By Renato Reyes, Jr.
The Aquino government was well aware of the destructive effects of mining in Claver, Surigao de Norte even before the attack by the New People’s Army took place last October 3. No less than the Presidential Adviser on Environmental Protection and the head of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau were informed of the practices of Taganito Mining Corporation according to a recent TV documentary.
In the TV documentary “Philippines for Sale” aired last night on Reporter’s Notebook in GMA7, Presidential Adviser on Environmental Protection Neric Acosta was shown actual footage of destructive large-scale mining operations in Claver, Surigao del Norte. Neric was visibly shocked and even exclaimed ‘My God, anu yan?’.
The documentary was shot weeks ago but was aired just last October 4, a day after NPA raided three mining companies in Surigao del Norte. The unnamed mining firm shown in the documentary was actually TMG, the same company that was shut down by the NPA raid last October 3.
Video Courtesy: GMA7
In the interview on GMA7, Acosta was quoted as saying that the mining firm shown in the footage was clearly violating environmental laws and that it needed to be stopped or cleaned up. “If it violates environmental laws, like Clean Water Act….masusunod ang environmental laws, wala na dapat yan. Itigil mo yan, o palinisin mo yan.”
Meanwhile, MGB director Leo Jasareno said they have already dispatched a team to investigate complaints by local residents on the environmental destruction caused by the mining firm.
The question we should also be asking is, why was the government not doing anything to address the concerns raised by the affected sectors in Surigao? What became of the MGB probe? What did Acosta do after he saw the damning footage of large-scale environmental destruction? Perhaps there would not have been NPA attacks had the government done its work to protect the environment and regulate the entry of foreign mining firms in the country.
From the footage we saw, the environmental destruction was real. The local residents and indigenous peoples were severely affected. One mother was clearly in despair after the coastline that they depended on for livelihood was completely destroyed by the laterite coming from the mines. “Dati ito puti ang buhangin, ngayon puro putik na,” one mother said. She could not help but cry over what happened to their community.
What was clear from the documentary was that there was no concrete response yet from the government. What was also clear from the documentary is that these things are taking place with impunity under the Mining Act of 1995.
The issue is beyond the NPA raid. The problem is government’s inaction on complaints by residents on the ill-effects of large-scale foreign mining.
Acosta and the MGB should explain what concrete actions have been undertaken in response to the people’s concerns and to the questions raised by the TV documentary. They should release the report of the investigating team that the MGB dispatched to Claver, Surigao del Norte.
The AFP meanwhile, keeps on downplaying the incident as a mere extortion case. This is intended to cover up for their own incompetence, diminish the economic, political and environmental issues related to mining in Claver, Surigao del Norte and to obscure the connivance between the AFP and the large-mining firms. The mining company concerned was already quoted in the media that the NPA had not demanded money.
Mining issues are part of the agenda in the peace talks between the NDFP and the Philippine government, especially in the topic of social and economic reforms. Rather than discontinuing the talks because of the NPA attacks, the PH government shoud pursue talks and take up issues such as large-scale foreign mining, envinronmental destruction and correct utilization of mineral resources.