Philippine News Agency
BAGUIO CITY, June 4 -- Work closely with the Church and make sure that investments would redound to the benefit of the community, not just the company.
This was the advice given Wednesday by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to all mining companies in the country in response to the request of the Catholic Church to the national leadership to address the grievances aired by indigenous peoples.
The President assured Northern Luzon-based archbishops, bishops, priests and nuns that the national government shares their concern about the negative impact of mining operations on the environment.
“While mining is a key driver of our economy and an important sector that is creating jobs for the people, we are concerned about how development is done; it has created a lot of controversy.
It is in the best interest of the mining companies to work closely with the Church, to make sure investments work for the community, not just the company,” the President said in her message during the opening of the three-day Luzon North Regional Rural Congress (LN-RRC) held at the Our Lady of the Atonement Cathedral (Baguio Cathedral).
The President informed the Catholic church leaders that the government will do its best to resolve the negative effects to the environment and the agriculture industry of the mining operations.
She also informed them that she already directed concerned government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture to invest more in planting and land reform, including ancestral domain reform.
To complete the 600,000 hectares to be parcelled out for agrarian reform, she told them that, last Monday, she certified to Congress as urgent the proposed extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
The President expressed confidence that the lawmakers will approve the extension of CARP for the sake of farmers.
On education, the President informed Catholic officials that for this year, the government will spend P3 billion for conditional cash transfers (CCT) of between P500 and P1,000 to the 300,000 poorest of the poor, including those from the provinces of Abra and Apayao, the poorest provinces of Northern Luzon . Apayao has a poverty incidence of 57.5 percent, and Abra, 50.1 percent.
As the world faces the serious problems of rice and oil price hikes, the President said her administration had directed the National Bureau of Investigation, National Food Authority and Philippine National Police to crack down on price manipulators.
“We have made tough and politically unpopular decisions to raise revenues and crack down on tax cheats so that we could invest in these programs for our people,” she added.
The President also thanked the Northern Luzon church leaders for their unwavering support to the national government and for helping her administration resolve the problem of poverty in the country. (PNA)