DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 March) — An anti-mining activist and human rights defender has called on the next Philippine president to include in their agenda for the next six years the scrapping of the 1995 Mining Act, environmental protection and justice for victims of extra-judicial killings.
Panalipdan Mindanao secretary general Sr. Stella Matutina laid down a five-point agenda at the Mindanao People’s Mining Conference last Wednesday that the next President should prioritize and accomplish.
First, Republic Act 7942, also known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, must be scrapped as it has done more harm than good to both the environment and the Lumads (Indigenous Peoples), she said.
Matutina also called for passage of House Bill 4315, also known as the People’s Mining, authored by Bayan Muna partylist representative and senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares.
Congress adjourned on February 3 without passing the law.
“Let’s shout ‘enough with this RA 7942 and enough with corporate plunder!,” she said.
The law has allowed more mining companies to operate in Mindanao, she said, adding the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has approved 381 exploration permits to mining companies as of 2014 in Mindanao.
Section 20 of RA 7942 states that exploration permit “grants the right to conduct exploration for all minerals in specified areas.”
She dismissed claims that government is earning from mining companies through taxes, explaining that the damaging results from mining would always outweigh the gains.
“The contribution of the revenues from the mining companies to the gross domestic product (GDP) is very small but the destruction it has caused to our environment is insurmountable,” she said.
Matutina, a recipient of the 2015 Weimar Award for Human Rights, also demanded justice for victims of extra-judicial killings, most of them advocates and Lumad leaders who joined the movements against mining operations in Mindanao.
Matutina said that under President Benigno Aquino III, there have been 71 extra-judicial killings, 51 of them involving Lumad leaders and environmental advocates.
“Under President Aquino’s Daang Matuwid, the military gladly acts as private armies for foreign mining corporations and guarantees them unrestricted control and exploitation of mineral wealth. Aside from deploying more than 50 percent of AFP forces in Mindanao, the Aquino regime is further exploiting the Lumads by forcing them to become members of paramilitary forces like the Magahat, Bagani, Alamara who have wreaked havoc inside indigenous communities,” she said in a separate statement.
Among the victims of extra-judicial killing were Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, Aurelio SInzo, Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, Juvy Capion and her two children, Eliezer Billanes, and Jimmy Liguyon.
She also called for the pull-out of military troops in Lumad communities and the disbandment of paramilitary groups. She said militarization has displaced several indigenous people (IP) from their communities in the guise of “Oplan Bayanihan.”
The next President “should cancel all militarization policies which are linked to mining operations that are extractive and pollutive,” she said.
“Twenty-one years of liberalization of the mining industry has resulted in massive destruction of the environment through deforestation, loss of vegetation and biodiversity.
Floods, landslide, and other environmental disaster are just natural agents that have triggered the already denuded and eroded natural terrains affecting thousands of farmers and indigenous families in Mindanao,” she said.
Re-file People’s Mining Bill
The 16th Congress failed to approve on third and final reading the People’s Mining Bill before it adjourned last February 3.
But Ariel Casilao, Anakpawis partylist first nominee said the Makabayan bloc has vowed to re-file the proposed measure, along with the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill as well as lobby the National Industrialization Bill in the next congress.
The GARB seeks to dismantle land monopolies and ensure fair distribution of land.
The People’s Mining Bill provides that government and community shares will be increased, including shares of the national government, local government, indigenous cultural communities’ royalty, and scientific research and development fund.
“It allows only mining permits which Filipinos can derive the most benefit from and which will support the strategic and prudent extraction of minerals needed for industrialization. In terms of large-scale mining, it scraps the controversial FTAA (Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement) and EP (Exploration Permit). It retains other permits in RA7942 but considerably reduces their scope and rights,” the mining bill’s primer said.
The proposed law bans open pit mining, which Casilao said is more destructive.. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)