Friday, August 06, 2010

Church, civil groups reaffirm stand vs. large-scale mining in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Aug. 6, 2010) - Church leaders and civil society groups have reaffirmed their stand against large-scale mining in the Philippines.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines National Secretariat of Social Action and the Alyansa Tigil Mina and their network of civil society organizations were pleased to hear the firm statement of the new Environment chief Ramon Paje on ensuring the protection and conservation of the natural resources by suspending the issuance of large-scale mining permits.

“We reaffirm our stand against large-scale mining. This does not only destruct our natural resources, but also allows the displacement of communities in the affected areas. As church leaders, we cannot watch this happen to the Filipino people."

"We have supported the Natural Resources Management and Stewardship Act since it started, we will see it through its passage,” CBCP-NASSA Executive Secretary, Father Edu Gariguez, said in a statement.

Last year, the Natural Resources Management and Stewardship Act or House Bill No. 6342, was approved on the third reading. It was re-submitted to the 15th Congress last month as House Bill No. 206 which proposes to regulate the rational exploration and utilization of our natural resources, and protection of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Taking the lead in scrapping the Mining Bill of 1995 and signing into law of the NaRMS is Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center Friends of the Earth Philippines.

“DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said it himself, the Mining Bill of 1995 is inherently flawed. Foreign investors have been benefiting a lot from mining in the Philippines at the expense of our natural resources and communities,” said LRC-FOEI Executive Director Judy Pasimio.

Unfortunately, mining has contributed very little in the country's GDP. In 2007, the contributions of the mining industry was merely 1.4%, compared to the contribution of the agriculture sector at 35%.

Meanwhile, environmental group HARIBON Foundation Executive Director Blas Tabaranza said: “Going back, in the 15 years of promoting the extractive industry in the country, we have seen how terrible communities have been. Mining has killed our forests and polluted our waters.”

In 2005, HARIBON reported that extractions and explorations affect the Philippines Important Biodiversity Areas mainly areas in Sierra Madre in Luzon Island, Palawan in central Philippines and CARAGA region in Mindanao.

To mitigate the destructive effects of mining, Haribon is also pushing for the approval of Forest Resources Conservation and Management Bill.

“We have seen international investors in and out of our land, exploiting the environment and even our people. Now that we heard a positive statement from Sec. Paje, we have hope that the Natural Resources Management and Stewardship Act will be approved and signed into law under the new administration,” said ATM National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera.

“Rest assured, we will continue in our advocacy, especially in supporting organizations in communities affected by mining,” Garganera added.

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