QUEZON CITY — Environment and climate advocates, as well as members of grassroot communities, lauded the Department of Environment and Natural Resource’s (DENR) closure of 23 mines situated in functional watersheds, and suspension of 5 mining firms, as of last January 31.
“This government action has finally brought into the forefront the long history of suffering inflicted by the country’s large-scale mining industry on our environment and our mining-affected communities,” Dr. Benito Benito Molino, chair of Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz, said.
Molino referred to DENR Secretary Gina Lopez’s findings on the grave environmental degradation and disruption of community lives that have been occurring in the mining capital regions of the country.
“The campaign that calls for holding accountable destructive mining firms and for the halt of these mining operations have been left unheeded for years until now,” Molino added.
“It takes bold and concrete actions to put an immediate stop to the environmental degradation and community life destruction that have long been the mark of large-scale mining in this country, ” he said.
Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa hoped that this paves the way for more empowered communities in their fight to reclaim their home and their proper way of life from being destroyed by the large-scale mining industry
Pedrosa expressed the need for continuous action, both by the state and its citizens, against possible retaliatory measures to be undertaken by huge mining companies.
“Stronger safeguards need to be installed in our institutions to truly break away from the current state of affairs of our environment, where only a handful dominate in extracting and benefiting from the country’s natural resources,” he said.
Gerry Arances of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) National Convenor noted that farmers and fishers from mining-affected communities are often stripped of their health and their livelihood due to the disruptive presence of mining operations in affected areas.
According to Arances, the visible environmental impacts of mining operations by Benguet Corp Nickel Mines Incorporated, Eramen Minerals Incorporated, LNL Archipelago Minerals Incorporated, and Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation, included air pollution, biodiversity loss, floods, food insecurity, loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, soil contamination and erosion, waste overflow, deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, and surface water pollution.
“It is high time we realize and act on the fact that we put so much burden on our environment and our fellow Filipinos in mining-affected areas for the sake of accommodating a large-scale mining industry that empties and irreversibly damages our resources without having ever contributed to our economic growth as a country,” he said.
Arances noted how the country’s current legal framework on mining allows the entry and the long-term and large-scale destruction by mining corporations of communities and ecosystems in exchange for few and insignificant portions of the revenue gained by these corporations.
Large-scale and profit-driven mining industries have long gotten away with encroaching upon and fully exhausting natural resources that are meant for the use and proliferation of our present and future communities, according to Molino.
Pedrosa cited The Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the current law governing mining activities, as one of the major impediments to a truly pro-people and pro-environment national utilization of land resources.
“A law that allows mining corporations to own 100 percent of mineral ores and land covered in claimed mining areas has no place in our genuine pursuit of reclaiming our natural resources for our people,” he said.
CCOS, Sanlakas, and CEED have long supported the passage of bills like the Alternative Minerals Management Bill that champions the adoption of a sustainable, rational, needs-based minerals management, geared towards effective utilization of mineral resources for the goal of attaining an ecologically-sound national and modernized agriculture.