SOMEWHERE IN NORTHERN MINDANAO (MindaNews/ 27 July)– The threat to Mindanao’s environment is no longer illegal logging but large-scale mining operations, National Democratic Front-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge Madlos said.
Logging, the rebel leader stressed, is already a “sunset industry” and the mining industry is now taking its place in destroying the island’s environment.
Madlos, also known as Ka Oris, issued this statement in reaction to President Benigno Aquino’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday. The President boasted the government’s drive against illegal logging in Caraga region last month.
But Madlos claimed that the logs confiscated in Butuan City were owned by several Lumad farmers, who were just merely depending on the supposed income from the logs so they can send their children to school.
“We learned that there was a middle man who consolidated those logs and then sold them to the sawmill operators,” the rebel leader said while monitoring the SONA inside their guerilla base.
Later in the interview with journalists, he said the revolutionary movement is lenient towards small-scale mining “because it can only cause small damage to the environment compared to the large-scale miners.”
Madlos pointed out that that for many years that small-scale miners have thrived in Mindanao, the “damage it has done to our ecology is very minimal.”
On the other hand, large-scale mining companies operate for only a few years but the damage is already evident, he stressed.
“You can already see how big the damage it has done to our mountains, to our rivers, to our lakes and to our seas,” Madlos said.
Madlos noted that only large-scale mining companies could afford big and destructive earth-moving equipment that can flatten the mountains while small-scale miners “can only do as much and have smaller capacity to destroy the environment.”
In a separate statement emailed to media outlets, Madlos said that Executive Order 79 only offers a token concern on environmental protection while giving primacy to the extremely destructive large-scale multinational mining over that of the small scale mining in order to increase the government revenues.
He added it only gives Malacanang the overriding authority to approve mining applications and policies, and monopolize the “loot” from big mining, while, ironically, depriving the small-scale mining industry, which employs millions, of its rightful share by limiting them to certain areas called “Minahang Bayan.”
If the communist movement only has the power, they would rather stop all the multinational corporations that operate in the Philippines and allow only small-scale miners, Madlos said.
“Before when the NPA was still at its formative stage, all these logging, mining and multinational corporations are untouchable. Now, after how many decades of development of the revolutionary movement, you can see that almost all of these companies are recognizing the political authority of the revolutionary movement,” he added.
Madlos warned large-scale mining companies to comply with all the requirements and the policies of the rebel group.
One requirement, he said, is that the big companies must discuss with them their environmental program, their policies on the workers and on the lumads as well as their social services in the area.
“Otherwise they will be sanctioned, we will destroy their equipment and we will drive then out of the area,” Madlos stressed.
Mining must benefit the Filipino people and the country’s own industry, he said.
In the Philippines, the government is allowing mining not to have the capital to develop the industry but to satisfy the needs of other countries, Madlos said.
“The other point is that small-scale miners can only produce as much minerals than the big mining companies. At the rate they are mining our minerals in the Philippines, when the revolution wins, there is no more mineral resources for us to rebuild our economy,” Madlos said. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)