Malacañang announced it has come up with a new executive order to regulate the mining industry despite articulated criticisms on its perceived intent and content. It is expected to have been officially issued Friday because it is said to have been “held back for ‘fine-tuning’ in certain provisions for being ‘superfluous’.”
No matter how the government tries to justify it in the face of the raging environmentalists, the executive order is only meant to lift any defenses the law can provide for the people of the nation against the destruction of their home and the plunder of their resources.
Cabinet Secretary Mar Roxas said, the Philippines has a long history in mining, with cities like Baguio and Toledo in Cebu province tracing their early developments to the industry. “These cities would not exist if not for mining,” he emphasized.
Our history would show that Baguio City was created from different Ibaloi clan communities, pasturelands, rice paddies and both private and communal gold mines. There were people already but because the Ibalois were looked upon as being in the way of the “development” of the newly conquered property by the American colonizer, they were disenfranchized or driven out. So the city was created from their ancestral lands and the beginnings of the so-called mining industry is a history of land grabbing and displacement of real people and their communities. It is a history of taking by force the livelihood of a people.
The communities of Ibalois had a system of governance, a thriving agricultural based livelihood, small scale gold mines, and prosperous trade relations between and among lowland and upland communities. Today, Baguio City is part of what is left of the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples who for more than a century fought hard for their rights over their domain.
The mines in the vicinity of Baguio have put the country as the world’s number three gold producer. It is said the mine diggings has now reached below sea level. Baguio City is known as “a mile above sea level”.
By the large scale extraction of copper, gold and other minerals from these mountainous domain by the so-called owners of the mine companies has greatly undermined the foundations of the Baguio and Benguet peoples’ natural habitat. Evident by the widespread erosions and landslides along all the hillsides and mountainsides in Benguet. The loss of springs, rivers, ponds and lakes. The massive deforestation of all traditional pine stands because pine logs were necessary in the mine tunnels as posts and early warnning devices in cases of cave-in.
Baguio and Toledo City would better exist and thrive without today’s so-called mining industry because of its people, the agricultural industry could have better supported the people and the development of other needed industries. Even a conservative steel or mineral industry that would support and strengthen the local economy for the people of this land and not for other nations.
It is not just environmentalists that are complaining or raging against extractive industries that has through the years aggravated the effects of climate change, that destroyed natural structures and habitats that centuries built to support native or local communities; or that devastated the foundations for a healthy and wholesome environment to keep people alive and strong.
That executive order may result to “an immediate improvement in the performance of mining stocks on the local bourse,” raise tourism revenues, and the speed the entry of foreign investments to the country, but for whom? Compliance to the minimum wage law is still being fought for by the workers themselves from their employers who are supposed to have implemented it already. Teachers still complaining of low pay? Why are professionals flocking to other countries? Should people trust this allegedly large income from mining to answer security or stability of livelihood in the country?
This EO promises to “ensure a balanced policy between extractive activities and environmental protection.” Now? At this time that scientists say that the natural defenses of the archipealago against natural disasters (typhoons, storms, tsunami or earthquakes) has so deteriorated or been devastated, the promise of balance or protection may just remain on paper.
The anti-mining advocacy is not bringing us down, it has only brought to light the degree of devastation while calling to preserve what is left. Baguio may have profitted from the trade brought in by the neighboring mine workers’ communities but it has not been shared the proper revenue from the mine production that has for a long time been brought out of the province. # nordis.net