Palawan is a biodiversity hotspot in the Philippines and its abundant forests are the main reasons to exempt it from mining. Few places on earth can match the distinction of the province, home to seven protected areas and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared two World Heritage sites the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

This wealth of nature and the expansive reserves of metal ores particularly nickel and chromite, which lay underneath old growth forests, attracts mining investments into the province. The 354 approved mining applications all over Palawan are alarming. Palaweños fears damage to the biodiversity of Palawan by mining will occur and will increase the threat to the ecosystem and to a booming eco-tourism industry of the province, and the survival of future generations of Palaweños. As many stakeholders have felt that the costs of mining far outweigh its benefits. Mining in Palawan appears to be a disaster waiting to happen since the province is one of the biodiversity hotspots in the Philippines.

Marinduque mining disaster in 1996, Atlas mining disaster in Sapangkaku River in Toledo City, Cebu in August 1999 and Rapu-rapu mine tailings spills in Albay in 2005 were tragedies which offer lessons the enormous human cost and environmental disasters brought by mining and that people living in mining affected areas can no longer avail of the bounty of nature.

These factors together with potential social impacts should require the Philippine government to exercise extreme caution in authorizing mining operation in Palawan.
Social awareness of this problem is of global nature and government action to stem the damage to the environment have led to enactment of laws such as the Republic Act No. 7611 otherwise known as the Strategic Environment Plan for Palawan Act or SEP Law directed towards the prevention of activities and events that may adversely affect the environment situation of the province. A resolution passed in November 2008 by the Provincial Board secures a 25-year moratorium on small-scale mining in Palawan.

In 1967, Proclamation No. 216 declared Palawan as a “National Game Refuge and Bird Sanctuary,” this classification, along with other environmental qualifications of Palawan, should ban mining in the entire province. Here the picture is clear that people appears to be overwhelmingly made worse off because of environmental degradation and human rights violations attendant to mining operations in the province. Government statistics attest that only a small fraction are benefitting from the employment generated by the mining operations and the occasional company-sponsored community outreach programs. As things stand, the economic benefits of mining in Palawan remain so unclear, with adverse effects appearing to be at least as likely as clear-cut ones, it is important to focus on the impact of mining in the local communities and the environment should be utmost consideration.

From ATM Case Study on Palawan

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