Negros Folk Gear for War with Mining
After some years of silence in
mine-dominated southern Negros, in the Visayas islands in Central
Philippines, farmers’ groups, environmentalists, and church groups here
are gearing up to stage a campaign against mining expansion.
BY KARL G. OMBION
Negros Occidental – After some years of silence in mine-dominated southern
Negros, in the Visayas Islands in Central Philippines, farmers’ groups,
environmentalists, and church groups here are gearing up to stage a
campaign against mining expansion.
Last Feb. 18 around
100 delegates coming from 34 organizations launched the multi-sectoral
alliance Defend Patrimony Movement (DPM) south Negros whose aim is to
resist the deluge of mining operations in a large part of southern Negros.
Occidental provincial board member Reynaldo Depasucat, chairman of the
provincial committee on environment and natural resources, has authored a
resolution opposing the granting of new mining permits in the province.
The resolution was approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial
Board) in its regular session last Feb. 15.
Aglipayan priest Fr.
Ben Duran, elected chairman of the DPM said its launching is timely
because aside from Philex Gold Mine, currently operating in the area, new
mining companies have started explorations in Sipalay City, Cauayan,
Hinobaan and portions of Negros Oriental. Duran cited in particular Colet
Mines & Development Corp., which has started to operate in Sitio Dong-i,
Brgy Manlocahoc, Sipalay, with target concession area of 3,000 has. and
the Philex expansion around the Sipalay-Hinobaan border. Their operations,
Duran said, have affected more than 300 upland rice farmers and settlers.
Mining Engineer and
environmentalist Efren Fabila revealed that there are 50 other mining
applications covering tens of thousands of hectares. Areas applied for are
in Calatrava, Kabankalan City, Candoni, Hinobaan, and Talisay City.
Specific target of applicants are exploration and production of manganese,
basalt, iron ore, coal, and chromite.
The Center for
Investigative Research and Multimedia Services (CIRMS), a Bacolod-based
social research outfit, had earlier noted that as in the rest of the
country, mining has stripped bare Negros island’s forest lands and scraped
the bottom of the earth in search of precious minerals. Along with
logging, mining has caused Negros to become what it is today: an island
threatened by constant flashfloods and other calamities that have killed
thousands of people and inundated countless rural villages, CIRMS added.
Duran said they
expect more support for their campaign because people of southern Negros
have had adverse experiences with mining companies, especially the
Maricalum Mining Company, which closed sometime in 2000.
Fabila also believe
that mining is behind the recent increase in military deployment and
operations in southern Negros. “They are just disguising their presence as
part of their anti-insurgency campaign when all indicators point to their
role in clearing mountain villages of actual and potential opposition to
mining operations,” he said.
“This is the same
pattern all over the country, that every time mining companies enter the
villages, the military comes in for clearing operations in the guise of
hunting rebels,” Fabila added. “It is a double whammy for mostly farmers
and upland settlers.”
In a related
development, the four Catholic dioceses of Negros will launch their joint
anti-mining campaign on Feb. 20 at the John Paul II Cultural Center,
Sacred Heart Seminary, Bacolod City.
Expected to lead the
affair are Bp. Vicente Navarra of the Diocese of Bacolod, Bp. Patrick
Bozon of the Diocese of Kabankalan, Bp. Jose Advincula of the Diocese of
San Carlos, Bp. John F. Doe of the Diocese of Dumaguete; and a
representative of the Abp. Angel Lagdameo of the Archdiocese of Jaro,
Iloilo, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of
the Philippines (CBCP).
The activity is
viewed by local Christian communities as a response of the local Catholic
leadership to the CBCP’s recent pastoral statement calling for the
scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995, the cancellation of all mining
permits, and the junking of the pending applications. The bishops said the
mining business in the country “destroys life.”
Fr. Mao Buenafe,
social action director of the Diocese of Bacolod and head of the campaign
secretariat said that the four bishops will issue their joint position on
the launching date. Although he did not elaborate on the content of the
position, he said that: “It is definitely consistent with the stand of the
Buenafe said the
launching will be graced by prominent anti-mining advocates, among them
Congressman Edmund Reyes of Marinduque and Fr Cesar Aculan, social action
director of Calbayog diocese, Samar.
Buenafe calls on the
people for prayers and support for this “important” advocacy, and enjoins
them to take part in the launching program.
Since 1995, the
Diocese of Bacolod, along with other sectors, has been opposing the mining
operations in Negros because of its “destructive” character, and for
supposedly benefiting only the mining companies.
The mining operations
in the country have taken a resurgence since December 2004, when the
Supreme Court reversed its earlier decision declaring the Mining Act as
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