By DEFEND ILOCOS
VIGAN CITY — A day after commending Secretary Regina Lopez for the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA), the Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) asked her to include MPSAs that straddle watersheds supporting Ilocos rivers.
“We urge Sec. Lopez to include in the cancellation order all applications that cover watersheds areas in the region and in other parts of the Cordillera,” said Defend Ilocos regional coordinator Sherwin De Vera.
De Vera explained that the region suffers from dry spells and drought almost annually. He added that mining operations in watershed areas will increase the suffering of the people, especially the farmers who largely depend on creeks, streams and rivers for irrigation.
Based on the Mines & Geosciences Bureau, seven companies have applied for permit covering key watershed areas in Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, namely, Cordillera Exploration Company, Inc., Newmont Philippines, Olpaten Resources Corporation, Diamond Drilling Corporation, Rhenzel Resources Corporation, Benguet Corporation, and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company.
“The cancellation of MPSAs in Baay-Licuan, Abra and Mankayan, Benguet are commendable since streams and rivers in these locations drain to the Abra River but the surface water system in the region remains under threat because applications and permits of other companies remain active,” De Vera said.
He added that Lopez should support the clamor of environmental groups to repeal the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and passage of the People’s Mining Bill to realize watershed protection against corporate plunder.
In an earlier press release, De Vera said the DENR should also investigate how mining companies are able to secure mining permits and operate within watershed areas.
De Vera also called the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) attempt to block Lopez’s Committee on Appointments confirmation is an “act of a bully”. He claimed that COMP is pressuring lawmakers to turndown Lopez as payback for the mining industry’s campaign contributions.
“The danger of allowing corporations, especially mining companies to fund political campaigns is that, profit-driven entities are given clout over national policies, making our laws and economic thrust more favorable to greed than for the people’s welfare,” De Vera said.
De Vera accused COMP of not only practicing “muscle flexing” to make politicians protect corporate interest, but also give funds to the military and paramilitaries “to make way and protect their investments at the expense of the communities”. This, according to the De Vera is the reason why most areas where mining operations are located usually hold the large contingent of government troops and massive human rights violations occur. # nordis.net