[Statement] Food security versus mining: Impacts of mining on food and waters in the Philippines -ATM

Food security versus mining: Impacts of mining on food and waters in the Philippines
To be read and submitted to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food
on the event of the CSO Entry Conference on Feb 20, 2015 in Quezon City, Philippines

Introduction

Good afternoon! I am Jaybee Garganera. I represent Alyansa Tigil Mina, a coalition of more than one hundred organizations that is challenging the current policy regime on mining in the country. ATM works to protect Filipino communities and natural resources that are threatened by large-scale mining operations.

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Our sources of food are highly threatened by large-scale mining operations spread all over the country. As we speak, the country’s environmental resources—its forests, agricultural lands and waters can no longer sustainable supply for the needs of its more than 100-million population. Simply put, there is misuse and misallocation of land and water resources in favor of extractive projects such as large-scale metallic and coal mining, logging operations, as well as large dams and dirty-energy project such as coal-fired power plants.

Current situation and several cases

Two-thirds (2/3) of the claimed and titled ancestral domains of indigenous peoples and more than 50% of our protected areas (PAs) and key biodiversity areas (KBAs) are directly impacted by mining. [1] These areas constitute the remaining forests and watersheds of our country.

The main problem is the unclear prioritization in the use of our land resources. Our Mining Law[2] for instances enumerate areas where mining is not allowed, but mining permits are still issued in protected areas, prime agricultural lands, and highly environmental critical areas and even watersheds. We only have an estimated 20% forest cover[3] only 28% of which or 19,340km2 closed or identified as reserves, the rest are mangroves and open areas to different activities. It is also important to highlight that we do not have a national land use policy—that is why there is no overarching policy that guides the management of our land resources.

The link to food insecurity is clear – when these large extractive and development projects acquire their permits and contracts, a set of auxiliary rights are granted to the companies, to the detriment of agricultural productivity and later on to consumers. Mining companies, for instance secure water rights, easement rights, and timber rights within their mining concessions. What this translates to is less water for irrigation, faster conversion of agricultural lands to other uses, contamination of water bodies for food sources and reduced health and nutrition indicators.

In one of our sites of struggle, in the town of MacArthur in Leyte Province, the conflict between mining and food is distinct. The area is a prime agricultural land that is dominantly coconut-based, has significant rice lands, and there also is a lake there where about 120 families have successfully set-up and harvested fishes in the past 10 years. The same area was granted a mining concession but the local population resisted the mining activities, especially after a massive fish kill last March 2012, and the mining operations were suspended. The local government and several Chinese investors then just

decided to go into illegal small-scale mining that actually produced more serious negative impacts including siltation of irrigation facilities. This same community suffered the devastation of Yolanda. And they are living examples of the vicious nexus of mining + climate change + disasters.

Up north, is the province of Nueva Vizcaya, also a natural resource-rich province with existing production of high-value crops and highland vegetables including rice, corn, coffee beans and root crops. There is also a thriving citrus industry owing to the cooler temperature in the area. This same province is home to two large mining projects, one is currently in full-scale commercial operations while the other is still in its exploration stage. The link to food insecurity is traced to the sudden reduced availability of water and the diversion of a road that added another 2 hours of travel for the farmers to sell their crops. The planned expansion areas of the mining projects will directly convert agricultural lands.

Two other cases that we are submitting to you this afternoon are the Zambales and Tampakan, South Cotabato Cases: Sta Cruz, Zambales is losing 8,000 tons of palay (rice) production annually worth Php 200-million pesos (US$5M). It has an estimated loss of Php 20-million pesos (US$ 0.5M) in fish production from three major rivers and at least Php 30-million (or US$0.75M) in from fish production from at least 100-hectares of fishponds. This is due to four nickel mining projects. While our local activists have forced our government to suspend the mining operations, the hauling of ores continue to pollute the river and farmlands in Zambales. But sadly, it will take years for the agricultural land and fishponds to recover their productivity.

In South Cotabato, the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project for instance, will directly impact 32% of the agricultural lands and 75% of the forests, of the province. Once operational, this will be largest Copper-Gol mining project in South-East Asia. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project admitted that the available water sources from the watersheds are not enough to meet the water-requirements of the mining project. Currently, these watersheds provide irrigation for about 20,000 farming-households who are managing farmlands of around 40,000 hectares in the downstream provinces.

I can take the whole afternoon sharing about the impacts of mining to our lands and food sources, but the bottom-line is having and will continue to threaten our food self-sufficiency and sovereignty. Even our government cannot deny that day-to-day operations and use of explosives in mining areas cause deforestation, slope destabilization, soil erosion, crop damages, as well as polluting the water and air.

Additionally, we cannot keep silent about how the impacts of climate change will contribute to expose us to more vulnerability.

Conclusion

What we put forward is a policy shift towards a sustainable development path where there is proper natural resources management, and where development projects are geared towards preserving and safeguarding our ecosystems. This should eventually translate to the fulfillment of our right to food.

On our end, with three networks—SOS Yamang Bayan Network, Forest Resources Bill Network and Campaign for Land Use Policy Now! Network—and many communities, we push for the passage of three natural resource management laws—the National Land Use and Management Act, Forest Resources Act and Philippine Mineral Resources Act. These bills aim to address our environmental problems and protect the people’s rights to a thriving environment.

To conclude, we submit to your office the urgent demands of mining-affected communities for our government to address the threats to our food security by immediately enacting these legislative measures. We hope that in the next few days of

your interviews and townhall meetings, you get a good picture of our national situation and enjoin our government to realize the rights of our people— the right to food, to a healthful ecology, and overall right to a good life.

Thank you very much!

Jaybee Garganera
ATM National Coordinator
nc@alyansatigilmina.net

[1] PAFID, 2007 and HARIBON, 2006

[2] RA 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995

[3] Forest Management Bureau or FMB, 2010

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