Manila – On this year’s World Environment Day, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) posed the question, “Green Economy: Does it include you”? But for more than two hundred green protesters and human rights defenders, the more important thing to ask is “Ganun na lang ba ‘yun?” – pertaining to environmental degradation and other atrocities of mining left unaddressed.
Disappointed at how mining is run in the country, farmers, indigenous peoples, church-groups and civil society organizations led by SOS-Yamang Bayan Network combined forces and blasted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with bawls and placards on the ill effects of mining to the environment, water, livelihood and lives of communities and indigenous peoples in the country.
Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) Executive Secretary and 2012 Goldman Prize Environmental Awardee Fr. Edu Gariguez said that the campaign echoes the call of thousands of Filipinos affected by mining. “The message is simple — immediate change has to take place in the system and most importantly in the policies governing the mining industry.”
Gariguez emphasized that the Catholic Church, together with religious communities in the whole country, continue to call for the protection of the integrity of creation, and the promotion ofsustainable livelihoods and lifestyles.Mining now is a grave threat to the path of sustainable development.
Alyansa Tigil Mina National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera said that the protest highlighted the call to scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 that aggressively promotes large-scale mining even as it failed to protect the country’s national patrimony.
“If DENR is true to its mandate of protecting the environment then it should support the passage of a new minerals management bill—also known as the Philippine Mineral Resources Act of 2012. The DENR should in fact ask the same question to the industry or the Chamber of Mines — ganun na lang ba ‘yun?” Garganera added.
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) executive director Atty. Grace Villanueva elaborated that “We need a paradigm shift in managing our mineral resources – a paradigm that puts people above private interests or private profits. The Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB) seeks to rationalize the use of minerals. When passed, the AMMB will be more responsive to the needs of the country and its people, as well as of generations to come. People and communities will be priority, and not merely the interest of giant corporations and first world economies.” LRC is also the lead convenor of SOS-Yamang Bayan Network.
Human Rights Violations and Abuses
The group also bewails the escalation of social conflicts and human rights violations and abuses associated with mining that include extrajudicial killings of anti-mining activists in the country.
Dr. Nymia Pimentel Simbulan, executive director of Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights) said “We demand justice and decisive actions on the part of government to put a stop to human rights violations perpetrated by state agents, especially the military, in mining-affected communities. Militarization, filing of trumped-up charges against anti-mining advocates, harassment & violent demolitions are common occurrences in these areas.
“The government has not done any effective action against extra-judicial killings of environmental activist. Francisco Canayong of Salcedo, Leyte is the latest victim to which the government has not taken any effective action. Responsible mining as it is being promoted by government is only directed to ensure sustainability of mining operations but lacks the perspective of protecting the people,” added Atty. Mario Maderazo of Philippine Miserior Partnership Inc. – Anti-Mining Campaign.
Contrary to claims that ‘there is life in mining’, Haribon Foundation Inc. a member of SOS-Yamang Bayan network, insisted that there can be no life when an act destroys life itself.
Anabelle Plantilla, Chief Operating Officer of Haribon Foundation affirmed that mining has threatened and destroyed some of the very sources of life in this planet. “The fragile ecosystems where we get so much from in terms of ecological services, including water, fresh air, protection from natural hazards, and capture and storage of greenhouse gases – if these things are gone, we too are gone. Ganun na lang ba ‘yun?”
Economics of mining
Meanwhile, the group also questioned the low share of mining in the development of the country.
“Over a decade, since the year 2000, mining industry and quarrying combined, accounted only for less than one percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. They are not contributing fully to the Philippine economy, even their rants on being a good ticket for this country to get out from poverty is a still a big question. We are not earning enough from mining, ganun na lang ba ‘yun?” said Cielo Magno coordinator of Bantay Kita, a mining revenue watchdog.
Mining and Climate Change
Meanwhile, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), co-organizer of the action, asserted that the sources of destruction of our natural ecosystem such as mining and other extractive activities must be thoroughly regulated and aimed at producing only what is needed to sustain life and ensure people’s rights and well-being, rather than for profit generation. The negative impacts on environment and the adaptive capacities of communities must be minimized, and environmental rehabilitation and restorative programs must be implemented.
“Mining involves several activities that generate greenhouse gas emissions as well as diminish the earth’s capacity to absorb greenhouse gases (GHGs) — thus contributing to the increase of what is already an excessive GHG concentration in the atmosphere. Excessive GHG concentration is the cause of global warming.” said Lidy Nacpil, convenor of PMCJ.
“Mining not only contributes to climate change, it exacerbates the impacts. For instance, water is a vital resource that is already heavily impacted by climate change. Mining as a water-intensive industry leads to further reduction of water supply and access by communities for both domestic and agricultural needs. It also fuels climate disasters, like what happened in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.” she further added.
The group brought a backhoe miniature to demonstrate how mining operations wreak havoc to the environment and destroy biodiversity. The protesters also held a mass die-in to show that there are lives being killed by mining.
Protests also in many other areas
Four other sites in the country also mounted their call against mining. In Cebu, protesters camped in front of DENR regional office to press their stand to conserve the environment. Demonstrators in Iligan had a forum with the officials of various government agencies and discussed the issues brought about by mining and other environmental destructive activities.
In Palawan, advocates pronounced their call in local radio programs, while in Dipolog City and Municipality of Ipil in Zamboanga, local parishes raised their concerns with mass prayer.
The SOS-Yamang Bayan Network is a national, multi-sectoral movement composed of individual advocates, mining-affected communities, national peoples’ alliances, environmental organizations and networks, church-based organizations, human rights organizations, national NGOs, sectoral organizations from the indigenous peoples, youth, women, farmers, Congressional representatives, leaders and personalities advocating for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and the enactment of a new minerals management bill.
For more information, contact the SOS-Yamang Bayan Network Secretariat:
Gerry Arances – firstname.lastname@example.org; 0922-8307758
Farah Sevilla – email@example.com; 0915-3313361
Edel S. Garingan – firstname.lastname@example.org; 0922-8918972
SOS-Yamang Bayan Network – Press Release
June 5, 2012
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