Groups renew call to repeal 25-year-old mining law

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Several environmental groups called for the repeal of the 25-year-old Philippine Mining Act in a bid to protect the environment from large-scale extractive operations in the country.

The groups have asked the government to replace the law with the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB) which they said have strict safeguards that will uphold the rights of communities affected by mining.

In a briefing yesterday, Alyansa Tigil Mina said the law is already old and outdated and that there is a need for a new one that will ensure the protection and conservation of the environment.

“We hope the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) will be open with the issues that need immediate actions. Climate change is a real threat and large-scale mining contributes to that,” ATM national coordinator Jaybee Garganera said.

SOS Yamang Bayan coordinator Maya Quirino said that it has been 10 years since green groups have filed the AMMB but to no avail.

Quirino said the current law slaps very minimal tax and has very limited protection on the environment.

“It’s as if our minerals are just being given away. They are opening areas that are rich in minerals with no protection on our critical areas,” she said.

Mining tax has increased to four percent following the first tranche of the government’s tax reform program. The alternative bill wants mining firms to be levied as much as 10 percent.

“The idea of looking at the environment as a tool toward economic improvement is already obsolete amid climate change. Land is life and the use of our natural resources should be needs-based and should be thought of properly,” Quirino said.

Also part of the bill is the creation of a multisector mineral council where affected communities will be included in the decision making in granting mining permits, as well as expansion of no-go mining zones such as prime agricultural lands, watersheds and densely populated areas, among others.

Qurino said groups are having a hard time making the bill move forward amid influence of mining groups in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

“We are not being given the chance to explain what provisions are negotiable and non-negotiable. Mining can be allowed but the specific conditions have to be followed,” she said.

“Other lawmakers also have direct and indirect stakes in mining so there’s conflict of interest already,” Garganera said.

It was in 1995 when former president Fidel Ramos enacted the Mining Act aimed at revitalizing the local mining industry and increasing foreign investments.

As of July 2019, there were 707,077 hectares of mineralized lands or areas where there are mining operations.

Groups said the policy falls short in ensuring that the country’s forests, freshwater sources, and seas are protected, as well as the respective indigenous communities living within mine operations.

They called on President Duterte to make good on his promise of having the protection of the environment as his administration’s top priority includes banning open pit mining and endorsing the passage of an alternative minerals management law.

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