Bishops oppose mining

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — At least 200 bishops and priests in Mindanao have agreed to have one voice in their fight against all forms of mining operations.

In a joint statement, they urged the faithful to strengthen their resolve in the campaign against mining operations in their area. Those who signed the statement included Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao and Bishop Jose Manguiran of Dipolog City.

The Catholic leaders enjoined the people’s support and understanding in the battle against large-scale mining and the blatant exploitation of tribal people.

“The Church, business and other sectors should be more conscious of their respective social responsibility and together direct their activities toward the common good and the attainment of sustainable development,” they said.

They assailed the government’s promotion of “sustainable mining.”

They urged the Arroyo administration to focus on agriculture as a source of livelihood saying it is less destructive and far more productive than mining that the government can resort to in its effort to alleviate poverty.

Despite the fact that the Philippines is an agricultural region with fertile lands and seas and with abundant marine resources, the country remains poor and the people are deprived of food and other necessities, the bishops said.

The government should also redirect its agenda to food security and develop an agricultural and aqua-based economy instead of focusing on highly-extractive industry like mining, they said.

In their statement, the Church leaders said that as long as people are one in their struggle, they can win the battle against mining.

Mindanao is home to Mt. Diwalwal, an 8,000 hectare mother lode of gold and other precious metals.

In central Mindanao alone, mining exploration permit applications rose 33 times last year, which is attributed to global demand for iron, nickel and copper, the statement said.

Prior to the 33 applications filed last year, only one company applied for exploration permit in 2006 covering 8-hectares straddling the towns of Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

In 2005, only one company applied for exploration permit, covering 16,536 hectares in the municipalities of Kiamba and Maitum in Sarangani and Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau earlier said that $879-million in fresh capital had been fueling new mine projects since 2004.

The government has anticipated another $9.5-billion to finance major operations between 2008 and 2010.

But the bishops and priests said they understand the government’s desire to reduce poverty, but they do not understand “why lives and properties have to be sacrificed in the process.”

“We do not subscribe to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’s reference to sustainable mining, and we believe that mining can never be sustainable,” they said.