Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Might Of The Mining Industry

BUSINESS CORRUPTS everything it touches, especially if it is a gigantic one like the mining industry that is fast gaining a foothold in Palawan’s mineral-rich soil. It corrupted local politics so easily that our politicians have been nodding one by one to the entry of mining, with the pro-mining policy of the Arroyo administration as their foremost justification. They also point to the Supreme Court, which has upheld the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995, as another defense for opening the province to miners. But in truth, they just have no moral resolve to resist the generous perks offered to them by the mining companies.

A mining executive confessed recently to a group of selected Palawan journalists that mining is a very juicy business. He boasted that it only takes a few shipments of ore to recover their investment. In the approximately two-decade life span of the mines being opened in Palawan, the investors are assured of staggering profits. The fabulous fortunes that the mine firms expect in the coming years have emboldened them to shell out lavish funds to facilitate, as it were, the passage of their applications through the stringent bureaucratic route engendered by the SEP Law. Public officials whose fiercest passion is to stay in power are willing cohorts of mining firms, at the right price of course.

The mining industry is a formidable force that is threatening to lord over the province. It has already conquered the political echelon and is claiming easy victories in the labor sector, LGUs, media, academe and indigenous communities. The only tenacious sectors that will probably remain hostile to the industry till doomsday are the NGOs and the Catholic Church. But these sectors are more of watchdogs than policy makers whose voices are often ignored in decision-making processes that are orchestrated by politicians. Although they have some influence to whip around, they cannot do much as mining is a government-sponsored development strategy that rests on bedrock. With the notorious habit of the present administration in ignoring the people’s will, there is not much hope for the powers-that-be to appreciate the sentiments of affected communities.

Although it might seem like raising the white flag, the current reality shows that the foray of the province into mining is almost beyond help. The might of the industry will soon demolish the remaining obstacles standing in its way. The only thing that can stall the progress of the industry’s conquest is the corporate squabble that is pitting mine firms against each other in a battle for control over mineral-rich lands. But this may not last long as businessmen are more interested in gaining profits than spending money for court litigation. The indigenous people who are claiming most of the proposed mine sites as their ancestral domain are easy to convert, the mining executive said. Blighted by years of poverty and ignorance, they will easily trade their lands for the comfortable life promised to them by the mining company. In fact, an indigenous community in the south is now fighting bitterly over the royalty given out by the mine firm operating in the area. The industry’s executives know well the power of money, and they are exploiting this to their full advantage.

Even as we believe “responsible mining” is just a PR mantra meant to hypnotize the sectors hostile to the industry, given the inevitable victory of the mining industry, we are compelled to turn this phrase into actual practice as our weapon against expected environmental degradation. We can do this by keenly watching the mining operations and blowing the whistle at the earliest sign of anomalous practices from the companies.

Editorial written by Robert Bagalay and published in the Aug. 21-27, 2006 issue of Bandillo ng Palawan


At 2:16 PM, Blogger quarryman said...

who is at fault here really? is it the mining firm or the government? we always come into conclusion that mining is destructive. actually it is the corruption and greed that is destroying the environment. Mining if implemented and monitored properly is beneficial to all.what happened to DENR,PCSD,SEP,Bureau of Mines,etc.? these are the agencies who are supposed to monitor the mines? well, i could only guess.


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