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Time Capsule: On church and mining


MINING -- I read former NEDA chief Ciel Habito saying that we should stop using the labels  "pro mining” and "anti mining" simply because we totally pit one against the other when, in fact, there is an "in between" or a middle ground. Also, we remove the emotionalism that has clearly creeped into the discourse. Ciel's advice:  call them mining “proponents” and “critics”.

In   the meantime the debate rages. I attended the latest forum in Makati last week with the two sectors in a public showdown.  Gina Lopez (of ABS CBN, Bantay Kalikasan, Save Palawan movement, etc) led the antis while tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan (of PLDT, Smart, Philex, First Pacific, Davao Doctors, etc) led the pros in a sizzling exchange.

Truth to tell, we cannot avoid the emotionalism.

ATENEO DE DAVAO -- The entry of Ateneo de Davao University officially as an institution in the mining discourse exclusively in the "critics" corner raised some eyebrows. Not that it was unexpected. But the way new rector, Fr.  Joel Tabora, SJ did it raised some hackles. We understand and respect his personal advocacies and perhaps this is shared by many Ateneans. But to "use" the institution, which prides on so - called liberal education,  academic freedom, and producing "men for others" , a place for the  inter play of all ideas and sides , to become an exclusive hub for the "critics" is a big departure from those expectations. Many may not know this but the recent Ateneo forum barred the "pros" at the gates and even physically ejected from the hall those who were not of like mind but who were able to initially enter the Ateneo venue. Just plain bigotry! I still have to check if Fr. Tabora got clearance from his board of trustees for this. I recall I was in that same board many years ago and I knew that publicly  bringing the whole  institution  into a similar  position needed some prior consensus or approval, just to confirm or at the very least, a show of courtesy to that collegial body – unless of course the Jesuits changed the rules since I left.

And worse, unrepentant, the rector seemed to have solicited (or perhaps encouraged) some Ateneo alumni to publish signed manifestations of support for what he unilaterally did. I just read one today in a national daily. Bless my former classmates (batch '67) for they truly spoke their mind and being true and consistent with their advocacies when they generously lent their names to the manifesto.  But this would not correct a wrong.

CONSISTENCY? -- Those who are "dyed in the wool"  anti mining or against mining at all cost including those who cry "total stop to mining" must also show  consistency or personal integrity.  A participant in the last mining forum said they should not only forsake "mining" but do away with everything that comes out of it. Is this possible or realistic? I don't think so. Otherwise, churches and bishops and the extreme antis will have to do away with metal crucifixes, rosaries, chalices, cars, mobile phones, spoons, etc, etc almost everything -- even the microphone they use in denouncing mining per Mr. Pangilinan. Then someone said, why not shift to plastic! But again plastic comes from mining of gas and oil, doesn't it?

One anti mining proposition: it's ok to use mined products provided we do not mine them in our land.    Tycoon Manny Pangilinan thinks this is crazy and unrealistic. Not only will we have to deal with higher costs from imports. But it's irresponsible to deprive the people with the wealth and resources God has provided for them waiting to be mined and used.  And there are proven ways to mitigate environmental costs. Business consultant Peter Wallace said, the proposition is "unchristian" (simple opportunism is better) because you just want to enjoy and let others in other places bear the concomitant “costs”.

SOLUTION -- The solution is not to totally stop mining but to help mitigate the environmental and human costs and derive more benefits for all, most especially for those who are in remote areas, the unforgottens, those usually unreached by government and even by the church. Since extractive mining uses up un-replenishable resources, it must also create human wealth and other resource beneficial to the next generation. Then taking care of its footprints, residues and wastes so they do not harm the environment and our children's children.

Yes, let's hit hard those who destroy our environment and harm our people, especially the small scale and even the irresponsible big scale miners. But spare those who comply with the law and who bring benefits to all of us.

My unsolicited advice to bishops, priests and "antis": let's all moderate our angst ! Or we go back to the Dark Ages!


By Jess G. Dureza

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