THE Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) and the OceanaGold deliberately misled the public when they claimed to the media that there are no mines in the 10 poorest provinces of the country. In the wake of Environment Secretary Regina Lopez’s statement sometime in the middle of last year that mining causes poverty, COMP executive vice president Nelia Halcon issued a press release containing the lie (“Mining lobby hits Lopez poverty remark,” July 14, 2016). Last month, Chito Gozar, senior vice president for communications and external affairs of the OceanaGold, repeated the falsehood.
A belated check with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) directory of operating mines online (http://www.mgb.gov.ph/2015-05-13-01-44-56/mining-projects-directory, http://www.mgb.gov.ph/attachments/article/50/MAR_2017_MPSA_2A.pdf) showed that two of the 10 poorest provinces host a mine each. Siguijor, listed as No. 9, is the location of Lazi Bay Resources Development, Inc. (limestone). The Philsaga Mining Corporation (gold and silver) operates in Agusan del Sur, the No. 10 poorest province. In the case of Philsaga Mining Corporation, it is hard to believe that Halcon and Gozar are not aware of its existence and location because the company is a regular member of the COMP and the group only has 25 regular members. OceanaGold is also a member of the COMP.
When I first read the press releases, I did not see the need to countercheck because of the presumption that nobody would be so reckless as to try to turn the tables on anyone on the strength of false data and that nobody in his right mind would dare monkey around with easily verifiable information. It turns out I was dead wrong. But I was not the only one taken for a ride because even with the wide exposure of the press releases, especially that of Halcon which was carried by almost all the major news outlets in the country, nobody had come out to dispute the claim.
Based on these brazen attempts to fool the public and the silence of the entire mining industry while Halcon and Gozar perpetrated the whoppers seven months apart, truth appears to hold only as much value to our mining sector as their mine wastes, the proper disposal of which they still have to learn more than a century after they set up business in this country.
If these mining companies cannot even be trusted with ordinary information like the places they operate in, of what worth now are their vehement denials and protestations against the allegations leveled at them by Secretary Lopez?
Estanislao Albano, Jr.
Secretary, Kalinga Anti-pollution Action Group