MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Piñol Warns Government On Mining - Says He Prefers Environment-friendly Agriculture Activities

Published by MAC on 2007-07-08
Source: Manila Bulletin

Piñol warns gov’t on mining - Says he prefers environment-friendly agriculture activities

By Ali G. Macabalang, Manila Bulletin -

8th July 2007

KIDAPAWAN CITY – Three-term North Cotabato Governor and now Vice Governor Manny Piñol has urged the national government to reconsider its aggressive attitude towards mining operations in the country, saying it could aggravate the threat of global warming.

Piñol, who has spent his nine-year governorship without mining operations in his province, said the government should instead focus on a comprehensive, environment-friendly agriculture to ensure the country’s sustainable growth and, at the same time, contribute to the worldwide efforts to combat global warming.

"For the national government to talk of starting efforts to arrest global warming but at the same time push for massive mining operations in many parts of the country is simply ironic," Piñol said in a press statement.

Piñol said "history will prove that mining operations have greatly damaged the environment and have (had) very little impact on rural development (because) rich multinational companies are the main beneficiaries."

"To talk of mining as the seeming hope for national economic salvation of the Philippines is to ignore the fact that nowhere is there a mining area in the country where people ended up prosperous after the mining operations," he said.

The former journalist-turned-politician said his nine-year stint as the top provincial leader maintained the "no mining" policy because "I am not willing to see my province’s mountains ripped apart in search of a few kilos of gold or copper."

Instead, he said, these mountains would be more useful for the people if these are planted to crops such as rubber, oil palm or coconut.

Piñol said he decided to slide down to the vice governorship and give way to his former vice governor, Jesus N. Sacdalan, who was elected governor last May, because he wants the anti-mining policy pursued.

North Cotabato has been transformed from one of the five poorest provinces in the country in 1998 to its current 29th rank among the 30 progressive provinces with population’s involvement in "sustainable and market-oriented agriculture," Piñol said.

The Piñol administration had pushed for massive farming and production of oil palm, rubber, coconut and bananas under its plant-now-pay-later program where farmers are given seedling loans payable upon the start of harvest.

The uplands have been reserved for rubber trees, the midlands for coconut and banana, while the lowlands are for rice and oil palm. Fruit trees are also grown in selected areas in the province, Piñol said.

"Right now, we are working for the accreditation of our rubber farms in the ‘Carbon Credit’ program under the Kyoto Protocol," he said, stressing that scientific studies in Malaysia have proven rubber trees as very efficient converter of carbon dioxide to oxygen.

North Cotabato now has about 35,000 hectares of rubber trees, 25,000 hectares of coconut farms, 3,500 hectares of oil palm and very areas planted to midland table bananas, he said.

Piñol has been designated by Governor Sacdalan to head the Province’s Priority Crops Program, which eyes vast local reforestation areas and public lands for rubber tree farming for poor families.

"Unless somebody could assure that there is huge mineral deposit underneath our soil in North Cotabato that would make each of our people millionaires, we discourage mining and just focus on agriculture," Pinol said.

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