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EO 130 lifting moratorium on mining 'disconcerting': envi group

Statement of the SOS Yamang Bayan Network on the Issuance of E.O. 130

Months after the pandemic struck, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the government would pursue mining as an economic recovery strategy. It seems it has delivered on this promise with the issuance of Executive Order No. 130 (E.O. 130), which lifts the moratorium on new mineral agreements. The moratorium was put in place by EO 79, passed during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III.

SOS Yamang Bayan Network, a multi-sectoral alliance of non-governmental organizations, indigenous peoples, people’s organizations, Church-based groups, youth, and artists, finds the issuance of EO 130 disconcerting.

The legal anchor of EO 130 is Republic Act 7942, or the 1995 Mining Act. But, in fact, this law has proven to be inadequate in many respects. For one, its penalties for environmental violations are a mere slap on the wrist of mining companies, failing to deter them. Under this law, critical environmental areas have been opened up to mining, prioritizing profit over a healthful ecology.

What’s more, the economic contributions of mining average less than 1% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—a sure sign if any that in mining, it is companies who rack up billions of earnings while mining host communities remain poor. And most importantly, cases of human rights violations hound the mining industry, which are not sufficiently addressed by RA 7942.

All these show that an executive order lifting the moratorium is not the solution. Instead, a more coherent mining policy that addresses social, environmental, and economic issues related to mining should be pursued. The SOS Yamang Bayan Network is batting for a new minerals regime that will radically transform the mining industry. The Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB), filed in the House of Representatives by Congressman Lawrence Fortun and in the Senate by Senators Grace Poe and Risa Hontiveros is the vessel for such a transformation.

The AMMB increases the tax on mining from the present 4% to 10%, a number that is reasonable and judicious considering the impact of mining on the environment. It mandates a longer list of areas that will be closed off to mining, including critical watersheds, key biodiversity areas, among others. Crucially, it forms a Multi-sectoral Minerals Council, composed of representatives from host communities and local government units, which decides on mining permits. Stiffer penalties on human rights violations are also inscribed in the AMMB.

The central lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is that industrial encroachment on nature leaves humanity exposed to pathogens. More, not less, stringent environmental safeguards should therefore be prioritized. Environmental conservation is actually a matter of survival. The Network urges Congress to pass the AMMB and usher in a new law that puts life first before profit. //

SOS Yamang Bayan Network is convened by the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center.

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