Sunday, September 18, 2011

Go slow on mining, lawmaker urges Aquino gov’t

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 18, 2011) – A Filipino lawmaker warned the Aquino government against proposals to lift the moratorium on the issuance of mining permits to further encourage the entry of foreign firms in the Philippines.

Congresswoman Luz Ilagan said large scale mining has not contributed significantly to the economy.

“It would be foolish to allow operations to continue when it has not in fact benefited our people. It is pathetic that the Aquino government, specifically Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa are both overeager in allowing the further destruction of our lands in exchange for a few billion dollars in investments,” Ilagan, who is one of the authors of House Bill 4315 or the People’s Mining Bill, said.

She said mining companies have not been held accountable for the environmental damages in Rapu-rapu in Albay, Mankayan in Benguet, Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya or Tampakan in South Cotabato.

“It is imprudent, careless and unpatriotic for Secretaries Paje and Ochoa to further commit our patrimony to the exploits of mining giants in the light of numerous unresolved cases of environmental damage, violations on the rights of indigenous peoples, complaints of excessive profit repatriation and even tax evasion committed by mining companies,” Ilagan said.

Ilagan, who cited studies conducted by Bantay Kita and Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said that from 2000 to 2009, the mining industry accounted for no more than 0.91% of Philippines’ Growth Domestic Product (GDP). Moreover, she said, the mining industry’s contribution to total employment during the same period was a mere 0.376%.

She also lamented that at least 27 anti-mining and environmental activists have been killed since 2001 and perpetrators have not been held accountable.

“The Aquino government should review its mining policy before endorsing a move that will further allow the rape and rampage of our mineral resources, forests and indigenous lands,” Ilagan said.

Manila said it is pursuing the country’s intention to apply for compliance status with the London-based Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) to help achieve the much-needed reforms in the mining industry.

EITI is a global initiative that requires participating governments to publicly report the revenues they receive from extractive industry companies and for those companies to publicly report the revenues they pay to government. This mechanism allows more transparency in revenue reporting.

Ochoa said the Aquino administration is taking steps to ensure that profits generated by mining companies translate into state revenues and that mining benefits trickle down to the general public.

“High on our agenda is transparency in revenues derived from mining,” Ochoa said. “Further reforms are therefore needed to ensure that the acceptability of mining is enhanced and its impact as a driver of economic growth is truly felt.”

Ochoa said data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources show that mining contributed P110 billion to the GDP and generated P12.5 billion in tax revenues, royalties, and fees for the government last year.
The data contradicted Ilagan’s statement that mining revenues was no more than 0.91% the past 9 years.

Ochoa said the country’s EITI candidacy and subsequent membership is consistent with the “vision of good governance” of the Aquino administration.
“It will be a strong manifestation of transparency if the payments and revenues received by the government from the development of the country’s mineral resources and how these are utilized are made public,” Ochoa said.

He said that while Mining Act of 1995 has put in place environmental and safety nets to address mining concerns, efforts must be stepped up for awareness and strict compliance of the law.

“For mining to be acceptable, it must be guided by the principles of sustainable development, environmental protection, social equity and, of course, good governance,” Ochoa said. “Mining must also be pursued alongside other economic activities that are compatible with it, including agriculture and eco-tourism.” (Mindanao Examiner)

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