Environment and human rights groups on Monday trooped to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in Quezon City to oppose the resumption of operations of 13 cancelled and suspended mines.
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) national coordinator Jaybee Garganera said “the DENR’s recommendation to reopen these mines should be rejected, as DENR is unwilling to disclose the basis of this decision.”
ATM was joined by Sanlakas, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), Bantay Kita, Akbayan, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, IDefend, Lilak, Green Thumb Coalition, and Masbate-based organization Ang Aroroy Ay Alagaan (4As) to call for an end to destructive mining.
The groups also emphasized that mining operations endanger the health of local residents in mining communities, noting that the decision of DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to revoke the cancellation and suspension orders of 13 mining companies will worsen these conditions.
Garganera also pointed out that mining and river dredging should not be part of the economic stimulus for recovery as a response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Mining is part of the problem because it is directly linked to deforestation and climate change, which are both drivers to the evolution of new diseases and pandemics, he said.
“A report from the International Council on Mining and Metals revealed that the global mining industry is a significant contributor of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of climate-related disasters. With COVID-19, the urgency of addressing this threat increased rapidly,” PMCJ energy officer Larry Pascua said.
Malou Verano of 4As called for the closure of Filminera mining operations in Masbate as “residents are anxious of health issues and the loss of livelihood.”
“Their tailings pond is also located just above the people’s houses. We fear that if there’s a storm or earthquake, the tailings dam will collapse and cover the entire community,” she added.
Rommel Yamzon of IDefend said “it is ironic how this government answers the climate emergency with abuses and threats, the same way it addressed a health crisis with militarization.”
“Economic activities that lower the resiliency of communities have no place in a pandemic. Mining for recovery is only counterproductive. The government has to hold these companies accountable for the livelihood and natural resources they destroyed,” Sanlakas secretary-general Aaron Pedrosa said.
The protest held on Monday was a part of the “Mining Hell Week,” an annual series of non-government organization-led activities parallel to the International Mining Conference organized by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
It aims to represent and amplify the voices of mining-affected communities and marginalized sectors.