Anti-mining advocates launch fresh bid for alternative mining law

Civil society network Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) today launched a series of mobilizations and other actions this week to push for the passage of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill.

A highlight of their solidarity week of actions, set to coincide with an international mining conference, will be Senator Risa Hontiveros' filing of the AMMB in the Senate on Thursday.

Hontiveros, who led the filing of a 2013 petition to the Supreme Court which challenged the constitutionality of the 1995 Mining Act, said she supports ATM's call to suspend all mining operations in the country and comprehensively review all existing mining applications.

"I also support the call for a thorough investigation on the economic benefits of mining. Once and for all, let the facts speak for themselves if the mining industry truly serves the strategic interests and welfare of our nation," she added.

The alternative mining bill also provides stronger social and environmental safeguards compared to the current mining policy, said Ifugao representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat, who co-filed it last June 30 with Agusan Del Norte's first district Rep. Lawrence Fortun as House Bill No. 113.

"In the last four years alone, at least four major disasters related to mining occurred and irreparably damaged various ecosystems," Baguilat said. "Mining sites likewise continue to invite conflict, violence and human rights violations."

Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao and Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin have also filed their versions of the AMMB in the Lower House.

ATM National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera said they welcome the Duterte administration's crackdown on mining firms through the ongoing mining audit. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez has called for a review of the Mining Act, calling it an "unfair" law. President Rodrigo Duterte has also remarked that the Philippines can and will survive without the mining industry.

"Our alliance welcomes the mining audit, a standing commitment from the previous administration, even as we recognize its limitations. The mining industry must uphold not just the strictest environmental standards but also the rights of mining-affected communities and the rest of the Filipino people," he said.

Other speakers in the press event were Judy Pasimio of Purple Action for Indigenous Women's Rights (LILAK), Governor Carlos Padilla of Nueva Vizcaya, and Fr. Edu Gariguez of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, who all highlighted the different mining issues of affected communities and the need to address them.

Gov. Padilla, who has championed the AMMB even in his time in the House of Representatives, said: "Repealing the Mining Act of 1995 is imperative. The current policy is flawed, exploitative and already outdated."

Garganera also warned against the use of charter change to "open the gates for destructive and extractive industries, primarily mining."

Source: Philippine Information Agency