By Reynard Magtoto
LEGAZPI CITY, 22April2017 (BicolToday.com) – Activists in Bicol staged protest in Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office to demand closure of Filminera Resources Corp. in Masbate.
According to Dan Balucio of Bayan-Bicol, the imperialist plunder in the natural resources of the country through large-scale and foreign mining must end. “The multinational plantations that destroy the environment, the livelihood of fishers and farmers and the land of national minority must be closed,” he said.
As they commemorate Earth Day this year, farmer leader Enrique Tumampil represented his fellow Masbateños during the protest yesterday in Legazpi City and eager to close the large-scale and foreign owned mining company Filminera in their province.
According to Tumampil, they are free to mine gold for them to sell and provide their needs when Filminera was not yet taking over. “When it was not yet here, the drinking water was clean and free, we are not suffering so much,” he said.
Tumampil added that today, residents in Aroroy suffer from hunger since the fishers and farmers here lost their livelihood because Filminera took over their lands and detaining poor residents who force to mine gold.
“There are increasing number of deaths [in Aroroy] because of polluted place. The water is already polluted, they are getting sick always. More than 200 residents died at present. Some evacuated and those who stay are forced to mine for their food despite gun shots of the guards,” Tumampil added.
Masbateños who are against the operations of Filminera already filed petition to their Governor but it remains mum of the issue. Even the officials of DENR-V failed to conduct dialogue to the protesters for the second time.
According to Balucio, mining companies on non-metallic minerals which spread in different provinces in Bicol must also be closed and be removed because of their disastrous mining.
Bicol among the poorest
Among the biggest mining operations in the country are the Filminera Resources Corp. in Masbate. Yet, research group IBON noted that official 2015 poverty statistics show that regions hosting these mining activities are the poorest, next only to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Poverty incidence in Bicol was at 36.0%.
IBON observed that the Mining industry statistics also indicate that most of Philippine mineral production goes to exports. The exodus of minerals from the country leaves very little or nothing for local industry to benefit from. This means a lack of raw materials for potential industries such as steel, cement, rubber, paper, chemical and pharmaceutical.
IBON said that large-scale mining activities impact heavily on marginalized sectors and intensify poverty. The group also said that the mining sector’s export-oriented character further deprives communities by taking away potential resources for local development.
According to IBON study, however, mineral extraction and production often incur significant social and environmental costs which in fact fall disproportionately on the poor. In 2009, mining had the highest poverty incidence among industry groups at 48.71%. This was the highest poverty incidence since 1988, even surpassing the agriculture sector, which has historically topped poverty incidence across industries.
More profits to foreign industries
According to IBON, 97% of mineral production in the Philippines goes to foreign industries, proving the export-oriented nature of Philippine mining. The biggest mining companies in the Philippines come from the United States, Australia, Canada, Norway, Switzerland and China.
“It supports other countries’ industrialization and profit instead of being instrumental in the development of local industries. While mining is unarguably vital to an economy, its mining activity has unfortunately been vital to other economies instead of its own,” IBON stated.
The group reiterated that the mining industry has remained a weak economic contributor after 21 years of mining liberalization under the 1995 Mining Act. Foreign investments in mining fell from US$1.45 billion in 2013 to US$693.1 million in 2014. The share of mining in the gross domestic product is only 0.7%, while its contribution to employment is only at 0.6%. Government shares from mining in taxes, royalties and fees amounted to Php22.83 billion in 2013 or a measly 1.33% of total tax revenues.
IBON said that the country’s agriculture, industry and service sectors can benefit from mineral products in construction, power, electronics, machinery and transport. But for this to happen, government must reverse its current pro-foreign mining policy. Minerals are non-renewable resources, but government’s further institutionalization of a liberalization thrust in the mining sector is tantamount to giving up the country’s chances for industrialization.
Philippine Mining Act of 1995 should be repealed because poverty remains not only in Bicol because of the large-scale and foreign mining according to Bayan-Bicol. The group said that government should focus on saving and utilizing the country’s resources so that the country especially the poorest regions will benefit on these.
Balucio said that there must have full support on peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), especially the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reform (CASER) which includes national industrialization in mining.
“Mining industry should be for the needs in the national industrialization, not for plundering the resources for the imperialist country. It should assures comprehensive protection of the environment; providing justice to the victims of environmental crimes; comprehensive rehabilitation of lands destroyed by mining and multinational plantations; free agricultural land distribution, and protection of ancestral domains of national minority,” Balucio said.
“Duterte regime must take example on El Salvador government’s prohibition on mining metals to preserve the limited mineral deposit for national industrialization, preservation of the environment and for sovereignty in national patrimony,” Balucio said. [BicolToday.com]