Philex “must understand that it is being punished for its unsafe and irresponsible mining practices, which is the basis for the fine.” It is the company’s responsibility to cleanup and rehabilitate the waters it damaged, and to compensate the adversely affected residents. – KAMP
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Bearing mugshots of DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, Philex Mining Corp. chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, and President Noynoy Aquino III, the indigenous peoples and environment activists called the trio ‘criminals’ who should be arrested for crimes against the environment and the indigenous peoples. They picketed the gates of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Aug 1, a year after Philex’s Padcal mines began dumping million tons of minewastes downstream.
“The collusion of these three in facilitating mining is costing us our national patrimony, environmental integrity, and the safety and welfare of our people. A year ago today, the true nature of mining in the Philippines was exposed by the disaster: our mining industry is plunderous, unsafe, and irresponsible,” declared Piya Macliing Malayao, spokesperson of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP).
The group demanded that Philex be made to pay “just compensation to affected communities, including the downstream communities in Pangasinan.”
“Philex should take responsibility for the adverse effects of its operations in Itogon and Tuba (towns of Benguet) and in the communities downstream of Agno River. The communities of San Manuel, San Felipe East, and San Felipe West were also severely affected by the mine spill, and by the protracted effects of the five-decade mine operations,” Malayao said.
KAMP said Philex “must understand that it is being punished for its unsafe and irresponsible mining practices, which is the basis for the fine.” It said it is the company’s responsibility to cleanup and rehabilitate the waters it damaged, and to compensate the adversely affected residents. “We demand no less from Philex,” Malayao said.
Philex profited billions but wreak havoc on environment, people
In the nearly six decades of Philex’s operations, it has extracted million tons of gold and copper from what used to be ancestral territories of indigenous peoples in Benguet. But according to Malayao, in return for vacating their territories, the indigenous peoples’ benefits had been scarce. They are forced to live in an unsafe environment, while some of them who became mineworkers have to bear scant benefits and poor working conditions. As such, Malayao said the indigenous peoples have “every right to exact clean up and compensation demands from Philex.”
Philex Mining Corporation’s gold mine in Padcal, Benguet lies at the heart of the Cordilleras. KAMP said it now hosts a mining community of 14,000 people composed mostly of indigenous peoples. The mine site covers 95 hectares of lands. Before the mining operations began more than five decades ago, Malayao said the land, mountains, and rivers were the sources of livelihood, culture, and way of life of the Igorot tribes.
KAMP assailed the DENR, saying it is abandoning its mandate to protect the environment and natural resources. In allowing Philex to resume full commercial operations, “the DENR is practically overseeing the continued destruction of the environment and putting our people in danger,” Malayao said.