We detest the Arroyo government’s rejection of the report of the independent commission investigating the Lafayette mine spills in Rapu-rapu island.
Blinded by the glare of mining investments, Arroyo is willing to sell out the environment and patrimony of the country for “30 pieces of silver”. We fear that Arroyo’s message tells mining companies that they can go about their operations without regard for the environment because government acts as their guarantor for any kind of misconduct.
The Commission drew its findings from studies of various units of the University of the Philippines, non-government organizations with expertise on environmental cases, the Department of Health and other government agencies. It also reportedly interviewed key officials of Lafayette. Malacanang’s negation of the Commission’s findings renders futile all attempts to independently probe similar cases in the future since government can readily bail out these “mining companies in distress.”
This policy of ‘environmental impunity’ will most likely pervade the 11 priority mining projects in Mindanao, an island where the environment has already seen wanton destruction from massive logging, tree plantations, and agribusiness plantations.
Mining TNCs now undertaking operations in Mindanao are the first and the loudest to cheer Malacanang’s ‘no mining ban’ policy. They are TVI and Sagittarius Mines Inc. TVI is facing stiff opposition from the Subanen of Mt. Canatuan in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte. SMI, the new face of the hated Western Mining Corporation, has been virtually condemned by the people of SOCSKARGEN led by 3 Catholic bishops. Clearly, Arroyo has just emboldened these companies to skirt the strong, serious, and legitimate environmental, health, human rights, ancestral land rights, and other social issues hurled by the peoples of Mindanao against these mining TNCs.
When Pres. Arroyo rejected the report of the commission led by Bishop Arturo Bastes, she made it clear to all that accountability of mining TNCs for environmental destruction can be subordinated to the hyped economic benefits they supposedly bring.
In truth, mining transnational corporations bring in little monetary benefits compared to the loss of patrimony, destruction to the environment, eviction of indigenous peoples from their ancestral domains, and the easing out of small scale miners.
Secretary Ignacio Bunye can not certainly make fools of us when he said that banning large-scale mining would be “a disservice to our people if our full mineral potential is not realized as this is clearly a source of employment and development.” Our mining industry is extractive and export-oriented and does not meet our demands for genuine national development. So, the development that Bunye is referring to does not redound to the Filipino people; he means fattening the pockets of global mining giants.
What this government means to say with the negation of the Bastes report is that it shall never review nor scrap the Mining Act of 1995 because Arroyo can not simply abandon her servility to the interests of mining TNCs. Her “30 pieces of silver mentality” on the Bastes report marks this glaring treachery.
Sr. Ma. Carmen Diane T. Cabasagan, RGS
(Defenders and Advocates for the Environment, Creation, and Patrimony)