By Elmer Recuerdo - July 26, 2017
A BIG anti-mining group is supporting President Duterte’s call for a new mining law and is urging him to enforce the cancelation and suspension orders issued by former Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez against 28 mining companies as a critical first step in addressing the negative impacts of mining.
The Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), a broad alliance of mining-affected communities and civil-society support groups, is also recommending to Duterte to issue an executive order declaring a moratorium on all mining applications and operations.
“We expect President Duterte to issue clear instructions to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to strictly enforce the closure and suspension orders against 28 mining companies issued by former Environment Secretary Lopez,” ATM said in a statement. These orders are still pending and being reviewed by the Office of the President.
ATM National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera said his group is opposing the “aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the country” and is pushing for a moratorium on mining, repeal of the 1995 Mining Act, and passage of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB).
In his State of the Nation Address on Monday, the President warned mining companies to stop its “unbridled and irresponsible destruction over watershed, forests and aquatic resources”.
“You have gained much from mining; we only get about P70 billion a year, but you have considerably neglected your responsibility to protect and preserve—and even the tax, it’s about 5 percent—environment for posterity.”
Garganera said he is expecting the Congress to heed the President’s call to fast-track the enactment of a new mining law. Several bills have been pending, particularly the AMMB and the new fiscal regime on mining.
“We will engage the Duterte administration should they call for a summit of all mining stakeholders. We are prepared to submit our recommendations,” Garganera said. “We are ready to confront the mining industry and expose their concept of ‘responsible mining’ is a myth.”
ATM also criticized the proposal of House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez for mining companies to acquire a franchise to be granted by the Congress as a potential “conflict of interest” of many lawmakers.
“Many legislators are beneficial owners of mining companies, or they were supported by mining firms during their candidacy,” he added.
Garganera said they will expose the politicians who have been “compromised by the mining industry”.
“We will oppose their participation in Congressional hearings regarding the deliberations for a new mining law,” he added.
He said localized legislations of “no-go zones” in provinces and legislative districts will be pursued by green groups in order to contribute to President Duterte’s demands that local government units do more to protect and conserve the country’s remaining forests and other natural resources.
“We hope this government will tread carefully as it pursues federalism and charter change. As early as now, we register our opposition to changing the economic provisions of the current Constitution to allow for 100-percent foreign ownership of land and corporations that will result in further plundering our resources,” the ATM statement said.
“The Filipino people, particularly the rural poor, who are severely impacted by destructive mining operations need more time, opportunities and interaction to fully internalize and genuinely debate the merits of charter change and the shift to federalism,” it added.