Mining has no place in Cordillera’s TOA
It is hard to understand how the framers of the working draft of the Third Organic Act for Cordillera autonomy (TOA) chose to retain the mining provision of the ill-fated first and second organic acts. Instead of looking at autonomy as a golden opportunity to rid the region of an industry that not only failed to deliver on expectations but also wrought, and is still wreaking, untold environmental ruin, the drafters succumbed to the promise of finally getting the region’s rightful shares of the revenues from mining, what with Section 103 (b) stating that the regional government shall get 40 percent of taxes derived from mining; unlike now when the mining companies pay to Makati City where their headquarters are located. Apparently lured by this promise, the drafters, led by Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan, overlooked the following:
1. Mining host communities do not experience economic upliftment; worse, they are left holding the environmental bag when the mining firms cease operation. The drafters didn’t have to look far for samples of this phenomenon because Benguet is pockmarked with such hard-luck communities.
2. Nowhere in the country can we find a mining operation that has not damaged the environment and wreaked havoc on agriculture. No mining operation in the country—past, present or in the near future—has done or can do justice to the term “responsible mining,” an insertion in the TOA working draft. The term is an oxymoron and we wonder why the drafters dignified it.
Take Tabuk City. When the Batongbuhay Gold Mines Inc. operated in Pasil, Kalinga, way back in the early 1980s, the heavy siltation
carried by the irrigation water caused a drastic reduction in farm produce. Tabukeños do not want a repeat of the experience and no right thinking Filipino can forgive the destruction of the rice lands of Tabuk Valley, one of the country’s most reliable rice bowls; in fact, the rice granary of the Cordillera.
3. In this country, places being eyed for mining or hosting mining operations are invariably hotbeds of insurgency. From the 1970s up to the mid-1990s, insurgency was a heavy yoke on the people of Kalinga and Tabuk. We do not want a repeat of that trying and bloody episode in our history—not for any reason, not even income for the autonomous government.
4. Neither does the region want to live through another Chico River Dam conflict. But that is what the region is courting if it allows mining. Why do we say this? Around 30 percent of the rice lands in Tabuk Valley are now owned by members of the tribes who valiantly fought against the entire machinery of the Marcos dictatorship over the Chico River Dam project. If they fought to keep their home mountain from being inundated then, we do not see them letting the destruction of their lands in the plains go unchallenged now. Neither do we expect the owners of the remaining rice lands of Tabuk Valley look the other way as their means of livelihood is being laid to waste.
It is for these reasons that we call on the region’s congressmen to strike out the mining provision from the TOA.
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