A worker looks at an open pit mine in the Philippines. Source:
Reuters/Romeo Ranoco & Asian Correspondent
Finance Secretary Carlos
"Sonny" Garcia Dominguez III should realize that enforcing the spirit of
the law is necessary for the common good.
Dominguez stated recently that the mining industry requires good
governance and transparency to ensure that it contributes to
development. We agree. That is why closing and suspending those mines
that violated the Mining Act (RA 7942) and other environmental laws were
necessary. Our alliance sincerely believes that the results of the
Mining Audit were credible.
Our understanding is that the decision to
close and suspend the mines relied on a whole set of references and
evidences – the mining audit, the report of the Technical Review
Committee, the local reports of NGOs and LGUs submitted as addendum to
the mining audit, news and media coverage, documents from legal cases in
various courts and quasi-judicial bodies, LGU resolutions and ordinances
against mining projects, aerial surveys of mining areas, and ground
interaction by DENR officials in the mining-affected communities. From
our own database, there is overwhelming documentation and evidences that
prove the closures and suspensions are with merit. We again offer these
documents to new DENR Sec. Cimatu, DOF Sec. Dominguez and the MICC for
their own perusal.
Sec. Dominguez wrongly maintains a narrow
viewpoint when he insists that the DENR Mining Audit report was the sole
basis for the closures and suspensions.
Our alliance argues that former DENR Sec.
Lopez was actually enforcing environmental laws and policies when she
decided to close these mines. The results of the audit and the
subsequent technical review showed that standards were not met and laws
were violated, so it should come no surprise that violators will be
penalized. What may have stunned Sec. Dominguez was the commitment and
political will of Lopez to impose the penalties and prioritize the
welfare of the rural poor rather than pander to the interest of miners
and their political backers.
When Sec. Dominguez invoked yesterday that
good governance and transparency are needed to support the mining
industry, he forgot a third critical element – accountability.
The mine audits had legal basis, the DENR
followed due process, and social justice was served when the closures
and suspension orders were issued. This is how we should hold the mining
industry and the government accountable.
In a Senate hearing last Feb. 8, 2017
chaired by Sen. Joel Villanueva, CoMP Executive Vice-President Nelia
Halcon admitted that there are only 19,000 workers that are directly
employed by large-scale mining companies. This is less than 1/3 of the
figures the CoMP has been brandishing, and only 0.015% of the alleged
1.2 million families that will be impacted by the closures and
suspensions. This is not the first time that CoMP has been
disseminating half-truths and biased data. To date, none of these mine
workers were displaced because the closed/suspended mines filed their
appeal and so since February 2017, the mines have been operating
us not forget, not even Sec. Dominguez has refuted the available
economic data – mining contributes a measly 0.7% of GDP and only employs
a total of 235,000 or 0.4 employment rate. Comparing this to tourism or
agriculture, these are insignificant economic indicators. And so when
Sec. Dominguez speaks of “good governance…to attract investments in
extractive industries, confident that we will be able to assure
sustainable forestry and mining”, he should remember well these
We welcome the statement of Sec. Dominguez
that “poor governance caused us to lose our forests without emancipating
our people” which “should never happen again”. As co-chair of the MICC,
Sec. Dominguez must ensure that the results of the mine audits and all
other evidences available at the DENR and from CSOs, are reviewed so
that the complete picture of the violations and non-compliance of the
mining industry is recognized.
Our alliance rejects the accusation of Sec.
Dominguez that the DENR Mining Audit was tainted and its results
biased. We reject the proposition that mining is only a technical
matter, and only technical experts should be allowed to conduct the
mining audit. This prejudice is precisely the main reason why mining is
confronting resistance at the local and national levels. Mining will
permanently change the physical and ecological landscape of an area. The
same mining tenement has a river, a forest, or in a fragile
island-ecosystem. The same mine facilities are impacting the coastal
areas for fishers and the irrigation for farmers. The same mine project
is within ancestral domains, and therefore require free, prior and
informed consent (FPIC) from indigenous communities. The same mining
project introduces environmental, social and political impacts.
To reduce the mining audit to a “technical
exercise” and the mining industry as an “economic driver” sans the
social and environmental safeguards, defeats the purpose of establishing
what is a “responsible mine”. This reveals the hollowed and minimal
understanding of the mining industry and how to
implement “responsible mining”. This is not the path to social justice.