Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) recognizes the accomplishments of the Duterte administration as it completed its first 6 months in office. Particularly on the environment sector, reforms that were introduced by President Duterte and DENR Sec. Gina Lopez are unprecedented. Suspension of ten mining companies that were violating environmental laws and the conduct of mining audits to 41 large-scale mining projects were necessary interventions to check the destruction of natural resources and protect the lives and livelihoods of mining-affected communities. We also commend the effort to review the more than 800 environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) of environmentally-critical projects. Mobilizing the communities and civil society by holding environmental summits and activating a CSO desk and a Peoples Day are also excellent initiatives by the DENR. The issuance of guidelines for access to information (or freedom of information) in the department are very much welcome developments.
However, for genuine social justice to be served in the environment sector, President Duterte and Sec. Gina Lopez must focus on several tracks that can be highlighted in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP):
First, reforms in the DENR must be fast-tracked in order to check corruption. The personnel and organizational structure must be revamped in a manner that is time-conscious. The final mining audit reports and decisions must be released as soon as possible, and those mining projects that are found to be non-compliant must be suspended immediately. We also recommend that an audit of the National Greening Program (NGP) be conducted and validate the claims of reforestation and tree-planting initiatives that will be given substantial investments in the next five years. We strongly support the continuance of implementing the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) in the Philippines to ensure that mining companies are faithful to their obligations. We are specifically concerned that Sec. Lopez has been by-passed by the Commission of Appointments twice already. Our call to President Duterte is to stand-by Sec. Lopez as she pursues her crusade for environmental and social justice and re-appoint her until she is confirmed.
Second, we remind President Duterte that the concept of “responsible mining” is a myth. There is no legal definition of responsible mining, and the best practice of mining companies on CSR fall way below the standards of sustainable development. The DENR must be able to implement its conservation mandate by cancelling mining projects that are encroaching into protected areas and “no-go zones” – fragile island-ecosystems, prime agricultural lands, eco-tourism sites and in ancestral domains of indigenous peoples, especially those projects that failed to secure free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of IPs. To this end, we recommend that the President and Sec. Lopez endorse the passage of a new mining law that best approximates “responsible mining” and this is the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB) now filed in the 17th Congress.
Third, we are in solidarity with the growing serious concern of environmental and human rights groups on the scale of extra-judicial killings under the War on Drugs. We do not question the intent of the President to address the drug-problem. We are concerned that the poor and powerless have been the majority of victims of violence and killings and the increasing cases of “collateral damage” and innocent victims as well. The resistance and struggle against destructive large-scale mining was based on the principle of asserting and claiming fundamental human rights of mining-affected communities. We stand firmly on the position that defending human rights and stopping the killings are necessary ingredients for genuine social justice that President Duterte and Sec. Lopez have promised.