Philippine church leaders join movement against big mining firms

By Maurice Malanes
Posted Dec 15, 2011

[Ecumenical News International, Baguio City, Philippines] Leaders from Philippine Roman Catholic and Protestant groups have joined non-government and indigenous peoples’ organizations in a renewed campaign against big mining firms.

“The campaign against large-scale mining is also a campaign against greed,” the Rev. Eduardo Solang, a retired priest of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, told ENInews on Dec. 14.

Solang was among 150 delegates to a Dec. 13-15 mining and human rights summit convened in the northern Philippine city of Baguio by the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance and the Ecumenical Bishops Forum.

According to organizers, the summit was aimed “to sum up the economic, social, cultural, environmental and human rights impacts of the ongoing destructive large-scale mining operations in affected communities based on shared experiences.”

During the summit, the Ibon Foundation, an independent research organization, listed 28 large-scale metallic mines nationwide, mostly owned by transnational firms, engaged in extracting gold, silver, copper, nickel, chromite and zinc.

It also reported 2,358 mines that extract non-metallic elements such as sand, gravel and cement.

While they are not against mining per se, church representatives, non-government organizations, and indigenous peoples favor small-scale mining. “Big-scale mining operations only concentrate the wealth from minerals in a few hands at the expense of a damaged environment, which communities inherit,” said Solang.

Asserting the church’s role in “taking care of God’s creation,” the Rev. Norman Taynan of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines also supported the campaign of indigenous peoples for “smaller, environment-friendly, and community-managed” mining initiatives.

The government’s Environmental Management Bureau estimated in 2008 more than 300,000 small-scale miners, who reportedly include jobless professionals and school dropouts.

But small-scale miners’ organizations have bewailed a lack of government support and government bias for big-scale mining operations. They cite incentives for big-scale mining firms such as tax holidays and full repatriation of profits to their mother companies overseas.

Indigenous communities have also been seeking the help of their church leaders to help defend them from the alleged manipulations of big mining firms in seeking the community’s “free and prior informed consent” before a mining project is allowed, said Sister Minerva Caampued of the Franciscan Apostolic Sisters in Cagayan province.

Some companies allegedly offer “allowances” to local officials and some tribal leaders and “scholarships” for children of some community members. “For us to be effective in helping inform and educate our parishioners against this manipulation, we also must be educated ourselves on the free and prior informed consent process,” said Bishop Vermillion Tagalog of the Philippine Independent Church.


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Comments (2)

  1. Correction please. The summit was convened primarily by the Kaduami-Regional Development Center for Northern Luzon, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, the Save the Valley, Serve the People Environmental Alliance, the Solidarity of Peasant Agaisnt Exploitation in Ilocos Region,and the Isabela Ecumenical Council. The Ecumenical Bishops Forum came in as part of conveners 2 weeks after the concept and program has been finalized. Yours truly is the author of the program concept, and the resource speaker on Northern Luzon Mining and Human Rights Situation and Disaster impacts, the Executive Director of Kaduami and elected as convener of the Amianan Salakniban -the Northern Luzon Network for Environmental Defense.

  2. One of the convenors i failed to mention is the Save the Abra River Movement. The summit was co sponsored by the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights, the Foundation for Philippine Environment, the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera, the Cordillera Women’s Education and Action Research Center, and the Montanosa Resource and Development Center. We also value the contribution of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum for Northern Luzon. The summit had the following prime movers: the Danggayan peasant alliance of Cagayan Valley, the APIT-TAKO – the alliance of peasants in the Cordillera homeland, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, the Innabuyog-Gabriela women’s alliance in Cordillera and Bantay Amianan- an environmental support group for Northern Luzon based in Manila.

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