Mining operators ‘investing’ in pols

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An active defender of the country’s reportedly endangered environment on Friday said mining operators have “invested” in politicians by beefing up their campaign coffers, a  practice aimed at protecting the operators’ interests despite numerous questions about the legality of their continued activities.

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Gina Lopez, chairman of ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation Inc. (ALKFI), added that some politicians, in the Surigao provinces, for example, are themselves engaged in mining operations.

Lopez, during a news forum in Quezon City, told representatives from over 800 environment and climate groups in the Philippines that they had gathered 10 million signatures in an initiative that will boost  the fight of the Save Palawan Movement and the ALKFI program Bantay Kalikasan’s Yes to Agriculture and Ecotourism drive against continued mining operations in the country.

She admitted that some  presidential candidates in the May 2016 elections are
beneficiaries of campaign donations from the mining operators but said they are not to be blamed since they come from various companies secretly financed by the mining firms.

Lopez said  the torture and killings of  lumad (indigenous people)  result from mining issues as a large sector of the minority group has objected continued mining operations.

“These are 10 million people already fed up with the continuous destruction of nature, the source of life and source of living of all human beings. These are 10 million Filipinos who are looking for leaders who are not afraid to take huge and concrete actions for the environment, especially as we begin to face the dangers of climate change,” she noted.

Lopez made the statements based on  studies made by natural and social scientists from Palawan State University, Bicol University and Mindanao State University, who noted that the Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

In a power point presentation, she showed  how the mining firms in the country have created environmental disasters through blasting, particularly in areas where holes were drilled near  fault lines in various regions of the country.

Lopez  said the Philippines, said to be the world’s 3rd most vulnerable nation to effects of climate change, would benefit more if the government  focused on ecotourism and agriculture, especially with the country’s rich natural resources and biodiversity.

According to her, 98 percent of the large-scale mining companies in the Philippines resort to open-pit mining, which she described as “dangerous, environment unfriendly and totally unacceptable.”

After an aerial inspection in Tampakan, South Cotabato, Lopez said  the government had issued environment clearance certificate (ECCs) to mining concessions in the area the size of 700 football fields, four river systems and six provinces.

The claim that the mining industry is generally beneficial to the country’s economy is a complete hoax, she added, as its P82 billion annual earnings pale in comparison to the P982 billion contributed by the tourism industry yearly in the Philippines.

She also noted that the mining industry has created only 235,000 jobs, compared to the 4.7 million livelihood opportunities brought in by tourism.

As Filipinos are slowly being educated, Lopez said,  they have started to realize that mining operations have to go and focus should be made toward tourism and agriculture to move the country forward.

If indeed mining is beneficial to the people, Lopez asked why there is extreme poverty in areas where mining is predominant, saying its 100 years of existence have done nothing to improve the lives of the poor significantly.

She noted that the country would benefit more if the government maximized the country’s rich natural resources and biodiversity.

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