March 4, 201
This March 3 marks the 24th year since the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995, well-known across social sectors and communities for serving as the fuel to the state machinery that liberalizes the domestic mining industry. The RA 7942 lifted regulatory measures on foreign access and control on mining in the Philippines, encouraging unfettered exploration, development, and utilization of the nation’s mineral resources. Today, the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC) joins the protest against this policy together with the indigenous people, farmers, and fellow environmental advocates.
In its 24 years of implementation, the Mining Act of 1995 has been complicit in human rights violations by the thousands and grave environmental disasters due to the implacable drive of foreign and private business interests. This conflict manifests each and every day in the lives of those who barely harness any power, yet recent events have shown that the law has the ability to grant these businesses the ability to hold sway more than those actually in the government, and so even local functionaries can be rendered powerless.
Just recently, Sta. Cruz, Zambales mayor Luisito Marty was convicted of graft and usurpation of legislative powers by anti-graft court Sandigan. Marty blocked mining operations of two licensed firms in his municipality. The grounds for licensure at the time were beyond questionable. He was given a jail sentence of 6 years minimum. With the Mining Act of 1995 in place, like all neoliberal policies, power is wielded by those with capital, never the communities, never the land that sustains us, and will outlive us all. CEC worked with local communities in Sta. Cruz from 2013 to 2016 and saw that efforts towards sustainable livelihood will be in vain if the mining operations persist.
The people’s alternative to the current mining policy, the People’s Mining Bill (PMB) which is filed in the 17th Congress as HB 2715, gives protection to individuals, communities and even public officials from harassment suits, as well as strengthen public litigation. In contrast with the Mining Act of 1995, people like Zambales mayor Marty, whose proclamations are valid and built on concrete conditions, will be protected; those who voice out genuine concerns regarding damaging mining operations will be listened to, not slapped with ill-natured charges, not given the Duterte-brand repressive, militarist treatment.
As the national midterm elections approach, we urge the candidates to heed the united voice of the authors of the PMB—the affected communities, environmental advocates, and scientists—to include the scrapping of the current mining law and supporting the PMB in their campaign platforms. This is an election agenda that will deal a very significant impact to our country since it envisions the Philippine mining industry within the framework of national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform— one that democratizes our mineral resources and safeguards the interest of the people and the integrity of the environment. The PMB embodies our innate responsibility to the environment and more importantly, to the people whose lives take deep root in it.