Quezon City – In this 25th anniversary of the Philippine Mining Act and in the middle of the COVID19 pandemic, we face bitter lessons on the links between mining, deforestation, climate change, and pandemics. Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is holding a Mining Hell Week from Sept. 24-Oct 2, 2020, to highlight these links and demand-responsive actions from the DENR and the mining industry. We stand with the many mining-affected communities and local governments that demand accountability from the DENR and from President Duterte to stop destructive large-scale mining operations in the Philippines.
To illustrate clearly the links between mining, climate change, and pandemics, we issued our briefing paper today “Mining and COVID19”. This paper explains how pandemics arise because of deforestation and permanent land-use change brought by mining. This in turn fuels climate change and eventually contributes to zoonosis and potentially drives pandemics.
Our alliance rejects the recommendation of DENR and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to open more mines as part of the economic stimulus and recovery program of the government as a response to COVID19. History and statistics inform us that the economic benefits of mining are minuscule in terms of employment, tax revenues, or contribution to Philippine GDP.
We also reject the plan of DENR-MGB to re-open nine mining operations that were ordered suspended or closed by former DENR Sec. Gina Lopez. Before re-opening any mining project, DENR must disclose and release any report that justifies such actions.
Equally disturbing is the priority of our national leaders that seem to be more concerned in “opening up the economy” at the expense of public health considerations. We re-echo the call of various stakeholders, we must listen to public health experts and the medical frontliners in crafting and implementing policies to address COVID19, and not put a premium on economic or business interests.
It is important to remind Pres. Duterte and his cabinet, there is no business in a dead planet, and if we proceed in the dangerous track of opening up more mines and destroy more forests and watersheds, we risk repeating the bitter lessons brought by COVID19.
We also remind Prs. Duterte to immediately issue an executive order to ban open-pit mining, a campaign promise that he made and repeated several times in his public statements. This single act of regulating destructive mining will probably reduce significantly our risks related to climate change and pandemics.
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