THE 117 “green” courts created by the Supreme Court (SC) will face a deluge of environmental problems and crimes related to mining.
This was the assessment of environmental activists belonging to Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) saying nearly half-a-million hectares of land have been approved for large-scale mining operations since the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 7942 and the passage of the Minerals Action Plan.
The passing of RA 7942, otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, was followed by the issuance of the Minerals Action Plan under Executive Order 270 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
So far, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has approved 28 exploration permits covering a total of 89,828.76 hectares of land nationwide, as well as 229 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements covering a total of 373,201 hectares and two Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements covering 51,919 hectares of land nationwide. Over 2,000 more applications for mining permits are pending approval by the DENR.
According to Kalikasan-PNE, crimes against the environment and the people will worsen for as long as the government continues to aggressively promote the liberalization of the Philippine mining industry.
“Critical watershed areas and bodies of water face toxic contamination from mine pollution. Rich agricultural regions stand to be permanently converted into desolate wastelands,” the group said in a statement.
Deforestation, a major contributor to global warming, will occur in the course of clearing lands for mining operations, the group warned.
“Human-rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, against environmental advocates and indigenous peoples will escalate for as long as the current administration continues to extend military protection and support for mining companies,” Kalikasan-PNE added.
The group said the problem is not just with the number of environmental cases that the green courts will have to face, but the current economic policies that are generating all sorts of environmental problems by the minute, creating a cycle of plunder and crimes.
“The judiciary has taken a step forward for environmental justice through the green courts. The real challenge now is for the Arroyo administration to overhaul the bane of current policies, such as the Mining Act of 1995, that have contributed so much to environmental crimes and ecological problems,” Kalikasan-PNE said.