Former environment chief firm on open pit mining ban

Gina Lopez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — I would like to respond to The STAR article titled that the Philippines will lose P30 billion if the ban on open pit mining is not lifted. Specific mention was made of Tampakan.

I have I flown over this site several times. The projected open pit is the size of 700 football fields! It is bordered by six rivers in four provinces: Davao del Sur, Saranggani, South Cotabato and Koronadal. At the foot I saw hectares and hectares of agricultural land.. The rules that govern this particular open pit is called FTAA: Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement. It is a mining contract for 25 years, renewable for like term, that allows up to 100 percent ownership. The FTAA of Tampakan and Oceanagold (in Nueva Vizcaya) will expire on 2019 and 2020, respectively, unless renewed by the President. The main feature is that the mine should generate a 20 percent windfall profit before taxes are paid. Studies on about 10 mines of this magnitude, none of their revenues have ever gotten a 20 percent windfall. What this means is that we are putting in jeopardy the food basket of Mindanao, the well being of four provinces, for nothing!

For whatever revenues the mining companies they say they will generate, these are the facts: In every mining site, 95 percent of the revenues goes out of the local economy. In a balanced sheet format, if one monetizes the destruction to marine life, the agricultural land, to the health of the people, to opportunity lost had they done tourism – we come out losing to the hundreds of millions. The studies have been done by experts and state universities. Wherever there is mining there are 1,000 to 1,500 farmers and fishermen that suffer. This is unconstitutional.

Mining is not a right. It is a privelege based on certain conditions. But the Filipino has a constitutional right to a healthful ecology. In Palawan – the mercury open pit mining there has led to 70 percent of the population having high degrees of mercury poisoning. No less than the DOH was part of this. There is now a toxic lake that feeds into Honda Bay of Palawan which is the number one island destination in the planet. Monetize that. In Sipalay Negros – the toxicity levels there due to open mining is now 500 times more than normal. The Marinduque mining disaster – one of the worst in the planet – killed two rivers which are still dead, killed the corals which are still dead – and killed the entire potential of a magnificent island. Monetize that! Yes we are a mineralized country, but we are also a very beautiful country with lush agricultural land, and marine life. Seventy percent of what is found in the country can be found only here. In life there are choices to be made. Do we make a choice so that a few already very rich people make more money at the cost of the well being of our provincial poor? Or do we manouver an economy wherein our people can enjoy the life that they were meant to have. The reality is that after 100 years of mining, we don’t even have one rehabilited mine. All open pit mines have been disasters. If the main deciding factor is the well being of our people, the ban on open pit mining should stay.


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