Debates are always a big help to me. More than it trains me to express my thoughts on the certain proposition, it mandates me to do thorough research on the issue raised; thus would make me knowledgeable on it.
For the last two weeks, the university-wide annual open debate tournament has started and a team from our organization participated. I was part of the debating team. Two more steps and we’re down to the finals but for inevitable reasons, we failed. But it was fine with us. It’s always like that, sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. It’s normal.
One of the propositions that we debated on is on the repeal of Republic Act 7942, otherwise known as the Mining Act of 1995. Below are some facts and points our team raised carrying the affirmative stand.
The Philippines is endowed with rich mineral resources, with metallic reserves estimated at 7.1 B metric tons and non-metallic reserves estimated at 51 B metric tons. In 1980, mining accounted for 21.3% of the country’s exports amounting to US$11.2 B. In 2003, this nosedived to US$ 1.6 B or a mere 1.52% of the Gross Domestic Product when world market prices of minerals dropped. The export-oriented, import-dependent character of the country’s mining industry made it extremely vulnerable to world market prices and at the same time failed to lay the ground for the setting-up of basic and heavy industries essential for industrialization.
Moreover, with such Mining Act, reports show that there is a severe lack of attention given to the other aspects of our national welfare.
Experience has impressed upon our countrymen the potentially disastrous effects of large-scale mining operations on the environment, with the Marcopper disaster in Marinduque standing as a classic example of massive degradation. To this day, locals still continue to suffer the ill effects of the tragedy. They have lost their livelihood and their children still fall prey to poisoning from the toxic minerals which have contaminated their water and soil. With a poverty incidence rate of 71.6%, Marinduque is among the most impoverished countries in the country today.
Also, the P1.4-billion Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project of Australia-owned Lafayette Company based in Albay is an actual slap to the Mining Act. The Rapu-Rapu project figured in a twin mine spill incident that resulted in widespread fish kills in nearby coastal towns of Bicol. Deplorably, under the Mining Act, Lafayette can get away with a small fine for the irreparable damage it wrought to the area’s marine ecosystem.
In addition to these consequences to both environment and health, it must be noted that since the Mining Act was put into effect eleven years ago, several violations against the rights of indigenous peoples have been committed by large mining companies. Foreign mining firms have been employing the services of military and paramilitary groups to quell resistance from the local communities, thus displacing the people from their own land and undermining their culture. Gross violations of human rights are given legal cloak via Section 75 of the law which gives mining companies easement rights – that when mining areas are so situated that for purposes of more convenient mining operations, the contractor upon payment of just compensation to the owner of the land, shall be entitled to enter and occupy the said mining areas or lands.
These saddening issues are emphasized because of the detriments of the Mining Code which, for the strong reasons, necessitates the need for it to be repealed.
Foreign-owned and controlled large-scale mining is not a new development. It has spanned the decades, yet the country’s economy remains in a slump. It is therefore both dangerous and unwise to assume at this point that further liberalization of the mining industry is the solution to our financial woes. Prudent utilization of our mineral resources is indeed necessary for national industrialization and progress, but allowing foreign corporations full control and ownership of mining projects only defeats this objective.
We can no longer afford to simply stay silent while our natural resources are being molested. Something has to be done. Thus, it is imperative that the government adopt a policy on mining which will enshrine the welfare of Filipinos, something which the existing Mining Act miserably fails to accomplish.
(The above article is an excerpt taken from my constructive speech.)