KASAMA Vol. 12 No. 2 / April–May–June 1998 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

A Statement of Concern on the Philippine Mining Act of 1995
Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines

"Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell (Num 35:34)."

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

In 1988 the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines issued the Pastoral Letter on Ecology, What is Happening to our Beautiful Land?, where we shared our anxiety over the "attack being made on the natural world" which was "endangering its fruitfulness for future generations".

On the tenth anniversary of that letter, we want to tell you how concerned we are at the rapid expansion of mining operations arising from the Mining Act of 1995.

Principally authored by Senator Francisco Tatad in the Senate and Representative Jerome Paras in the House, passed in Congress with Speaker Jose de Venecia and Senator Edgardo Angara presiding over their respective Chambers, it was signed into law by President Fidel V. Ramos on March 3, 1995.

Through agreements arising from the Mining Act our land is being offered to foreign owned companies with liberal conditions, while our people continue to grow in poverty.

Through the Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements a significant portion of our country is being offered for large scale mining operations.

Our land is rich, yet over-exploitation threatens the future of our people. We must therefore guard our non-renewable resources, like minerals, to ensure sustainable development of our land for the sake of future generations.

We have seen the devastating effects of some of the mining operations: the spillages of mine tailings in Boac, Marinduque, in Sipalay and Hinobaan in Negros Occidental, in Itogon, Benguet, and mudflows in Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte.

The adverse social impact on the affected communities, especially on our indigenous brothers and sisters far outweigh the gains promised by large-scale mining corporations. Our people living in the mountains and along the affected shorelines can no longer avail of the bounty of nature.

Rice-fields are devastated and bays rich with sea foods become health hazards. Implementation of the Mining Act will certainly destroy both environment and people and will lead to national unrest.

In his letter, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, The Holy Father has challenged us to put into practice the ideals of the Jubilee (cf Lev. 25:11, 18-22), namely, to restore harmony in the relationship of people with God, among themselves, and with nature - for the land to regain its fertility.

Hence, we ask for the repeal of Republic Act 7942 known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

We ask the President to recall all approved Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements and other mineral agreements, and to disapprove the pending ones.

We support the petitions of some sectors to dose down the operations of Philex Gold Philippines in Lalab, Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte, TVl Resource Development, Inc., in Canatuan, Tabayo, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Benguet Mining Corporation in Itogon, Benguet, Philex Gold Philippines in Hinobaan, Negros Occidental, and Maricalum Copper Mines in Sipalay, Negros Occidental.

We support the stand of those who oppose the presence of Rio Tinto, the British-Australian mining company, in Zamboanga del Sur. Various Bishops have already written to President Ramos on this concern of ours.

But the President is not willing to do anything or can do almost nothing if we, the people do not show our concern. So we feel this is part of our task as Christian Shepherds to call your attention to this grave danger to our people for awareness and action.

We ask them to support the initiatives to have the Mining Act of 1995 repealed.

We ask that God's injunction to us through our first parents to cultivate and care for the earth (cf. Genesis 2,15) be faithfully followed.

Yet even our best efforts will come to nothing without the help of God, our Creator. We invoke upon you the grace of the Holy Spirit who renews the face of the earth (Psalm 104,30).

With gratitude in our hearts we ask the intercession of Mary the Mother of Jesus and our Mother to obtain for us a renewed land and a converted people.

For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines —

Oscar V. Crus, D. D., Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, President, CBCP

February 28, 1998