Groups want PNoy to promulgate new mining policy

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/8 March) – A network of church-based groups and non-government organizations have called on President Benigno Aquino III to “promulgate a new mining policy now,” as they also rebuffed the responsible mining mantra of large-scale mining corporations.

The Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) issued the statement in anticipation of a new mining policy that would be issued by the administration anytime this month.

PMPI pointed out that responsible mining is not possible in the present context due to regulatory capture, foreign ownership of mineral extraction, gross disregard for the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) for the indigenous peoples, unchecked environmental crimes and disrespect for the socio-economic, cultural and political rights of mining-affected communities, among others.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, PMPI co-convenor and executive secretary of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA), said there is a need for greater accountability of mining corporations and access to justice by victims of corporate abuses.

Gariguez said “the respect, protect and remedy framework of the UN principle on business and human rights, to which the Philippine Government was one of the signatories, is very clear on this.”

PMPI, a network of 284 NGOs, people’s organizations and Church groups in the Philippines, also called on Aquino to rethink the current mining policy, which it has inherited from the previous administration that aggressively promoted mining as a key economic driver.

“We should mine what we only need,” declared PMPI, which is backed by NGO leaders, bishops, priests, nuns and leaders of people’s organizations and communities affected by mining operations across the country.

The group told the Aquino administration that “the economic argument for the aggressive promotion of mining is misplaced given its dismal contribution to the economy, adding that it identify strategic metals for our national development anchored on the agricultural development.”

“We hope President Aquino will honor his word that we the citizens, especially the ordinary people, are his boss when it comes to decision making. We the Aetas of Zambales and other indigenous tribes wish that our welfare and development would have a place in his administration. It is in agriculture and not in mining,” PMPI quoted Carlito “Ka Carling” Dumulot of the Zambales-based LAKAS-BIHAWO, an Aeta people’s organization, and PMPI cluster point person for Central Luzon.

The PMPI further said: “We think that a concrete operational mechanism of this duty is to shift the burden of proof to mining companies whenever any rights abuse or damage to the environment occurs.”

PMPI issued the statement after its general assembly in Baguio City last week. The event was attended by at least 300 participants coming from mining-affected areas in Rapu-rapu, Mindoro, Nueva Vizcaya, Zambales in Luzon, Kabangkalan and San Carlos in Negros, Manicani and Homonhon in Samar in the Visayas region and Surigao del Sur, Tampakan, South Cotabato and Zamboanga Peninsula in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, PMPI bishop convenor and chairman of the CBCP- Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace, said that PMPI run the risk of being accused or labeled as anti-development because of its anti-mining campaign.

“We think though that the responsible mining being peddled by big mining companies borders only on stakeholdership – that is a claim based on interest or stake. Stewardship goes beyond interest. It is a duty and recognition that we are caretakers of the Creation for the present and future generation”, said Pabillo.

Myrna Llanes, alternate point person of PMPI-Bicol, claimed that they have yet to get justice and see the mining corporations responsible for the Rapu-Rapu mining disaster being made accountable for what she called “environmental crimes.”

It may be recalled that the mine tailings dam in Rapu-Rapu Island in Albay province burst in 2005 and destroyed the source of staple food and livelihood of residents. The disaster resulted in a fishkill throughout the shorelines of the island.

Lafayette Mining Ltd. of Australia, which operated the Rapu-rapu mines, were forced to declare bankruptcy and stop its operations three years later, as residents and anti-mining advocates staged a series of protests and dialogues. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)