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Duterte’s new mining order disastrous to environment—groups

President Rodrigo Duterte lifted the nine-year moratorium on new mineral agreements, earning warnings from various groups of further corporate plunder of the environment and more natural disasters.

Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat said she is dismayed with Duterte’s decision that would most likely result in the worsening of the environmental crisis in the country.

“Instead of putting a stop to environmental destruction that causes disasters, he is allowing further exploitation of our natural resources,” Cullamat said.

Cullamat, a Manobo Lumad persecuted for her community’s opposition to further mining activities in their ancestral domain, said mining projects have only brought untold suffering to various indigenous communities around the country.

“The country only earns two percent in royalty taxes in exchange for the tons of soil they extract, the poisoning of our waterways by mine tailings and the loss of livelihood and homes in mining sites,” she said.

In his Executive Order (EO) 130 issued Wednesday, April 14, Duterte amended former President Benigno Aquino’s EO 79, granting permission to the government to enter into new mineral agreements.

“The Government may enter into new mineral agreements, subject to compliance with the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and other applicable laws, rules and regulations,” Duterte’s order said.

“The DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) may continue to grant and issue Exploration Permits,” it added.

Duterte’s order said new mineral agreements will usher significant economic benefits to the country that can support various government projects, such as the Build Build Build and Balik Probinsiya, Bagong Pag-Asa Program by providing raw materials and new employment opportunities.

‘Unfettered corporate greed’

Environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) however agreed with Cullamat, adding Duterte’s order will only result in more environmental disasters.

“Mr. 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,” Kalikasan PNE national coordinator Leon Dulce said.

The Mining Act encourages 100% ownership of mineral lands by foreign corporations that operate based on “unfettered corporate greed” and does not orient the mining industry to extract based on people’s needs, he added.

Kalikasan PNE said the law also has provisions that allow companies to renege on rehabilitation, polluter taxation and waste management obligations.

“Mining companies need only to pay P50.00 per ton of waste disposed of in unauthorized areas and only P0.05 for every ton of mine waste and P0.10 for mine tailings in terms of compensation for resulting damages,” the group explained.

“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,” Kalikasan added.

Beneficial to foreign corporations

Economic think-tank IBON said that Duterte’s new order will most likely benefit foreigners, not the local industry.

“Without domestic industries to process and use the minerals, [EO 130] will just mean that the most significant value-added from our finite mineral resources will keep going to foreign firms, industries and economies,” IBON executive director Sonny Africa said.

Africa said that at the expense of even more environmental damage and displacement of rural communities, real economic gains from Duterte’s decision are negligible.

“Even before the pandemic, mining and quarrying only employed around 190,000 in 2019. That’s not even half a percentage point of total employment and the 2-week NCR+ ECQ even displaced more jobs than that,” Africa said.

Similarly, the Php15.5 billion in taxes, mining fees and royalties paid to government in 2019 is negligible even with the additional excise tax under the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion, Republic Act No. 10963) law,” the economist explained.

“This EO No. 130 is just the latest sign that it really is just business as usual for the economic managers. The refusal to really reform economic policies combined with the pandemic will just mean that people will remain worse off than before the pandemic for many years to come,” Africa said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Oceanagold has been running without a legal contract for years’

“Bakit pinoprotektahan ng pulis at gobyerno ang patuloy na operasyon ng minahan ng Oceanagold? Oceanagold has been running without a legal contract for more than a year. Their refusal to implement mandatory rehabilitation as mandated by law and contractual obligation has led to these worsened flooding and other disaster risks faced by the local communities.” Leon Dulce, National Coordinator, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment

Groups blame Duterte’s martial law for the deaths of 52 environmentalists

An international anti-corruption group has revealed that the Rodrigo Duterte government’s heavy-handed rule in Mindanao and many other parts of the country has caused the deaths of 52 environmentalists in the hands of the military in the past three years.

In a report entitled “Defending the Philippines”, the group Global Witness said that Duterte’s “martial law has emboldened [the military] to use force to silence environmental and indigenous activism, with 52 defenders have been killed extra-judicially by the army in the last three years.”

The group, in a press conference in Quezon City last Tuesday, September 24, said it uncovered shocking evidence of widespread attacks against land and environmental defenders when they stand up to destructive coal, agribusiness, mining and tourism projects.

The group also identified major local and international corporations as the beneficiaries of the systematic attacks against Filipino citizens.

 The report accused major players Dole Philippines, Del Monte Philippines, San Miguel Corporation, Standard Chartered and the World Bank of “corporate greed” that caused killings and widespread displacement of marginalized communities.

The revelations come after the Philippines was named last July as the world’s deadliest country for land and environment defenders in 2018 back, sparking widespread international coverage of the issue.

In his presentation, Global Witness Senior Campaigner Ben Leather said his group’s report could not be clearer in its finding that the Duterte government has miserably failed in protecting land and environmental defenders.

“Businesses from coal to agribusiness, from mining to tourism, are allowed to run rampant and irreparably damage the lives of ordinary Filipinos,” Leather said, adding corruption and conflicts of interest within government affecting well-known politicians also remain out of control.

“If the Filipino government is going to deliver on its promises, it has to protect land and environmental defenders and stand up to big business and corrupt politicians. And if companies and investors like Del Monte Philippines, San Miguel and Standard Chartered want their sustainability and human rights pledges to be anything other than poisonous hot air – then they too need to take immediate action to tackle the root causes of these attacks and support defenders,” Leather said.

Impunity against land and defenders

Local environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (PNE), a partner to the investigations, agreed with the Global Witness analysis that “the killings are the sharp end of a broader impunity against land and environmental defenders.”

“The Global Witness report reveals damning evidence of how Duterte’s military and paramilitary have essentially functioned as mercenaries for large-scale mining and other extractive and destructive business projects. By using brute armed force to guarantee and secure dirty investments, Duterte has indeed failed in his promises to protect the environment and indigenous peoples, and curb corruption,” Kalikasan PNE national coordinator Leon Dulce said

“Martial Law is clearly not the so-called tool to save democracy that Malacanang wants to paint it to be. For us Filipino environmental defenders, it has functioned as a tool for repression and to promote the unimpeded plunder of our natural resources by big businesses,” Dulce added.

Kalikasan PNP demanded an independent into the function of military and paramilitary groups as ‘mercenaries of large-scale mines and other extractive and destructive projects across the Philippines.’

‘We also demand for the immediate cessation of the Martial Law declaration over Mindanao and the institutionalization of a national policy that will protect the rights of Filipino environmental defenders and other human rights defenders from the atrocities especially of state security forces,” Dulce said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘No plan, no heart’ in Boracay closure, envi group says

Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) held a picket Tuesday at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) main office in Quezon City to protest the impending closure of Boracay island.

The group said the arbitrary six-month closure had no comprehensive scientific rehabilitation plan, but will displace thousands of workers in the process.

“Duterte’s Boracay closure order is like bar-drunk swagger that had no comprehensive, scientific basis and no heart for the 36,000 workers it will displace. His yes men are struggling to come up with rehab, security, and even completely illogical land reform plans, but these cannot justify the full closure of the island,” Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment national coordinator Leon Dulce said.

“With no comprehensive rehab plan whatsoever, we see Duterte’s closure order will benefit the only Boracay projects that have full plans and in full implementation, the Chinese-backed mega casinos,” Dulce added.

The environment group noted that the planned casino of Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment will be built on an inland forest area of Boracay and still has a provisional permit from the government in effect up to present.

“What kind of environmental rehab plan would allow the conversion of native tree forests into a mega casino? Despite the Department of Tourism’s claim the Galaxy casino is searching for a new location, locals report the company’s local partners recently continued to acquire land in Boracay. The DILG’s guidelines on the closure do not even include a moratorium for new construction projects which makes the closure order even more suspect,” Dulce said.

Part of the protest action at the DENR Tuesday. (Kalikasan PNE photo)

A Fact-Finding Solidarity Mission (FFSM) was conducted last week by environmental groups and people’s organizations to investigate the circumstances and effects of the impending closure of Boracay on the people.

The Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) was among the groups that joined the mission.

“Despite repeated requests by various organizations and even media outfits, President Duterte and the DENR has not yet divulged any plan or paper which details how exactly they are going to embark on rehabilitating the island, or as to why they arbitrarily chose six months as the supposed recovery period,” CEC researcher Lia Alonzo said.

“There was not even a public consultation held prior to Duterte’s verbal pronouncements on closing the island. Up to the present, there is still no order or legal basis for the closure,” she added.

Kim-Sin Tugna, of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) – Aklan, who was also part of the FFSM, reported that the deployment of 630 fully-armed police only sowed fear and terror among the populace.

“Despite the absence of a writ of eviction, which can only be issued by the courts, the DENR escorted by police forces have been asking residents to leave since their houses were said to be built on wetlands. The residents wondered why they were being evicted now when they have been paying taxes for the land they were occupying,” Tugna said.

“The intimidation of the police in fatigue uniforms and bearing high powered rifles caused fear and panic among the residents. During our public consultation, residents reported to that the police told them that they will ask for the deployment of soldiers and turn Boracay into a ‘new Marawi’ if the residents will resist,” Tugna added.

“Although the rehabilitation of the Boracay is indeed much needed, any move to help the islands heal should also not leave behind the livelihood concerns of the residents who have no other means to earn decent income in the first place,” Dulce said.

“But with a casino to be built on Boracay’s forest itself, the closure order only reveals that the Duterte regime’s environmental pronouncements are a sham. Moreover, we castigate the Duterte regime for enforcing its arbitrary closure order using draconic and dictatorial methods which only terrorize the people,” Dulce concluded.#

Earth Day eco-walk in QC, Manila highlight threats to environment

Environmental advocates led by the Lumaban sa Cha-Cha, Ipagtanggol ang Kalikasan (LUNTIAN) Coalition held ‘eco-walks’ a day before International Earth Day at the University of the Philippines – Diliman and Manila to draw attention to what they say are threats to Philippine patrimony by the proposed changes to the Constitution.

“From our mountain ridges to our urban green spaces down to the coral reefs, our last ecological frontiers are facing increased risks of plunder today,” Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) national coordinator and LUNTIAN convenor Leon Dulce said Saturday. Read more