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Philippines: ringing in the changes with new mining bill

Friends of the Earth Philippines/LRC-KsK has worked with and actively supported indigenous peoples and rural communities suffering the impacts of mining for many years. Mining depletes non-renewable resources, and has massive societal and environmental impacts, yet the Philippine government’s legislation and policies have remained largely pro-mining since 1995, when the Philippine Mining Act was passed. This Act sought to liberalise the mining industry, opening it up to foreign investment in order to meet the demands of globalisation.

Filing the minerals management bill at congress Filing the Minerals Management Bill at Congress, Philippines.Although the law was eventually declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the decision was overturned less than a year later. The history of that case mirrors the continuing proclivity of successive administrations to act against their better judgment once the so-called profits of mining are brought into the picture.

The easy access of mining companies into indigenous peoples’ lands and ancestral domains, and the controversy over mining in watersheds and other protected areas, stand in stark contrast to the promised rewards. In the Philippines, the Marcopper disaster in Marinduque is one of the most notorious examples: more than three million tons of toxic sludge were released into the Boac River in 1996 when a drainage tunnel burst, rendering the river biologically dead.

Working collaboratively, civil society, including Friends of the Earth Philippines, has helped to develop and promote a new Minerals Management Bill, which seeks to scrap the present Mining Act of 1995.

The bill, formally filed by a number of Representatives on 1 December 2010, seeks the conservation of non-renewable mineral resources for the benefit of both present and future generations of Filipinos by adopting a sustainable, rational, needs-based minerals management. It promotes the utilisation, development and management of natural resources, particularly minerals, for the country’s national industrialisation and development. About 200 activists, coming from mining affected communities, indigenous peoples, church, urban poor organisations and civil society environmental groups, sang in support of the new Bill outside the House of Representatives, dressed in santa suits and playing tambourines.

“This bill is the product of years of painstaking consultations and write-shops with grassroots communities of indigenous peoples and rural folks, multi-sectoral organisations and civil society groups as well as church formations, who are actual victims and witnesses of the havoc created by the present mining policy of the government. The people wrote this bill.”

Judy Pasimio, Friends of the Earth Philippines

 

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