Bill seeks quarter-century ban on open-pit mines . . .
Philippines legislators filed a bill on Tuesday seeking to impose a 25-year moratorium on prospective open-pit mining projects. The bill is co-sponsored by environmental and Indigenous Lumad activists under the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. Its advocates argue “a legislated moratorium on open-pit mining is urgently needed” to halt “projects with atrocious human rights records.” The bill mandates a midterm review after 12 years and requires the crafting of a National Industrialization Program to move the country away from reliance on mining. The bill’s timing, which still needs to pass the House of Representatives to become law, is symbolic with 2020 being the 25th anniversary of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which opened up large swathes of the mineral-rich country to mining.
Mining vs. the environment . . .
A long history of mining disasters and negative environmental impacts have made Filipino policy-makers and legislators cautious of the sector. Just today, the Philippines government approved funds to rehabilitate rivers that were devastated by the Canada-based Marcopper mining disasters of the 1990s. While President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly vowed to shut down all mining activities in the country, the enforcement of mining restrictions has been scattershot, and the pull of investment has led to the easing of some environmental regulations to facilitate mining projects.
Mixed mining signals, to deadly effect . . .
Manila’s mixed signals have posed a challenge to international investors eager to access mineral deposits that rank among the world’s richest. The government has sought to implement a top-down approach balancing the economy and the environment, but it has painted bottom-up activists as a threat to the state. The Armed Forces of the Philippines has accused many activist groups opposed to mining of being in league with communist rebels, while the Office of the President has accused human rights defenders of “waging the longest insurgency in Asia and terrorizing communities in the Philippines.” Manila’s grim response has resulted in the Philippines’ ranking as the deadliest country for environmental activists.