“The final, long awaited EO makes it clear that Malacañang has addressed only the concerns of foreign business but brushed away legitimate concerns of mining affected communities and environmental groups.” – Kalikasan Party-list
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – As Malacañang released this week the copy of the executive order on mining it signed last Saturday, the church through the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines), progressive groups under the umbrella of Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment and other environmentalist groups immediately voiced their opposition to and reservation with the EO.
“That President Benigno “Noynoy’ Aquino III chose to issue an EO in the first place, instead of supporting the legislative efforts for the enactment of an Alternative Minerals Management Bill or the People’s Mining Bill, pending in the House of Representatives, betrays this government’s intent of upholding and strengthening the destructive and anti-people Philippine Mining Act of 1995,” said Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Luz Ilagan in a statement.
Environmentalists hurl eggs at Aquino’s picture during a rally at Mendiola. (Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
Allies of the Kalikasan Partylist trooped to Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang last Tuesday to hurl rotten eggs at a smiling picture of President Aquino. He had not only signed what the protesters describe as a “masterfully deceptive” executive order, he has also been openly promoting large-scale mining despite the growing peoples’ protests.
Dressed up go-signals to increased mining operations
Based on statements of Kalikasan Partylist and other progressive groups, the following are some of the ways in which Aquino’s Mining EO has cunningly dressed up its drive for increased liberalization in mining:
1.‘No more mining applications’ – It appears like a mining moratorium but it actually does the opposite. Even as the EO temporarily closes the door on new mining entrants, it welcomes, at the same time, hundreds that have approved mining applications before the signing of the Executive Order last July 6.
Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau show that as of June 30, 2012, the government has already approved around 771 kinds of large-scale permits covering 1,009,161.21 hectares or almost 1/30 of the country’s total land area (see table). Over half of these cover ancestral territories of indigenous peoples’ group, practically threatening their very survival.
(Source:www.mgb.gov.ph / bulatlat.com)
The supposed mining ban is to end when a new law tweaking mining revenue is out, said Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP). But given that “Congress and the Supreme Court are under President Aquino’s control, his administration can easily railroad the enactment of the new revenue scheme on mining and lift the moratorium,” said Kakay Tolentino of Katribu Partylist.
Further belying the purported ban or controls on mining are various provisions in the EO to process mining permits more rapidly, such as the one-stop shop, Kalikasan Partylist added.
2.‘Closing some areas to mining’ – This should have been music to the ears of environmentalists, but aside from the fact that the EO is not closing areas in dire need of protection against mining, the areas it did identify for closing have already been classified as in need of protection under different laws, which, said the Kalikasan Partylist, have loopholes.
The NIPAS law, for example, requires a lengthy and expensive process before an area can be officially declared as a protected area, said Frances Quimpo, secretary general of Kalikasan Partylist. As of 2012, she said, there are still only 240 protected areas.
“Unless a biodiversity and mineral-rich area is officially declared a protected area, there is still a chance that mining companies will be able to control them,” said Quimpo. Thus, it appears that the EO’s closing of some areas to mining is just an empty boast.
3.‘Only explorations allowed’ – Allowing mining companies to do exploration is not that far from allowing them to do actual extraction, based on Philippine experience. Aquino’s EO still allows mining companies to get exploration permits, which can be upgraded or used as basis later for the application of Mineral Production and Sharing Agreements or outright mining permit, said the Kalikasan Partylist.
In practice, it has also been the bitter experience of indigenous peoples’ groups that exploration permits are used as cover-up for extractive activities, Kakay Tolentino of Katribu Partylist told Bulatlat.com. Exploration permits are also relatively easier to get, since it does not require an Environmental Compliance Certificate.
Protesters denounce both Mining Act and new EO (Photo by Jhun Dantes / bulatlat.com)
The review may also just turn out into another “kotong scheme” for government officials, or ways in which corrupt government leaders can get their hands on “a bigger cut by allowing big foreign mining firms to destroy the environment, exploit the nation’s natural resources, and endanger mine workers’ health and safety,” said the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) in a statement..... MORE