Do mining companies really bring about development? Do they generate sufficient employment to uplift the people from poverty? Do they practice ‘responsible mining,’ as they claim to be doing, to protect the environment? These are the very same questions the International Fact-Finding and Environmental Mission did seek to answer as the team members visited and conducted dialogues in the northern and southern parts of Negros Occidental.
By RONALYN V. OLEA and JANESS ANN ELLAO
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental — Negros Occidental has been known as the “Sugarbowl of the Philippines.” As such, the province rode high on the boom of the 1950s and 1960s when sugar was in demand in the world market, and plunged during the crisis of the 1970s when sugar prices went on a downward spiral because of oversupply and the entry of artificial sweeteners. Again, it rose with the propagation of prawn farming but just as easily plunged when export prices went down.
But whatever fortunes or misfortunes the province experienced, the social structure remains the same. A drawback from the Spanish colonial times, Negros Occidental is dominated by the few rich owners of plantations and vast tracts of land, while the majority is mired in poverty. The picture of an extremely malnourished child named Joel Abong became the face of poverty and social injustice in the province and the whole country during the 1970s.
Now, mining companies are making an entry into the province with the promise of ushering in development and generating employment. On the national level, mining companies have been active in promoting itself through television ads and conferences and the Aquino government has been welcoming them with open arms. The mining industry is the only industry with an executive order dedicated to its promotion.
Do mining companies really bring about development? Do they generate sufficient employment to uplift the people from poverty? Do they practice ‘responsible mining,’ as they claim to be doing, to protect the environment? These are the very same questions the International Fact-Finding and Environmental Mission sponsored by the Asian Peasant Coalition, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), KMP-Negros and Action Solidarite Tiers Monde (ASTM) did seek to answer as the team members visited and conducted dialogues in the northern and southern parts of Negros Occidental. And the results and stories gathered by the mission did reflect not only the impact of mining in the province but also in the whole country.
Mining companies operating in the southern and northern parts of Negros Occidental wield two weapons to be able to operate with impunity: deception and force. (Click here to continue)
For years, 64-year-old Gregorio Cordova and his family have relied on farming for survival. A tenant-farmer working on a 1.5-hectare of land near the Bacuyangan River, Cordova gets one-fourth share of the harvested palay (rice grain) and the rest goes to the landowner. Even with such meager share, he, his wife and their eight children had managed to get by. (Click here to continue)
As the fishing boat was nearing the site where Aspac Dredging and Restoration Inc. was believed to be operating, a group of men shooed the fact finding team away. One of them even ran at the edge of the shore trying to drive the team away.(Click here to continue)
Mining corporations and the Aquino government always say that mining contributes to the growth of the economy. Contrary to such claim, data from no less than the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), which is posted at the website of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, reveals that the contribution of mining and quarrying to overall employment, as of the second quarter of this year, is a mere 0.7 percent.(Click here to continue)
Rahmat, deputy secretary general of the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), is among the seven foreigners who joined the International Fact-Finding and Environmental Mission (IFFEM) in Southern and Northern Negros held November 6 to 15. Organized by the APC and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and its local chapter in Negros, the IFFEM aimed to document the impact of mining activities on the lives of farmers and fisherfolk.(Click here to continue)