mt. Province 75,733 has. out of 194,683 has.
However, CPA Vice
Chair for Internal Affairs Xavier Akien stressed that mining
operations and not the expansion of agricultural land is the major cause
of decrease in the region's forest cover. He said that large-scale mining
operations have irreversible effects like dislocation and devastation of
agricultural lands, deforestation and even loss of livelihood.
He said that there is
a 60-percent decrease in the region’s rice production due to air and water
pollution and total devastation of major river systems brought about by
mining operations. He cited the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation’s
operations that, he said, polluted the Abra River, one of the major river
systems in the region with pollutants reaching as far as the China Sea.
The CPA has staged
several forms of protest against destructive mining and actively campaigns
for the total removal of mining companies from the Cordillera
Administrative Region (CAR).
Pesante Ti Taeng Kordillera (Apit Tako, Peasant Alliance in the Cordillera
Homeland) research coordinator Fernando Bagyan said agricultural expansion
contributes to the decrease in forest cover but is not the major cause. He
said that uma (swidden farming), an indigenous way of farming in
the Cordillera is environment-friendly. “(Indigenous peoples) do not cut
big trees, they look for open areas,” he explained.
Akien said the DENR
should not blame farmers for the decrease of forest cover but instead
should point to mining operations, which affect the lives of indigenous
“The number of mining
applications increased because of the huge resources available in the
region. There are even foreign mining companies that are operating
locally.” Engr. Alfredo Genetiano, Mining Engineer IV of Mine Management
Akien said that 66
percent or 1.2 million has. of the 1.8 million has. total land area of the
Cordillera region is covered with mining applications. He said Benguet
hosts two large-scale mining operations, the Lepanto Consolidated Mining
Corporation (LCMC) in Mankayan and Philex Mining Corporation in Itogon and
in Tuba. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat
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