NO matter what other Cabinet officials and lawmakers are saying against the closure, suspension and cancellation orders issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on irresponsible mining operations, such rhetoric can only be construed as something akin to voices of vested interests, especially now when the controversial directives have elicited a deafening crescendo of reactions from various stakeholders.
The sword of Damocles has been hanging over the heads of those irresponsible mining corporations, whose primary motive is greed and power at the expense of Mother Nature and the Filipino people, ever since they started extracting mineral deposits on Philippine soil. And it took someone like Gina Lopez, the designated environment and natural resources secretary, to cut each strand of horsehair holding those swords that are now careening down towards the shameless, well-coiffed heads of those responsible for environmental degradation for countless decades now.
But Lopez alone cannot continue this fight against injustice, against environmental destruction. Relentless though she may be, she felt and saw the power of greed and money started cranking up like a well-oiled machine clawing back at her when she issued those orders to close 23 mining operations, suspend five others and canceled 75 mining contracts involving operations in watershed areas.
The question of due process, which the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language defines as “fair treatment through normal judicial process, especially a citizen’s entitlement to notice of a charge and a hearing before an impartial judge,” seemed to be the only credible issue raised against Lopez by the mining corporations affected by her directives, largely because she made public announcements of those orders via press conferences before the orders were actually received by the mining companies.
Right now, President Rodrigo Duterte has been making public pronouncements in support of his controversial DENR chief. Obviously, the President is trying to weigh the pros and cons of the DENR directives and trying to strike a balance between the voices of vested interests and the actions of Lopez.
Jobs will be lost, as well as government revenues from mining, and the bottom line of mining corporations will definitely be wiped out. These things must be taken into consideration, according to the President, when he spoke during dinner at the Philippine Military Academy alumni get- together on Friday, taking some of the heat off his environment secretary.
The political and economic research group, IBON Foundation, has refuted the economic benefits of large-scale mining as claimed by the industry. “While mineral exports hit a high of $3.4 billion in 2013, mining contributed a measly 0.7 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) in the same year. The sector’s contribution grew to this level only from 0.5 percent after more than a decade of operations.
“The annual average share of mining revenues to total government revenues in 2009-2012 was only 1.18 percent. The contribution of the mining and quarrying sector to employment was also negligible at 0.7 percent of total employment,” IBON said.
“Aside from human deaths, large-scale mining has caused damaged dams, soil and water pollution due to excessive tailings, siltation, contamination and damage to agricultural lands, fish kill and other damages to marine life,” according to IBON.
“More than 90 percent of Philippine mineral production is exported for use by other countries’ steel industries while the country has none. This, despite the Philippines being one of the world’s top producers of gold, copper and nickel,” it said in a note on Friday.
What has been lost in this controversy is the fact that 12 other mining operations run by big mining corporations made it through the hurdle set by the DENR mining audit that, in the first place, elicited the closure and suspension orders.
What this important detail tells us is that responsible mining can and do exist, and that there is no reason why those that have been violating the laws governing the industry must not be punished to the full extent of the law.
So, let the sword of Damocles fall on those irresponsible miners to make sure that the mineral deposits being extracted from the bowels of this land will, in the end, benefit its people with quality jobs, and that mining operators take it upon themselves to protect the environment they have been exploiting for profit and give back to Mother Nature the respect she truly deserves.