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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Adverse Impact of Mining Operations in the Philippines



 The Philippine government has approved the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 which grants the opening of mining operations in both public and private lands; that also includes the timber or forestlands.  This law also has provision that  any interested miner or investor may apply for the Exploration Permit (EP), the mineral contact and the Technical  and financial assistance agreement with the Philippine government if there is a mineral deposit found in the area that has a high commercial value.  This mineral agreement with the government permits any contractor to conduct mining activities within a period of twenty five years.  And, still can be renewed by the mining contractors.  Moreover, there are three kinds of mineral agreement with the government. First is the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) that permits the contractor to have the right to any mineral resources as long as he will provide for the financing of the implementation of the agreement in terms of technological mechanism, management and supervision of the mining workers in the site. Second is the co-production accord that states that the government has to contribute to the financial resources for the implementation of the contract.  Third is the joint venture agreement that requires the government to organize a business partnership in which both the government and the contractor have equal sharing.  Aside from that, it is provided that the mining contractor must be either a Filipino citizen or a corporation that has 60 percent Filipino ownership.

However, home-grown communities along with the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are being concerned with the legality of these mining operations in the country.  Many Filipino people have been questioning the implementing rules and regulations that allow foreign companies to have total control in the mining operations as well as the natural resources in the country.  I am among those people who are wondering why our government allows this thing to happen in our environment.  Although, I know that the government and the foreign investments give many advantages to the government in terms of different tax revenues every year.  But the problem is the mining activities are destroying our country’s natural resources which are the main resources of basic food and daily needs of millions of ordinary Filipino people in the provinces.  Aside from that, the mining operations reportedly caused many deaths and serious working incidents in the site.  There is a great number of Filipino miners who met tragic incidents while working for different mining contractors in various provinces. This is  due to  lack of sources of income that led many men in the provinces to  join in these kind of  mineral hunting that takes longer years in looking for any valuable mineral that can be sold in the international market. 

The significant effect of mining operations is very large among the indigenous people.  Most lands in the provincial area are owned by ancestral families.  And many stories have been reported that the Philippine Mining Act led to the mining operations even closer to   the ancestral lands without any permission from the land owners.  That is why many questions and doubts from many indigenous communities if there is any legality of these mining operations.  Because they believe that they have the right on their own lands; to reject any actions and conditions that may greatly affect their everyday living as Filipino citizens.    They still have the right to approve or not approve any mining application in their communities.  And, if the condition causes them any inconvenience and deprivation from their normal way of life as well as if the mining application can affect adversely to their sources of income. 
Many foreign investors are convincing the people to sell to them their lands for mining purposes.  And since, the people are so attracted with the offer.  Some of them grab it without thinking that they will later suffer the consequences of selling their lands and properties.  More than that, there are many environmental groups which deeply concern on the entire effects of massive mining operations to the environment as a whole.  In this connection, there are many calamities and disasters that happened recently; and many environmentalists strongly stressed that these disastrous happenings caused by various mining activities.  Aside from the enumerated facts and findings about the awful effects of mining operation; it even gives way to graft and corruption to many government officials.  There is billion of dollars financial agreement that involves in this kind of mining business with foreign contractors; and  various officials in the government have all the options to take in order to give way this kind of operations in our land.  Besides, there are tragic incidents that have been reported; conflicts in mining communities, with their mining workers, with the ancestral land owners and the worst thing is the extrajudicial killings.    
I therefore suggest the thorough review of the Philippine Mining Act; because it seems that it does not provide any protection for our environment as well as to the human rights of the people. 
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