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Activists dismiss new mining policy

Executive order 'makes little change' to mining regulations

Activists dismiss new mining policy
Environmental activists march to the presidential palace to protest the new mining policy of the government (Photo by Rene Sandajan) reporters, Manila

July 10, 2012

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An executive order on mining released yesterday failed to appease environmental activists, who continue to push for the scrapping of the country's mining law. The new policy freezes the issuance of new mining permits but allows the operation of existing mines in an attempt to spur development in mining areas. “At best, the [executive order] is a Band-Aid attempt to solve the already festering, rotting and gaping wounds caused by the liberalization of the mining industry," said Frances Quimpo, secretary general of the Kalikasan environmental party. He said the new policy engages in "greenwashing" to justify more profit-taking by foreign and large-scale miners and that the order will allow corporations unhampered access to the country’s vast mineral wealth in exchange for government revenue. There are around 30 mining companies operating in the country, and they account for about 6 percent of the country's total exports. The government said the order is expected to boost revenues through an increase in fees but that no new mining contracts will be approved by the government until revenue-sharing agreements and mechanisms have been put in place. The policy also directs government agencies to carry out the "full enforcement" of environmental standards and to mete out appropriate sanctions to violators. But some said the new policy is no different from existing regulations. "The policy is actually the same, if not worse, than the other mining polices, because everything will be dictated by the national government,"  Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said in a statement. He said the provisions of the executive order are "sympathetic" to the mining firms, instead of to the environment. Catholic bishops have been lobbying Congress for the passage of a “pro-people” mining law since last year. The proposed People’s Mining Act of 2011 was designed to replace the Mining Act of 1995, which environmental groups described as an instrument used to liberalize foreign access and control of the mining industry. Father Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the Social Action Secretariat of the bishops’ conference, said 41 representatives and four senators have already signified support for the measure. The Philippine Congress has 23 senators and 285 members of the House of Representatives. Fr. Gariguez said 72 bishops have also signed a position paper endorsing the proposed law. “The support that we got from the bishops will be a big help in convincing our lawmakers,” he said. Related reports Bishops step up attack on Philippines mining
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