Don’t shoot from the hip
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - July 16, 2017 - 4:00pm

President Duterte has said that after he resolves Marawi crisis – which could easily take another two to three weeks (though of course we hope it is resolved sooner) – he will focus his attention on the mining industry anew. It is a scary thought because, while his intentions may be good, mining is a valuable industry in our country and contributes a lot. I hope that if the president sets his sights on the industry there is a distinction when it comes to companies who practice responsible mining and those not following the regulations.

I believe I have a unique view of what responsible mining can do. Before joining the newspaper many years ago, I was actively involved in crafting the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which has been admired and emulated by other countries with thriving mining industries. The regulations have been set in place very carefully and over the years the restrictions have only gotten stricter and better to respond to the times. I believe that there are mining companies who actively follow and comply with environmental responsibility rules and these should not be lumped in with several others that are not compliant.

Again, to be fair, I understand where the president is coming from and truth be told there is merit in his ordering mining companies to plant trees and be socially aware in the areas where they do business. That is a standard that should definitely be in place when it comes to harvesting natural resources. Companies should take responsibility and maintain the environment in these areas and I believe that they do. After all, they know that these resources are the bread and butter of their business and they stand to gain just as much by being careful in their work.

This ire against the mining industry began back when Gina Lopez was still being considered as Environment Secretary. No one doubted her passion when it came to protecting and preserving the environment, however the Commission on Appointments rejected her appointment based on claims that she was already biased against large-scale mining operations and thus could not look at them objectively. While I laud Lopez’s passion and drive to do good for the environment, I don’t doubt that there is at least some truth in the claims as she entered the position with a very strong preconceived notion about mining – one that most likely would never change.

In the end I also believe in preserving and protecting the environment for future generations. But I don’t let that stop me from realizing the importance of natural resource industries, like mining. I have always said that I believe that the government and these companies should work hand-in-hand to find the best and most lasting long-term solutions. I know that several of the big names in mining like Philex Mining and Atlas Mining have staunch environment policies in place as well as socio-economic programs in the areas where they operate.

Just recently Philex shared that in 2017 they hope to continue their environmental protection programs exceeding costs required by law. They’ve spent over P80 million or over 20 percent of their total budget on this year’s environmental and enhancement programs including management of land and water resources, monitoring hazardous waste and air quality, and third-party monitoring of mine facilities – all while helping to provide livelihood in the regions where they are present.

I believe in the end a happy medium can be reached on both sides. It is our job to protect our environment and at the same time find a sustainable and responsible way to use our natural resources. I hope the government invites everyone to the table to hear all sides instead of just shooting from the hip without all the information. In the end, exploring all avenues I think will truly be to everyone’s benefit.

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Last Friday and Saturday we had several earthquake drills throughout the metro in busy areas. Admittedly it was a bit of headache for motorists (coinciding with pay day weekend), but I think it was an important exercise in safety and something that I hope everyone took seriously. After all, there is no such thing as over-prepared. The more we prepare for any disaster the better equipped we will be to face it should it ever come to pass.

Admittedly, earthquakes are something we have been scared of for the past few years. History and science says we are due for another “Big One” any time soon and large scale earthquakes hitting Leyte, Ormoc, and several of our surrounding countries have only added to the fear that a big quake could hit Metro Manila at any time. It has become increasingly important for everyone to prepare as much as possible so that we aren’t caught completely off-guard should it happen.

I join in everyone’s prayers and hope that it doesn’t but of course, there is no harm in preparing. A couple of years ago everyone was instructed on how to make a “go-bag” or a disaster bag and I hope that it is still something in most households. My wife has put together very well prepared disaster bags for our household and for our daughter’s household and we try to participate in all the mandatory drills and remain up-to-date with disaster hotlines and the latest news and information. Again, hoping for the best but prepare for the worst.

I hope all the pertinent government agencies are equally prepared as well. The last thing we need in a time of panic is a vacuum of leadership and responsibility. Alongside all the drills and search and rescue preparations the government also needs to draft a solid plan of succession to make sure we know what happens in our government in a time of natural disaster.

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