By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Various environmentalist groups are calling on voters not to elect pro-mining candidates, who, they said, if voted to office, will worsen the plunder of national patrimony and destruction of the environment.
The groups under the Green Vote 2016 Campaign identified presidential aspirants former Internal Secretary Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party and Vice President Jejomar Binay of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), who they said, both have links with and receive support from mining companies.
“If these candidates are elected, we expect an increased entry and operation of foreign and big mining companies who will further grab our lands, destroy our ecosystems, and plunder our resources,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, in a press conference today, March 1.
“Instead of radically changing our defective mining policy and program, these electoral aspirants will allow greater foreign control of our mineral resources and graver ecological devastation,” he added.
Also at the press conference are leaders of indigenous peoples groups Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayang Pilipino, and mining-affected communities, church and scientist groups under the Scrap the Mining Act of 1995 Network.
The groups said a candidate’s stand on the “defective” Mining Act of 1995 is a crucial issue in this year’s elections, because it shows if the candidate “stands with the people against mining.”
Bautista said in Roxas’s 2012 Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net worth (SALN), he declared P120 million ($2.5 million) worth of shares in seven mining companies, namely: Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, Manila Mining Company, Philex Mining Corporation, Marinduque Mining and Industrial Corporation, Mindanao Mother Lake Mines, Samar Mining Company, and Western Minolco Corporation.
Roxas is also being supported by Miguel Gutierrez, owner of the San Roque Metals Inc. (SRMI) which was reported to have lent private jets for Roxas’s sorties. LP spokesperson Edgar Erice was former SRMI owner and Gutierrez’s business partner.
Bautista said so far, no presidential or vice-presidential candidate has made a categorical stand that their platform includes changing the Mining Act, except for Binay who said the law should be amended to further open the country to foreign mining companies.
“We believe the reason for this is that mining companies are one of the biggest donors during elections,” Bautista said.
Binay also received P3 million ($64,000) from the mining company DMCI for his 2010 campaign, Bautista said. Presidential candidate Grace Poe and vice presidential aspirant Alan Peter Cayetano had made statements that they advocate “responsible mining.”
The groups said that for the past 21 years under the Mining Act, there has been no “responsible mining,” as shown by the reported mining disasters.
Cayetano’s running mate, presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte banned the entry of new mining companies in Davao city, but the old ones continue to operate.
Another vice presidential aspirant, Bongbong Marcos, had also issued pro-mining statements, while former military man Gregorio Honasan, had advocated the formation of paramilitary groups to protect mining sites.
The groups said senatorial candidates of the LP and UNA “have the clearest records of supporting large-scale mining in the country.” LP candidates campaign is based on continuing President Aquino’s tuwid na daan, “which includes the worsening mining liberalization,” Bautista said.
Richard Gordon, a guest candidate in both parties of Binay and Poe, is currently an independent director in Atlas Mining. Also running under UNA is Martin Romualdez, the former chairman of Benguet Corporation, whose brother Benjamin Romualdez is the president of the Chamber of Mines.