The present government has prioritized the development of the (large scale and sped up) mining industry as a quick solution to the fast deteriorating Philippine economy. This has drawn a sparking and explosive clash between pro and anti – mining, environment, indigenous peoples’ ancestral land, etc. The question is still “development for whom?” or, “development to whose benefit?”
There is talk about “Clean Gold,” a name given to a proposed alternative program to clean up small-scale gold production and trading practices among peasant communities in the Cordillera. It is a proposed program that will be undertaken for small-scale mining to be more responsive to the comprehensive needs of communities.
That proposal has answered the “for whom?” It suggests it has taken into consideration the state and future of a sustained diverse environment which at the same time – may be symbiotic and equitably – also sustain the growing community of humans.
At the present state of the mining industry, there is a need for a real environmental and social assessment. A need to also study more closely small-scale gold mining as practiced in the Cordillera. There is a need to measure what it actually contributes to local economies as well as to the wider economy; also what adverse impacts local society and the environment have actually sustained from it.
There is a need to determine whether the small-scale gold mining practiced in Cordillera communities today can be reformed such that, as in Benguet in the past, it can be undertaken with only a minimum of adverse environmental impact; also if it can be transformed such that the production and trade relations which surround it become more socially equitable. If a dialog approach were to be utilized in the study, the educative process that would transpire could constitute the first step towards reform and transformation.
This can be done especially if we have a leadership and the support of a government that has a big heart and truly has the welfare of its constituents as the priority. It must begin at the grassroots as it inevitably has. #