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Philippines: New Mining Policy Stirs Debate

Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino's new Executive Order 79 on mining has drawn criticism from environmentalists, church people, peasant groups, and various other sectors.

Social news network Rappler summarizes the key points of the new EO as follows: a new revenue sharing scheme, the limiting of small mining activities, the addition of more no-go zones for mining, the creation of a Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), and the reiteration of the primacy of national law over local legislation, among others.

Here are some views on how EO 79 only further opens up the country's mineral resources to more plunder by foreign multinational corporations as posted online:

Mr. Cheap Justice's Blog describes the mining EO as “a policy that favors the big boys club and Gina Lopez.” Lopez is a popular advocate of eco-tourism; her family owns the country's biggest TV network

Local governments who are most active in the fight against mining will find themselves powerless if the national government say that its local policies are not in sync with national government’s directions. As such, local banning of mining or moratorium will be no good against a national policy to open mining in particular locality.

On the other hand, look at the bright side. The EO has also protected tourism areas like Palawan. This only means that environmentalists like Gina Lopez of the Bantay Kalikasan are grinning from ear to ear. Lopez who has long fought for zero-mining in Palawan. She may be who Pnoy had in mind all the time.

Protesters criticize the government's mining policy as pro-foreign and anti-poor. Photo from Kalikasan Network.

Mindanao-based journalist and photographer Karlos Manlupig writes about the grievances of small-scale miners, whose operations are limited under Aquino's new EO on mining.

“The government wanted our operations limited to the minahang bayan, which is just a small piece of land compared to the thousands of hectares given to foreign corporations. Why is the government taking side with these foreigners and big corporations while turning a blind eye on its constituents who are poor and hungry?” remarked Simbajon.

Taborasj comments that under EO 79, “No go” means “Maybe.”

Let us consider in the law how “no go” “no go” is.

E0 79 refers to areas enumerated under RA 7942. These are:

“In military and other government reservations, except upon prior written clearance by the government agency concerned;

“Near or under public or private buildings, cemeteries, archeological and historical sites, bridges, highways, waterways, railroads, reservoirs, dams or other infrastructures projects, public or private works including plantations or valuable crops, except upon written consent of the government agency or private entity concerned;

“In areas covered by valid or existing mining rights;

“In areas prohibited by law;

“In areas covered by small-scale miners as defined by law unless with prior consent of the small-scale miners, …

Except for areas under NIPAS [National Integrated Protected Areas System], “No go zones” can be undermined at the discretion of government official or private persons. If these were obstacles to the intentions of mining, with enough determination and logistics, they could be overcome.

Eastwind Journals explains why the mining EO is pro-foreigner and anti-Filipino.

Simple, it gives preferences to mining multinationals, which we all know have dozens of dirty tricks up their sleeves, whose bad reputation worldwide is known. Recently, a high school teacher was caught using signatures of students as evidence of support for the Xstrata-SMI project. What a pathetic desperate move. Noynoy gives rogue corporations a red carpet, thinking he would quadruple government revenue. But this is an illusion.

Citing the report by New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) Fr. Jun Mercado OMI notes how the mining EO was silent on human rights violations resulting from the entry of mining operations.

“While mining and other environmentally sensitive projects promise economic benefits for Filipinos, they should not come at the expense of basic rights, particularly the lives of environmental advocates,” HRW Asia Deputy Driector Elaine Pearson said.

The HRW report cites three cases. They are the following: Margarito J. Cabal, 47, an organizer of a group opposing a hydroelectric dam in Bukidnon province, was gunned down on May 9; Jimmy Liguyon, a village chief at Dao in San Fernando, also in Bukidnon, was shot dead by a leader of a paramilitary group on March 5; and Fr. Fausto Tentorio, a longtime advocate of tribal rights and a critic of mining activities, was shot dead on Oct. 17 in Arakan, North Cotabato province.

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