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Philippine Jesuit presses for alternative mining policy

Environment minister vows to review law that 'allows foreigners to strip country of natural resources'

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

ucanews.com reporter, Manila

Published: August 08, 2016 09:45 AM GMT

Updated: August 08, 2016 09:46 AM GMT

Philippine Jesuit presses for alternative mining policy

Father Joel Tabora SJ, president of the Ateneo de Davao University, urges the government to implement an alternative mining policy. (Photo courtesy of Ateneo de Davao University)

A leading Filipino Jesuit priest has urged the Philippine government to craft a mining policy that is favorable to the people, saying the country's existing mining law favors foreigners.

"The Philippine Mining Act is in my opinion, treason," said Jesuit Father Joel Tabora, president of the Ateneo de Davao University, a Jesuit-run institution.

Addressing a forum on mining at the university last week the priest said it is time for the government to change the law because it "allows foreigners to come in and take our minerals away fully."

"What happens ... is somebody goes in and digs for the treasure and pays the government an excise tax for the digging activity ... and when the treasure comes out that person brings the treasure away," said Father Tabora.

Environment Secretary Regina Lopez vowed to review the law. The minister admitted that benefits and revenue from mining cannot compensate for the destruction it caused to the environment.

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Lopez, a known anti-mining advocate and environmental activist, as head the Department of Environment and Natural Resources last month.

Lopez vowed to immediately end illegal logging and mining activities in the country. 

"We will not allow any illegal activities that adversely affect the lives of the people," she said after announcing that an agreement has been signed by the police and the military to go after illegal mining and logging activities.

Lopez said she already asked the military to withdraw troops who are used in guarding private mining facilities.

Father Tabora praised the announcement, saying that mining companies have been using soldiers "to disturb ancestral domains of indigenous people." 

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The priest said mining is the "key problem" prolonging the communist insurgency in the country.

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