MAC: Mines and Communities

Appeal from academics over the implications of mining activities in Palawan

Published by MAC on 2008-11-10
Source: Rebecca Austin and nine others (2008-09-15)

To: Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
President, Republic of the Philippines

Honorable Joselito Atienza
Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

Honorable Joel T. Reyes
Governor, Province of Palawan
Chair, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development

Honorable Members
Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD)

Dear Honorable Officials of Government:

We are a group of anthropologists, social scientists and university professors from United States of America, France, Italy, Japan, and Australia who have been engaged in various studies and researches relating to the environment and culture of the province and people of Palawan. We write to express our deep concern over the threats posed by mining activities in the province which has been noted as the country's "last frontier", a description signifying abundant and untapped resources, relatively unravaged by resource overexploitation.(1)

Mining activities have come in the form of exploration work, and large scale and small scale mining operations. As mentioned by the Honorable Governor during the 16th anniversary celebration of the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan, there are more than 300 mining applications covering the whole province. This is likewise confirmed by the website of the Mines and GeoSciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR.

We have gathered that the current exploration, large scale and small scale mining activities in Palawan have been made possible by the endorsements made by local government units and by the PCSD. We find it disturbing that the areas covered by these mining applications are forested areas (old growth and residual), almost all of which are part of ancestral domain claims (covered by Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title or CADT applications), community-based forest management agreements (CBFMAs) and some are either declared or proposed watershed areas.

Most of the areas applied for are considered core or restricted use zones under the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan (SEP or RA 7611) and its Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) guidelines.

We wish to remind you that Palawan hosts 7 declared protected areas, 11 important bird areas and is one of the 10 sites of the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) in the Philippines. It also holds 17 terrestrial key biodiversity areas (KBA). Because of its uniqueness UNESCO declared Palawan as a biosphere reserve, and two of its sites (Tubbataha Reef Marine Park and Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park) as world heritage sites.

We find it very disturbing that mining operations are being allowed despite the numerous policies and laws establishing Palawan as virtually a protected area, and the millions of investments poured into the province in the last twenty (20) years to protect and enhance its biodiversity and despite the fact that the negative impacts of mining activities in Palawan remain unresolved. While the so-called "responsible mining" rhetoric is being promoted, we believe that the ongoing destruction of Palawan's natural forests, protected areas and ancestral domains in clear violation of the SEP and other environmental laws is not a responsible mode of development.

You are all aware of the initiatives all over the country and the world to conserve our remaining natural resources, uphold cultural integrity, ensure food security and avert the disastrous effects of global warming. Palawan has the natural resources and the cultural heritage to contribute substantially to this initiative. Ultimately, this would redound to everyone's welfare as our global survival is hinged upon the diversity of our natural resources and culture.

In this light, we appeal therefore to you to exercise the needed political will to protect the livelihoods and welfare of local communities upon which the disastrous impacts of mining will weigh heavily. We believe that you have the legal basis to stop further mining activities in areas identified as environmentally critical areas, and you have a growing constituency that advocates for the protection of the natural forests which is the very basis of survival of indigenous peoples, rural peasants, and poor local communities of the province.

Respectfully yours,

Signed...

Prof. Rebecca Austin, PhD
College of Arts and Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University

Prof. Wolfram Dressler, PhD
School of Social Science, University of Queensland

Prof. James Eder, PhD
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

Michael Fabinyi
Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University

Prof. Charles J-H Macdonald, PhD
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Marseille
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

Dr. Melanie Hughes McDermott, PhD
Dept. of Human Ecology, Cook College, Rutgers University

Prof. Dario Novellino, PhD
Department of Anthropology, University of Kent, Canterbury

Prof. Nicole Revel, PhD
Langues - Musiques - Sociétés (UMR 8099)
CNRS-Université René Descartes, Paris V

Prof. Koki Seki, PhD
Graduate School for International Development and Cooperation, Hiroshima University

Noah Theriault
Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin

Note (1): "Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan, Towards Sustainable Development, Prepared by the Palawan Integrated Area Development Project Office with the assistance of Hunting Technical Services Limited England in association with the Orient Integrated Development Consultants, Inc., Philippines and Sir Mac Donald and Partners, England

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