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Environment, climate advocates laud DENR closure of mining operations, call for continuous action against destructive large-scale mining industry

By SANLAKAS
February 3, 2017

QUEZON CITY – Environment and climate advocates, as well as members of grassroot communities, lauded the Department of Environment and Natural Resource's (DENR) closure of 23 mining operations situated in functional watersheds and suspension of 5 mining firms, as of Tuesday, January 31, 2017.

"This action by the government has finally brought into the forefront the long history of suffering inflicted by the country's large-scale mining industry on our environment and our mining-affected communities," said Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS) Chairman Dr. Benito Molino.

Molino referred to DENR Secretary Gina Lopez's findings on the grave environmental degradation and disruption of community lives that have been occurring in the mining capital regions of the country.

"The campaign that calls for holding accountable destructive mining firms and for the halt of these recently closed mining operations has been left unheeded for years until now," said Molino.

"It takes bold and concrete actions to put an immediate stop to the environmental degradation and community life destruction that have long been the mark of large-scale mining industries in this country. The DENR amply stepped up to this challenge with its closure of a number of mining operations," continued Molino.

Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa hoped that this paves the way for more empowered communities in their fight to reclaim their home and their proper way of life from destructions caused by the large-scale mining industry.

In lauding the DENR closure of a number of mining operations, Pedrosa expressed the need for continuous action, both by the state and its citizens, against possible retaliatory measures to be undertaken by huge mining companies.

"Stronger safeguards need to be installed in our institutions to truly break away from the current state of affairs of our environment where only a handful from the mining industry dominate in extracting and benefitting from the country's natural resources," stated Pedrosa.

In concurring with the observance of Secretary Lopez during the DENR mining audits, Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) National Convenor Gerry Arances noted that farmers and fishers from mining-affected communities are often stripped of their health and their livelihood due to the disruptive presence of mining operations in affected areas.

According to Arances, compunded with statements from Molino, in Sta. Cruz, Zambales alone, the visible environmental impacts of mining operations by BenguetCorp Nickel Mines Incorporated, Eramen Minerals Incorporated, LNL Archipelago Minerals Incorporated, and Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation, included air pollution, biodiversity loss, floods, food insecurity, loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, soil contamination and erosion, waste overflow, deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, and surface water pollution.

"It is high time that we realize and act on the fact that we put so much burden on our environment and our fellow Filipinos in mining-affected areas for the sake of accommodating a large-scale mining industry that empties and irreversibly damages our resources without having ever contributed to our economic growth as a country," said Arances.

Arances noted how the country's current legal framework on mining allows the entry and the long-term and large-scale destruction by mining corporations of communities and ecosystems in exchange for few and insignificant portions of the revenue gained by these corporations.

"Large-scale and profit-driven mining industries have long gotten away with encroaching upon and fully exhausting natural resources that are meant for the use and proliferation of our present and future communities," concurred Molino.

"In order to instigate a full stop to the destruction caused by mining operations, we have to shift our way of appropriating our natural resources and make it fully attuned to the needs of our own communities rather than that of corporations," said Molino.

Pedrosa cited The Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the current law governing mining activities, as one of the major impediments to a truly pro-people and pro-environment national utilization of land resources.

"A law that allows mining corporations to own 100% of mineral ores and land covered in claimed mining areas has no place in our genuine pursuit of reclaiming our natural resources for our people," said Pedrosa.

CCOS, Sanlakas, and CEED have long supported the passage of bills like the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB), a bill that champions the adoption of a sustainable, rational, needs-based minerals management, geared towards effective utilization of mineral resources for the goal of attaining an ecologically-sound national and modernized agriculture.

"The closure by the DENR of major mining operations is a step forward to relinquishing the hold of corporations over this country's natural resources," said Pedrosa.

"To make this move more meaningful, however, we have to continue creating more avenues, formal or otherwise, for our communities to assert their rights over the utilization and management of their resources and the environment in which they live," concluded Molino.

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