DOF Sec. Dominguez should realize enforcing the spirit of the law is necessary for the common good
Sec. Dominguez stated yesterday that the mining industry requires good governance and transparency to ensure that it contributes to development. We agree. That is why closing and suspending those mines that violated the Mining Act (RA 7942) and other environmental laws was necessary. Our alliance sincerely believes that the results of the Mining Audit were credible.
Our understanding is that the decision to close and suspend the mines relied on a whole set of references and evidences – the mining audit, the report of the Technical Review Committee, the local reports of NGOs and LGUs submitted as addendum to the mining audit, news and media coverages, documents from legal cases in various courts and quasi-judicial bodies, LGU resolutions and ordinances against mining projects, aerial surveys of mining areas, and ground interaction by DENR officials in the mining-affected communities. From our own database, there is overwhelming documentation and evidences that prove the closures and suspensions are with merit. We again offer these documents to new DENR Sec. Cimatu, DOF Sec. Dominguez and the MICC for their own perusal.
Sec. Dominguez wrongly maintains a narrow viewpoint when he insists that the DENR Mining Audit report was the sole basis for the closures and suspensions.
Our alliance argues that former DENR Sec. Lopez was actually enforcing environmental laws and policies when she decided to close these mines. The results of the audit and the subsequent technical review showed that standards were not met and laws were violated, so it should come no surprise that violators will be penalized. What may have stunned Sec. Dominguez was the commitment and political will of Lopez to impose the penalties and prioritize the welfare of the rural poor rather than pander to the interest of miners and their political backers.
When Sec. Dominguez invoked yesterday that good governance and transparency are needed to support the mining industry, he forgot a third critical element – accountability.
The mine audits had legal basis, the DENR followed due process, and social justice was served when the closures and suspension orders were issued. This is how we should hold the mining industry and the government accountable.
In a Senate hearing last Feb. 8, 2017 chaired by Sen. Joel Villanueva, CoMP Executive Vice-President Nelia Halcon admitted that there are only 19,000 workers that are directly employed by large-scale mining companies. This is less than 1/3 of the figures the CoMP has been brandishing, and only 0.015% of the alleged 1.2 million families that will be impacted by the closures and suspensions. This is not the first time that CoMP has been disseminating half-truths and biased data. To date, none of these mine workers were displaced because the closed/suspended mines filed their appeal and so since February 2017, the mines have been operating “business-as-usual”.
Let us not forget, not even Sec. Dominguez has refuted the available economic data – mining contributes a measly 0.7% of GDP and only employs a total of 235,000 or 0.4 employment rate. Comparing this to tourism or agriculture, these are insignificant economic indicators. And so when Sec. Dominguez speaks of “good governance…to attract investments in extractive industries, confident that we will be able to assure sustainable forestry and mining”, he should remember well these figures.
We welcome the statement of Sec. Dominguez that “poor governance caused us to lose our forests without emancipating our people” which “should never happen again”. As co-chair of the MICC, Sec. Dominguez must ensure that the results of the mine audits and all other evidences available at the DENR and from CSOs, are reviewed so that the complete picture of the violations and non-compliance of the mining industry is recognized.
Our alliance rejects the accusation of Sec. Dominguez that the DENR Mining Audit was tainted and its results biased. We reject the proposition that mining is only a technical matter, and only technical experts should be allowed to conduct the mining audit. This prejudice is precisely the main reason why mining is confronting resistance at the local and national levels. Mining will permanently change the physical and ecological landscape of an area. The same mining tenement has a river, a forest, or in a fragile island-ecosystem. The same mine facilities are impacting the coastal areas for fishers and the irrigation for farmers. The same mine project is within ancestral domains, and therefore require free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from indigenous communities. The same mining project introduces environmental, social and political impacts.
To reduce the mining audit to a “technical exercise” and the mining industry as an “economic driver” sans the social and environmental safeguards, defeats the purpose of establishing what is a “responsible mine”. This reveals the hollowed and minimal understanding of the mining industry and Sec. Dominguez on how to implement “responsible mining”. This is not the path to social justice.