OUR PEACE: Gold Fever. By Peace Advocates Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/30 January) —  A few days ago, civil society groups led by the local Catholic diocese staged a rally in Dipolog City to urge for the banning of strip mining in Zamboanga del Norte.  The news report revealed that the provincial government’s board is in the process of passing a law that would prohibit strip mining in the province.  If the bill will pass, the province will be the second in Mindanao to take such an action.

The anti-mining move is a matter of self-defense and survival for practically the entire population of Zamboanga del Norte, since half of its area is now covered by mining rights or claims. By the time those rights would be fully exploited, half of the province would be an absolute wasteland – without trees, rivers and other natural assets.  Its mangroves will be highly silted, depriving fishermen of sufficient catch and the people of adequate, affordable fish supply. Potable water would be in short supply, even as flooding will be rampant whenever it rains hard or long enough.

Many areas in the country have been experiencing massive landslides and floods, resulting in substantial damage to properties and agriculture and loss of lives, due to deforestation either from illegal logging or legitimate mining or both.

Here in Zamboanga City, there are at least two mining applications pending before government agencies and local authorities.  They are something to be on guard about.

Mining is a killer industry because of the devastation it wreaks upon the environment and thereby the lives of people.  Although the law may apportion financial pittance to the community wherein a mining operation exists, the short-term, superficial windfall would not justify the long-term destructions.  Gold fever also sets brothers against brothers, as has been the case of Siocon’s Subanons.

Its killing effect is also literal and immediate.  Not a few Filipino environmental activists have been killed for their anti-mining advocacy, including a priest in Mindanao. Just recently, the barangay chairman of Baluno, in this city, was shot and critically wounded.  He has been opposing mining activities in his barrio.

And amazingly, laborers of a Manila water company very recently discovered a tunnel under the EDSA highway, which geologists upon investigation said was dug to search for gold.  Had the tunnel collapsed on its still-unknown diggers due to the heavy traffic aboveground, it would have been poetic justice. But that’s gold since the dawn of civilization – the stuff of deadly fever and tragedy as well as glittering poetry. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Peace Advocates Zamboanga started the annual celebration of  Week of Peace in Zamboanga City. The annual event was eventually expanded Mindanao-wide by the Bishops-Ulama Conference).