Here we go again, Atienza and his double talk. How can't he not do it when he is both environment secretary and the country's top mining salesman?
ENVIRONMENT Secretary Lito Atienza assured the Asia Mining Congress in Singapore that government efforts to attract mining investors to come to the Philippines are being matched with environmental safeguards in the aftermath of the Rapu-Rapu island mine tailings disasters, but anti-mining groups remain sceptical.
Atienza led the Philippine delegation to the mining summit attended by mining and environmental leaders in the region and top global mining investors.
"Protection of the environment remains a primordial importance to us. Development must be achieved by practicing measures that ensure proper protection of our natural wealth," Atienza stressed.
Anti-mining groups and environmentalist accused Atienza of playing down the risks involved in mining. They said the mining industry has failed to address environmental concerns, pointing to the Australian mining firm Lafayette which suspended operations in Rapu-Rapu Island in Albay after two disastrous mine tailings spill that led to fish kills and an irate community demanding its closure.
Kalikasan-People's Network on Environment (K-PNE) and Alyansya Tigil Mina (ATM) said mining and environment are a contradiction in terms.
Greenpeace had warned that the Rapu-Rapu project would result in an ecological disaster due to "very high levels" of heavy metals in the Mirikpitik Creek, particularly cadmium, copper and zinc which could impact on living organisms.
The DENR chief said he expects the Philippine mining industry to continue to grow, both in terms of investment and production, in three years' time. "The bulk of the projected investments are expected to come in between 2008 and 2010 when the bigger, world-class mining investors progress to the construction and development stages," Atienza said.
DENR said there has been a substantial increase this year in the volume of production in gold, nickel, copper, chromite, cobalt, zinc, ferronickel and calcined nickel. The department's records showed that from 2004 to 2007, 40 mining processing and exploration projects, and 23 other exploration projects, have invested a total of US$1.4 billion in the country. These projects could translate to potential investments of US$9 billion up to 2011, for a total of US$10.4 billion.