“What we lost is not just the resources, but what our country could have done to industrialize and provide jobs.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Minerals are not the only things foreign large-scale mining companies are taking away from developing countries, they may very well be taking away the latter’s future for development.
In the recently-concluded International People’s Conference on Mining (IPCM), Ibon Foundation executive director Jose Enrique Africa said more than just the impact of foreign, large-scale mining on the environment, one should also look into its impact on the community and the lost possibility for implementing a national industrialization program.
Africa said since 1970s, when neoliberal policies were first imposed on the Philippines, the total raw mineral exports amount to $44 billion. Last year, the country exported $4.4 billion-worth of raw minerals. This, however, constitutes a mere 0.7 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
While mining’s contribution to the economy has been small, Africa said, it should raise concern, because mineral resources are finite, and the need for it cuts across all sectors in the economy – industrial, agriculture and even the service sectors.
“What we lost is not just the resources, but what our country could have done to industrialize and provide jobs,” he said.
In the US, Africa said, industries have contributed $2.5 trillion to its GDP. The materials needed for such come from the resources from developing countries – even if quantitatively it was just one or two grams per, for example, a computer chip.
“But without that one or two grams or even less, it would not work,” he added.
Africa said that while the US and other developed countries reap the natural resources from the Philippines, the country’s manufacturing industry has collapsed. This has led to a backward technology, widespread unemployment, poverty and the diaspora of Filipinos to find work abroad.
Africa said mining companies, per the dictates of the World Bank, have already been “costed.”
“Mining companies cannot destroy that which they cannot pay for,” Africa quipped, adding that this is deceiving as it does not reflect what is happening on the ground.
The Philippines has had a fair share of mining disasters since large-scale foreign companies have begun digging the country’s natural resources. Nearly two decades ago, the Marcopper tailings dam in Marinduque collapsed and unleashed toxic mine spill. This July, nine workers of the Semirara Mining and Power Corporation were killed when a mine collapsed.
“It is a good time to challenge the hegemony of neoliberalism,” Africa said.
The workshop titled Financing Mining Plunder and Rights Violations was led by the Ibon Foundation. The IPCM, held in Quezon City last July 30 to Aug. 1, was organized by various local and international human rights, environmental and lawyers groups.