17 September 2012
The issuance of Executive Order 79, Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III’s centerpiece mining policy, long touted by its proponents to provide a clear direction for environmentally responsible and economically equitable mining activities in the country, comes as a great disappointment to the Filipino people. We, the undersigned, reject the EO 79 which serves to further intensify mining liberalization and the plunder and destruction it will continually cause:
- The EO 79, in adherence to RA 9742 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, strengthens its various guarantees for auxiliary rights and unparalleled profits to foreign and large-scale mining investors. Its provisions on the development of downstream industries and other value-adding activities are mere tokenism in the absence of a strategic program to use these non-renewable resources in the development of our agriculture and national industrialization;
- The EO has not cured the loopholes of the Mining Law that have allowed mining corporations to circumvent the very essence of protection of watersheds, coastal ecosystems and biodiversity areas, and respect of indigenous peoples’ rights. At the same time, it offers no solution on how to address and rehabilitate the environment in abandoned mines and mining-affected areas.
- The EO overrides local government authority to protect their local environment. The EO seeks to clip their powers to pass resolutions and local ordinance such as banning large-scale mining in their areas.
- The EO deceptively banners a moratorium on approval of new mining applications, but has validated 659 mining agreements and exploration permits that cover 1,009,161.22 hectares of our mineralized lands. It also seeks to declare new mineral reservation areas where mining will be prioritized over other economic activities.
- Proposed revenue sharing schemes, including the raising of excise taxes from 2 to 5-7 percent, and an increase in administrative taxes are still a far cry from what the Philippines deserves. Indonesia, Nigeria and Australia enjoy 10, 28 and 30 percent excise tax rates, respectively.
- It anchors its environmental governance on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which to date still has to prove its integrity, rigor, credibility, political will and resources to strictly enforce environmental standards on errant mining companies.
- The EO does not address the problems of small scale miners who through history have contributed greater economic benefits to the country than large scale mining. Their woes include the non issuance of licenses, lack of technological assistance to minimize the environmental and health effects of their operations and offers of livelihood alternatives to small-scale miners and their families.
The Mining EO has validated mining corporations that through our history have been causing destruction to the environment and violating the rights of our people, such as Taganito Mining in Surigao del Norte, Nickel Asia in Surigao del Sur, Toronto Ventures Inc. in Zamboanga del Norte, Rio Tuba Nickel Mining in Palawan, Korean Resources in Rapu-Rapu, Albay, and various others.
Indeed, the road paved for us by the Mining EO is a path where unending disaster lies ahead. The EO gives continuity to the 17 years of the Mining Act of 1995 that has promoted the foreign and corporate exploitation of our natural resources through 100 percent foreign ownership, generous fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, and the monopoly of decision-making in the hands of a few. EO 79 is clearly anti-people and anti-environment.
We demand the revocation of the said executive order, review the mining law, and the passage of a new mining policy which will wisely utilize our mineral resources, uphold the interests of the Filipino people, protect the integrity of our environment, and defend our patrimony against plunder and destruction.
In the process of doing this, the Aquino administration must prosecute and hold accountable mining firms which have caused environmental destruction and human rights violations. The Aquino administration should also immediately declare a moratorium on exploration and large-scale mining operations in the country to stop the current devastation of our environment and ensure our mineral resources will continue to benefit our future generations.