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JULY 27, 2011

NR # 2477B

PNoy urged to bare policy on mining activities


Environmentalists today urged President Aquino to make a firm stand on the issue of mining activities in the country. The call was raised during a hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources that was presided by Deputy Speaker Erin Taada III (4th District, Quezon). Appearing before the House body, National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) Commissioner Cosme Lambayon said President Aquino has yet to issue a statement with regard to his stand on mining. Lambayon said the NCIP has passed an en banc Resolution A-021 Series of 2010 upholding the rights to food security as an overt indicator for NCIP programs. The NCIP has also declared that all ancestral domains are considered as food secure areas in relation to convention biodiversity guidelines and provisions of Indigenous Peoples Right Act (IPRA), Lambayon added. The NCIP likewise believes that responsible mining should take into account respect for the private rights and cultural integrity of indigenous people in the countryside, Lambayon said. Taada, on the other hand, said he had no idea if there would be any statement from the President during his State of the Nation Address regarding his mining policy but the lawmaker believes people are waiting for the chief executives official stand on the issue. It is hard for me to answer that question because I cant read the Presidents mind. But during the campaign when he would be asked about this, he would always say that what is important for him is that consultations on the ground take place. Now, after the elections, he has not yet come out publicly on what his mining policy is so we hope to hear from him soon. I would relay the information that people are anxious to find out so we know what move to take based on the decision the President will make, he said. The public hearing was attended by congressmen, officials of NCIP, the Department of Agriculture, environmental expert Clive Wicks who together with Robert Goodland authored a 273page report entitled "Philippines: Mining or Food?", and Columban missionary priest Fr. Frank Nally, a Columban Missionary who worked in Mindanao and led campaigns to stop the deleterious effects of illegal logging and against the entry of mining giant Rio Tinto. Taada said what is important now is to reach a consensus, no matter how loose, as a way forward. Given everything that we know, we must be able to figure out a creative and responsive solution. In the government, he said the reform movement for mining has hit a wall. Every effort to expose the real costs of mining is met with the argument of its use for revenue-generation and

potential as a driver of economic growth. Looking at it that way, it is no wonder that policy changes have stagnated as well. What do we do with the fact that the impact of mining on our forests, our rice, or on the lives of our indigenous brothers seems unimportant next to the words 'foreign investment' or 'economic development'? To those of us here, the answer seems simple: of course we choose rice over gold; we choose lush forests over gutted mountains; we choose clean water over dead fish, Taada said. Taada is the author House Bill 206 seeking to regulate the rational exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources, and to ensure the equitable sharing of benefits for the state, indigenous peoples and local communities, and for other purposes. Wicks said their report "Philippines: Mining or Food?" stressed that government policies should prioritize food production, and ensure that the agriculture department prevails over the mining bureau. The report also said the government should also suspend conversion of agricultural land and establish a committee to coordinate extractive industries. The report also cited the need for a law that shall uphold the rights of indigenous and other people, particularly in relation to mining companies use of military personnel and operations. Wicks further said only 3% of the forest are left and the indigenous people live on those areas. We have recommended in the book that these indigenous people should be financed, that they should be protected as protectors of the forest. Nally said his interest in mining laws started with the logging issue in Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur. The mountain there is being destroyed. We are not anti mining. We think that mining shouldnt be in some areas because the forests, watersheds and biodiversity and agricultural and fisheries become at risk and likewise the ecotourism in some areas. Earlier, Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. (Lone District, Ifugao) called for a moratorium on largescale mining in the entire country the repeal of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 because some of the provisions of the law are contradictory to the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Baguilat, Chairman of the House Committee on Indigenous Peoples also proposed the transfer of NCIP, which is under the Department of Environment Natural Resources (DENR) to the Office of the President. Baguilat said the Philippine Mining Act has caused controversy since its inception in 1995, attracting protest from Catholic Church groups, human rights organizations and trade unions. The law gave foreign mining companies extensive power to exploit the Philippine's natural resources. Multinational mining companies from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom began mining in the Philippines since 1995.The impacts of these large-scale mining projects in the Philippines have been devastating for indigenous cultures and the environment. (30) rbb/jy