By BicolToday.com Staff
04May2017 (BicolToday.com) – Where ever there is large-scale mining, the people are poor.
Environmental Secretary Gina Lopez’ non-confirmation is a failure to recognize that poverty and environmental issues are interrelated which essentially have ignored the plight of twenty million poor Filipinos who bear the brunt of environmental degradation according to National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).
“The big businesses and foreign monopolies were favored over a staunch environment and anti-poverty crusader, who in her 10 months in office has defied all odds to uphold the interest of the majority but poor sectors of the society,” NAPC Sec. Liza Maza said.
Lopez ordered the closure of 23 big mining companies and suspension of 5 large-scale mining operations, along with the cancellation of 75 mining contracts to protect our watersheds.
Mining industry only contributed 0.7 percent of GDP between 2000 and 2015 (NEDA), and only generated an average of 236,400 jobs annually between 2011 and 2015 but it has caused massive environmental destruction and widespread displacement of the poor and indigenous communities.
The regions where the biggest mining operations are located are actually among the poorest. Poverty incidence among individuals in Caraga (Region XIII) is the second highest in the country at 39.1 percent. The Eastern Visayas (Region VIII) posted the third highest poverty incidence at 38.7% followed by Soccsksargen (Region XII) at 37.3%, Bicol (Region V) at 36.0% and Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX) at 33.9 percent (PSA).
“Mining companies exploit workers with low wages, unsafe working conditions, and rampant contractualization. The mining industry have 5 non-regular workers for every 10 workers, along with fishing, forestry, and the food services industries,” Maza said.
A 2012 report by the International Solidarity Mission on Mining (ISMM) said that in Lepanto Mining Consolidated Corp, one of the mines suspended by Sec. Lopez, workers who were contractuals earned only P200 to P250 a day. In the provinces of Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, and Romblon, the minimum wage for mine workers is P280 as of November 2016.
The country ranks first in the world with the largest iron ore deposit, third in gold, fourth in copper, fifth in nickel and sixth in chromite deposits. According to Maza, the country have abundant mineral resources that can potentially be harnessed for the local production of products such steel and rubber, “yet we allow for excessive extraction and exportation of our mineral resources leaving nothing for local use”.
The mining industry should operate within the framework of national industrialization according to Maza. “We have to develop the capacity to harness our own resources and develop goods for our own consumption, especially for the poorest sectors of our society,” she said.
The people will never forget that mining oligarchs were allowed to triumph over environmental sustainability, our cultural identity, our sovereignty as a people, and our right to lead a life free from poverty. [BicolToday.com]