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Joint visit would end ‘mining word war’

/ 12:16 AM August 04, 2016

To resolve the word war between Environment Secretary Regina Lopez and the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) once and for all, Lopez should accede to the call of the chamber to visit mining localities (“Visit mining communities, DENR chief urged,” News, 7/30/16), but on condition that COMP will in turn agree to a joint visit with her to the places that she said suffer the adverse impact of mining operations.

In all its press statements since the exchange began, COMP deliberately refused to confront the allegation of Lopez that mining causes poverty and suffering; that is, even after Lopez presented statistics from the Philippine Statistics Authority, showing that poverty incidence in  localities with mining operations like Leyte, Eastern Samar and the Caraga is very high. COMP has  been limiting its discussions to the immediate environ of the mining operations, claiming that the residents there are better off on account of mining.

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COMP spokesperson Nelia  Halcon said, “We do not cause suffering in areas where we operate, contrary to Lopez’s belief.” Halcon deliberately misleads the unwary: The statement is technically true because, usually, the adverse effects of mining are not felt in the immediate area of operation. But the statement discounts the cruel irony of the mining industry in this country: It is the people who gain nothing from mining operations who bear the brunt of the environmentally destructive activity. COMP wants to blindfold people to the economic impact of  the massive environmental toll of large-scale mining—such as dead bodies of water, deforested mountains, erosion, and silted and polluted rice lands—by highlighting the alleged good life their operations has brought to mining communities.

Consequently, I doubt if COMP would want to come face to face with farmers of  Pangasinan and La Union whose rice fields have been virtually “cemented” by the wastes dumped by mines into the river systems from which they draw their irrigation. Neither would they want to trace the path of the 20 million metric tons of mine wastes which flowed from a breached tailings dam in Itogon, Benguet, nor to extol mining before the fishermen of Lake Bito, Leyte, where a fish kill occurred in 2012 on account of mine wastes from a mining operation in MacArthur, Leyte.

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COMP’s refusal to acknowledge the environmental damage wrought by their operations and its adverse impact on the livelihood of the communities confirms the allegation of Lopez: There is no responsible mining (“Gina Lopez: Where there’s mining, there is also poverty,” News, 6/24/16).  A responsible person or group would humbly and readily acknowledge any damage they wreak upon others and would immediately restitute for the same.  But not COMP which tries to project itself as innocent of any wrongdoing or shortcoming, and which claims it has brought nothing but good to the country.

—ESTANISLAO C. ALBANO JR., secretary, Kalinga Anti-pollution Group, [email protected]

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TAGS: chamber of mines of the philippines, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Gina Lopez, mining
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