Pro-environment groups in the Philippines marked “Mining Hell Week” this week and demanded for the enactment of an alternative mining law that is “favorable to the community and the environment.”
The groups, composed of church-based organizations and environmental activists, called on the government to replace the 25-year-old Philippine Mining Act.
They said they wanted a law that has strict safeguards against rights abuses and ecological destruction.
Environmental activist groups have been pressing for the enactment in Congress of an “Alternative Minerals Management Bill.”
The proposed measure aims to conserve non-renewable mineral resources by adopting a “sustainable, rational, and needs-based mineral management.”
Father Edwin Gariguez, head of the social action secretariat of the Catholic bishops’ conference, said the existing mining law only serves the interest of big corporations.
“The country’s current mining act has sold our natural resources to the multinational companies under the guise of the so-called responsible mining,” said Father Gariguez.
The Philippine Mining Act was signed into law by former President Fidel Ramos on March 3, 1995. It allows local and foreign mining corporations to own 100 percent of mining rights.
Jaybee Garganera, coordinator of the Alliance to Stop Mining, said the law has enabled the “aggressive promotion of large-scale destructive extractions.”
He said at least 707,077 hectares of mineralized lands across the country are being mined.
On March 3, a bill seeking to impose a 25-year moratorium on open-pit mining projects was filed in Congress.
The group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment asserted the need to prohibit “high-risk open pit” projects because of “irreversible damage” to communities and the environment.
Leo Dulce of Kalikasan said the country’s ecosystems deserve a break.
“We can examine and learn from the experiences of many communities in the country that have been ruined because of open-pit mining,” he said.
Aside from environmental destruction, groups also pointed out that green activists in the Philippines are vulnerable to attacks.
International watchdog Global Witness in 2019 found that threats against environmental activists in the Philippines are systematic and usually related to “corporate greed.”
In a report, the organization spotlighted rights violations targeting those who oppose destructive coal, agribusiness, mining and tourism projects.
At least 13 environmentalists in the country were victims of extrajudicial killings between July 2016 and July 2019, according to data from human rights monitor Karapatan.