For­mer en­vi­ron­ment chief firm on open pit min­ing ban

The Philippine Star - - BUSINESS - – Gina Lopez

I would like to re­spond to The STAR ar­ti­cle ti­tled that the Philip­pines will lose P30 bil­lion if the ban on open pit min­ing is not lifted. Spe­cific men­tion was made of Tam­pakan.

I have I flown over this site sev­eral times. The pro­jected open pit is the size of 700 foot­ball fields! It is bor­dered by six rivers in four provinces: Davao del Sur, Sarang­gani, South Cota­bato and Koron­adal. At the foot I saw hectares and hectares of agri­cul­tural land.. The rules that gov­ern this par­tic­u­lar open pit is called FTAA: Fi­nan­cial or Tech­ni­cal As­sis­tance Agree­ment. It is a min­ing con­tract for 25 years, re­new­able for like term, that al­lows up to 100 per­cent own­er­ship. The FTAA of Tam­pakan and Oceanagold (in Nueva Viz­caya) will ex­pire on 2019 and 2020, re­spec­tively, un­less re­newed by the Pres­i­dent. The main fea­ture is that the mine should gen­er­ate a 20 per­cent wind­fall profit be­fore taxes are paid. Stud­ies on about 10 mines of this mag­ni­tude, none of their rev­enues have ever got­ten a 20 per­cent wind­fall. What this means is that we are putting in jeop­ardy the food bas­ket of Min­danao, the well be­ing of four provinces, for noth­ing!

For what­ever rev­enues the min­ing com­pa­nies they say they will gen­er­ate, th­ese are the facts: In ev­ery min­ing site, 95 per­cent of the rev­enues goes out of the lo­cal econ­omy. In a bal­anced sheet for­mat, if one mon­e­tizes the de­struc­tion to ma­rine life, the agri­cul­tural land, to the health of the peo­ple, to op­por­tu­nity lost had they done tourism – we come out los­ing to the hun­dreds of mil­lions. The stud­ies have been done by ex­perts and state uni­ver­si­ties. Wher­ever there is min­ing there are 1,000 to 1,500 farm­ers and fish­er­men that suf­fer. This is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Min­ing is not a right. It is a priv­elege based on cer­tain con­di­tions. But the Filipino has a con­sti­tu­tional right to a health­ful ecol­ogy. In Palawan – the mer­cury open pit min­ing there has led to 70 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion hav­ing high de­grees of mer­cury poi­son­ing. No less than the DOH was part of this. There is now a toxic lake that feeds into Honda Bay of Palawan which is the num­ber one is­land des­ti­na­tion in the planet. Mon­e­tize that. In Si­palay Ne­gros – the tox­i­c­ity lev­els there due to open min­ing is now 500 times more than nor­mal. The Marinduque min­ing dis­as­ter – one of the worst in the planet – killed two rivers which are still dead, killed the co­rals which are still dead – and killed the en­tire po­ten­tial of a mag­nif­i­cent is­land. Mon­e­tize that! Yes we are a min­er­al­ized coun­try, but we are also a very beau­ti­ful coun­try with lush agri­cul­tural land, and ma­rine life. Seventy per­cent of what is found in the coun­try can be found only here. In life there are choices to be made. Do we make a choice so that a few al­ready very rich peo­ple make more money at the cost of the well be­ing of our pro­vin­cial poor? Or do we manou­ver an econ­omy wherein our peo­ple can en­joy the life that they were meant to have. The re­al­ity is that af­ter 100 years of min­ing, we don’t even have one re­ha­bilited mine. All open pit mines have been dis­as­ters. If the main de­cid­ing fac­tor is the well be­ing of our peo­ple, the ban on open pit min­ing should stay.

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