BAGUIO CITY: Environmentalists and indigenous people in Northern Luzon are pushing presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte to nationalize the mining industry “that prioritizes people over profit.”
Amianan Salakniban (Defend The North), through spokesperson Igorot leader Fernando Mangili, said Duterte could also work for the junking of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 that severely affected the environment and the people for over two decades.
Indigenous peoples in the North believe that, “Land is Life… Nobody can own what can outlive us,” hence, “it is our responsibility to the future generations that they can still breathe the same fresh air we breathe today.”
“Mr. President,” Mangili said, “the Filipino people believed that you will be the change that this country needs, please prove us right.”
They are appealing to Duterte to make good his promise to address mining and environmental issues.
Duterte earlier said that he will only allow mining if environmental laws are strictly complied with. He said he believes that the government is not getting a fair share from mining revenues.
Amianan Salakniban claimed that for decades, communities in the regions of Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Cordillera have been suffering from the ill effects of large-scale mining, citing inland open pit mining operations which have caused erosion, landslides, subsidence and the destruction of watershed areas, residential and agricultural lands.
Mangili said that along the coastal areas of Ilocos and Cagayan Valley, magnetite mining has caused massive shoreline retreat and flooding, and made communities near the sea vulnerable to sea surges, citing findings by high-tech sensory analysis by US experts who believe that “NL coastal communities with magnetite mining operations were observed to be subsiding annually and will be underwater in 30-70 years.”
Large-scale mining in Benguet has polluted the Agno River, affecting the lowlands of Quirino and Cervantes in IIocos Sur. It has also caused the drying and siltation of rivers and streams, rendering hundred of hectares of farmlands useless.
The biodiversity of affected areas is in grave danger, Mangili added, noting that species of fish, plants and corals are affected, and the source of livelihood for millions of farmers and fisherfolk is at stake.
Mining communities in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya have also lost their sources of potable water because of ground disturbance caused by blasting operations of foreign large-scale mining companies, he said.
In the village of Runruno, people reported that springs that provide clean water for the whole community disappeared when FCF Minerals conducted drilling explorations.
Oceana Gold Philippines Inc., (OGPI) is also being blamed for massive destruction to the environment that affected the people of Barangay Didipio, as its mine tailings have been polluting the adjacent river systems affecting several villages surrounding the mining site, Mangili said.
Water sources for irrigation have dried, or have been contaminated with high levels of toxic chemicals like in Cordon, Isabela, where irrigation systems were ruined when an illegal mining company covered the rivers with excavation debris.