Saturday, July 25, 2009

MAP Oz @ Philippine Times - Australia

Filipinos, Aussies join hands against open-pit mining

Wednesday last week, Filipino and Australian environmentalist strengthened their alliance as an indication of its united action reproving open-pit mining.

According to the alliance, open pit-mining misuses the Philippines’ natural resources and violates the rights of indigenous peoples in areas where mining occurs.

The newly minted Mining Action Philippines – Australia (MAP-Oz) is composed of various Filipino and Australian groups and organization which aim to monitor, assess, evaluate and expose various environmental and human and indigenous peoples’ rights issues of Australian mining companies in the archipelago.

Meanwhile, the newly minted MAP-Oz slumped up streamers on a bridge along Eastern Freeway in Melbourne stating how open cut mining scars the Earth, and how they are against the Roxby Expansion.

Furthermore, it supports advocacy on providing food for the Filipino people rather than establishing more mining pits in the Philippines.

Convenor of MAP-Oz Rod Galicha of the Philippines’ anti-mining alliance Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) noted that despite wanton environmental degradation, human rights violations and indigenous peoples’ rights abuses, Philippine and Australian companies continue to connive with the government to exploit the country's natural resources.

The group also joined hands with Friends of the Earth – Melbourne (FoE) in the Global Day of Action Against Open-pit Mining, conducted simultaneously around the world by members of Friends of the Earth International especially in Mexico, the Philippines and Canada.

Galicha explained that the Philippine government persists to manipulate environmental policies in favour of the mining law.

This made the mining licenses to be given immediately even without genuine consultation and consent from communities.

Also, the convenor said that open-pit mining has been promoted and causes widespread deforestation and land use conversion. This practice causes 20 to 25 percent of carbon emissions that cause climate change.

For her part, Mia Pepper of FoE elaborated that “Australians should be aware that mining companies like BHP Billiton which put a protected area in danger, Indophil/Xstrata which is continuously being opposed, Central Gold Asia facing opposition everyday in Masbate, OceanaGold challenged by the local government of Nueva Vizcaya for tax issues and opposed by the indigenous communities, Pelican Resources with its Filipino partner that caused the murder of a local official, Royalco creating divisions among indigenous peoples, and the list still continues.”

Pepper said that through AusAID, they can extend help to Filipinos. However, he explained that their fellow Australians with mining investments take advantage of the opportunity of exploiting the resources that makes the poor people in the villages where some of our aid go are being displaced, abused and sometimes their lives at stake.

Thus, she urged the Australians to avoid expediency.

Foreign-owned mining operations in RP doing more harm than good

Mining companies operating in the Philippines, fifty to sixty per cent of which are owned by Australian companies, may appear to be helping the economy of the Philippines but they are actually not. In fact, big mining companies who have been operating in the Philippines for 10-40 years have only caused massive environmental damage and linked to serious human right abuses. This is according to Rod Galicha, Sites of Struggles Officer of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), during a forum organised by the Students of Sustainability 2009 (SoS'09) last 9 July 2009 at Monash University.Galicha and Myke Magalang, Executive Director for the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns, travelled all the way from the Philippines to Australia to serve as main speakers of the forum. The forum tackled the widespread mining in the Philippines by multinational mining companies such as Xstrata and BHP Billiton, and the impacts on communities and the environment.

Galicha and Magalang showed video presentations of the impact of mining in the Philippines. It also showed the Philippine government encouraging partnership with international and local mining companies to beef up the economy to the detriment of the country’s rich natural resources. Aside from affecting the pristine water condition in mining areas, residents are also having skin diseases and other health problems from the mine tailing of abandoned mines.

Existing mines, on the other hand, do not really give lasting financial benefit to the residents or the country in general. It even divides the Filipino community as the debate to keep mining operation or not have created two factions. One is against the mining operation while the other group is pro-mining due to reasons such as employment to local residents.

Galicha also added that Filipino indigenous people are also affected by mining operations. He also noted that there are 991 activists' extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo administration. Twenty four environmental activists out of 991 were killed. Eighteen from the 24 killed were anti-mining activists.The video drew interest from the audience and one even asked how Australians can assist in the mining industry in the Philippines. Galicha said it is best that Australians educate themselves about the effects of mining operations of Australian companies and lobby the politicians here to do something about the unsafe practice. “There is no such thing as responsible mining operation,” Galicha admits. He said there are systems in place here in Australia which should be duplicated in the Philippines. Sadly, it will take time before these are implemented in the Philippines as the government is more interested in attracting more international mining investments rather than putting proper procedures to protect the environment and its people.

Galicha and his network for social development called Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA) under the project ATM is opposing the large-scale mining in the Philippines by BHP. He also represents Sibuyanons Against Mining / Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc. (SAM/Sibuyan ISLE) which aims to save the 445-square-kilometre Sibuyan Island’s biodiversity, dubbed as the Galapagos of Asia. The two groups are calling for the government to take action to protect the country’s environment and people as continued mining operations by foreign and local companies will seriously exacerbate the current problems brought about by mining.

The devastating effects of mining in the Philippines, according to Galicha, threaten to wreak havoc to the environment and the Filipinos. Yet the government is turning a blind eye to these effects and instead continues to support current 23 mining projects by giving foreign companies tax-free incentives and even military protection in mining areas.

Galicha showed maps of mining locations highlighting the several mining operations in the country affecting the indigenous ancestral domains and watersheds and areas of environmental concern.

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