Critics dare Aquino to turn ‘Mine Safety Week’ into reality

MANILA — On the first day of the “celebration” of Mine Safety Week, representatives of Filipino farmers and indigenous peoples, scientists and environmentalists, expressly distanced themselves from the government celebrations and instead held protest rallies across the Philippines against what they described as liberalized, plunderous mining, which also often comes with brutal militarization.

In Manila, the protesters marched to the Mendiola Bridge (now Chino Roces) and held a brief program there. They condemned “the continuing environmentally destructive impact to communities and key ecosystems attributed to foreign mining companies.” They unfurled an image of what they said as real “righteous path,” a paved road to national industrialization and an end to destructive, extractive and largely foreign-controlled mining.

By celebrating Mine Safety Week, “Aquino just wants to make a show as if the Mining Act of 1995 is still good and functioning despite protests and the very ugly effects of large-scale mining,” Pulvinar added.

In fact, mining companies operating in the Philippines are being forced to “spend huge amounts of money now to convince the people about the fictitious goodness of mining, precisely because the people’s consciousness and protests against the destructive large-scale mining have intensified over the years,” noted Renato Reyes, secretary-general of Bayan (New Patriotic Alliance), at the environmentalists’ rally in Mendiola.

“No matter how splendid the celebrations of both Malacañang and the Chamber of Mines are, it can never fully hide the fact that hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest lands have been destroyed by the mining operations of large mining companies operating in Palawan, Surigao, Samar, Marinduque, Masbate and Negros,” said Bautista of Kalikasan.

Most anti-mining activists also decried how millions of hectares of Philippine lands are now being owned by foreign and private mining companies.

“Wherever you go in the Philippines, there are foreigners who have insolently seized ownership of our lands and are now plundering its natural wealth such as minerals,” said Bautista. He cited as example the MRL Gold in Batangas, Xstrata in Cotabato and TVI in Zamboanga.

Rather than addressing all these reported massive resource grab and environmental disasters that dislocate and victimize Filipino farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples, Aquino has only fast–tracked the approval of pending mining projects as soon as he became president, Bautista lamented.

And yet, even the dangers posed by mining to environment and people’s livelihood have brought little compensation. Even the government data showed that mining contributed little to the Gross Domestic Product (its share in 2010 GDP reportedly rose by just 0.1-percent from 0.9-percent in 2007), noted Kakay Tolentino of Katribu Partylist.

The Katribu Partylist challenged the Aquino government to truly implement and promote safe and responsible mining by scrapping the present mining law and passing the peoples’ mining bill. The Peoples’ Mining Bill (HB 4315) proposed by Bayan Muna Partylist in congress reportedly aims to reorient the current mining policy and reverse the liberalized mining industry. The bill is proposing to reorient the mining industry toward being “pro-people and pro-environment,” which also upholds and respects “not only the peoples’ right but also the country’s national patrimony.”

(Text and photos by Marya Salamat)

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3 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Destruction is inappropriate for mining responsibly. God gave the Philippines minerals, but without investments it will not prosper as mining is a very high risk (volatile) business.
    Large scale mining is systematic, pays enough taxex.

    Large mining companies are allowed to operate once an ECC (environmental clearance certificate) is duly reviewed and approved by the government and continually monitored through Multi-partite monitoring team. ECC means compliance with all the environmental standards set by the DENR and for your information is very stringent.

    The government would never allow a company to operate if mining is destructive. Ofcourse mining is an extractive operation wherein the God given minerals are mined from the earth. Same with quarrying and oil.
    And there is no large land affected in mining. It takes cost to mine and you do not mine low grade or low bearing earth materials. Typical mineralization is localized and small. Example, a 300m x 300m (9 hectares of footprint) mineralized ore for a single mine would not exceed 9 hectares to mine.
    Farming has a higher impact on the environment for your info. especially that it is not regulated like mining.

    Except for most small scale mining operators doing illegal mining, which again for your information is “truly destructive.” Small scale mining does not comply with environmental standards and does not pay taxes. Unsafe mining practices and Unfair labor practice. I suggest you do research before you babble non sense.

    I’m a mining engineer myself and only earns an average pay. But I am also a full pledged Filipino. If what you are saying is true that mining is destructive to environment, I myself will become anti-mining and will exchange my present job for other jobs.

    Our country needs to have legal companies that generate income and generate jobs, and willing to help the immediate communities at the mountains.

    What else can provide jobs, income, taxes, and community support on the rural areas but Mining only!

  2. So following your line of thought…Are you saying that everyone should just turn a blind eye to the destruction done by these mining companies? I don’t think so. Yes, there are very bad consequences if the mining companies just get up and leave. But that’s what we’re fighting for. That these bastards stop destroying nature AND to have them rehabilitate EVERYTHING THEY DESTROYED. At the rate they are going, there won’t be anything left to the host community when they leave. Rehabilitation would not help because there won’t be anything to rehabilitate. That’s why they have to be stopped NOW. So we can at least save whatever’s left of nature. And that’s where we need the help of the government. Unfortunately, I think they share your ideals. You’d think differently if you grew up in paradise and that paradise became a big red hole left by people you don’t even know.

  3. So lets paint a different picture. If all the mining companies were to suddenly leave you would have thousands of Filipinos unemployed which would be disastrous for their economy. Artisanal mining would ramp up due to the lack of unemployment and the gold discoveries abandoned by the mining corporations. Artisanal miners destroy the environment by using mercury purchased in the black market to process the gold. They then burn the mercury or dump it into rivers polluting the waters 1000x worse than any mining company ever will. You have to get over the idea that natural resources (i.e. precious metals or oil & gas) will ever be able to be extracted without taking any risk whatsoever. There will ALWAYS be risks, the trick is minimizing them and the mining companies are less risky to the environment than the artisanal miners. The NGO’s or environmental protestors are in uproar because they are paid to do so.

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