MAC: Mines and Communities

Bishops Call On Arroyo To Repeal Mining Law

Published by MAC on 2007-01-29
Source: Inquirer with Agence France ()

Bishops call on Arroyo to repeal mining law

Christian Esguerra, Inquirer with Agence France-Presse

29th January 2007

CATHOLIC bishops in the Philippines on Sunday urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to work to repeal a law that opened up the mining industry to foreign firms, citing environmental concerns.

The politically influential Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in a message delivered after a national conference said "adverse social impacts" would far outweigh a boom in the mining industry.

"We reaffirm our stand for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995," the conclave said.

"Allowing the interest of the big mining corporations to prevail over people's right to these sources amounts to violating their right to life," the CBCP said in a two-page pastoral statement.

In the statement read by Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, the CBCP expressed alarm over the deletion of the nationalist provisions in the Constitution being pushed by the Macalanang-formed consultative commission.

If it succeeds, the move could "pave the way [for] the wholesale plunder of our national patrimony and undermine our sovereignty," the bishops warned.

"We believe that the Mining Act destroys life," the CBCP said. "The right to life of people is inseparable from their right to sources of food and livelihood."

"Furthermore, mining threatens people's health and environmental safety through the wanton dumping of waste and tailings in rivers and seas," the CBCP said.

"We reiterate our request to the president to recall all approved mining concessions, and to disapprove pending applications," it said.

The church has been at the forefront of efforts to stop the legislature from opening up the mining industry and has waged a legal battle to have it declared unconstitutional.

But in December 2004 the Supreme Court ruled that the mining law was constitutional, lifting the final obstacle for foreign companies in the industry.

The perenially cash-strapped government last year said it estimated a windfall of up to 90 billion dollars in foreign investments in the mining industry with 23 major mining projects in the pipeline.

While the law calls for the separation of the state and church, the Catholic hierarchy remains a strong political force in the Philippines, where over 80 percent belong to the religion.

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