Climate advocates to gov’t: Stop destructive mining, reclamation projects | Inquirer News
PH AMONG ‘THE MOST HIGHLY MINERALIZED’ COUNTRIES

Climate advocates to gov’t: Stop destructive mining, reclamation projects

/ 05:35 AM November 14, 2022

Environmental groups and science advocates have called on President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to “walk the talk” on climate justice by declaring a moratorium on destructive mining, reclamation, power and infrastructure projects, and stopping the killings of environmental defenders.

“Empty rhetoric will not bring back the lives of those who were killed in climate-intensified disasters. Nor will it bring back the shattered livelihoods of many Filipinos,” Chuckie Calsado, chair of the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham), said during the National Action for Climate Justice protest march on Saturday.

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The demonstration from Sitio San Roque in Diliman to Bantayog ng mga Bayani coincided with the Global Climate Strike as world leaders took part in the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Egypt.

“The President has the power to rescind the permits of destructive projects, including reclamation and big mining projects, both of which science shows to bring irreparable environmental damage that are hardly commensurate to any benefits trickling down to Filipino communities,” said Joshua Miranda, climate campaigns officer of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan).

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He called out Mr. Marcos for condoning environmentally destructive practices and allowing these projects “disguised as development” to flourish.

Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones recently said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under the Marcos administration intended to strengthen the mining industry’s potential to help in the country’s development.

“Since we are among the most highly mineralized countr[ies] in the world, our priority is to build both a strategic and responsible industry,” Leones said at the 48th Philippine Business Conference and Expo on Oct. 19.

DENR priorities

In a recent news release, he said the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) would push for the development of mineral processing and value-adding enterprises while also boosting the enforcement of environmental policies.

The bureau has identified an estimated 9 million hectares as potential mineral areas, but Leones said “it will not just be a business-as-usual scenario as it was in the premoratorium times but rather, it will be better business.”

He pointed out that out of these potential mineral areas, only less than 3 percent were awarded mining contracts.

Through the Mineral Investment Promotion Program, Leones said the department would deal with illegal mining, particularly small-scale mining operations, by evaluating and declaring “Minahang Bayan” areas where they would be confined and regulated.

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The DENR would also conduct geological surveys and mapping, and rehabilitate 11 abandoned mines “to address the persistent misinformation that has stigmatized the mining industry.”

Other policy directions of the DENR on the mining sector include identifying new mineral reserves, bidding out government-owned mining assets, constructing modular mineral processing plants for steel and nickel, and integrating the small-scale mining sector into the industry.

Killings

But environmental groups urged President Marcos to declare a moratorium on mining, protect environmental defenders and support their role in the climate crisis.

“Because of his responsibility to protect the citizens of this country, he must put a stop to the Red-tagging, criminalization, attacks, and the murder of these defenders who are the ones working to truly address climate change,” said Lia Mai Torres, executive director of the Center for Environmental Concerns.

The Philippines has retained its label as the deadliest country in Asia for land and environmental defenders, with 270 of them killed in the last decade, according to the latest report of international watchdog Global Witness.“Over 40 percent (114) of the defenders murdered were indigenous peoples campaigning to protect their land and the environment, with nearly 80 percent of attacks against indigenous defenders taking place [in] Mindanao,” the nongovernmental organization said.

The report showed that more than 80 percent of the killings in the past decade were linked to protests by defenders against company operations, a third of them connected to the mining sector, followed by the agribusiness industry.

“If President Marcos is sincere in his role as a champion for climate justice, he should support and protect environmental defenders,” Torres said.

The groups further called on President Marcos to consider the climate change mitigation proposals of community-based environmentalists, scientists and other stakeholders, citing the People’s Green New Deal (PGND) filed in Congress by the Makabayan bloc.

“Th[ese] proposal[s] provide…sustainable solutions for various sectors to reduce the impacts of, and adapt to, climate change while providing for pro-people economic recovery and growth,” Miranda said. INQ

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TAGS: Climate Justice, DENR, environment, Mining, Reclamation
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