Group urges environmental reforms in mining
Environmentalist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) called for environmental reforms in mining plunder and militarization in its affected communities through the Human Chain of Peace held Friday in various locations in Metro Manila.
The group, joined by various sectors, pushed for the prioritization of the said issues in the upcoming peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“With aspirations for national industrialization an apparent common sentiment between the Duterte administration and the NDFP, we urge both parties to immediately resume the formal peace talks and work together in immediately redressing long-standing mining injustices perpetrated against the Filipino people. The issue of large-scale and foreign mining should be one of the priority agendas in the proposed accelerated peace process’ track discussing social and economic reforms,” said Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of Kalikasan-PNE.
“A peace based on social justice cannot be achieved unless we acknowledge and hold accountable the destructive impacts and other injustices exacted by foreign and large-scale mining upon the environment, the people, and the economy,” he added.
The Human Chain of Peace was held just in time for the Global Day of Action Against Mega-Mining, an annual internationally coordinated series of actions against large-scale mining on the same date, this year being July 22.
Bautista said that the government should be firm in enforcing laws for mining companies that do not comply with environmental safety measures.
“We challenge the NDFP and GPH peace panels to especially penalize in their respective capacities mining firms that are repeated offenders of environmental and human rights laws, a prime example of which is OceanaGold’s Didipio mine in Nueva Vizcaya province,” he said.
The group maintains that the Australian-Canadian mining corporation is one of the main perpetuators of not only environmental pollution, but also several extrajudicial killings and human rights violations documented by the group’s research.
“The issue of mining and the particular case of Australian-Canadian owned OceanaGold will be a proving ground for the promise of change and peace by the Duterte administration. For the longest time, the GPH has pursued the full liberalization of the mining industry, while the NDFP has diametrically opposed its promotion of foreign large-scale mining plunder,” Bautista explained.
Under the previous Aquino administration, policies that promoted foreign plunder were introduced and reaffirmed, such as Executive Order 79 that overrode local government opposition to mining projects and the militarization of mine-affected areas such as allowing Special CAFGU Auxiliary Action (SCAA) paramilitaries for mining corporations.
The NDFP, on the other hand, went after large-scale mining operations that violated the country’s environmental laws such as the coordinated attacks by its armed wing, the New People’s Army, in three various mine sites owned by Nickel Asia in Surigao del Norte province in Mindanao in 2011.
Bautista said that the environmental protection of the mining scene is looking good under the Duterte administration.
“The Duterte administration is off to a good start in diverging from the previous Aquino administration’s track record. Environment secretary Gina Lopez has already suspended at least five erring mines in the first few weeks. She recently announced that the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) is also investigating OceanaGold operation in Nueva Vizcaya and will issue a suspension order once found culpable of violations. The GPH-NDFP peace talks should build on these small but important steps towards ensuring the wise utilization of our mineral and other natural resources by coming up with a mining policy framework hinged on national industrialization, environmental protection, and a progressive social policy in the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) outcome of the peace process,” he narrated.
The group is pledging full support for the proposed fast-tracking of the peace talks to immediately discuss the CASER and all reforms that would help the mining cause. They are also advocating for the release of all political prisoners, as obliged by previous peace talks agreements. Ma. Czarina A. Fernandez, INQUIRER.net trainee/RAM