Letter to the Editor: Ban Large-Scale, Foreign Mining, Not Just in Palawan, but Nationwide

Letter to the Editor
February 18, 2011

It took the life of a dignified man before President Noynoy Aquino declared that all mining applications in the province of Puerto Princesa will no longer be processed.

The death of Dr. Gerry Ortega, a big loss for the media institution and for the whole community defending the environment against destructive commercial large scale and foreign mining, significantly pressured the national government’s liberalized and deregulated mining policy.

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But as much as we want to rejoice over the declaration of the president, the reality is that hundreds of foreign-funded and large-scale mining applications and ongoing operations sow destruction in the rest of the country. His declaration being limited to Puerto Princesa is like a go-signal for mining transnationals to continue their plunderous operations in other parts of the country.

The question is, should it take another man’s life, or the lives of hundreds, before large-scale mining operations are stopped?

In Mindanao, anti-mining activists have also been subjected to extrajudicial killings. Eliezer Boy Billanes, a staunch oppositor of the biggest gold miner in the country, Xstrata-SMI, was brutally slain in 2009. The year before, Fernando Sarmiento, chair of Panalipdan – New Bataan and a vocal critique of foreign funded mining in his area was also shot dead after being maliciously claimed by the 10th ID-AFP as a rebel surrenderee.

Looking back, even tragedies caused by large-scale, especially foreign mining operations did not prompt any government action to stop destructive mining operations or to address the impacts that these pose on the health, environment and basic rights of the people.

We note with deep regret the environmental damages wrought by Canada’s Marcopper Placer Dome Project in Marinduque whose mine spill victims have not even been treated or compensated. More recently, in 2008, a landslide occurred in the mining area of Brgy. Masara, Maco, Compostela Valley causing the death of 24 and displacing thousands. The blame was put on the small scale mining in the area while there was no slightest inquiry raised by the government as to the possibility of foreign miners’ Apex’s or Crews’ large scale operations having caused the landslide.

Economically speaking, host countries to large-scale mining is at a losing end because taxes paid by mining companies will not even compensate for the environmental damages and the natural resources mined and brought out of the country.

Ironically, economic biodiversity losses defeat touted revenues due to foreign and large scale mining investments. University of the Philippines Professor Arturo Boquiren said that with a yearly revenue of P6.9 billion due to largescale mining, the net social or economic loss for the country can be as much as P92.7 billion yearly. Based on 2007 data, this could reach to as much as P1.16 trillion of loss in biodiversity and resources if all the Benguet metals are extracted in one scoop.

With these, we cannot fathom the purported ‘economic gains’ and development behind the revitalization of the mining industry under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, a law which allows the 100% plunder of our land and minerals by foreign mining corporations and thus perpetuates the violation of our patrimonial rights and sovereignty.

President Aquino declared a no-mining policy in Palawan. The question is will this be enough to salvage the rest of the country from the deluge of largescale and foreign mining operations under the Private-Public Partnership development blueprint?

Lest we forget, everything is interrelated, the sea, the air, the land, the people. The exclusion of Puerto Princesa, though a good move, does not change anything. We remain doomed by the influx of foreign and large-scale mining.

FRANCIS MORALES
Secretary General, PANALIPDAN – Southern Mindanao
Juna Subd., Davao City

panalipdan.smr@gmail.com

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