Large scale mining is not the solution to the crisis brought by Covid 19 and the Global Climate Crisis

Statement on Earth Day 2021

As the country reels from the social and economic effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, the government has decided to lift the 9-year moratorium on new mining agreements. Executive Order 130 signed by President Duterte will pave the way for the approval and eventual operation of 291 pending mining applications. This will surely pose a threat to indigenous peoples who are in the frontlines of protecting the environment as the whole world is experiencing a climate crisis that worsens as years go by. This complete turnaround by the government will mean the economic and physical displacement of indigenous peoples as many of these applications are found in ancestral domains.

We question the reason the government has given to justify this rash decision. First, it is unlikely that it will beef up the economy as they envision it to do. We must remember that these “new” mining projects will be implemented and regulated by the same anti-Filipino and anti-environment Philippine Mining Act of 1995. The law gives generous incentives to investors such as tax holidays and complete repatriation of profits for foreign corporations. How can the government and the nation possibly benefit from this?  In fact, in 2020, the mining industry contributed only 0.76% to the Gross Domestic Product. We don’t see this improving with the current system and regulations governing the industry. Even the promise of jobs is doubtful as Chinese companies (most of the applicants and projects on the pipeline) prefer to employ Chinese workers in their businesses and projects.  It remains a fact that there are more losses than gains for indigenous peoples and the Filipino people.

Many indigenous communities in the Philippines are against large scale mining projects after experiencing and hearing of the impacts of mining in Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, Mindoro, Surigao del Norte, Compostella Valley, Palawan and Marinduque. However, due to the government’s support to the mining industry and the insistence of companies to carry out their operations, people’s opposition is met by violent retaliation by military, police, paramilitary and private security groups.

According to reports written and published by Global Witness, the mining sector records the highest number of fatalities among environmental defenders in the Philippines and in the world. One of the latest victims from the ranks of indigenous peoples is Datu Kaylo Bontolan, a Manobo leader who had been active in the struggle against mining and logging incursions in the Pantaron Mountain Range in Mindanao. Indigenous Peoples’ rights defenders also suffer from false criminal charges, vilification, harassment, surveillance, among others. Again, the human rights of indigenous peoples are at great risk as new laws such as the draconian Anti-Terror Law of 2020 are put into place.

The apprehension we feel at the government’s decision also arises from the recent experience of Ifugao farmers in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya where Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. has conducted its operations for the past twenty years. Despite the termination of its Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), its destructive operations and scores of violations against the farmers in the community, the company insists on renewing its permit and even expanding its operations. If even one of the companies to be approved are like Oceana Gold in its disregard of indigenous peoples’ rights and its effects on the environment, more indigenous peoples and communities will be doomed.

TFIP denounces this foolish and arbitrary decision by the Duterte government, done without due consideration for the welfare of indigenous communities, the Filipino people, and the planet we live in.  We persist in our calls to:

Junk the Mining Act of 1995!
Oceana Gold, Out of Nueva Vizcaya and the Philippines!
Justice for Indigenous Peoples Rights and Environmental Defenders who were killed!
Stop the Vilification and Harassment of IP Rights and Environment Defenders!
Climate Justice Now!