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Monday, February 26, 2024

Statement of the Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship (PBEST) on the Davao de Oro landslide

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Fostering an Environment of Accountability: Sharing only facts over speculation

PBEST believes that during and after tragic events such as this, stakeholders must share only facts and verified information and never speculative claims in order to foster accountability. Failure to do so creates a disruptive misinformed chain, hindering effective response efforts and necessary support and assistance, particularly during socio-economic and environmental challenges.

For years, resource and extractive industries have been on the receiving end of trivial social and environmental claims and unwarranted criticism, often based on ideological agendas rather than scientific evidence. Such misrepresentation impedes necessary interventions and hampers effective resource allocation on the ground.

The Davao de Oro incident amplifies this challenge. Rather than focusing on addressing critical issues such as the welfare of those directly affected, some exploited the situation to vilify the mining industry.

As such, PBEST initiated a multi-source fact check and found that contrary to some claims, the landslide is not caused by mining activities; rather, by natural factors. While the area is within the company’s tenement, there are no mining operation activities in that area. This is also why the company has been found not liable for the incident by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as it happened in a residential area that is apparently considered a danger zone.

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The landslide was primarily attributed to continuous heavy rains in the area over the past two weeks. Even before the incident, the company, in collaboration with local authorities and emergency response agencies including the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Office (MDRRMO) of the municipality of Maco, and the Bureau of Fire Protection, already activated its Incident Command System (ICS), a comprehensive incident management framework, to mitigate any potential problems. This highlights the importance of addressing environmental risks and implementing appropriate mitigation measures.

Mining projects’ sustainability and impact on the environment are indeed a concern that we should not undermine. However, today, the Philippine mining industry is committed to perform way beyond standard compliance to internationally accepted practices. It is important to recognize that mining operations, when conducted responsibly, are not inherently destructive to the environment. Adherence to stringent environmental standards and sustainable practices minimizes their ecological footprint, thereby mitigating potential environmental impacts. Moreover, mining companies like Apex Mining play a crucial role in supporting local communities by providing livelihood opportunities and driving local economic growth.

PBEST emphasizes the need for stakeholders to base their assessment and responses on accurate, evidence-based information to ensure accountability and facilitate effective support and assistance efforts. Moreover, PBEST emphasizes the need for stringent enforcement of rules and regulations by local government units (LGUs) to ensure the safety and well-being of their constituents. Community members need to stay informed about potential risks.

The recent landslide serves as a tragic reminder of the importance of prioritizing facts over speculation, especially in times of crisis. When stakeholders rely on factual information rather than unfounded assumptions or personal biases, they contribute to building trust and credibility within the community.

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