We are posting this, & the next articles, to catch up on important developments in our country's mining industry. One very important development was the filing of the Alternative Mining Bill (HB 6342) last May 13, 2009. This and the next posts are devoted to the AMB. we support the Alternative Mining Bill. Pass HB 6342 as soon as possible.
Office of Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III
Chairperson, Committee on Human Rights
Northwing 409, House of Representatives, Quezon City
Telefax: 9316478 or 9315001 loc 7368
13 May 2009
Reference: Rep. Erin Tañada - 09193688555
Media Officer: Laurice Ramos - 09228433311
It is with great pride and renewed hope that I sponsor the proposed Alternative Mining Bill. In the nearly 15 years since the Mining Act was passed, it has become increasingly clear that our determined search for minerals has meant digging ourselves deeper and deeper into our own grave.
For all its purported benefits, the mining industry has cost us far more than its weight in gold: the human rights violations, the alienation of indigenous people and the environmental damage has poisoned our society and economy in much the same way as toxic mine tailings have seeped into our land and waters. Its measly 1.2% contribution to our GDP from 2001 to 2008, and an employment generation rate of only 0.5% last year, hardly make up for the $80 M cost for rehabilitating Marinduque alone. In our bid to attract investors in the industry, we have given tax breaks and various other incentives to multinational companies that have failed to translate into any real profit for either the national government or local communities. We have only allowed these companies to eat at our table without ever having to pay for it, or for that matter, give thanks.
While the present and past administrations have treated those losses as dirt off their shoulders our people continue to bear the brunt of years of faulty policy. 16 mining activists were reported killed last year by the Kalikasan People's Network. The Commission on Human Rights has observed that mining activities are considered legitimate cause for the internal displacement of persons. Further, the current policy that lays out 23 priority projects in mining will eat into 60% of our protected areas and 53% of the indigenous people's ancestral domain.
Unfortunately, the dismal human rights record can be directly attributed to the Mining Act, which does not include violations of human rights as ground for cancellation of permits or shutting down of operations. This allows them to operate with impunity, giving regard to none of the havoc they wreak on the land in which they operate or the community which so generously hosts their business at invaluable cost.
I think it is high time for us to correct the many unforgivable oversights in the present mining law. This in turn requires a drastic reassessment of the social, environmental and economic costs of mining. The proposed measure, which we call the Alternative Mining Bill, is a product of just such an endeavour. It puts human rights and the rights of indigenous people at the fore of its considerations. The interests of the people will come before the interests of the corporation. Any violation by mining companies will be held as legitimate cause for us to throw them out and hold them accountable. Its provisions on the "Free Prior Informed Consent" by the community will finally provide adequate standards for it to be truly called 'Consent', while the prohibition on hiring armed contingents to protect the companies' interests will be disallowed. They will also be required to give a bond, money that will ensure that in the event they pull an escape act, we will have something to fall back on. These are just a few examples of the socially and environmentally conscious provisions that have been written into the bill. On close perusal, you will find that the proposed measure is nothing short of a revolutionary overhaul of what has long been accepted as a defective law.
Creating a better policy on mining is going to take more than just passing a new law, it requires a realization on the part of government that the so-called profits from the industry are at best, an illusion and at worst, a lie. We need to stop glossing over the truth about mining and stop dreaming of its promises of profit.
Only a better law that faces up to the cold realities of the industry and sizes up the costs and benefits with a hard eye and a heavy hand will get us out of this self-imposed tomb. It will be slow and painful, but I am confident this proposed mining bill - a product of four years of hard work and research - will give us the breath of life we need to claw our way out.