Pro-environment group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) has frowned over Malacañang’s recent decision to lift the moratorium on mining agreements.
Kalikasan PNE expressed fear in a statement Thursday, April 15 that the move–made official by an Executive Order (EO)–might lead to more disasters during the time of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“[President] Duterte’s order to lift the mining agreement moratorium will be a disaster upon disaster because the Mining Act of 1995 is still in place. We cannot allow this deluge of destructive large-scale mining when communities are still suffering from the converging pandemic and climate crises,” said Leon Dulce, the group’s national coordinator.
“The Mining Act encourages the opening up of mineral lands to up to 100 percent ownership by foreign corporations. It does not orient the mining industry to extract based on people’s needs, but based on unfettered corporate greed,” Dulce noted.
According to Kalikasan PNE, Republic Act (RA) 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995 provided auxiliary rights to mines that allow them to cut timber, deplete and disrupt water, and ease communities away from their lands as they deem fit.
The group further reckoned that the law also provides for investment guarantees, since the Mining Act prods government to ensure the removal of obstacles to mining, including conflicting land use such as agricultural lands and communities.
“Case in point would be how foreign miner Oceanagold had disrupted and depleted the water supply in the village of Didipio, Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya province. Communities oppose mining projects because of how they deprive their residents of natural resources,” Dulce explained.
Kalikasan PNE noted that the law has outdated provisions that shortchange obligations to rehabilitation, polluter taxation, and waste management.
Apparently, mining companies need only to pay P50 per ton of waste disposed in unauthorized areas, P0.05 for every ton of mine waste, and P0.10 for mine tailings in terms of compensation for resulting damages.
“Let us recall that in the industry-wide audit made by the late Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, at least 68 percent of mining companies had been found with serious violations. This revelation already spells the potential disaster that the Executive Order will bring to the environment and communities,” Dulce said.
Kalikasan PNE also noted that the EO might potentially aggravate the COVID-19 situation in mining communities especially since an outbreak had previously occurred in the operations of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company in Mankayan, Benguet.