MANILA, April 4, 2008— It would be close to impossible to get the government on their side when it comes to mining, Catholic bishops admitted.
But there’s no way they’re giving up the fight.
Before things get awful, Mindanao Catholic church officials urged their flock to strengthen their struggle to stop all mining operations in their region.
They called on the people’s support and understanding in the battle against large-scale mining and the blatant exploitation of tribal people.
“The church, business and other sectors should be more conscious of their respective social responsibility and together direct their activities towards the common good and the attainment of sustainable development,” they said.
The call is contained in a joint statement of over 200 Mindanao bishops and priests hitting the government’s promotion of “sustainable mining.”
The Church leaders said that as long people are one in their struggle, they can win the battle against mining.
In central Mindanao alone, mining exploration permit applications rose 33 times last year, which is attributed to global demand for iron, nickel and copper.
Prior to the 33 applications filed last year, only one company applied for exploration permit in 2006 covering 8-hectares straddling the towns of Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.
In 2005, only one firm applied for exploration permit, covering 16,536 hectares in the municipalities of Kiamba and Maitum in Sarangani and Lake Sebu in South Cotabato .
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau earlier said that $879 million in fresh capital had been fueling new mine projects since 2004.
The government anticipates another $9.5 billion to finance major operations between 2008 and 2010.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo believes that mining industry could fetch billions of pesos that will help boost the country’s economy.
But the bishops and priests said they understand the government’s desire to reduce poverty, but they do not understand “why lives and properties have to be sacrificed in the process.”
“We do not subscribe to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)’s reference to sustainable mining, and we believe that mining can never be sustainable,” the statement stressed.
The Church leaders urged the government to instead focus on agriculture as a source of livelihood, “which is less destructive and far more productive than mining that the government can resort to in its effort to alleviate poverty.”
The Philippines, they said, is basically an agricultural country with fertile lands and seas with abundant marine resources, yet in spite of all these, the country remains poor and the people deprived of food and other basic necessities.
They also asked the government to redirect its agenda to food security and develop an agricultural and aqua based economy instead of the highly extractive industry like mining.