Letter to the Editor: Government’s Mining Policy Promotes Destructive, Irresponsible Mining

Letter to the Editor
16 February 2011

Mining liberalization under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the Mining Revitalization Program plainly promotes and implements destructive irresponsible mining.

Since the implementation of the Mining Revitalization Program in 2003, there is still no existing study by the government on the devastation brought about by mining operations like what happened in the provinces of Albay, Palawan, Masbate, and the CARAGA and Cordillera regions. The host of environmental and health problems plus the displacement of the communities and indigenous peoples living in these areas caused by large scale foreign mining companies directly contradicts the government’s statement that it only allows ‘sustainable mining’ in our country.

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We challenge DENR Secretary Ramon Paje and the Chamber of Mines Philippines (CMP) to visit with us the foreign mining operations in Palawan. We will show them the ecological degradation that destroyed the forests and the community displacements that large-scale mining have caused. We will also let them see and realize for themselves the economic progress in non-mining areas is much better than mining areas in Palawan.

The government keeps harping that the mining industry brings in several billion dollars worth of investments to the country. What they do not reveal is that after extracting hundred billion dollars worth of minerals, these transnational mining companies repatriate 100% of their profits to their home countries. Based on the government’s own data, the contribution of mining to government revenues as well as to the economic development of the country is insignificant.

According to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), a total of US$ 2.80 billion was invested in the mining sector from 2003 to 2009. With the same period, mining gross production value from minerals increased from US$758 million to US$ 2.22 billion while the export revenues increased from US$ 637 million to US$ 2.72 billion. Despite the increase in mining investments, excise taxes, mining fees and royalties, from which the government extracts its revenues from mining companies, amounted only from US$3.7 million to US$27.9 million or just 0.5% to 1.0% of the total mineral export (US$1=Php43).

Foreign mining TNCs have no intentions to stop their mining projects and are aggressive in expanding operations in the country because they are just required to pay a dismal amount of taxes and fees in exchange for the hundreds of billions of pesos that they rake in from our mineral lands.

Already, affected communities all over the country are mobilizing against large scale mining companies in their areas. The February 14 rally of Romblomanons against the Mining Act of 1995 and calling for the cancellation of the permits of Sibuyan Nickel properties Development Corporation and Ivanhoe Philippines Inc. in Romblon is an example of the people’s opposition to mining in their communities.

Just like Palawan, Romblon is also a gem of an island because of its rich biodiversity. Sibuyan Island is home to Mt. Guiting Guiting Natural Park and intact coral reefs. Dolphins also swim nearby Tablas Island. President Aquino said to Palawenos that if they do no want mining, then mining in Palawan will not continue. Will he also listen to Romblomanons who also do not want mining in their islands?

If the DENR and CMP are saying that mining moratorium in the country is not possible now because of the existing mining law, they remain deaf to the calls of local government officials, religious sector, environmentalists, and local grassroots communities in their demands to stop the mining operations and scrap the Mining Act of 1995. We challenge President Aquino, the DENR, and the CMP to look into our proposal to replace the current mining law with the People’s Mining Bill that we will pass in the Congress. Under this proposed law, mining will be implemented in the context of pursuing a genuine economic development of the country while ensuring the protection of the environment and welfare of the communities.

Clemente Bautista, Jr.
National Coordinator, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)

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