Pro-environment groups marked ‘Mining Hell Week’ this week and described the plan to lift the ban on open-pit mining as “another act of betrayal.”
In a virtual press briefing, the groups said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s new mining policy puts the already suffering communities in a much “hell-like” situation.
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, said Duterte has “absolutely reversed the gains” towards environmental protection when he signed Executive Order (EO) 130.
The Order lifted the nine-year moratorium on new mining agreements to stimulate economic growth and support government projects.
OE 130 also reduces the role of local government units in accepting or rejecting mining projects while reverses the administrative orders to suspend or cancel mining contracts that violated environmental laws.
Garganera said by declaring mining as an essential industry, “Duterte gives a go-signal for large corporations to plunder our natural resources and ruin communities and the environment.”
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources attempted to insert a provision in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of EO 130 that would lift the moratorium on the open-pit mining method.
The environment department, however, announced in August that it opted to keep the nationwide ban on the controversial mining method after it drew criticism from the public.
In 2017, the late and former environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez issued Department Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2017-10 that prohibited open-pit mining methods.
The administrative order stated that open-pit mines “have ended up as perpetual liabilities [on the part of the government], causing adverse impacts to the environment, particularly due to the generation of acidic and/or heavy metal-laden water, erosion of mine waste dumps and/or vulnerability of tailings dams to geological hazards.”
Melody Asia of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc, said it is irrational that the government is relying on mining for the country’s economy while the mining industry has no significant contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
GDP is the standard measure of the value added created through the production of goods and services in a country during a certain period.
According to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the mining sector accounted for P102.3 billion, equivalent to 0.6 percent of GDP growth in 2020.
Asia said it is clear that the government’s priority is in favor of the mining industries that “contributed greatly to the loss of biodiversity and decrease in natural and human resilience against impacts of climate changes.”
“All these consequences will only have the poor, vulnerable, and disadvantaged sector of the Filipino people bear the brunt of this questionable economic development,” she added.
Judy Pasimio of the group IDefend or In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement described mining firms as criminals that plunder the environment.
She said the Philippine government “is not simply aiding and abetting” these criminals but the “Duterte government is a criminal itself.”
“While the government encourages firms to profit from mining, it tolerates infractions and injustices against communities,” she said.
Mining Hell Week runs from October 25 to 29 with a series of activities tackling the current issues surrounding mining in the country.