Analysis,Publications

EDITORIAL: Disasters in Mindanao: The Inevitable Result of Foreign Mining and Government Neglect*

June 3, 2013

Recent storms have taken away the illusion that Mindanao is safe from rain-wrought calamities.
Typhoon Pablo (international codenamed Bopha) which hit Davao last December, displaced 11,000 families,
killed 1,067 people, and left 8,663 hectares of land unproductive.

This disaster, however, cannot be attributed solely to the storm. The lands of Mindanao have long been
mined and logged by corporations, depleting the land, rendering it prone to disasters. According to Panalipdan Southern Mindanao, an environmental rights group advocating and advancing environmental protection, land rights, food sovereignty, and national patrimony there are 25 companies mining 140,951 hectares of land for gold, silver, copper, nickel, manganese, chromite, and other minerals in Davao Oriental alone.

Dangers caused by mining firms have long been reported by Panalipdan. In July 2011, floods caused by the
combined forces of rains, logging and mining, claimed 30 lives in Davao.

The group has also been highlighting the dangers posed by operations funded by Skynix Holdings Inc. in Davao Oriental to the Sumlog Watershed which provides irrigation to more than 4,000 hectares of rice fields. The operations also threatened the Davao Gulf, and the rivers Kingking, Caraga, and Tagum.

In September 2008, monsoon rains aggravated the already fragile situation of the land, which then led to a landslide that claimed the lives of 30 and displaced nearly 5,000 individuals. The mining company responsible, according to Panalipdan- Southern Mindanao, is APEX Mining Company. `

According to Francis Morales, spokesperson for Panalipdan, “Monsoon rains happen normally in other parts of the country but landslides are more often than not easily triggered in areas where man-made intervention or aggression occurs such as large-scale mining operations which involve the use of heavy equipment and environmentally hazardous methods.

But it is not only these corporations that are wreaking havoc on the country’s environment. Recently, part of the precious Tubbataha Reef Park was damaged by a passing US warship, an activity that itself violated Philippine territorial sovereignty. The ship destroyed precious marine resource, which, experts say, will take at least several decades to recover. Yet, the Philippine government ignored the issue of territorial integrity, reduced the question to one of mere compensation (which turned out to be a paltry sum), and even attempted to minimize the damage, if not for the vigilance of the press and environmental groups.

The picture of the country’s environmental situation is far from pretty, or “fun” as the government tourism slogan says.

Not many options are left to us, Filipinos , except to fight for what is right, and what is ours.

It is a matter of national survival that the government put in place a total and immediate ban on corporate mining and logging and to justly penalize those responsible for the destruction of our country’s natural wealth.

And only a strong and national movement of Filipinos, with the support of international friends, can ensure that these calls become a reality.

*This is the editorial of the CBBRC Update January-March 2013 issue. To download the whole issue, please go to http://www.crispinbeltran.com/?attachment_id=502.