DAVAO CITY – An alliance of Mindanao indigenous people commended the city council here for passing the ordinance prohibiting mining in Davao City.

In an open letter on Tuesday, Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran), an alliance of 18 ethnolinguistic groups, said the Ordinance Closing Off the City of Davao to Mining Operations “is another landmark legislation”.

According to records from environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE), Davao joins 12 provincial and city governments that have already declared ban on large-scale mining in their areas which includes Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Puerto Princesa City, Marinduque, Romblon, Guimaras, Capiz, Albay, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Western Samar and Negros Occidental.

“We congratulate the people of Davao City especially those who were in the frontline of the protest movement against the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 for this hard-earned victory against an anti-people, anti-environment mining law,” Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of Kalumaran said.

Ogan said they also commend the leadership of Vice-Mayor Paolo Duterte and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte “who has given teeth to the newest pro-people and environment-responsive legislation by warning  mining companies.”

Duterte during his weekly program on Sunday said even without the ordinance he will never allow mining operations in the city

“Di talaga ako papayag (I will never allow it),” Duterte said.

Kalumaran said mining “has only (fueled) violence in the communities and brought unspeakable destruction to the environment.”

“The so-called benefits of mining are just but myths created by those who want to control the exploitation and utilization of our natural resources,” it said.

Environmental groups also hailed the ordinance as a “people’s victory”.

“The Davao City Mining Ban is the latest local opposition to the national government’s continuing large-scale mining offensive at the policy level. It is a testament to the people’s rejection of top-down pro-big mining policy impositions such as Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s Executive Order 79, which sought to override local opposition. We have to be watchful, as EO 79 will most likely be cited to strike down this people’s victory,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan-PNE.

Kalikasan said the policy is expected to affect a number of mining companies attempting to enter possible rich mineral deposits in the city. Based on Mines and Geosciences Bureau, there are at least two known mine exploration projects in the city, namely the Alberto Mining Corp. which covers 8100.00 hectares in Paquibato District, and the application of Pensons Mining Corp. which covers 8100.00 in Malabog, Calinan District. MRC Allied, a mining company owned by businessman Bitanga and Lucio Tan Jr., is also known to be interested in exploring Paquibato, it said.

Kalumaran believes that there will be political pressures from Malacaῆang and mining companies to strike down the mining ban ordinance.

“(President Benigno Aquino) will invoke EO 79 to subvert local autonomy; (Alberto Mining Corp.) and (Pensons Mining Corp.) will surely mobilize their lobby machineries. These two US-based mining companies are eyeing to explore some 17,000 hectares in Paquibato District, which is home to indigenous peoples,” Ogan said.

Meanwhile, Prof. Kim Gargar, spokesperson of local environmental network Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao said the ordinance fines “are too miniscule to effectively discourage violators.”

Section 7 of the Ordinance states that “(a)ny person found guilty of violating any provision of this Ordinance shall be punished with imprisonment of not exceeding one (1) year or a fine of not more than Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) only or both in the discretion of the court, without prejudice to the filing of the appropriate administrative , civil or criminal action.”

“From this point on, we must continue advocating for the passage of the People’s Mining Bill in Congress for the long-term reorientation of the entire mining industry towards the sustainable path of national industrialization,” said Gargar.

Kalumaran said they are expecting the city government here to stand firm in its conviction “to uphold the people’s constitutional right for a balanced and healthful ecology.”

“We are also urging the people of Davao to continue our vigilance and defend this hard-earned victory. Let us not allow self-serving policy imposition to clip the power of the people to determine their appropriate local economic development,” it said.

Nine city councilors voted to approve the ordinance, while two voted in the negative and five abstained. (davaotoday.com)

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