Caritas Philippines with the lead dioceses of the Eco-Convergence hubs in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and the conveners of the CBCP National Laudato Si Program expressed dismay over the lifting of the nine-year mining moratorium by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Executive Order 130 amended EO 79 issued in 2012, which suspended applications for mineral extractions in the protected areas, prime agricultural lands, tourism development areas and other critical ecosystems. Saying the country had just tapped 5 percent of its mineral reserve, the order added that, “in addition to ushering significant economic benefits to the country, the mining industry can support various government infrastructure projects and increase employment opportunities in remote rural areas to countryside development.”
However, according to Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, “we are in the countryside and we are seeing no economic improvement in the lives of the people from mining. The government is again trying to fool us with false promises at the expense of our already suffering people and deteriorating environment.”
He added: “Take for example what happened in Marinduque and Albay. The mining companies are gone but the ill-effects to the local ecosystems still threaten communities who gained nothing from the operations.”
But a lawmaker from Mindanao praised Duterte’s decision lifting the moratorium on new mining deals.
With the country buried in trillions of debt by the pandemic, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said, “the President’s decision was the thing he has been praying for since last year.
“I have been hoping for this since last year. I have been saying that mining is the only way out of this debt trap we have found ourselves in by reason of the pandemic. Mining pays, and it will help us pay our debts. The royalties, revenues, taxes will all contribute to our economic recovery. There is no other industry aside from our BPO and OFWs that can bring much revenue. Sadly, these two have been on the losing end since the pandemic began”, Barbers said.
In a January 2021 article of Philippine Star Global, it said the mining industry’s economic contribution had just been miniscule with “only one-sixth of one percent of the GDP” while it only had less than 1.5 percent contribution to tax collection, 6 percent to exports and only half of 1 percent to employment.
In addition, while the Tampakan mines in South Cotabato could potentially generate at least $8 billion in export earnings with two other mining operations in Mindanao, it would also exponentially destroy the Mindanao River Basin which would severely affect nine provinces equivalent to more than 3.5 million population,” according to Bishop Allan Casicas of the Diocese of Marbel and leader of the Eco-Convergence Hub down south.
The same is true if the off-shore mining in Cagayan will be fully operational, according to Archbishop Ricardo Baccay of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao and lead of the Eco-Convergence Hub in Luzon. “The magnetite mining is projected to exacerbate flooding and cause massive erosion in coastal and near shore areas, which might again cause the loss of lives.”
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos and lead of the Eco-Convergence Hub in the Visayas reiterated their strong position against the proposed coal mining in the province of Negros Occidental. “We challenge our government officials, to restore the dignity of your office by siding with our people and the ecology. Let your legacy be in the defense of ecology and justice.”
According to Bishop Bagaforo, “the Catholic Church, through Caritas Philippines, the Eco-Convergence and the CBCP National Laudato Si Program strongly enjoin President Duterte to reconsider the lifting of the mining moratorium.”
He also added that such action, “a sign of desperation to solve the enormous economic gap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” was unsustainable, destructive and extremely detrimental to the Filipino communities in the peripheries and the Philippine ecology.