By MARY LOUISE G. DUMAS
Funny how the tide can change. Now that the mining companies are put on the defensive, they demand the Philippine government to ‘follow due process.’
Recently, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez ordered the closure of at least 23 mines and the cancellation of 75 mining contracts. These for the breach of environmental regulations as the companies’ operations and contracts encompass important watershed areas. Mining companies now demand to see the audit report, complained that they didn’t see the report – so they might possibly defend their position – before being informed of their company’s fate.
Tough luck. This was what communities affected by the mining operations have been subjected to for generations.
In the Philippine Mining and Energy for Development Alumni Forum organized by the Minerals and Energy for Development Alliance last year, DENR Undersecretary Mario Luis Jacinto, himself a veteran official of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, pointed out that ethical mining means the respect for the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the communities affected by the operations.
However, securing the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and the atrocities committed just to acquire this, has become almost synonymous with mining in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao.
Arnold Alamon, in his study on the marginalization of the Lumad for Mindanao Interfaith Institute on Lumad Studies [MIILS], traces the roots of the violence among the Banwaon of Agusan del Sur that eventually led to the killing of one of their leaders, Necasio Precioso in December 2014 and the evacuation and seeking of sanctuary of several families the following month.
“There is strong evidence that point to the entry of three mining companies [Malampay, Makilala, and Tambuli] in the area which precipitated the supposed clearing operations of the military in the area,” the study said.
While the mining companies wash their hands of any involvement in the abuse of human rights in the Lumad areas, their big responsibility lies in the provision of motivation for local interested parties to remove any resistance on the ground. This goes for interested local leaders, private and state-backed militias, and other unscrupulous elements willing to kill to protect their business interests.
The initial study on mining done by Ibon Foundation for MIILS narrates that before the World Bank’s push for the liberalization of economies in the 1970s, mining in a number of countries was state-owned. This allowed the countries to develop domestic industries. Eventually, Third World countries were convinced that state-owned enterprises were costly and inefficient and the best way to solve the economic crisis in the 80s was to privatize industries and let the market stabilize the situation. The Philippines was among the first to liberalize its mining industry, supported by the passage of the Mining Act of 1995.
The research states:
“The Mining Act was designed to serve an export-oriented mining industry where the minerals are taken out of the soil and the waters and exported in their raw or semi-processed form. It reflects the national government’s lack of interest in building national industries using the country’s rich mineral resources, instead allowing few large corporations and foreign markets to benefit.”
The need for the economic plan of the government to attract foreign investments also resulted to its anti-people internal security plans over the years. At the core of every military initiative is the protection of investments. In the rural areas of Mindanao, this translated to the attacks on the communities that protested the intrusion of the companies into their lands.
Economic experts now point to the loss of government income due to the closure of mining. But to the communities that have been affected by the usurpation of their domains, their displacement, the deaths of their kin that have gone unexposed and covered up for so many years, it is income that had been to the expense of their peoples.
Secretary Lopez’s seemingly brash move has long been awaited. It is not something sudden – it is a decision that has for many years been gathering momentum. Development is a word that has come to mean different things depending on the context of the user. While mining is necessary, there are ways that it can be ethical, pro-people, and sustainable.