MANILA (4-July-2012) – Catholic bishops and legislators will meet on Thursday to discuss mining, a top and very controversial environmental issue in the Philippines today.
Amid controversies hounding the mining industry, the forum hopes to arrive at a consensus to pursue collective work on the legislative campaign to protect the environment and the communities.
Other topics that will be discussed, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said, are core provisions and salient points of the proposed Philippine Mineral Resources Act (PMRA) of 2012.
“The forum also seeks to generate solidarity among the affected communities, support groups and leaders of the Church and legislative champion,” Pabillo said.
Pabillo chairs the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Aside from him, convenors of the forum will be CBCP President and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, Senator Sergio Osmeña III, and Congress Representatives Erin Tañada, Teddy Brawner Baguilat, and Arlene Bag-ao.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, and around 30 other legislators and representatives of civil society organizations are expected to attend the forum.
Mining has been a very divisive issue in the country over the past decades. The government cites economic benefits as sufficient justification to support and encourage mining.
On the other hand, environmental and religious groups strongly oppose mining because of its well-known negative environmental and health impacts.
Pabillo said that the controversial policy on large-scale mining has not yet been adequately addressed by the Aquino administration.
While notable steps have been made on moratorium on new mining permits, he added that there remain gaps and problems in monitoring, enforcing and regulating the mining industry.
“Some of our dioceses are experiencing problems related to these, for example, in the issues concerning social conflicts and human rights abuses in Leyte, Zamboanga and Tampakan, South Cotabato,” said Pabillo.
Other issues, he said include the “worsening environmental destruction such as fishkill, flooding in Agusan, increasing conflicts with local governments in South Cotabato and Romblon; and unabated violation of IP rights in Nueva Vizcaya, Palawan, Mindoro provinces and Sibuyan.”
The closed-door meeting will be held at the Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila, ahead of the CBCP’s plenary assembly, which officially starts on Saturday.
Mining issue gained media attention lately after Malacañang said that President Benigno Aquino III is set to sign a new executive order on mining, hoping that it would strike a balance between conflicting interests between the mining industry and environment.
But this early, some bishops have already expressed reservations on the new mining policy.
Digos Bishop Guillermo Afable, for instance, urged Aquino to be considerate with the people opposing mining in their areas, saying that they are the ones who will suffer most of the consequence of mining.
He also called on the President to study carefully before signing the government’s new mining policy and seriously consider its effects to the communities and the environment.
“At the end of the day, for better and for worse, the local people will face the effects (of mining) and not those in Manila,” Afable said.
Pabillo also questioned the upcoming EO because it could set aside local ordinances against mining.
“I think something’s wrong. They have all the rights to oppose because they are ones who will suffer from the ill-effects of mining,” he said.
Pabillo clarified that the church is not against mining per se, but believes that measures to safeguard the environment, and protect indigenous communities’ rights should be required. [RL/CBCPNews]