Impose mining moratorium, fix environment laws, environmentalist tells gov’t

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 Oct) – The national government needs to implement a moratorium on mining in the country to fix its laws and their implementation as some of the laws are contradicting, an environmentalist said during a forum here Tuesday.

Dr. Jessie Manuta, research fellow of the Ateneo Tropical Institute for Climate Studies, said that at the moment, it is disorderly both “at principle and at the implementation levels” that is why different government agencies involved should sit down and talk first.

“[There is a need] to fix the gaps to make it easier to implements at the local level,” he added in his response to MindaNews during the open forum of the Mindanao Watershed Summit at the Finster Auditorium at the Ateneo de Davao University.

He cited that the Department Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture and other government agencies need harmonization at the implementation levels as there is contradiction.

As an example, he said delineation should be clear at the ground level for watersheds.

Manuta, in his presentation on Food-Biodiversity-Water and Climate Change, said one example of the problem is overlapping of tenurial instruments throughout the country.

He cited that in the Philippines one risk of mining is that it competes with other users for scarce resources. In his report, he cited that one-seventh of mining and exploration concessions overlap with watershed areas where demand for water exceeds the available supply by at least 36 percent.

He also cited the overlapping boundaries of mineral potential map and biodiversity map in the Philippines.

According to Haribon, as he quoted, tailings waste pollution has contaminated at least 14 out of 18 major river systems in the country.

He cited as among the strategic priorities in the National Climate Change Action Plan are ecological and environmental stability, enhanced resilience and stability of natural systems and communities, food and human security, and water sufficiency.

But Manuta said one of the challenges confronting the nation is the “greenwashing and denial of the root causes of the current environmental, human, and climate crisis.”

“Though the laws seek to address the vulnerabilities of the people and the country to the impacts of climate change, reversing the present policies and projects that are destructive to the environment and communities remain wanting,” he added in his PowerPoint presentation.

Manuta cited that the continuing promotion of mining liberalization in the Philippines and implementation of RA 7942 “commodify and privatize our common natural resources and aggravate climate change impact”.

He said aside from causing environmental destruction and making communities more vulnerable to disasters, mining has also driven millions of people from their land and communities.

Lawyer Romeo Cabarde Jr., chair of the Ateneo de Davao University- University Community Extension and Advocacy Center (UCEAC), agreed that a moratorium should be implemented even if he said they are also pushing for the repeal of Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

He said a moratorium is ideal until the law, which he considered as defective, is fixed. He cited that RA 7942 is not a reliable source for the crafting of Executive Order 79. Cabarde said they are pushing for the passing of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB).

According to the SOS Yamang Bayan Network and the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK), RA 7942 caters to the need of the global extractive industry players. The law, they added, facilitates the entry of corporations into ecosystems and community territories for the exploration and extraction of minerals to be shipped out of the country in exchange for revenues from the corporations. The center also said the law has been used to sabotage local government efforts to protect the health, environment, and livelihoods of constituents.

The law has also been accused of corrupting the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process of the indigenous peoples; rendered inutile the environmental impact assessment system, and has brought about a long string of human rights violations against communities and individuals resisting mining.

Erwin Quinones, AMMB coordinator of LRC, said one of the way to advance water rights is to push for the passing of the AMMB.

He said Senate Bill 43 is being pushed by Senator Sergio Osmena III. About 16 representatives are also pushing for House Bill 984 in the Lower House.

Quinones said among the salient provisions of AMMB include baseline information and demarcation of all watershed continuums, no go zones, watershed development and water conservation, priority Water Use and Water User Fee, ownership of the indigenous peoples, polluter pay principle, water recycling and banning of mining waste dumping in bodies of water, and precautionary principle.

Among the key advocacies pushed in the AMMB is the conservation of mineral resources.

Quinones said it must be taken into consideration the allocation needed to be used by future generations, prioritization of recycling of remaining available minerals, rehabilitation of old abandoned mines, rational needs-based utilization and domestic-use-oriented framework, actual mineral extraction further weighed against the ecological and social benefits, and costs from other land uses.

Datu Jemuel Perino, of the Umayamnon tribe in Cabanglasan in the headwaters of the Pulangi River, said in the discussion of mining projects, especially on sharing, the compliance of the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) process should be obtained first.

“You have to consult first the communities because if you only talk to them with sharing scheme already, it’s like you are jeopardizing the FPIC process.