[Press Release] Groups say no to total log ban exemption

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) Dir. Leo Jasareno shocked green groups by saying on Thursday that President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III will exempt the mining industry from Executive Order No. 23 or the total log ban in all natural and residual forests in exchange for support in its National Greening Program.

Jaybee Garganera, Alyansa Tigil Mina national coordinator said, “This pronouncement is irresponsible and questionable, and it is always painful to hear the DENR MGB Director when he always performs the role of spokesperson for the mining industry.”

ATM found the pronouncement very suspicious. Less than two weeks ago President Aquino instructed four cabinet secretaries to craft a new mining policy and to consult the people and stakeholders in finalizing it.

Meanwhile, Anabelle Plantilla, executive director of Haribon Foundation finds it too careless for the environment and said, “This latest pronouncement is extremely sad and disappointing.  Our government blatantly ignores our commitment to the Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity one of which is to reduce the rate of loss of all natural habitats including forests.  One of the most important ecosystems, our remaining forests provide us with ecological services such as a steady supply of water and clean air, the value of which is even more than all the mines combined.  With this exemption, we can bid our forests goodbye.”

The intent of EO 23 was to preserve and protect the forest, and in the process, protects biodiversity, increase the water retention of forests, prevent erosion and floods, enhance the capacity of carbon-capture of our forests and to ensure water supply.  By giving a special privilege to the mining industry, this selective exemption of the log ban, in effect, makes the government unable to comply or implement the Climate Change Act and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act.

Rowena Bolinas, National Coordinator of Aksyon Klima Pilipinas stated, “It is entirely senseless for a government to mandate, fund and execute a National Greening Program when the same drivers of climate change are allowed to operate unhampered in areas where carbon sinks are located.”

Another group of environmental advocates, Green Convergence finds the pursuant of the National Greening Program contradictory and ironic when you exempt an industry such as mining and logging.

Dr. Nina Galang, lead convenor of Green Convergence said, “The National Greening Program and mining are contradictory.  How can the government claim to be concerned about our watersheds, our soil, our biodiversity by reforestation while destroying it with mining?  A large mine destroys thousand of hectares in a span of a few weeks while it takes at least 15 years for a tree to grow and hundreds of years for a forest to reach its mature stage and perform all the functions we expect from it.”

Garganera concluded, “It is such an irony when you have a government agency like DENR who will privilege a destructive industry such as mining, at the expense of the rural poor, because the agency failed to implement its mandate, that of protecting and preserving the environment and natural resources, for the future generations.”

“The National Greening Program is an enviable conservation initiative by the Aquino administration. However, when national programs and policies are sullied by corporate greed and ignorant bureaucrats, people’s money go to waste”, Bolinas further added.

Meanwhile, these groups await the result of the November 15 presentation of studies and draft policy on the mining bills, expecting highly from the DENR Sec. Ramon Paje, Climate Change Commission Usec. Lucille Sering, Presidential Advisers for the Environment, Neric Acosta and for Climate Change Bebeth Gozun.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. (30)

For more information:

Rowena Bolinas, Aksyon Klima national coordinator, (0927) 696.53.64 <wbolinas@gmail.com>
Dr. Nina Galang, Lead Convenor of Green Convergence, <ninagalang@ymail.com>
Anabelle Plantilla, Haribon Foundation, <coo@haribon.org.ph>
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, (0927) 761.76.02
Farah Sevilla, ATM Policy & Advocacy Officer, (0915) 331.33.61

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