MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Statement of Concern On the Revitalization of Mining in the Philippines

Published by MAC on 2005-06-22

Statement of Concern On the Revitalization of Mining in the Philippines

22nd June 2005

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

"Do not defile land where you live and where I dwell." (Num 35:34)

We, Bishops of Northern Luzon come in unity to speak our mind and heart in support of our flock in light of the revitalization of mining in the Philippines,

We strongly say, no to large-scale mining.

In 1988 the Catholic Bishop' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued the Pastoral Letter on Ecology, "What is Happening to our Beautiful Land?" where we shared our anxiety over the 'attack being made on the natural world' which was 'endangering its fruitfulness for the future generations'.

On the tenth anniversary of that letter, we told you how concerned we are at the rapid expansion of mining operations arising from Mining Act of 1995.

Today, we see the government aggressively promoting mining and minerals as the drivers of growth for the Philippine economy. Twenty-three (23) mining sites are prioritized either for expansion and / or development. Seven of these are in Northern Luzon, six in the Cordilleras and one in the Sierra Madre Range. We know these areas are fragile and host to indigenous peoples.

The National Government is harping on the direct foreign investment that mining will bring to the country, around $ 10 billion dollars worth are in the pipeline. It also says that it will bring resources to local and national government through wealth sharing. Our experience in Northern Luzon, however, disproves what government is saying. Benguet, host to a number of mining companies over several decades, still feels the brunt of poverty.

What is being shown to us in the example of Benguet, is the continuing misery of communities affected by mining. The save the Abra River Movement, which monitors discharge of Lepanto Mining to the Abra River, has documented evidences of continued dumping of mine waste into the river. As a result, communities along the river lost their livelihood from fishing, and agriculture production is slowly decreasing due to the polluted waters.

The continuing impact of mining in Northern Luzon validated our earlier pronouncement that "The adverse social impact on the affected communities, especially on our indigenous sisters and brothers far outweighs the economic gains promised by large-scale mining corporations. Our people living in the mountains and along the affected shorelines can no longer avail of the bounty of nature. Rice-fields and rivers are devastated and whatever foods that are growing and living becomes health hazards." ( CBCP Statement on the Mining Act of 1995 )

The National Government, therefore, did not heed our earlier call not to pursue short-term economic gains at the expense of long-term ecological damage.

We, therefore, strongly call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to

· Uphold the centrality of the human person in all aspect of development. 'Respect for life, and above all for the dignity of the human person, is the ultimate guiding norm for any sound economic, industrial or scientific progress.' (Pope John Paul II)

· Allow our indigenous brothers and sisters to chart and craft their own development agenda based on culture and tradition.

· Respect the essence and spirit of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC)

· Unite in rejecting the entry of mining companies that orchestrate the destruction of our natural resources.

· Seriously consider and plan alternatives to large-scale mining, which are more lasting and sustainable.

· Reduce, re-use, and recycle.

· Uphold our national economy, patrimony and sovereignty as embodied in our 1987 Philippine Constitution

We re-echo the voice of our indigenous brothers as they say:

God created land for the people. People die and are buried in the earth. Land, the earth, owns the people. These are sacred places. Land is a place to live, to use and to work its fruits and then to be buried in and thus, finally, is owned by it. If threatened, defend it, although a few are deceived and even forced out of it.

Datu Dia-on and Datu Man-ukil

May our Loving God continue to bless and guide us? And may St. Francis of Assisi, who has given us the example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation, continue to inspire us to ever alive a sense of 'fraternity' God's creation. And may we be ever alive of our 'serious obligations to respect and watch over with care', that which "God saw that it was good" and intended for the good of mankind.

Signed by 13 Bishops of Northern Luzon

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