MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2005-02-22


Joint Statement by Kalikasan-PNE and nine others

22nd February 2005

A barangay was completely buried in mud. Almost a hundred people were confirmed dead and more than a thousand remain missing. Who is to blame? Who is responsible?

Experts declare that St Bernard is a landslide-prone area. The town's geological and physical characteristics -- steep and denuded mountain slope, loose volcanic bedrock, proximity to an earthquake fault, and pathway of tropical storms and monsoons-- were noted to have been the main causes for the massive landslide. Almost the same reasons were given for previous disasters such as the landslides in Panaoan Island and Aurora-North Quezon in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

According to the Citizen's Disaster Response Center (CDRC), since 1995 to 2004, an average of 317 disasters occur every year, which affect an average of nine million Filipinos. The annual data on disaster occurrences and victims have been increasing throughout the years.

Have the people not learned? While natural calamities do occur, environmental experts, as well as disaster managers, tell us that we can do something to minimize it, or do something to mitigate its impact.

More plunder, more disasters

Yet, the more than a century of increasing destruction and plunder of our natural resources is a major debacle which serious disaster managers in the country will have to contend with. A consistently neo-colonial economic policy of resource extraction is at the bottom of the precarious state of our environment that worsens the vulnerability of our people to natural disasters everyday.

Large-scale commercial and illegal logging, for instance, were the factors blamed for the Ormoc flash flood and the Quezon landslide tragedies. Large-scale mining is leaving a legacy of widespread destruction of our mountains and the culprit behind the destruction of our major freshwater and coastal ecosystems. One need only call to mind the mine tailings dumping in Marinduque, Cebu, Benguet, and recently in Rapu-rapu, Albay. Mining and logging are disastrous by themselves and they aggravate the situation at the onset of natural calamities like typhoons and droughts.

Despite this, the Arroyo government stubbornly insists on the promotion of extractive industries. As bureaucrats gain from the policy of allowing foreign-owned transnational corporations and local big businesses to profit from ravaging our natural resources, our people are left to reap the horrifying impacts of every calamity that visits the country.

Environmental rehabilitation, disaster prevention

At the rate that our natural resources are being sold to the highest bidders, the country requires an ever larger political will to rehabilitate it. This appears far from the priorities of the current government. While 30% of the national budget goes to servicing the country's debts, less and less funds go to environmental rehabilitation. In 2003, the government was only able to reforest 13,000 hectares of denuded forest, while the country lost around 100,000 hectares to logging.

Disaster Preparedness and Management

What happened in St. Bernard brings to the fore the prevailing disaster response system in the country which is reactive, emergency-focused and relief-centered. As government allocates a measly 0.1% of the national budget for calamity funds, it fails to provide preventive and mitigating measures to lessen the destruction and deaths in natural disasters. Life-saving measures such as local warning systems and disaster preparedness trainings are absent in almost all disaster- prone communities in such provinces as Southern Leyte, Benguet, Mountain Province, Nueva Vizcaya, Kalinga Apayao, Abra, Catanduanes and Ifugao. Sources from the DENR reveal that for the past years, the agency has refrained from disseminating geo-hazard maps owing to complaints that such maps deter investors or tend to downgrade the value of land properties.

Worst, funds allocated and generated for the needs of the victims of calamities fail to trickle down to them and are lost to corruption. The government still has to account for the millions of calamity funds and relief aid from the recent landslide and flash flood disasters in Quezon and Aurora.

Arroyo Government, the worst tragedy

To steal votes and deprive the people of their right to suffrage. To allow plunder of the country's resources, at the risk of further disasters and the loss ofa future to our people. To not prevent or mitigate impacts of calamities, when these could have been prevented. What moral reason has the Arroyo government to insist on staying in power?

1.. We hold the Arroyo government responsible for the disasters in Leyte and for many similarly situated provinces in the country, for its avowed policy of promoting massive resource extraction that only benefits the rich MNCs, local bureaucrats and big business, at the people's expense, and for being inutile in the prevention and mitigation of landslides, & flash floods when it is all along aware of impending disasters on the people.

2.. We demand a stop to large scale, profit-oriented extractive industries for export that hardly provide long-term jobs and benefit for the people and the country, and instead cause heightened vulnerability of local folks.

3.. We call on the immediate relocation to safer grounds of communities at risk from natural calamities such as landslide and flash floods and the provision not only of relief but of alternative livelihood and services to displaced communities.

4.. We demand the immediate institution of local warning systems, conduct of disaster preparedness workshops and development of disaster management plans in landslide-prone communities.

Signed by:

Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC)
Citizens Disaster Response Center (CDRC)
Brigadang Berde
Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayang Pilipino (KAMP)
National Council of Churches of the Philippines- Ecology Desk
Samahan ng mga Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan (AGHAM)
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)
Promotion of Church People's Response (PCPR)
Interfaith Bishops for Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation

Contact Persons:

CLEMENTE BAUTISTA 9248756, 09283448797

National coordinator
Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy, Central, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756Fax No. +63-2-9209099

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