Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Environmental groups worried over destruction of forests, mining in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 21, 2011) - Environmental rights groups in Davao City expressed alarm over the deterioration of environment and the climate and its impacts on the people, especially the most impoverished sectors - farmers, lumads and the urban poor.

In a press conference held on Tuesday which coincided with the World Environment Month, the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) and local environmental rights network PANALIPDAN have cited hunger, and disaster and related death and tragedies as the main consequences that the poor will suffer.

“We are reaping what years of capitalist plunder have sown. The more than 100 years of mining and logging in the Philippines have tremendously destroyed our major ecosystems and reduced our forest cover, rendering us most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” Francis Morales, Secretary-General of PANALIPDAN Southern Mindanao, said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

According to a recent CEC research, Philippine forests reduced from 70% in 1909 to 18.3% in 1999 vis-a-vis the ideal forest cover of 54%.

“This major biodiversity loss makes the Philippines vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. What makes the country even more susceptible is the Aquino government’s deadly energy roadmap which identified 10 coal-fired power plants to be put up nationwide, such as the 300 MW coal plant of Aboitiz in Binugao and Inawayan villages in Davao City,” Morales said.

On June 16, the groups formally introduced the People’s Mining Bill (PMB) or House Bill 4315, as an alternative law to the Philippine Mining Act (PMA) of 1995. They have been criticizing the PMA of 1995 for its provisions allowing 100% foreign ownership or the liberalization of the mining industry.

The PMB must be implemented hand in hand with a genuine agrarian reform program in order to ensure food sovereignty or food for the people, it said.

The PMB was filed in the lower house of the House of Representatives on March 2 by national–based groups KALIKASAN and CEC and sponsored by progressive group Bayan Muna.

“It is high time for the country to junk such an anti-people, anti – environmental law and instead, put in place a mining bill which will see to it the nationalization of the mining industry,” Morales said.

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