By Kalikasan PNE
People’s forum highlight community struggles 20 years under the Mining Act of 1995
Disputing repeated claims by the Joint Foreign Chambers and other mining industry lobbyists that Philippine mining laws provide a ‘model’ framework for sustainable development through its environment and social safety nets, legislators, environmental advocates and grassroots leaders presented harrowing cases of social and environmental impacts suffered by communities and the environment during the two decades of implementation of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 during a people’s forum held today at the University of the Philippines – Diliman.
“The concrete experiences of affected communities and outcomes of independent investigations debunk the preposterous claim of the Joint Foreign Chambers and the Aquino Government that the large-scale mining regime in the Philippines are socially responsible and environmentally safe. In the two decades of implementation of the Mining Act, there are already a total of 19 major mine spills—not including the slow but continuous outflow of harmful tailings from the facilities of countless mines across the country—have dispossessed communities of their lands and livelihood, and have caused massive pollution and negative health impacts,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan.
In September 2012, Philex Mining suffered a mine spill incident which disposed 20 million metric tons of toxic mine waste. This made the Balog River biologically dead and massive siltation to San Roque Multipurpose Dam. The Philex mine spill is said to be one of the biggest mining disasters in the world. Also among the major mine disasters include the Marcopper Mining Disaster in Marinduque a year after the Mining Act was passed, and the series of spills in Rapu-Rapu Island, Albay.
“The Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay has left in ruin not only the island-ecosystem of Rapu-Rapu Island but also the Albay Gulf. Fisheries productivity is still in decline amidst continuing fish kills after mining corporation KMP-Resources attempted to close without rehabilitating their mines. Because of the massive degradation of marine ecosystems, the majority of the residents of Rapurapu Island are now exepriencing widespread hunger and poverty,” said Vince Casilihan of Karapatan Bikol and the Save Rapu-Rapu Alliance.
The Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project owned by South Korean company KMP-Resources (Korea Malaysia Philippine Resources) was declared as the flagship mining project during the Arroyo administration. A few months after the commencement of its commercial operations in 2005, a series of huge tailings spills occurred in the island. KMP-Resources is reportedly closing the mine after 8 years of minerals extraction, but without a decommissioning plan.
“Zambales is currently being plundered by 16 different mining corporations for its nickel reserves. Rivers have run dry in Sta Cruz, its various waters polluted with heavy crimson siltation that even we can not use it for washing our clothes. In coastal areas near Bolitoc Port, small fishers are forced to fish beyond five kilometers from the shore as the sea is heavily polluted with silt and laterite,” says Cristeta Sison of the Movement for the Protection of the Environment- Zambales or MOVE Now!.
Bolitoc Port is where nickel products are transported to be shipped overseas out of Zambales. It also serves as a standby stockpile area for nickel extracted by mining companies in Zambales. The average tonnage of nickel products transported out of the port is 54,000 metric tons per ship. In 2011, mining companies DMCI owned by the Consunji family and Benguet Mining Nickel Corporation owned by the Romualdez family alone has recorded a total of 10 million metric tons of nickel shipment.
In the typhoon-battered island of Manicani in Eastern Samar, residents decried similar conditions of marine pollution caused by nickel mining in the island. The nickel mining projects owned by Nickel Asia Corporation which is controlled by the Zamora family. Members of the Save Manicani Movement (SAMAMO) said that the mining operation have also caused several cases of human rights violations such as killings, harassments and the illegal detention of anti-mining activists.
The group said “the brutal repression and environmental destruction caused by big miners in Eastern Visayas compound to our disaster vulnerabilities—we suffered typhoons Yolanda, Ruby, and Seniang, but way before those typhoon disasters there was Nickel Asia.”
In response to the people’s clamor for radical policy reforms in the mining sector, President Noynoy Aquino issued Executive Order 79 or the Mining Executive Order in 2012, which had token provisions on the environment that allowed the continuation of existing mining operations in environmentally critical areas. The EO, which Aquino said was meant ‘harmonize’ various mining-related laws with the Mining Act of 1995, also undermined the ordinances of local government units banning large-scale mining projects in their provinces.
“The Aquino administration, who instead of repealing or radically overhauling the Mining Act, actually pushed for more mining liberalization policies that further allows foreign mining corporations to deplete our mineral resources, leaving us with grave environmental destruction, pollution, and plunder in the process. This is a pattern of criminal negligence towards communities affected by disasters and environmental destruction that joins the growing plethora of atrocities that President Aquino continues to perpetrate. If foreign interests to plunder our nation’s wealth weigh more than the people’s lives for our Philippines’ pernicious president, then Noynoy Aquino must immediately resign,” Bautista ended.
The forum, entitled ‘Pagbawi 2015: communities struggling for land, life and rights’ was organized by Kalikasan, Defend Patrimony, Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines, AGHAM, AGHAM Youth, and in partnership with Save Rapu Rapu, SAMAMO, MOVE Now!, Minggan UP-Diliman, and the Junior Philippine Geographic Society.#
Reference: Clemente Bautista, national coordinator – Kalikasan PNE – 0922 844 9787