By Madelaine B. Miraflor
A non-government organization yesterday alleged that the administration’s current environmental, economic, and disaster risk reduction policies are making the country more vulnerable to disasters.
Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) issued this statement as the government is in the midst of preparation as strong typhoon “Ompong” is expected to make its landfall today in Northern Luzon.
Typhoon Ompong is seen as the most powerful typhoon to hit Northern Luzon in recent years, packing maximum winds of 205 kilometer per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 255 kph. It is expected to make landfall in Cagayan-Isabela area today (Saturday).
The country’s farm sector in Northern Luzon is on the typhoon path. The rice and corn and most farm alone is projected to incur losses worth P14 billion.
CEED Executive Director Gerry Arances said the level of destruction anticipated this time is “even more unsettling” considering the trajectory of environmental policies, especially now that the government has “loosened up” on its stance on the highly controversial mining sector.
“With the loosening up of policies on mining and tree-cutting, and the current crisis on food sovereignty and security, we fear whether we have sufficiently employed the lessons we should have learned from Typhoon Yolanda (internationally known as Haiyan) from five years ago,” Arances said.
“The need for adaptation in light of impending climate disasters seems to be disregarded in the administration’s implementation of mining policies,” he added.
Some of these policies include the opening up of new mineral reservation areas by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the failure to publicly release the results of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) which acquitted at least 23 suspended mining companies of fault, and the unfulfilled promise of a ban on open-pit mining casts doubt on Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and President Rodrigo Duterte’s prioritization of the Filipino people’s environmental rights and survival.
To his defense, Rocky Dimaculangan, vice president of Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), the association comprised of some of the country’s biggest mining companies, said the mining sector currently has an insignificant footprint in the Philippines.
Out of the country’s total 30 million hectares, an estimated 9 million hectares or 30 percent have high mineral potential.
Of this, only less than 1 million hectares or less than 3 percent of the country’s total land area are covered by mining tenements.
At present, areas disturbed by mining firms under Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) range from 0.6 percent to 3.5 percent depending on production, based on a recent COMP survey.
“Mining companies follow the stringent regulations on mitigation of mining’s impact on the environment as well as on rehabilitation of affected areas, including limitations on where mining should be conducted. All these are strictly regulated and scrutinized by the government and regularly checked by multipartite monitoring teams,” Dimaculangan further said.