Mining companies have an obligation to uphold human rights and protect the environment.
This was the message of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) after it was reported that the mining operation in Banaybanay, Davao Oriental has resulted in massive siltation and discoloration of the Mapagba and Pintatagan rivers.
Through Spokesperson and lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, the CHR expressed concerns that the water from the two rivers drains into the Davao Gulf affecting the coastal areas nearby -- including the fishers who rely on these waters for livelihood.
De Guia cited a report from the Davao Oriental provincial government that the said rivers turned orange in color due to nickel laterite from the mining site following a heavy downpour last Jan. 13.
"We stress that even mining companies are called to respect, protect, and remedy violations arising from their operations. This obligation to uphold human rights is consistent with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights," she said in a statement.
De Guia stressed: "Corporations and businesses must continuously demonstrate its commitment to protect the environment. Economic development can only be genuinely achieved through a healthy and sustainable environment that can support the life and welfare of the people."
She said the CHR commended the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for suspending the operations of the mining company involved after it was recommended by its regional office and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Environmental Management Bureau.
She also said the CHR cited DENR’s commitment that the results of the investigation will be submitted for adjudication through the Pollution Adjudication Board for possible penalties and corrective action.
The CHR recognized the "resolve" of Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang to protect communities from the long-term effects of irresponsible mining by calling for the cancellation of the permit of the mining companies who caused extensive pollution of the rivers, she said.
"This demonstrates giving premium to the long-term welfare of the people instead of merely seeing the economic benefits of the mining industry," she added.
In the meantime, De Guia said the CHR will remain faithful in following up and monitoring the implementation of relevant laws, such as the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, the Local Government Code, and Environmental Impact Assessment.
The CHR will even craft new laws and policies, if needed, in order to assert the importance of protecting a safe and healthy environment conducive to the realization of all human rights in communities,” she said.
"We hope that both the national and local government will take similar decisive action to protect and defend the environment against similar incidences," she added.