MANILA, Philippines-Representatives of mining-affected communities from Zambales, human rights and environment advocates demanded environment and natural resources chief Secretary Ramon Paje to stop mining and implement the Zambales Resolution against mining operations.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is questioned for its prioritization of extractive industries or the exploitation of our natural resources instead of giving greater importance to the conservation and protection of the environment.
“Zambales, especially our towns Candelaria and Sta. Cruz, is very devastated because of nickel and chromite mining since almost a decade ago. Suspensions of operations were issued in the past two years but corporations seem to get away with it by negotiating with government agencies, and so they blindly let mining destroy our province. Clearly the environment and human rights is not recognized,” said Dr. Benito Molino of Concerned Citizens of Sta Cruz, Zambales (CCOS).
“The people set up barricades to implement the moratorium but mining companies resorted to militarizing our towns with local police and private guards. Now if MGB and DENR cannot do their job to implement local policies against mining and stringent environmental policies, they should just resign! The government should serve the people!” added Molino in a statement.
The inaction of DENR and Mines and Geosciences Bureau along with local government representatives in Sta Cruz and Zambales is one of the grounds for a case filed by communities in the Office of the Ombudsman.
“The Aquino government has not learned from the past. In adopting the Arroyo regime’s mining policy, it only perpetuated the destruction of lands, forests and waters and the violations against communities. But this only makes us more determined to continue our struggle against mining, the policies and the implementors that allow it,” said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina.
CCOS, ATM, Sanlakas and Philippine Movement for Climate Justice are one with the Zambalenos in calling the cancellation of the Mineral Processing Sharing Agreements or mining contracts of the four mining firms—Benguet Nickel Mines Inc. (BNMI), Eramen Minerals, Inc. (EMI), LnL Archipelagic Minerals, Inc. (LAMI), and Zambales Diversified Metals Corporation/DMCI—operating there.
They also echo the call of mining-affected communities to revamp of the DENR leadership and for the proper implementation of environmental laws.
“Now that the May elections is coming, let us be critical. Vote for candidates who will champion our calls for a moratorium on mining operations, for the repeal of the current mining law and the enactment of a minerals management law,” Garganera said.
ATM has recently launched its campaign against pro-mining candidates and is part of a growing coalition that seeks the commitment of national and local candidates to have an environmental and human rights agenda.