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Miners' group hits Gina Lopez for saying mining causes poverty

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) on Thursday criticized Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez for claiming that the poorest areas in the Philippines are mining areas.

“We do not cause suffering in areas where we operate, contrary to Lopez’s belief. In fact, we ease such suffering by complementing the government’s delivery of social services and by implementing our environmental protection and enhancement programs,” COMP EVP Nelia Halcon said in an emailed statement.

The DENR chief earlier this month claimed that people are poor in a large number of places where mining is active

“In many areas, mining has adversely affected farmers and fishermen. So the companies have to act on this if they are really serving for the common good,” she said, ordering a national audit on mining firms and requiring them all to secure an International Standards Organization (ISO) certification.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), COMP noted there are no mining operations in the 10 poorest provinces in the country.

These are Lanao del Sur with a 74.3-percent poverty rate, Sulu with 65.7 percent, Saranggani with 61.7 percent, Northern Samar with 61.6 percent, Maguindanao with 59.4 percent, Bukidnon with 58.7 percent, Sultan Kudarat with 56.2 percent, Zamboanga del Norte with 56.1 percent, Siquijor with 55.2 percent, and Agusan del Sur with 54.8 percent.

“None of these provinces play host to mining firms,” COMP said, claiming that the poverty incidence in mining areas are low.

Some of the areas with a low incidence of poverty are Itogon at 4.8 percent, Mankayan at 6.2 percent, and Tuba at 4.6 percent. These provinces host Benguet Corp., Philex Mining Corp., and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co.

COMP noted the industry contributed some P106.915 million to the CARAGA region alone in 2015.

In response, Lopez said her statements are also backed by statistics.

She has been to mining areas and talked to residents who are generally “unhappy” about the mining activities in their community.

“That’s now what the numbers show. They help the people working in the mines, but cause the massive devastation around. I have seen it and talked to the people,” she said in a text message to GMA News Online.

“Wherever they are, the people are poor and unhappy except for the people working for them. It’s backed by statistics. I am not against the mining industry as a whole. However, the mining industry in the Philippines has to get its act together,” she added. — VDS/JST, GMA News