Palawan, the largest protected area in the Philippines and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is facing once again the ill-effects of mining operations. Catholic bishops and environmentalist groups are calling for a responsible mining policy to the outright revocation of all mining applications.
Posted by Bulatlat
While the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) recent nixing of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC) is a clear and partial victory for Palawan residents and environmental groups, the government should go further by stopping the operations of other abusive firms in Palawan and in implementing a moratorium on new mining applications in this last frontier, spokespersons from Kalikasan-Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) and Defend Patrimony said today.
Defend Patrimony and Kalikasan-PNE congratulated the Catholic bishops, people’s and environmental organizations for their role in the concerted campaign to expose and oppose the damage that the PGMC’s operations have inflicted on the community. Defend Patrimony is a nationwide network of organizations Supporting the wise use of the country’s mineral resources and calling for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995.
However, these environmental groups also said that canceling PGMC’s ECC alone was not enough, as other abusive mining firms continue to freely operate in other parts of Palawan.
“If the DENR was able to revoke permits for the PGMC, it must also be able to do so for other foreign multinational mining firms in which are wantonly guilty of similar ECC violations,” Kalikasan-PNE spokesperson Clemente Bautista said.
“In Palawan alone, other mining TNCs which may be guilty of similar transgressions continue to operate wantonly under the DENR’s nose. For example, there have been human rights violations, displacements of indigenous peoples, and mine pollution related to the HPP Project in Palawan nickel processing and limestone mining in Bataraza, Palawan, financed by Rio Tuba Mining Corp. and Coral Bay Mining Corp,” Bautista added.
Bishop Pedro D. Arigo D.D., Vicar Apostolate of Puerto Princesa, issued a pastoral statement calling on government agencies, local government units (LGUs), and the DENR to impose a ban on new mining applications in Palawan. He reiterated the Catholic Bishops Conference in the Philippines’ (CBCP) stand against mining, calling on his constituents to be aware and critical against of the existing mining practices and to work for the common good of the people.
Bishop Arigo also said that the 2% excise tax imposed on mining companies did not guarantee any improvement in the local populace’s lives, noting that the areas with long-standing mining operations such as Benguet, Marinduque, Romblon, and even Bataraza in Palawan have remained among the poorest regions in the Philippines.
“Maybe the people would benefit more if mining areas were used instead in other ways, such as planting Macasla and tuba-Tuba,” Bishop Arigo said.
“Palawenos primarily source their livelihood from the land and sea. The destruction of these resources for the needs and profits of foreigners also means the destruction of their hopes, futures, and lives,” he said.
Fish and wildlife sanctuary
The bishop also expressed concern for Palawan’s status as a UNESCO Fish and Wildlife Sanctuary, World Heritage Site, and the largest protected area in the Philippines.
He also called for a genuine and responsible mining policy to be implemented in Palawan’s existing mine projects, the inspection of existing mine tailings and rehabilitation of “mined out areas.”
Meanwhile, Defend Patrimony Spokesperson Trixie Concepcion said that they were supporting Bishop Arigo’s call to ban new mining applications in Palawan, stressing that “the DENR’s action against PGMC would only be negated if it does not hold halt the inflow of new mining projects, especially at the rate at which new mining applications are being submitted and permits being farmed out to errant firms.”
Bishop Arigpo confirmed this by revealing that over 100 new mining applications are pending for the Palawan region alone.
Concepcion added that the DENR should also follow-up on its commitment to crack down on abusive firms by “taking long-clamored for action against Lafayette, currently the most prominent example of abusive mining firms in the Philippines.”
“If the DENR was able to find a sound basis for the disapproval of the PGMC’s ECC, then more so should it find basis for the long-clamored for disapproval of Lafayette’s Phil Inc. permit in Rapu-Rapu. Lafayette has caused the wanton environmental damage and has repeatedly violated clauses in its permits but has been allowed by the DENR and the Palace to get away scot-free to date,” she said.
Concepcion added that more ecological disasters, human rights violations, and plunder of the country’s natural resources would happen if the government continues to proceed with the Arroyo administration’s Mining Revitalization Program.