Where environmental guardians become agents of mining
The much awaited executive order (EO) on mining is finally out. It is EO 79 series 2012 entitled “Institutionalizing and Implementing Reforms in the Philippine Mining Sector Providing Policies and Guidelines to Ensure Environmental Protection and Responsible Mining in the Utilization of Mineral Resources.”
The anti-mining advocates claim that our policymakers including the President only think of three things when they look at the mineral resources of the country. These three things are tax revenues, the possible development that mining can bring in to the community, and politics.
The first issue brings to fore the primary concern, which is MONEY, and they speak of the “volume” of money flowing to government coffers. They count the millions of foreign investments from investors raring to explore and extract the mineral resources of the country at no cost, except on the environment and the inhabitants, particularly the so-called “natives,” otherwise known as Indigenous Peoples.
On the other hand, the defenders of EO 79 point out that the EO is NOT a perfect document but is good enough to start with until a new mining legislation is enacted by Congress.
What the EO clearly states is that it upholds the principle of “responsible mining.” EO 79 promises a “full enforcement of environmental standards” in mining. It tasks the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and LGUs to monitor, regulate and make sure that the promised enforcement of environmental standards are fully complied with.
There are also some immediate benefits that can be derived from the new EO.
First it has expanded the list of “no go” zones where mining will be prohibited. Prior to the issuance of the said EO, only protected areas under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) law are “no go” for mining explorations. The new EO now includes “prime agricultural lands, lands under agrarian reform, tourism development areas, island ecosystems and other critical areas.” It has also retained the “moratorium” on the granting of new mining agreements until a new Mining Act is enacted.
The real challenge lies in the actual implementation of the rule of law or the promised full enforcement of the environmental standards. Reports from the ground point that through MONEY incentives, the MAROs and the CENROs (Community Environment and Natural Resources Office) including some people from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) actually become “agents” of mining corporations and they become actual purveyors of land alienation in favor of the mining corporations.
The cases in South Cotabato, particularly around the Ned areas and in Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat Province, are just a few examples where government “guardians” of the environment do become “agents” of mining corporations.
I suppose there is nothing wrong with responsible mining positions given the mutuwid na daan governance. But the way it goes, the so called “mutuwid na daan” does NOT go deeper than a thin veneer that covers the misdeeds in governance, particularly beyond a safe distance from the man who resides along the Pasig River. It is practically the same as usual outside the safe comfort zone of Malacañang.
Mining explorations do NOT happen within that safe comfort zone. They occur in remote areas usually inhabited by the Indigenous Peoples. The areas are also inaccessible to media and other public interest groups. There you rely solely on the mercy of God or in the shattered “integrity” of DENR, DAR and LGU (with few exceptions like the South Cotabato Provincial Government).
It is interesting to note that as the Office of the President issued the new EO 79 on mining, the Human Rights Watch based in New York also came out with its HR Report
The group observed that Executive Order No. 79, issued by Mr. Aquino on July 2 to institute reforms in the mining sector, was silent on human rights abuses arising from mining investments and the deployment of paramilitary groups to the mines.
“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.
The government, she added, “should ensure that those responsible for these attacks are brought to justice.” -- GMA News
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