Green group calls out DENR for backing mining operations

Environmental think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) on Saturday expressed dismay over the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) intention to push forward mining and river dredging as initiatives to boost economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, as stated by Undersecretary Benny Antiporda during the Department’s 33rd anniversary celebration. 

According to Antiporda, DENR chief Roy Cimatu wants mining to be treated “as something which is really helpful to the economy rather than destructive to the environment and natural resources.”

“It is important to remind DENR that its mandate is not to paint a pleasing picture for the mining industry, rather to uphold environmental conservation, protection, and rehabilitation. If the mining industry is perceived as destructive, it is because of companies’ irresponsible mining and of DENR’s negligence in regulating these operations,” said Avril De Torres, Research, Policy, and Law Program Head of CEED.

Despite a 25 year-old law on mining, communities and environments host to mining operations have suffered from repeated violations by mine companies, including incidents of spills and improper waste disposal which resulted in fish kills and water supply contamination, pollution, land grabbing and development aggression, and harassment or threats to the life of groups resisting mining projects. Substandard working conditions in mining sites have also caused injuries and even deaths of mining workers.

“Under the current mining framework, large-scale mining is largely export-oriented and profit-driven. Boosting it will benefit large companies but will not necessarily contribute to our economic development, and redound to the benefits of local government and communities,” said De Torres.

Environmental groups have been advocating for an Alternative Minerals Management Bill which would promote a domestic needs-based mining, empower communities by allowing them to participate in the approval of mining permits, increase share of government and communities in revenues, increase environmental safeguards, as well as  recognize climate-related risks. The bill, which was lauded for its progressive stance when it was first introduced a decade ago, has yet to move forward from the deliberation phase.

“In addition to COVID-19, we also face an ecological crisis that calls for immediate response and relief for the most vulnerable. Unless recovery measures place grave consideration to addressing environmental issues, they will only benefit a select few. We hope the DENR would stop making a case for mining and instead focus on tightening restrictions against companies’ violations while supporting the livelihood of communities and development of sustainable resources,” concluded De Torres.