MANILA, March 12, 2008—When it comes to mining issue, the Catholic bishops’ formidable foes are not the mining firms, but the deaf ears in the government.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines lamented Wednesday the government’s continuing promotion of mining, despite a growing chorus of those who are against it.
Laoag Bishop Sergio Utleg, CBCP Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples chairman, said the government never cared to listen despite strong concerns from the locals and the Church.
“It has been a decade since the CBCP first released a statement of concern regarding mining, and yet through these years, the government has been unwavering in implementing ‘development aggression,’” he said.
Utleg said mining, in the Philippine experience, not only destroys the environment but has become the vehicle for the violation of human rights, “ethnocide” of IP communities, “and even deaths.”
He criticized the government for adhering to business interests over the welfare of the people who suffer much from the ill effects of mining operations.
“Here, we see the effects of pressure from business companies and foreign money over the government that nothing is happening to our request even if we’ve made it known long ago," he said.
The unceasing invitation for foreigners and local governments to enter into or accept mining ventures, he said, is against the Constitution.
The law of the land, Utleg noted, explicitly states that the environmental and human rights should be nurtured in communities, especially in that of the IPs.
Thus, the prelate reiterated an earlier appeal of the CBCP for the government to repeal the Mining Act of 1995..
“We are calling for the cancellation of all types of mining applications and the revocation of approved mining agreements,” he said.
He also called on for the “stoppage of all mining operations” especially those in ancestral lands.