Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the enactment of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. The Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC) is one among countless crusaders for scrapping this law that for decades has only been used to legitimize the foreign dominated, anti-people and plunderous orientation of the mining industry. We give our full support for DENR’s decision to close 23 and suspend 5 minining operations and cancel 75 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs).
The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 has paved the way for 100% foreign-owned corporations to mine out the country’s mineral resources, for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years, in spite the constitution’s 60-40 rule on Filipino ownership and control of our natural resources. Foreign corporations have thus been allowed to fully repatriate profits and resources to their home countries. The law also grants them easement rights, water rights and timber rights. The mining law also gives freedom from requisition of investment and freedom from expropriation.
To entice foreign investments, a tax exemption for a grace period of 10 years is also given. On top of these, there are tariff and tax exemptions for the materials and supplies imported for their mining operation or exploration and free use of port for t0 years. This law continues to trample our national patrimony and sovereignty that we have so long fought for. It has thus fully liberalized the mining industry and gives more benefits and incentives to transnational corporations far greater than those provided to Filipino entrepreneurs.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) now reports that mining contributes only 0.6% of total employment and 0.004% of government revenue, a far cry from the glowing and promises of the DENR, under former President Arroyo in 2005. This failure can be attributed to the export oriented and foreign investment driven character of the mining industry. Our country’s natural resources have been extracted, leaving behind the destructive impacts of mining to aggravate the poverty of our people. The minerals are semi-processed, if at all, thus failing to create robust and strategic industries and more jobs for the country. The mining law has failed to ensure protection of host communities, local and indigenous residents, heightening strife and conflict in the rural areas. This can be seen in the massive militarization in Mindanao that push protest caravans or “lakbayan” to Manila of the indigenous peoples and Moros.
In addition to this, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 is incognizant of the fragile ecosystems and rich biodiversity of the Philippines In spite the much vaunted environmental provisions of the law, 22 years have shown that these provisions are no match to the pervasive corruption and pro- imperialist system of the country’s political economyIt is high time for a pro-people, nationalist and pro-environment mining law such as the People’s Mining Bill (HB 2715). The law gears our mineral resources for use only towards the Philippines’ national industrialization and development. The People’s Mining Bill puts premium on feeding the needs of local industries to address needs for the modernization of agriculture that can complement a genuine agrarian reform program, as well as develop the manufacturing and industrial sectors. It hopes to ensure host communities’ and people’s organizations’ participation in decision making. .. The bill also pushes for greater national government and community shares. Environmental and human rights protection measures are more extensive and comprehensive.
In this light, CEC calls for the upholding of DENR’s recent decisions on the mines and the scrapping of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. This should be immediately replaced with a pro-people, nationalist and pro-environment People’s Mining Act.