Groups to presidential wannabes: Bare stand on mining, environmental issues

ANTIMINING groups on Thursday urged presidential candidates to take a “progressive stand” on mining, which they blamed for the massive environmental destruction and human-rights abuses allegedly committed against residents in host communities.

According to Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), presidential candidates in the May elections should declare their positions on proposed changes in the mining policy, starting with the repeal of Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the revocation of Executive Order 270-A on the aggressive promotion of the mining industry, and the declaration of a moratorium on all mining operations, while a new policy is being crafted for implementation.

ATM is a coalition of mining-affected communities, non-governmental organizations, faith-based groups and academic institutions challenging the promotion of destructive large-scale mining in the Philippines. It claims to have a network of 130 members.

A core member of the Green Thumb Coalition, a national initiative calling for an environmental agenda in the candidates’ platforms and future program of government, ATM demands that the candidates respond to the scorecards indicating their positions on certain environmental issues, including mining, biodiversity conservation and climate change.

ATM calls for a “green candidate” to lead the Philippines in the next six years. A “green president” , according to ATM, should support the passage of a new mining law, embodied in the Alternative Minerals Management Bill; expand and implement the “No-Go Zones” map of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Mining Industry Coordinating Council; and address human-rights violations and abuse in mining-affected areas. The green president should also resolve land-use conflicts between mining, ancestral domains, protected areas, geohazard areas and watersheds; support local autonomy on mining issues; and increase transparency in the mining industry.

“We want a new government that will have human rights and environment on its agenda and that will cater to the peoples’ needs versus corporate agenda. We want leaders who will echo our voice, as we demand justice for the ravage and plunder of our lands, the ecological destruction and disasters, the killings and human-rights violations,” the group said.

Meanwhile, the group Bantay Kita said national and local candidates are benefiting from mining through campaign contributions, either in cash or in kind.

Cielo Magno, national coordinator of Bantay Kita, said of Palace candidates even use a helicopter and another is holding office for his campaign owned by a mining company.

She said the Commission on Elections should look into the involvement of campaign contributors in these highly extractive industries, noting that once elected into office, these candidates will be beholden to their supporters.

Bantay Kita sits as a member of the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which promotes financial transparency and tax gains of government, national and local, and their host communities in the mining, coal, oil and gas industries, said receiving campaign contributions whether in cash or in kind is prohibited by law.

These candidates, she said, should be warned that penalty for violation of the election code pertaining to campaign contribution is perpetual disqualification from the possibility of holding public office.

Mining companies supporting candidates during election is more pronounced at the local level, Magno said.

Magno said Bantay Kita intends to dig into the campaign contributions received by candidates and file appropriate charges against those who solicit or receive support from corporations.



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