Grace Poe files alternative mining bill
Photo: Facebook Page - Senator Grace Poe
Senator Grace Poe has filed the Philippine Mineral Resources Act[i], which seeks to usher in an alternative minerals regime. The filing of the bill comes at a crucial time, with the announcement of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that it will look to mining as part of the government’s economic recovery stimulus to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.[ii] The Philippine Mineral Resources Act, also known as the Alternative Minerals Management Bill, places more safeguards for the environment and indigenous peoples, sectors which have taken a beating under the present 1995 Mining Act. Lessons from the implementation of the present Mining Act must inform a new minerals regime. One of the core provisions of the AMMB is a ban on mining in critical environmental areas, including critical watersheds, heads of watersheds, key biodiversity areas, areas declared “no-go mining zones” by local governments, prime agricultural lands, among others. These are areas with high ecological values, on which people depend for food and water. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this ban will also help prevent the spread of viruses. Studies in journals have shown that industrial encroachment on habitats and protected areas has played a role in epidemics. In a recent statement, Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change chair Senator Cynthia Villar herself said that the protection of more natural habitats will be good for wildlife and that “wildlife protection can stop another virus outbreak or even a pandemic.”[iii] The AMMB is lodged in Senator Villar’s committee.
Another central feature of the AMMB is the creation of a council composed of affected communities and local governments, to decide on all mining permits. The AMMB will also allow mining primarily to help the country’s industrialization. The exportation of raw mineral ores will be banned, and domestic uses for nation-building prioritized. The tax on mining will also be increased, from the current 4% to 10%, under the AMMB.
In the Lower House, the AMMB has been filed by Congressman Lawrence Fortun. Another version has been filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros in the Senate.
The SOS Yamang Bayan Network, a multi-sectoral alliance of civil society organizations, indigenous peoples, faith-based organizations, people’s organizations, and artists, is pushing for the AMMB.
[i] A copy of the Philippine Mineral Resources Act, or Senate Bill. No. 1495, can be accessed here: https://www.senate.gov.ph/lis/bill_res.aspx?congress=18&q=SBN-1495 [ii] The statement from the DENR appeared in an article on GMA News Online. Link to article here: https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/742025/denr-eyes-mining-river-dredging-to-spur-economic-recovery-amid-covid-19/story/ [iii] Sen. Cynthia Villar was quoted in an article that appeared in the Manila Times. Link to article here: https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/06/06/news/national/sen-villar-scores-need-to-protect-wildlife-habitats/729731/