Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The current Mining Act has to be repealed

March 21, 2006

The current Mining Act has to be repealed

A law that favors foreign interests over the nation’s long-term needs and sustainability of natural resources must be immediately repealed.

The recent disaster of one of government’s flagship mining projects in Rapu-rapu island in Bicol is a portent of worse things to come when foreign companies are allowed by the State to proceed with unbridled commercial mineral extraction.

The Supreme Court’s reversal of its ruling on the 1995 Mining Act (RA 7942) that described the law as a wholesale plunder of the country’s finite resources and a betrayal to national patrimony is actually a betrayal to the aspirations of the common people to progress while protecting our already fragile ecosystems.

The Macapagal-Arroyo administration’s claim that large-scale foreign mining would free the country from economic instability is certainly suspect.

The US$6.5 billion worth of mining investments that the administration imagines will bring us out of the economic rut is far from being realistic since the broad array of incentives is favorable to foreign mining investors but detrimental to the domestic economy. We are not assured of the tax revenues from the mining sector since the government can only collect taxes after the mining companies have earned their capital which can take at least seven years. We must also remember the Marcopper tragedy in 1993 and 1996. The mine tailings rendered the Boac and Makulapnit rivers biologically dead and rendered 823 hectares of farmland useless in Mariduque.

The Philippines is the fifth most mineralized country in the world. Opening the country’s mineral and natural resources to foreign exploitation does not necessarily denote economic progress. Historically, even the United States, Canada and Australia did not develop and attain economic growth driven by mining and mineral extractive endeavors as mining’s share in their respective annual GDPs is only 1 to 5 percent.

What we need is the national development of upstream and downstream industries that will use the processing of mineral products for domestic manufacturing and production. No substantial economic improvement will happen with the 1995 Mining Act because it is the transnational mining companies which will gain from it. That is why we are working to repeal the said law.

The liberalization of the mining industry as legalized in the Mining Act will only lead to massive dislocation of our cultural minorities and further degradation of our natural resources. This is more expensive for the country compared to the billions of dollars in investments that the government has been harping on. We have to develop a responsible, ecologically-sound and nationalist mining industry. RA 7942 runs counter to this national need and therefore must be repealed.

Only then can we start at charting a better path to the wise use of our finite natural and mineral resources that the people shall cherish and reap the utmost long-term benefits. #

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