Gina, miners trade barbs
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez on Thursday accused the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) of twisting official poverty data to serve its members’ interests.
Earlier this month, COMP—comprising the biggest and smaller mining companies in the country—said none of the 10 poorest provinces in the country, as listed by the Philippine Statistics Authority, hosted an operating mine, contrary to Lopez’s claim the poorest places in the Philippines were mining areas.
COMP executive vice president Nelia C. Halcon said then that mining actually eased the suffering of the poor in host communities by complementing the government’s social services and through environmental protection and enhancement programs.
On Thursday, Lopez said that one had only to go to Caraga, Eastern Visayas or Compostela Valley “to see that mining has not only failed to help lift poor Filipinos from poverty but has added to their socioeconomic difficulties.”
She said Eastern Visayas and Caraga had the second- and fourth-highest rates of poverty incidence in the country and were host to some of the biggest mining operations.
Citing data from PSA’s 2015 Family Income and Expenditures Survey, Lopez said in Eastern Visayas, “where there are mining operations in Leyte and Eastern Samar,” 47 percent of the population was poor.
“The poverty incidence is 46.7 percent in Leyte and 50 percent in Eastern Samar, nearly twice the national average of 26.3 percent,” she said.
“In Caraga, where there is mining in all provinces, 43.9 percent of the people wallow in poverty,” she said.
Lopez said COMP’s argument that mining did not cause poverty and suffering just because there was no mining in the 10 poorest provinces was flawed considering that neither was there mining in the 10 least poor provinces.
The head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources—a staunch antimining advocate—pointed out a need to police the industry and ensure responsible mining.
In June, Lopez had told the Inquirer that there was no such thing as responsible mining, especially with the open-pit method.
“If there is responsible mining, why is it that wherever there is mining, there is poverty,” she had said.
On Thursday, Lopez said people from areas hosting mining operations came to the DENR “every day in droves, bewailing their suffering, and you tell me mining does not cause suffering?”
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