Mining and Rural Communities in the Philippines – Clemente Bautista
This is a long version of the answers that Clemente Bautista (President of Kalikasan: People’s Network for the Environment) gave us for the Lead Article A Zero-Sum Game? which deals with the following question: Rapid globalization makes competition for land, raw materials and other resources intense. When the stakes are so high, can rural, indigenous peoples and urban, industrialized communities both benefit from resource extraction? Or is this situation a zero-sum game?
Mining proves that benefits of globalization remains merely on paper
In spite of the Philippine government’s promises that globalization will bring economic growth and development, our country continues to experience rapid resource depletion, extensive environmental degradation, and proliferation of conflicts.
A case in point is the liberalization of the mining industry which is among the longstanding centerpieces of our government. The Mining Act of 1995 during the Ramos administration is among the first globalization laws passed in the country, aiming to entice foreign investments in our mineral industry. Lots of privileges and incentives were given to foreign miners, such as full ownership of tens of thousands of hectares of mineralized lands for 50 years.
As of July 2012, mining concessions cover 1.15 million hectares of Philippine soil, mostly owned by foreign corporations. As these corporations have the right to own and exploit these areas, millions of our grassroots peoples were driven out of their lands. Large-scale mines have historically caused massive pollution and widespread forest denudation, affecting the livelihood and food source of rural communities.
A recent example is the series of dam failures in Philex Mining’s Padcal Mine since August 2012. Philex was suspended and fined for spilling more than 5 million metric tons of mine wastes to Balog Creek and Agno River. The toxic mine spill endangers not only the livelihood of the local communities but as also threatens their health.
Mining liberalization also dismally contributed to domestic economic growth. Anti-mining liberalization group Defend Patrimony noted that mining and quarrying contributed a measly 1.2% to our GDP and 0.16% to the government’s total revenue in 2011. This, as corporations annually extract billions of pesos worth of mineral resources from our reserves. The promise of economic benefits which will supposedly lead to the improvement of social services and industrialization of both rural and urban areas remained merely on paper.
Clemente Bautista, President of Kalikasan: People’s Network for the Environment