A new report launched last week ahead of International Human Rights Day cited a “link” between mining and the human rights situation in the Philippines.
The report, which was prepared by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, noted the role of mining companies, the government, civil society groups, and communities in protecting everyone’s right to a healthy and safe environment.
Reacting to the report, Ritz Lee Santos III, executive director of the group BALAOD MINDANAW, said local communities, however, “have limited to no genuine participation in deciding whether to allow mining operations in their areas.”
“Similarly, they have no control over their impact on natural resources,” said Santos.
Judy Pasimio, coordinator of the women’s group LILAK, said the “changes in the landscape due to mining” have brought food insecurity and increased vulnerability from the impacts of climate crisis.
Communities are also divided, she said, and people fear for attacks against as they speak out and stand up for their rights.
The report focused on the experiences and testimonies of people most affected by mining in the Dinagat and Didipio regions.
“In such an oppressive and fearful climate, it is even more important to increase the visibility of communities fighting for their rights,” read a statement from FORUM-ASIA.
The report stressed “a clear call to action to protect the communities who have borne the brunt of mining for decades.” It also amplifies calls for accountability, transparency, and fundamental freedoms.
On Human Rights Day on December 10, the group Alyansa Tigil Mina called for “economic and social justice” amid what the group described as “the burgeoning crisis faced by the country.”
“This crisis that involves skyrocketing prices is a heavy burden on ordinary citizens. Yet, this is also the same crisis that favors big mining companies,” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of the group.
“Government itself exploits the current crisis to justify its drive for more mining activities. It has been pushing for the revitalization of the mining industry as a so-called strategy for economic recovery,” he said.
Malou Verano of the ATM-Women and Mining Working Group and Council of Leaders added that “the injustice here is Filipinos suffer more while mining companies rake in more profits.”
“In mining-affected communities, residents are being displaced and their livelihoods lost due to mining. Add to this, the cost to the environment is steep, much too high than the so-called benefits of mining,” she said.
The alliance called on the government to stop destructive mining and to institute social justice measures and policies to address the current economic crisis.
The group welcomed the report prepared by FORUM-ASIA, saying it only “confirms what has been said before” that “there is limited, if not non-existent, genuine participation by mining-affected communities in the decision-making process of allowing mining operations in their areas.”
“We are thankful for this report because it provides us with more indisputable data about the experiences of people in the communities regarding mining,” ATM said in a separate statement.
It added that the report “is an important contribution that should be made available to decision-makers,” especially those working for the passage of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill in Congress.