The Philippines is not only the pearl of the orient, it is literally a trove of mineral resources — we are in fact the 5th most mineralized country in the world, with 95% of our land holding mineral resources. According to Kalikasan-PNE’s Philippine Mining Situation, however, the exploitation of these resources and the long-standing social, environmental and economic impacts that comes with it are bound to worsen under the new administration, what with the 65% increase in mining investments in 2010 compared to the previous year, and a targeted $17.35 billion worth of mining investments by 2016.
To be clear, the mining industry is essential to a nation-state’s development plan. This is not the case, however, when it does not benefit the domestic economy and damages the local environmental and natural resources and the social infrastructure at the same time. According to the mining sit, the industry, largely dominated by foreign transnational corporations (TNCs), accounts for only 1 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and contributes only 5 percent of the industry’s total wealth in terms of taxes collected. Mining concessions have leapfrogged to 1,042,531 hectares in the first half of 2010, and have historically displaced thousands of communities when mining operations start to come in.
Long-standing as well as recent mining policies such as RA 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995 and the mining revitalization program paved the way for the unfettered liberalization of mining, trumping all economic, social and environmental policies that run counter to the dominant pro-TNC nature of our mining law. Despite past legal developments such as the establishment of Green Courts, TEPOs, the Writ of Kalikasan and the filing of the Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) Bill, human rights violations on the environmental movement persists through the Aquino administration, with 4 of the 37 killings of environmental workers and activists since 2001 occurring under it, the most recent of which is the killing of Dr. Gerry Ortega, a known anti-mining advocate in Palawan.
The Defend Patrimony! Alliance said that in addition to the popular issue and struggle of mining in Palawan, at least 9 other provinces have active campaigns against mining, which are Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Northern and Eastern Samar, Marinduque, Romblon, Capiz and in South Cotabato, where a law banning open pit mining was passed but is being blocked by the DENR. There are also other mining issues such as the expansion of magnetite mining operations in Cagayan Valley, Visayas and the Bicol region. Not having the media clout of the Palawan campaign personally backed by the ABS CBN Foundation, these struggles have largely remained unnoticed in the public’s view.
If the issue of mining has grave economic and ecological impacts on the national scale, why has it remained localized and hitherto unknown, even? Media mileage, after all, is monopolized by the urban areas and is largely dependent on the urban public’s opinion. The urgent need to raise the issue of mining into the national level of discourse relies upon our efforts to popularize the issue and saturate all possible venues to creatively communicate the sharpest analyses and actions on our environmental advocacy.
There is much we can do and are already doing. Progressive formations such as the Advocates of Science & Technology for the People have pushed for a legislative alternative to RA 7942 in the People’s Mining Alternative, ensuring fair trade relations and sustainable, pro-people mining industry standards, for which Kalikasan-PNE plans to mobilize its forces for a full-fledged national advocacy campaign. Right now, it is also one with the Palawan campaign calling for 10 million signatures against destructive mining in the island’s ecosystems.
Initiatives for environmental education remain an integral task that we in the urban must do, such as the monthly Talakayan sa Kubo that the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines conducts. Last January’s talakayan discussed updates in the mining situation and campaigns. On February 23, the University of the Philippines Explore, a socio-civic environmental organization, is spearheading a large forum on the impacts of mining on the state of Philippine biodiversity.
What we need, then, is the warm bodies that will participate in and support these campaigns, policy advocacies, and education efforts. Everyone is enjoined in the forums, educational discussions and multi-sectoral campaigns of Kalikasan-PNE and its network on mining.