As the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) threatens to reverse the closure orders of mining operations by then DENR Sec. Gina Lopez, Judy Pasimio, from LILAK-Purple Action for Indigenous Women said “This recent move is very telling of what this government is about – reversing everything: our history with the Marcoses, how we value life, our decency and truth. Now more than ever, we need to resist these acts of reversals, and uphold what is right and good for the environment, for the people and for our country”.
2 years into the Duterte administration, mining activists are frustrated
Quezon City – An alliance of environmental groups threatened to mount actions against mining companies in affected communities after the announcement of a government agency that mine closures will be lifted very soon.
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) said in a statement that they are frustrated over the announcement of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) on the possible re-opening of 22 mine operations. They said that there was strong and sound basis from the DENR Mining Audit in 2016 that led to the closure and suspension orders of these 26 mining projects last February 2017.
“We are ready to mobilize the affected communities to resist and challenge the lifting of the closure orders against these mines. We will do all kinds of actions to protest this move of the government that will continue to destroy our environment, farmlands, water supply and fisheries”, said Doc Ben Molino from the Concerned Citizen’s of Sta. Cruz (CCOS), in Zambales. Four mining contracts extracting nickel were canceled in Sta. Cruz town last 2017, after farmers and fishers reported more than 800 hectares of irrigated rice lands were destroyed and about 1,000 fishers and fishpond owners lost their livelihoods due to river and coastal contamination of nickel laterites.
ATM has called the public statements of DoF Usec. Bayani Agabin as “questionable and suspicious”, describing the results of the MICC review as still in a very early stage, which only covered legal, technical and contractual compliance. ATM claims that the social impacts, ecological costs and economic trade-offs of the mining projects have not been included yet in this MICC review.
“Recommending the lifting of the mine closure and suspension orders is premature at best, and a biased position of a government official at worst”, said Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of ATM. He added that ATM is not surprised that Usec. Agabin has a very friendly demeanor to the mining industry, since he came from their ranks as a former mining executive.
The group emphasized that the decision to close or suspend the 26 mines were based on audit reports done by a multi-sectoral team headed by DENR officials. The audit reports cited illegal tree-cutting activities, siltation of rivers and coastal areas, non-compliance with ECC conditions and even violations of environmental laws as some of the basis of the closure or suspension orders.
ATM also demanded that the MICC make a public disclosure of their findings and recommendations as soon as possible. They claimed that it is equally important to disclose the methodology and tools used by the technical review team in their assessment. The invoked Duterte’s EO # 2 on freedom of information, saying that the MICC must be consistent with this preferred policy and practice of President Duterte on freedom of information.
Emma Hotchkiss from BayWatch Foundation in Surigao del Sur, said that “reversing the closure order by the MICC without full disclosure of the methodology and process involved and without involving civil society is fully suspicious. In our case in Cantilan and Carrascal, these mining companies have a litany of violations that cannot be simply undone and needs to be stopped immediately”.
She claimed that the Carac-an Watershed Forest Reserves has been deforested and its waterways contaminated by mining operations. “This MICC reversal of the closure orders is unconscionable, as it is only protecting the big investments and interests of mining versus our community’s environment and lives”, added Hotchkiss.
ATM is disappointed that as the Duterte administration completes its second year, nothing susbstantive nor concrete has been achieved on resolving the mining conflicts. Almost all the operating mines ordered closed or suspended have continued to operate, as most of them have either appealed their cases to the Office of the President, or filed Motions for Reconsiderations at the DENR.
Judy Pasimio, from LILAK-Purple Action for Indigenous Women said “This recent move is very telling of what this government is about – reversing everything: our history with the Marcoses, how we value life, our decency and truth. Now more than ever, we need to resist these acts of reversals, and uphold what is right and good for the environment, for the people and for our country”.
The alliance feels there are more rhetoric than actual action from the Duterte government, when it comes to mining issues.