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Philippine Church condemns govt for lifting mining ban

Ending nine-year moratorium on new mine deals, permits will have 'devastating effect on marginalized communities'

Philippine Church condemns govt for lifting mining ban

Church groups join calls for a stop to destructive mining, especially in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao. (Photo: UCA News)

The Catholic Church’s social arm and several bishops have condemned Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to lift a nine-year moratorium on new mining deals, saying the move will likely have a catastrophic effect on poor and marginalized communities.

The moratorium was signed in 2012 by former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino for government authorities to check and renegotiate contracts with mining firms in cases of environmental abuse.

It also provided breathing space for the environment to regenerate flora and fauna.

“The decision will only favor business interests, not the people, especially poor and marginalized communities. The government has once again chosen vested interests and profit over suffering people and the ecology,” Caritas chief Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo of Kidapawan said in a statement at the weekend.

Bishop Bagaforo said the government’s move was motivated by selfish desire rather than the common good.

“The government must reconsider lifting the mining moratorium. We are in the countryside, and we are seeking no economic improvement in the lives of the people from mining,” he said.

The magnetite mining is projected to exacerbate flooding and cause massive erosion in coastal and near shore areas, which might again cause loss of lives

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said the Philippines is expecting about US$4 billion in capital investments from three major mining projects.

He also said new mining projects are also expected to generate $800 million in local taxes and $400 million worth of social development projects.

“Indigenous groups are also expected to benefit with around 15 billion pesos [$310,000] in royalties expected to be collected from the major mining projects,” he told the Business World newspaper.

Philippine bishops, however, were not convinced.

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Archbishop Ricardo Baccay of Tuguegarao and retired SorsogonBishop Arturo Bastes said mining was anti-poor and anti-environment.

Archbishop Baccay said offshore mining had brought floods in his diocese in Cagayan province every time a typhoon struck the region.

“The magnetite mining is projected to exacerbate flooding and cause massive erosion in coastal and near shore areas, which might again cause loss of lives,” he said.

Bishop Bastes said he was very disappointed by Duterte’s decision.

“I was once chairman of the Rapu-Rapu Mining Fact Finding Commission, a mining corporation in the Bicol region, which investigated the terrible damage the Lafayette Mining Corporation has done to Rapu-rapu island and the marine environment … the adverse effects of mining are undeniable,” Bishop Bastes told UCA News.

“The Duterte administration is so subservient to foreign corporations, especially to the Chinese, to the destruction of our beautiful land. What Filipinos get from mining is a measly amount of money only to be pocketed by corrupt government officials. Filipinos are pitiful under the corrupt Duterte administration.”

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