Bukidnon group backs alternative resource use bill

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/10 Aug) – A group in Bukidnon composed of multi-sectoral organizations is seeking greater public support, especially from Bukidnon’s three congressional representatives, for the passage of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB) to help protect the province’s remaining forest cover and natural resources.

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, representatives from Lageng ta Bukidnon (Voice of Bukidnon) have called for public support for the AMMB, which seeks to scrap Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 for the latter allegedly “caters to the interest of global extractive industry players.”

“Minerals are important resources that are part of our national patrimony. The AMM Bill champions conservation of non-renewable mineral resources for the benefit of both present and future generations by adopting a sustainable, rational, needs-based minerals management geared towards effective utilization of mineral resources for national industrialization and modernization of agriculture,” the group said in a statement emailed to the media.

Carl Cesar Rebuta, the main speaker presented by the group, said it is high time for a new framework calling for judicious use of mineral resources.

“We don’t need an alternative mining law. We needed a new policy framework in the use of our minerals, land and other natural resources,” he added.

Rebuta, who is from the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, said the bill seeks to close all roads to mining until it is allowed to be opened.

He said President Benigno Aquino III’s Executive Order 79 renders a “business as usual” mining environment in the Philippines.

“It bans new mining applications only but does not cover existing mining operations,” he added. He cited that EO 79 also does not cover mining exploration projects.

The group cited about 48 large scale mining exploration applications since 2008 in Bukidnon. The Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan, however, has opposed large scale mining in the province.

Rebuta said a big question is while they are against large scale mining, the province caters to small scale mining operations.

There is nothing stopping the provincial board to pass a resolution supporting the AMMB, Rebuta added.

He said the bill is at the level of the committee on natural resources in the House of Representatives.

Of the 75 members of the committee, Rebuta said, 65 are from Mindanao.

“Their role is crucial in passing this to plenary,” Rebuta added.

In Bukidnon, where agro-industrial problem is among the key issues with the passing of moratorium against expansion of fruit plantations, the AMMB is even more apt, he pointed out.

“The AMMB covers the problem as it tackles sustainable use of resources,” Rebuta said.

Anilaw Inlantong Erwin Marte, chair of the Bukidnon Unified Tribal Development Council of Elders Inc. and spokesman of Lageng ta Bukidnon, said Bukidnon’s role in Mindanao is crucial because it is headwater of the six major river systems, making it an important biodiversity center as habitat of many endangered, endemic, and rare species of flora and fauna.

He said the mining act must be scrapped as it sabotaged local government efforts to protect the health, environment, and livelihood of their constituents.

Marte added that it has also corrupted the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process of the indigenous peoples’ communities. He cited that the NCIP issued more FPIC for mining than fund the process for the award of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT).

The group also cited “a long string of human rights violations against communities and individuals resisting mining.” They cited the reported extra-judicial killing in San Fernando, Bukidnon

Yoyong Merida, president of the Panao Sumilao Multi-purpose Cooperative, said RA 7942 threatens the implementation of agrarian reform.

He cited that there is no law banning mining activity in prime agricultural lands.

Among the organizations belonging to the group are Task Force Detainee Mindanao, Bukidnon Unified Tribal Development Council of Elders (BUTRIDCE), Bukidnon Higaonon Tribal Association (Buhita), PAKISAMA (Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka)-Mindanao, LRC, Balaod Mindanaw, and the Alternative Law Groups. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)