[Statement] Gov’t reopening of mines during pandemic ‘dangerous’, worsen impunity against defenders -ATM

Gov’t reopening of mines during pandemic ‘dangerous’, worsen impunity against defenders

Quezon City – Environment and human rights groups stormed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to protest the reopening of 13 canceled and suspended mines, citing health and safety risks on mining-affected communities and defenders.

The groups emphasized that mining operations endanger the health of local residents in mining communities. The government’s militaristic approach in addressing the coronavirus crisis also emboldened state forces and increased human rights abuses against environmental activists.

The groups added that DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu’s decision to revoke the cancellation and suspension orders of 13 mining companies will worsen these conditions.

Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) reiterated their position that “the DENR’s recommendation to re-open these mines should be rejected, as DENR is unwilling to disclose the basis of this decision”.

Garganera also explained in a statement that mining and river dredging should not be part of the economic stimulus for recovery as a response to COVID19. He added that mining is part of the problem because it is directly linked to deforestation and climate change, which are both drivers to the evolution of new diseases and pandemics.

National partners SANLAKAS, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), Bantay Kita (BK), AKBAYAN, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), IDefend, Lilak, and Green Thumb Coalition, and Masbate-based organization Ang Aroroy Ay Alagaan (4As) joined ATM on the call to end destructive mining and climate change, and to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

“A report from the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) revealed that the global mining industry is a significant contributor of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of climate-related disasters. With COVID19, the urgency of addressing this threat increased rapidly,” said PMCJ Energy Officer Larry Pascua.

Woman leader Malou Verano of Ang Aroroy Ay Alagaan (4As), in Aroroy, Masbate said, “We want Filminera to close its mining operations. Residents are anxious of health issues and the loss of livelihood. Their tailings pond is also located just above people’s houses. We fear that if there’s a storm or earthquake, the tailings dam will collapse and cover the entire community.”

According to Rommel Yamzon of IDefend, “Philippines is the second most dangerous country for environmental defenders. It is ironic how this government answers the climate emergency with abuses and threats, the same way it addressed a health crisis with militarization.”

The protest was a part of Mining Hell Week, an annual series of activities parallel to the International Mining Conference organized by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines. It aims to represent and amplify the voices of mining-affected communities and marginalized sectors.

“Economic activities that lower the resiliency of communities have no place in a pandemic. Mining for recovery is only counterproductive. The government has to hold these companies accountable of the livelihood and natural resources they destroyed,” stated Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa.

“These mining companies continue to operate with impunity because the government lets them,” he added.

For more information, please contact:

Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, (0917) 549.82.18, nc@alyansatigilmina.net

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