Saturday, 07 January 2012 11:26
Media Statement - Panalipdan
The landslide in the small-scale mining area of Pantukan, Compostela Valley province has now led to the deaths of 66 individuals, mostly small scale miners and their family members. Grief and uncertainty continues to grip the communities as more than 100 people remain missing to date.
This tragedy is a combined result of the abject neglect of the government in the management of mining areas, rising poverty, and lack of livelihood opportunities in the countryside.
Like the previous administrations, the Aquino administration has been quick to blame the small-scale miners for disasters that occur in their communities. Small-scale miners are singled out as culprits whose practices destroy the environment. Small-scale mining (SSM) operations have been ongoing for the past 30 years in Pantukan, one of the country’s sources of mineral reserves for export. Yet throughout this whole period, the government has not made any programs to manage the small-scale mining sector, rehabilitate geologically-critical areas, and provide sustainable and safer means of livelihood opportunities for the people.
Amidst the ineptitude and apathy in addressing the plight of the SSM, the government has enjoyed billions of reserves from SSM revenues. In 2011, the gross production value in SSM areas amounted to Php26.6 billion.
The people have long aired their intensifying demands to stop unbridled plunder under mining liberalization, especially large-scale foreign mining firms. But President Aquino and his administration instead pursued economic plans to increase by four-fold foreign mining investments, targetting an additional Php 18 billion in foreign investments.
Locally, mining exploration and operation permits have been awarded to more foreign firms. Pantukan, for instance, is host to Russel Mines and Minerals, a US-based mining company conducting open-pit mining. Diwalwal has long been targeted for takeover by large-scale and foreign funded corporations. Xstrata, one of the three biggest mining corporations in the country, has expanded its operation from Surigao to Davao del Sur. In Davao City, Talaingod and Bukidnon, four mining permits threaten the sustainability of the Pantaron Mountain ranges.
Amidst the glaring liberalization of the country’s mining industry, the Aquino administration lacks a genuinely sustainable program for national development and has failed to uplift the plight of the people, particularly the small scale miners and the indigenous peoples.
Instead, the government continues its great dependence on the exportation of raw materials and other natural resources. The national economy and the people continue to suffer from a bankrupt and poverty-riddled economy marked with the decreasing availability of agricultural lands for farming.
Disasters linked to mining, logging, dams and other destructive projects have highlighted the issue of corporate greed which is facilitated and emboldened by anti-people and pro-capitalist laws and policies, such as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
The Pantukan landslides follow in the wake of the Cagayan de Oro and Iligan tragedies, which were caused by massive logging, climate crisis, a miserable disaster prevention program, flawed policies, and corruption. We are called to respond to a “gold challenge”: to reverse the impacts of climate change and massive environmental degradation through the people's collective struggle against corporate greed, capitalist plunder and militarist attacks on the people's civil and political rights.
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