Shut down mining activities!
E NVIRONMENTAL GROUPS have asked the Department Department of of Environment Environment and and Natural Natural Resources Resources or or DENR DENR to to shut shut down down mining mining firms firms being being blamed blamed for for the the destruction destruction of of the environment and pollution that put at great risks not only the communities around them, but also the people and animals.
Even the Catholic the National Secretariat for Church has repeatedly Social Action (NASSA)/ demanded a stop on all Caritas Philippines also destructive mining urged the DENR - now activities in the country. And headed by Sec. Roy Cimatu to sustain its earlier closure order issued by then Sec. Gina Lopes against largescale mining companies to prevent further environmental damage.
“Mas malaki ang impact ng large scale (mining). What (DENR Secretary Roy) Cimatu should have done is to uphold the cancellation by
then DENR Sec. Gina Lopez of 23 large mining companies not complying with environmental laws,” said Fr. Edu Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Nassa/caritas Philippines.
“Cimatu should also put a ban on open pit mining causing destruction and making communities more vulnerable to disaster like what happened in Itogon (in Benguet province in northern Philippines),” he added.
Recent landslides triggered by typhoon “Ompong” killed dozens of people, mostly miners trapped in tunnels, and many more were still unaccounted.
“The landslide site was mining site of Benguet Corporation. It was one of the areas ordered closed by then DENR Sec. Lopez in 2017 for not complying with environmental laws,” the priest said. “The area was supposed to be fully rehabilitated. But Benguet Corporation is alleged to have subcontracted small miners to continue mining there.”
Clamp down on mining
Just this year, an infrastructure-oriented think tank has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to decisively clamp down on erring mining firms which had destroyed the environment and compromised resources.
“The President need not look too far, as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources already has a standing list of erring mining companies which, according to the President’s State of the Nation Address destroyed the environment and compromise our resources,” said Terry Ridon, convenor of Infrawatch PH.
Ridon said the President only needs to revisit the listed created by Lopez and determine whether the mining companies in the list had already undertaken measures to protect the environment and contribute to what the President has said “as what needs to be given to my countrymen.”
“It should be made clear that the President made no distinction on which irresponsible miners are – whether large-scale or smallscale mining, the policy direction of the President is to preserve the environment and contribute to what the people truly deserve. Anyone operating less than this standard should be shut down and have its licenses revoked,” Ridon said.
He said more than the payment of taxes, mining companies should also determine whether their activities are truly acceptable to communities within their mining areas.
“We have heard many times over the repeated complaints indigenous communities being displaced from their homes and farms in order to accommodate mining concessions. Consistent with the President’s pronouncements, the people’s lives should be front and center in any policy related to mining activities,” Ridon said.
Duterte also warned mining companies engaged in open-pit mining activities in the country. Lopez had ordered an extensive review of mining firms in Mindanao following many complaints from the indigenous people.
A staunch advocate of renewable energy, Lopez had talks with some of the indigenous tribes in the region and heard their sentiments. Many of them wanted to put a halt on largescale mining in their ancestral domain in the provinces. Tribal groups had asked Lopez to ban open-pit mining due to the hazards it posed to the environment.
She ordered an official audit of all operating mines and the moratorium on the approval of new mining projects, according to reports. During her stint, Lopez ordered the cancellation of Oceana Gold Philippines Incorporated’s (OGPI) permit for exploration and expansion. And leaders of Didipio Earth Savers Multipurpose Association, SALAKNIB, Alyansa ng Mangagawa at Magsasaka ng Kasibu, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines said they were pleased with Lopez’s order.
Lopez threatened to cancel the extension of exploration permit issued to OGPI, an Australian owned mining company, and instructed the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to issue the cancellation immediately.
She previously said that DENR will also come up with a memorandum that any exploration permit will not be issued without the consent of the community, not only the local government’s endorsement. Lopez’s appointment was rejected several times by the Commission on Appointments after alleged lobbying by mining companies which are affected by her strict implementation of environmental laws.
A year after Gina Lopez was rejected by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA), Duterte said he suspects “conspiracy” behind her removal.
“When Madam Gina was removed by the Commission on Appointments. It was – maybe because she became very strong against the business in mining industry. I think there was a conspiracy to remove her. And they did,” Duterte said in his speech during this year’s DENR 31st founding anniversary celebration in Quezon City.
“Well anyway, the rest is history. She was doing well. She was going against moneyed people and she was against the destruction of her native land,” he added.
Duterte described Lopez as passionate “in expressing your anger and your desire to save our country, the native land”.
During her term as DENR chief, Lopez drew the ire of the mining industry when she ordered the closure of over-mining sites that affect the water sheds and threatened to ban open-pit mining in the country.
In his speech, Duterte has reiterated his plan to ban open-pit mining which is “really destroying the land”.
“So I’d like to reiterate to you again what I said during the last meeting in the Cabinet that there will be a time, I still have time left, and that I will have to ban openpit mining. I will destroy it,” Duterte said. He told Cimatu that “there has to be a time that we have to decide just to tell them frankly”.
The President said they can find other sources of the P70 billion which the country gets from the mining industry. “But open-pit mining is really destroying the land. It’s like a water basin. It catches the water. Loosens the soil. And every now and then, you have this landslide,” Duterte said.
He said the poor Filipino people living near the open-pit mining are helpless. “The mining people know that I will really stop it. Maybe they’d try to revive it at some other time, but it’s not really my concern anymore. I’ll just do what I have to do during my time,” the President said.
In Mindanao, indigenous Subanen people, including the Catholic Church and other religious denominations have previously opposed the gold mining operation of the TVI Resource Development (Phils.) Inc. It had operated an open-pit mine in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte province and has now moved on to Bayog town in the neighboring province of Zamboanga del Sur.
In Tawi-tawi province, nickel mining activities have destroyed the environment in Tumbagaan Island in Languyan town. In 2016, the Regional Legislative Assembly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to which Tawi-tawi belongs asked the DENR to issue an order stopping all destructive mining activities in the region. Assemblyman Hanibal Tulawie, the chairman of the Committee on Environment and Ecology, previously said that a resolution was passed asking the DENR-ARMM to immediately issue a “ceaseand-desist” order on all mining companies operating in Tawi-tawi, Basilan, Sulu, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao provinces. Tulawie said he had received numerous complaints from the public and environmentalists who are opposed to destructive mining methods.
Photos of nickel mining operations in Tumbagaan Island in Tawi-tawi posted on Facebook showed huge trucks and barges hauling off red soil, which is allegedly being shipped to China where it is processed. Reports indicate that Tumbagaan Island is totally devastated because of mining explorations and the ongoing nickel mining activities in Languyan municipality and Panglima Sugala.
A soldier keeps an eye over a mining area in Zamboanga province. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
Villagers protest mining operations in Zamboanga province. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)