According to the Mines and Consciences Bureau (MGM), the country has an estimated $840 billion worth of untapped mineral resources with a span of 9 million hectares (a third of our country total land area) identified as having high mineral potential. This and other data from the MGM shows the high profitability of mining in the Philippines, which makes it attractive to foreign investors and transnational corporations. But, these mineral resources are found within our lands, as well as under our seas, both of which are also rich in other resources that sustain other economic activities around our archipelago.
To add to this, the policies we have in place and endorsed by the government make it even more desirable. These policies make it easy and very profitable for transnational companies to pursue mining operations, and they are given a considerably favorable amount of control over the land their operations occupy. The mining stations that come to be in these specified areas have a tendency to invade the local communities’ lives in many debilitating ways, and often times many indigenous peoples are displaced from their own ancestral lands.
This causes not just unrest within the community and within the area, but also negatively impacts the livelihoods, cultural practices and traditions, health, and identity of these locals. The mining situation in the Philippines has been a long debated topic, and for many good reasons. It is an industry that is pervasive in many ways, and it is an issue underplayed by many people; it is a much larger issue than it is made to look like. It is an industry considered to be destructive and unsustainable, and as it stands, it is just that.
Different sectors in our society play a part in this issue, including economics, environment, coloratura, and political. All these systems are interrelated. Each cannot change without affecting or changing another. By carefully looking into this situations and analyzing the interrelation of the different factors, we will see that mining is more than just another industry and carries different effects and consequences on our country and people. Minerals are non-renewable resources, and this fact is telling of the limited lifespan of the mining industry.
But, given the mineral wealth of our country, it can be considered a key in economic growth. The total contribution of mining to the national gross domestic product remains small, just ranging room 0. 6 to 1 percent. Contribution to exports hovers around 2 to 6 percent, as compared to agricultural contributions, which amounted to around 8 percent. Another claim mining companies have been making is their ability to generate jobs for the local communities and their contribution in further developing local industries.
Statistically speaking though, the contribution of the mining sector to the national total employment consistently remains below 1 percent. As it is, extractive mining is a low-employment generating activity, as companies often invest high capital on machines and necessary cosmologies in their operations instead, minimizing the need for a large number of employees. Also, the available jobs offer no security and permanency, as again, mining operations have a limited lifespan, and more often than not, workers are hired on a contractual basis.
Some people in these areas are left with no choice but to apply for jobs in these companies, as their own livelihoods have been disrupted by the mining operations. The environmental impacts of the mining industry are as numerous as it is devastating. Mining is deemed to cause several adverse effects on our environment, which lead to health risks, public hazards, and risks to the general safety of the public. In just the exploratory stage of the mining companies, lands and mountains are already subject to large-scale alterations.
Forests are cut down for open pit mines; mountains are hollowed as tunnels are being dug underground. Polluted farmlands are left infertile and rivers are left dead, destroying livelihoods and the everyday lives of communities. Though there are claims of responsible mining and talks of limiting and controlling operations in order to minimize the impacts, the adverse impacts are still often irreversible. More than just affecting the landscape, the biodiversity of the affected areas are also critically affected.
Flora and fauna are effectively displaced and perhaps even at risk for illnesses caused by pollution from the mines. The effects of these environmental changes are magnified when we consider the Philippine setting, as operations, which are often large-scale contrast the small areas they take over. Several areas of our country are also subject to natural disasters, and with the unwarranted changes in the natural landscape hat help communities and areas defend against them, there is a higher risk Of devastation on the environment and the people.
Included here is the increased risk in high seismic areas. Once mountains have been hollowed to create tunnels, the surface slowly thins and weakens, and in cases of seismic activity in the area, these tunnels are prone to caving in, which entails that any structure found on the surface of those would be destroyed, again leading to further risks for the communities still located in these areas. Mining operations also make use of different chemicals when extracting minerals, and this in turn produces toxic wastes or mine tailings. These mine tailings, in turn, affect the health of communities.
Water sources become polluted, causing skin diseases and other illnesses in the communities affected. This affects the productivity of individuals, thus hindering them from pursuing their daily lives and economic activities. Here, the coloratura aspects of society also come to play. Most, if not all, of these foreign mining investors and transnational companies primarily pursue this industry for their own economic exploits. More often Han not, the locals or the indigenous people (IP) of the mining areas are neglected or manipulated.
The IP, who have historically cultivated the area and utilized the lands for their own resources and cultural practices and livelihoods, are now the ones displaced and have become, technically, illegal lodgers in their own identified ancestral domains. Mining has been found to affect not only the Pips livelihoods, but also their cultural ties as a people, even leading to a loss of cultural identity (Waterier, 2012). Some of these Pips have also practiced small-scale mining in their culture, but now that large- call mining operations have taken over, they are disallowed from continuing their own operations.
They are left to swarm over leftovers of the mining companies long after they have left the area, exhausting the mountains of their minerals. While companies claim to have given free, prior, and informed consent to the people affected, there have been reported cases of bribery and misinformation, as well as falsified documents claiming that entire communities have agreed and fully understood the undertakings of the industry entering their domain. All these issues can boil down to the political aspect of mining.
Currently, the mining industry is being aggressively promoted, as compared to the past when it was merely tolerated. The government has made several measures and changes in mining policies in order to cater to the needs and demands of foreign mining investors and corporations. During the term of former Philippine President Fidel Ramose, the Philippine Mining Act of 1 995 was authored and promoted as a solution to poverty in the country, as well as a way to boost economic growth.
Its aim was to bring to life the mining industry by providing additional benefits and incentives for foreign investors in order o entice them to mine in the Philippines. The contents of the Mining Act of 1 995 include opening all public and private lands to investors or individuals to all kinds of mining activities, not to mention ancestral lands (as long as free prior informed consent was obtained).
Also include are the Exploratory permit which allows qualified mining applicants to explore lands open to mining. Next, Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (AMPS) which says the government takes part in the contractor’s production, being the mineral owner, and in exchange, the contractor’s provide the funds and machineries needed. Another is the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FETA), which allows 100 percent ownership of mining areas to the foreign investors and corporations.
Other than these, there are also the Auxiliary Mining Rights given to the corporations, which gives them timber rights (right to cut all trees or timber in the mining area), water rights (use of water resources available in the area), easement rights (right to build, construct or install anything in the mining area to benefit their operations), rights to possess explosives, and entry into private lands and concession areas (with prior notification of those involved, entry into private lands shall not be prohibited).
These are rights that give them a huge amount Of liberty to do whatever so they please to further their mining operations, but at what cost? These policies are unfair ones, as they were formed and endorsed without proper consultation of everyone involved in this issue. There has been substantial bias towards the private entities involved, and thus the rights of the locals are ignored.
The locals who try to approach the government for help or to be heard out are shunned, as even local government units and hose above them have been, perhaps, bribed by the foreign companies. There is a lack of accountability and responsibility by the government In facing this issue. These are policies that are focused on proportioning the needs and demands Of foreign investors and corporations over the needs and priorities of our country’s own people.
These are policies and laws that hear what foreign investors have to say while turning away from the pleas of the people whose lives have been adversely affected by the mining industry. Flowery words are used in these policies, making them seem responsible and inconsiderate of the issues that come hand in hand with mining, but in truth they do nothing but cover up the true intentions of these policies, and that is to further the mining industry. There is so much more to be said about the mining situation in the Philippines and the many issues we face because of it.
The economic, environmental, coloratura and political aspects of this issue are all interrelated and cannot change without changing another. The economic factors will always affect the environment, as our economy relies so much on resources that come from it, and these in turn will affect the coloratura specs of our society, as we the people are part of this environment and our lives cannot be without the resources we take from the environment.
The political aspect affects the other three, in the sense that it is the policies and laws that we make that somehow dictate the outcome of our economy and how it is to adapt and take from our environment, and how society industries and livelihoods will move Fontana considering the rules that have been thus dictated. The coloratura aspect thus affects the rest in the sense that our culture and our identity dictate how we live and how we relate to those around us. We, as the people of this country, should remain aware of our responsibility as its caretaker.
We are all equally responsible for taking care of each other and our nation’s wealth, which will be passed onto forthcoming generations. Mining, as it stands now, will continue to be a priority of the government and part of the country development policy, but we must not let that stop us from intervening, interrupting and voicing out our part in protecting the rights of those manipulated and abused by the unjust systems and policies that are pushed forward. Our country’s wealth can last so long, but only if it is retrofitted and taken care of.