MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Open Letter to Secretary Mike Defensor of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

Published by MAC on 2004-11-16

Open Letter to Secretary Mike Defensor of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

On the occasion of the Mining and Safety Week Celebration

Cordillera Peoples Alliance

November 16, 2004

On this occasion of Mining and Safety Week celebration of the government and the mining industry, we cannot be celebrating with you, as mine workers remain unsafe in their workplace, and mining -affected communities continue to suffer from the adverse impacts of mining operations here in the Cordillera and other parts of the country. Time and again, we’ve raised our voice in protest over the destruction of our land and water bodies due to large scale mining operation. Time and again, we urged the government to decisively address these issues as a matter of public accountability, recognition of the rights of indigenous communities and for the protection of the environment.

Yet our calls and legitimate demands have fallen on deaf ears. Until today, communities around the Agno river and the Abra river continue to suffer from serious pollution caused by past and present corporate mining operations. Until today, mined-out areas remain un-rehabilitate for the use of former communities and land owners. Till today, avoidable accidents and injuries of mine workers continue to happen. Till today, we indigenous peoples continue to be denied of our rights over our land and resources.

In spite of the serious impacts of large-scale mining, you have expressed your commitment to aggressively implement the Mineral Action Plan (MPA) for what you claim to be for responsible and sustainable mining. For us, this is a mere lip service and devoid of substance. The Mining Action Plan provides for the further weakening of legal procedures and mechanisms on environmental protection and democratic space for local government units and affected communities. Clearly, the MPA was designed based on the demands of mining companies for their unhampered and smooth operation, using additional foreign investment as a bait. The MPA signals a renewed effort of the government for the complete sell-out of the people mineral resources, sacrificing the rights and welfare of affected communities, and the protection of the environment in the process.

Mr. Secretary, we disagree with your position that massive corporate mining is a key solution to the financial crisis. The financial crisis was brought about by the government’s dependence on foreign debt and investment, on massive corruption and a distorted development framework which worsened the condition of the already impoverished majority of our people. Thus, the solution to this crisis should address comprehensively its root causes, and not by selling out our remaining resources to foreign investors.

Mr. Secretary, we urge you instead to address the past and present destruction caused by corporate mining operations, ensure the recognition of the democratic rights of affected communities and mine workers, and ensure strict implementation of environmental protection mechanisms which should include mandatory and direct accountability of mining companies over adverse impacts of their operations.

Sir, OUR RESOURCES ARE NOT FOR SALE! We shall defend them with all our might and power as a people! We challenge you to act on our demands as a public official, whose primary responsibility is to serve the people and not corporate greed and the interest of a few. Until then, any celebration of Mining and Safety Week is mere public image building for the discredited mining industry.

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