February 9, 2017
Social justice and human rights: the broader basis of closing the mines
ATM welcomes the Malacanang directive to give due process to mining companies affected by the closure and suspension orders announced by Sec. Gina Lopez. We sincerely believe that the results of the Mining Audit were credible.
Our impression 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 coverages, 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 offer these documents to DENR and the MICC for their own perusal.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines wrongly maintains a narrow viewpoint when they insist that the Mining Audit report was the sole basis for the closures and suspensions.
Our alliance argues that Sec. Lopez was actually enforcing environmental laws and policies when she decided to close these mines. Standards were not met laws were violated, so it should come no surprise that violators will be penalized. What may have stunned the mining industry is that there is now a DENR secretary that has the political will to implement environmental laws and prioritize the welfare of the rural poor rather than pander to the interest of miners and their political backers.
In a Senate hearing yesterday chaired by Sen. Joel Villanueva, CoMP Executive Vice-President 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.
ATM is pleasantly surprised that the CoMP is suddenly concerned about jobs and livelihoods of poor families. From where we stand, the mining industry has created havoc on the lives of mining-affected communities for more than two decades since the Philippine Mining Act was passed in 1995. CoMP sought support from the economic managers of the Duterte administration, and trumpeted the loss of jobs and revenues from closing these mines. They were obviously devastated by the losses of their stockprices and shares value.
If only they exhibited the same grief when mining disasters hit Benget, Rapu-Rapu, and Marinduque. Or when rivers and farmlands from Zambales were washed out leaving hundreds of farmers without a harvest after Typhoon Labuyo in 2012. Or when thousands of fishers are affected by siltation and contamination of coastal areas in Eastern Samar, Surigao de Norte and Dinagat Islands. Or when indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities are displaced by mining projects in Zambales, Zamboanga and CARAGA region. CoMP has expressed their deep concern over income, profit, and revenues but none was mentioned about people’s welfare, and environmental concern.
Let us not forget, not even CoMP has refuted the available data – mining contributed a measly 0.7% of GDP and employs a total of 235,000. Comparing this tourism or agriculture, these are insignificant economic indicators.
We welcome the plan of the CoMP to seek legal remedies. We are confident that we have strong and reliable evidences that can refute their claims. Our army of volunteer –lawyers supporting the mining-affected communities has been waiting so long to confront the mining companies in the proper courts or quasi-judicial bodies.
Our alliance rejects the accusation of CoMP that the DENR Mining Audit was tainted and its results biased, because of the participation of communities and CSOs, particularly calling-out ATM and our engagement in the mining audit process. 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” defeats the purpose of establishing what is a “responsible mine”. This reveals the hollowed and minimal understanding of CoMP on how to do “responsible mining”.
ATM welcomes the due process and legal remedies that the mining industry expects from the Duterte administration. In behalf of the thousands of mining-affected communities who are resisting these destructive mines, we reserve the right to exercise the protection and fulfillment of our human rights and we are prepared to launch meta-legal and extra-legal measures should these closures and suspensions be revoked.
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator