LARGE SCALE MINING CONTINUOUSLY POSING GRAVE THREAT TO PHILIPPINE ENVIRONMENT AND NATIONAL FOOD SECU
Manila, Philippines – Large scale mining continuously poses grave threat to the nation’s food security. Thousands of agricultural lands and fishing grounds were affected and rendered unproductive that aggravated the widespread poverty due to landlessness and lack of job opportunities. On March 3, 1995, Republic Act 7942 otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act was passed into law. Environmentalists, indigenous peoples and mining-affected communities have long called to scrap the 25-year-old Mining Act, which liberalized mining in the country, and allowed the entry of large-scale, foreign companies at the expense of farming and fishing communities in the country. Beverly Mango of the Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, Inc. (PNFSP) cited the case of Oceanagold, an Australian-Canadian company operating in 11,489 hectares in Nueva Vizcaya. Long before mining companies entered Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya has been known for its rich agricultural lands and contributes a large share of the total rice production in the region. But now, the rice fields have dried up due to lack of water in their irrigation which the locals believe that the water depletion may have been due to the underground activities of Oceanagold causing ten wells, two creeks, and a spring to dry. Based on PSA data, palay production in Nueva Vizcaya showed decline in palay produced from 66,005 metric tons in July to Sept 2018 to 59,512 metric tons in same quarter last year. PNFSP’s Mango also mentioned results of series of environmental investigation mission in Didipio which have found damages to forests, air pollution from dusty roads and stockpiles, and massive water pollution among others, all affecting the health and livelihood of affected residents. She also highlighted impacts of mining in Zambales, where residents of various villages in Sta Cruz town are calling for a stop to large-scale mining operations, whose destructive open-pit mining in the past 10 years, resulted to the deadly floods and massive destruction of livelihood among farmers and fisherfolks. There are six large-scale mining companies with Minerals and Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA), covering 12,000 hectares in Sta. Cruz alone. Four are operating: the DMCI subsidiary, Zambales Diversified Mining Corp. (ZDMC), Filipinas Mining (LAMI), Benguet Nickel Mining Inc., and Eramen Minerals Corp. In Mindanao, a total of 128 mining tenements (MPSA, EP, FTAA, MMP) as of July 2019, are listed in the DENR- Mines and Geosciences Bureau Mining Tenements Management Division covering 302,727 hectares. Among these large mining companies is Indophil, an Australian mining company which has 32.5% equity in the Tampakan project of Xstrata-SMI and has been mentioned as one of the companies vying to get a hold on the undeveloped mineral areas of Pantaron Range where a vast number of Manobo live and survive with the forest resources in their area. Pantaron holds one of the remaining virgin forests in Mindanao. The PNFSP and its member organizations nationwide have also long been campaigning to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and calls for the passage of the “People’s Mining Bill” filed by the MAKABAYAN bloc. Mango cited the explanatory note by the authors of the People’s Mining Bill “if properly regulated and developed, these resources will be a requisite to developing a strong, self-reliant and progressive economy, founded on a healthy balance between agriculture and industrialization and programmed to break the cycle of the country’s underdevelopment”. Mango reiterated that as long as the current Mining Act and Executive Order No. 79, s. 2012 are in place and being implemented, environment and agricultural woes caused by large-scale mining will not end.