In the December 15 meeting of the Board of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), there was a reiteration of the CEAP stance against the ongoing degradation of our environment in the interest mainly of foreign investors; disastrously, this degradation is allowed by the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. Even as CEAP renews its support for the Alternative Mining Bill filed by Rep. Erin Tañada in the current Congress, it expressed dismay that DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo had ordered a suspension of the implementation of South Cotabato’s Provincial Environmental Code that proscribes open-pit mines.
The move apparently aligned Robredo with foreign miners against the interest of the Filipino people and the Philippine environment, despite the fact that Robredo in the past was a signatory to environmental conservation manifestos and performed splendidly in the protection of Mt. Isarog near Naga against environmental degradation. Where Robredo could have taken a moral stance aligned with the lobby for a pro-Filipino Alternative Mining Bill, he chose to take a stance aligned with the foreign mining investors based on given law, no matter how morally reprehensible this law. This has been disheartening.
Meanwhile, South Cotabato Governor Arthur Pingoy, Jr. has disputed the right of the DILG Secretary to order the suspension of the Provincial Environmental Code, and has resolved to implement it, unless stopped by the courts. We would have wished that the DILG secretary had lent the local government of South Cotabato his moral support as well as the aid of his Department in crafting and implementing a local policy protective of the environment. Unfortunately he did not.
Hopefully, Robredo was blundering only personally, and not acting with the knowledge and consent of his Principal, President Noynoy Aquino. We pray that in the latter’s enthusiasm to bring investment and jobs to the country, he not have invited foreigners to wantonly exploit the Philippines under the terms of the 1995 Mining Act. That would be like inviting reckless treasure hunters into your home, and rewarding them to destroy your garden, your living room, your toilet, your kitchen and your bedroom in pursuit of their treasure, because no law prohibits nor penalizes their destruction. We know that such as Canada, Australia, Korea, China, Indonesia are interested in mining in the Philippines. Yet allowing them to mine in the Philippines under the 1995 Mining Act would be disastrous not just for this generation but for generations to come. Robredo’s position may have encouraged, rather than have discouraged the open-pit mining operation of the Sagittarius Mining Group affecting So. Cotabato and three other provinces, because no law prohibits this. Rather than this legalistic weakness, we would have preferred to see environmental heroism in the DILG leader.
This, in a legal environment where the environmental damage wrought by Marcopper Mining in Marinduque with incredible impunity is still undone and can be replicated in Mindanao and elsewhere in the Philippines with impunity. I would have expected that an enlightened administration protect the national interest where it is most vulnerable, lend support to local government trying to do the same, and not further expose the legal vulnerability of the nation to further exploitation by foreigners.
I salute the local government of Cotabato and wish them God’s support and power in implementing their Local Environment Code. Also the support of our schools. With the CEAP, I urge Congress to finally address the issues of alternative mining legislation.
In this context, the letter of CBCP President Archbishop Nerio Odchimar, DD, to President Noynoy Aquino dated 12 July 2010, should be recalled. There he appealed to President Aquino to “put a stop to large-scale mining since this not only permanently damages the delicate balance of our natural environment, but it also makes our small farmers, fisher folk and indigenous peoples suffer.”
In the same letter he states: “Our bias for the use of our resources should be for the use of Filipinos and not for foreigners. We are calling for the abrogation of the Mining Act of 1995 that does not adequately protect the interests of our people and the country’s natural resources.”
He also calls for the suppression of EO 270-A or “The National Policy Agenda on Revitalizes Mining in the Philippines” which exacerbates the ill-effects of the 1995 Mining Act.
With Archbishop Odchimar of the CBCP and the CEAP Board, Catholic schools and all schools of the nation need to address urgent contemporary environmental problems. The DepEd envisions a graduate who is makakalikasan – environmentally sensitive, environmentally responsible. The CHED also foresees special tertiary-level multi-disciplinary training in environmental responsibility.
President Arroyo’s record of environmental sensitivity was dismal. We certainly hope that President Aquino shall prove himself to be her opposite.
Robredo, however, seems to have become her ally.