Friday, June 8, 2012

Protesters irked by Paje’s blank remarks on proposed new mining bill

Manila – When hundreds of protesters decrying the ill effects of mining reached DENR office in Quezon City on June 5 for the World Environment Day, policemen armed with riot shields immediately roamed around the area and DENR guards securely closed the gates. Inside DENR office the situation was unexpectedly calm; some of the staff was already prepared to give the demonstrators a warm welcome for a public dialogue with Secretary Ramon Paje. After the last note from the secretary and the catered meal was served, the group – however - went home still disappointed.
“We want him to stand for the protection of environment and he should know exactly that it is impossible to do with our current mining policy,” said Gerry Arances, AMMB Coordinator of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center. LRC is the lead convener of SOS-Yamang Bayan Network.
“We asked very specific questions on the terrible impacts of mining, environmental degradation biodiversity loss, human rights violation and more, and yet what do we get? An enumeration of DENR accomplishments. Sure that may be okay, but the right thing he can do now is to support the passage of Alternative Mineral Management Bill (AMMB),” Arances added.
Paje’s address
Sec. Paje started with greetings the protesters, “Happy World Environment Day” and then lamented his personal concerns and itemized DENR accomplishments in his time.
The secretary believed that it is just right for them to be criticized by civil society groups so that they will know if they are still doing the right thing. “With you (to the protesters, CSOs) around you keep us on our toes,” Paje added.
Paje also mentioned that he discussed in confidence with some non-government organization on pressing environmental concerns, most especially on his decision for the total log ban.
But Paje mourned that sometimes, civil society groups left him after their agreements. “Ang hiling ko lang, kung tama ang ginagawa namin, samahan niyo kami,” he added. (My request is, support us when we are doing the right thing).
On his presentation, Paje mentioned that he has not approved new Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA).
The real issue
The group redirected the discussion to assert the call for a new mining policy.
“I am sorry Mr. Secretary, but we cannot greet you happy World Environment Day, because of the issues we just presented to you,” said Judy Pasimio, one of the spokespersons of SOS-Yamang Bayan Network.
Pasimio highlighted that although the secretary did not approve new MPSA, he also at the same has not cancelled existing contracts of mining companies especially those with grave violations of the law.
“Nariyan ang Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. na mismong Commission on Human Rights (CHR) ang nagbigay ng rekomendasyon na bawiin ng pamahalaan ang FTAA (Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement) nito dahil sa mga paglabag ng karapatang pantao sa mga Ifugaos ng Barangay Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.” Pasimio explained. (There is Oceana Gold Philippines Inc. which the Commission on Human Rights had given recommendations to the government to pull-out its FTAA because of its violations to the rights of the Ifugaos in Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya)
In the end, Pasimio said that SOS-Yamang Bayan Network was disappointed on Paje’s lack of commitment to support the AMMB. “We find his remarks wanting, so much so that at the end of the dialogue, we still ask him – Ganun na lang ba ‘yun?” Pasimio added.
Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina also mentioned that although they were impressed on the preparation of DENR for the dialogue, they remained unshaken with their call to make DENR and the mining industry accountable to the long list of ill effects of mining.
“We were thankful for the food, the arrangement in the session hall and the brewed coffee during the dialogue – we did not ask for it. We are hoping that Paje will give us what we are asking, his support for the new mining bill,” Garganera added.
On his last remarks, Paje responded to the repeated question of the group, “ganun na lang ba ‘yun?” saying, “para sa akin, hindi dapat ganun na lang yun?” With no clear indication of his commitment to support the AMMB, protesters were still asking, “ganun na lang ba ‘yun?” (30)
The SOS-Yamang Bayan Network is a national, multi-sectoral movement composed of individual advocates, mining-affected communities, national peoples’ alliances, environmental organizations and networks, church-based organizations, human rights organizations, national NGOs, sectoral organizations from the indigenous peoples, youth, women, farmers, Congressional representatives, leaders and personalities advocating for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and the enactment of a new minerals management bill.

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