By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Contrary to government claims, the entry of mining transnational corporations (TNCs) has not improved the lives of the Filipino people and the economy as a whole.
Data from the Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) show that from 2006 to the third quarter of 2010, the mining industry’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) ranges only from one percent to 1.7 percent. Over the same period, the mining contribution to exports ranges from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent.
While the government keeps on saying that mining would provide jobs for Filipinos, MGB data reveal that mining’s contribution to employment is only 0.5 percent from 2008 to third quarter of 2010.
“The government is hell-bent in promoting mining but the Filipino people have very little to gain from mining TNCs,” Joan Jaime, national coordinator of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp), said in a forum April 8 in Quezon City.
As of the third quarter of 2010, total exports of minerals and mineral products cost $1.3 billion. On the other hand, the total taxes, fees and royalties collected from mining companies in the same period amount to only $17.07 million.
Ador Ramo, a former organizer in communities affected by mining, said 100 years of mining in Itogon, Benguet has not improved the lives of the people. He said that while the Benguet Corporation has extracted thousands of tons of gold, people’s lives remain miserable.
According to Kamp, the Philippine mining industry, like in most third world countries, is limited to the initial processing of ores. In the absence of refining/smelting industries and fabricating industries, the country is not capable of converting raw materials to higher value finished products.
The Philippine government, meanwhile, has no intention to nationalize the mining industry. The country’s mineral resources are exported, instead of being utilized for national development.
The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has further led to the sell-out of national patrimony. Kamp has listed down ten salient points why the law is detrimental to national interest:
1) 100 percent foreign ownership of mining projects
2) Foreign company can lay claim to 81,000 hectares onshore or 324,000 hectares offshore
3) Companies can repatriate all profits, equipment and investment
4) Companies are guaranteed against expropriation by the state
5) Excise duties are cut from five to two percent and tax holidays and deferred payment are allowed until all costs are recovered.
6) Losses can be carried forward against income tax
7) The government commits itself to ensuring the removal of all obstacles to mining, including settlements and farms
8 ) Companies are promised priority access to water resources within their concession.
9) Companies are given the right to sell gold directly to the international market without Central Bank intervention.
10) Mining leases last 25 years with an option of a 25-year extension.
Leah Fullon, Kamp public information officer, said the entry of mining TNCs violates the national patrimony.
Ramo said that if we nationalize the mining industry, the country would be richer than the mother countries of mining TNCs operating in the Philippines.
The group also underscored the extent of damage caused by large-scale mining, saying that the aggressive mineral extraction for export has been highly detrimental to the ecological balance. “It drained the country of high grade ore, leaving a degraded environment full of toxic wastes,” the group said.
Piya Malayao, Kamp spokesperson, said the damage caused by mining on the people’s lives, their livelihood and culture are not taken into consideration by the government.
The group, together with other indigenous peoples’ organizations, has launched a national campaign against destructive mining dubbed as “Ancestral Lands at Risk of Mining” (ALARM). Foremost in their demands is the repeal of Mining Act of 1995.
Jaime said mining should serve the interest of the people. Kamp is also calling for the passage of the People’s Mining Bill as an alternative to the current mining policy of the government.