[Statement] GANUN NA LANG BA YUN? by Akbayan Representative Kaka J. Bag-ao


Privilege Speech on World Environment Day 2012
Akbayan Representative Kaka J. Bag-ao
Principal Author, House Bill 3763 (Minerals Management Bill)

Akbayan Representative Kaka J. Bag-ao. File photo source Akbayanyouth.org

Mr. Speaker, I stand before you in the matter of my personal and collective privilege regarding the state of the Philippine Environment and the celebration of World Environment Day tomorrow, June 5, 2011.

The long and tedious impeachment process that has captured the focus and energy of the whole country is finally over. Now it is time for us legislators to continue with and fast-track our legislative work to address the issues which endanger the lives of our people and decrease the sustainability and livelihood of our communities. Among these problems is the gradual but certain degradation of our environment.

Mr. Speaker, Today, we will celebrate tomorrow the World Environment Day under the theme “Green Economy: Does this include you?” Today’s nationally coordinated actions present and dramatize the current plight of mining-affected communities and of the Philippines in general, under the current mining regime.

First, the environmental impacts of mining include the destruction of key biodiversity areas in the Philippines. Mining can never be sustainable. Destruction of resources and biodiversity loss is inevitable. According to the 4th Philippine National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2009, 23 flagship mining projects are located in biodiversity areas and overlap with key biodiversity areas namely Palawan, Mindoro, Romblon, Sierra Madre, Compostela Valley, Surigao del Sur and Norte, and other various parts of Mindanao. Further, contrary to claims that ‘there is life in mining’, there can never be life when you destroy life itself. The presence of fully functioning ecosystems allows human beings to live on this planet. Today, on World Environment Day, we ask: “Pagkasira ng kalikasan dahil sa mina, ganun na lang ba yun?

Second, mining destroys agricultural lands and water sources. Mr. Speaker, my colleagues, mining activities have direct impact on irrigation and watershed areas—water rights are completely given to mining companies, threatening the quality and ample supply of water needed by communities. Meanwhile, the effects of mining and mine tailings contaminate municipal waters and coastal areas. In one particular case in McArthur, Leyte, these mine tailings brough about fish kill. Our question now is, “Fish kill sa Lake Bito, ganun na lang ba yun?”

Third, mining instigates human rights violations and killing of anti-mining advocates. My fellow legislators, Mr. Speaker, we should note that the escalation of social conflicts and human rights violations are direct effects of mining to communities. More than 10 anti-mining advocates have been killed in the last couple of years and justice for them remains elusive. We ask: “Pag-paslang at pananakot ng mga mining companies sa mga ordinaryong tao, ganun na lang ba yun?”

Fourth, mining tramples upon Ancestral lands and their right to self-determination. Despite the safeguards provided by the Indigenous People Rights Act, the requirement on free, prior and informed consent is being routinely violated by mining companies. Ancestral lands are swarmed with numerous and overlapping mining applications, causing the displacement of IP communities. Ganun na lang ba yun?

Fifth, abandoned mine sites pose risks to human and natural habitats. Despite the passage of the Climate Change Act and Disaster Risk Reduction Act, and the concrete lessons on the impacts of climate change that we ourselves experienced, the government still thinks mining should be pursued. Mr. Speaker, we believe that no mining should be allowed in hazard-susceptible areas. Meanwhile, more than 8,000 abandoned and idle mine sites are not assessed; they are left unattended and are not decommissioned properly. Ganun na lang ba yun?

We ask ourselves a very basic question on the rape of our environment and natural resources, “GANUN NA LANG BA YUN?”

We, as legislators call on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the lead agency responsible for the protection, conservation and management of the country’s environment and natural resources, to stop supporting the liberalization and aggressive promotion of the mining industry. Given the state of environment now, we call for a paradigm shift—from the aggressive promotion of mining in the Philippines to the rational exploration, development and utilization of our mineral resources.

We, as legislators, should look at the real negative impacts of mining to the communities and the environment and say to ourselves: “Meron tayong magagawa!” Let us support the passage of the new minerals management bill—also known as the Philippine Mineral Resources Act of 2012.

As we commemorate the World Environment Day today, we are also looking for environmental heroes and grassroots leaders who are involved in efforts at the local level, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them.

Today, Mr. Speaker, we are proud to have Fr. Edwin “Edu” Gariguez—who was recently proclaimed as an Environmental Hero in ceremonial rites held last April 16, 2012 at the San Francisco Opera House in the United States of America for his endeavour to protect the Mangyan indigenous communities of Mindoro from impending environmental havoc brought by extractive mining activities in the area—in this august chamber.

Mr. Speaker, I have filed House Resolution No. 2474 commending Fr. Edwin “Edu” Gariguez for being awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize Award. The recognition of his achievements and leadership only affirms that we legislators, like every Filipino citizen, can also be environmental heroes in our own little way and that, truly, “Meron tayong magagawa para sa ating kalikasan! Pass the Philippine Mineral Resources Act of 2012!”

Maraming salamat po.

Source: http://www.akbayan.org.ph/news/12-press-releases-press-releases/200-ganun-na-lang-ba-yun

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