By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Environmentalists renewed calls for the repeal of the Philippine mining law and denounced moves to allow new mining applications.
“This law has paved the way for unprecedented plunder of mineral resources in ancestral lands. We are here to make sure that future generations will inherit what we fight for,” Kim Falyao, deputy secretary general of Kabataan para sa Tribung Pilipino, said.
Republic Act No. 7942 (Mining Act of 1995) was aimed to revive the mining industry and attract more foreign investors. However, environmental advocates said that the law caused the “massive plunder of natural resources, destruction of biodiversity, displacement of communities and violations of the collective rights of indigenous peoples over their ancestral domains.”
Read: Mining Act | ’20 years of plunder, destruction and pollution must end’
Read: Duterte’s new mining order disastrous to environment—groups
In an earlier statement, Kalikasan said “large-scale mining runs rampant in watersheds, aggravating floods and landslides.”
Promised benefits of open-pit mining debunked
Groups have also expressed concerns over President Duterte’s decision last year to lift the moratorium on new mining applications and the open-pit mining ban.
In an earlier joint statement, fisherfolk group Pamalakaya and Anakpawis Partylist debunked claims that the lifting of the four-year-old ban on open-pit mining will boost the economy. Through the years, they said that the mining industry accounted for only 0.75 percent in the gross domestic product.
“The much-anticipated economic benefits from the mining industry is a complete farce, as it only creates a very small number of jobs and a paltry amount of value to the Philippine economy. Our abundant forests, productive agricultural fields, and marine resources being plundered by mining companies are indeed a far greater expense than the measly amount of collected royalties and taxes from their destructive operations,” Fernando Hicap, former Anakpawis Party-list lawmaker, said.
Hicap said that open-pit mining has only resulted in the destruction of nearby streams, rivers and seas, affecting the livelihood of small fisherfolks.
In the province of Zambales, a fishing community bore the brunt of the nickel tailings from open-pit mining operations that started in 2006 until then-Environment Secretary Gina Lopez ordered their suspension in 2017, said Pamalakaya.
“Nickel tailings have adversely affected the livelihood of small fisherfolks because of fish-catch depletion and environmental degradation. Traditional fish that used to thrive in the municipal waters have vanished. The contamination also resulted in the death of several reefs that used to be the breeding grounds and habitat of fish. We have been demanding accountability and just compensation from the big mining companies responsible for this environmental catastrophe but to no avail,” Hicap said.
High time for people’s mining bill
In a statement, environment advocates noted the importance of coming up with a policy on mining that will serve the people. “If we want climate and environmental justice, then it is high time for a progressive people’s mining bill — one that is appropriate to work with for a just and green recovery”, Alab Ayroso, spokesperson of youth environmental organization Saribuhay, said.
Read: ‘Philippine Mining Act cannot be saved by executive order’ – environmentalists
Last month, the House Committee of Natural Resources released House Bill No 254 which seeks to revisit the country’s mining law.
Environment advocates said that the bill “upholds social justice, respect for people’s rights and welfare, environmental conservation, and the defense of national sovereignty and patrimony.”
Leon Dulce of Kalikasan said, “We cannot take anymore the lies of the thieves who say that they support the Mining Act and pretend that they are pro-environment. We call on the people to elect leaders who will champion the People’s Mining Bill against pro-mining politics this 2022.” (DAA)