Protesters picket Asia-Pacific mining conference in Philippines

Jun. 05, 2007

MANILA – A wide spectrum of sectors and organizations affiliated with Defend Patrimony alliance today protested against the wanton extraction and plunder of the Philippine’s mineral reserves as it challenged industry players to uphold a mining policy that would benefit the people foremost.

Defend Patrimony and its allied organizations today held a rally at the site of the 7th Asia-Pacific Mining Conference and Exhibit sponsored by the Asean Federation of Mining Associations (AFMA) and the Philippine Chamber of Mines at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City.

Protesters surrounded the hotel’s main entrance and held a program near the park fronting the venue, decrying the increase of foreign mining operations in the Philippines under the Arroyo administration.

“AFMA leaders should not flaunt about how high the Philippine’s metal export earnings are from its gold, nickel, copper, and silver exports to other mineral-hungry countries. Neither should they boast of how t he Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Laos could become “the mineral resource bloc of the whole Asia-Pacific region,” geologist and Defend Patrimony Spokesperson Trixie Concepcion said.

Concepcion called attention to the rapid rate of mineral extraction by foreign firms–from $800 million in 2005 and $1.3 billion in 2006 and an expected $2 billion for 2007.

“These only indicate that our countries’ natural resources and mineral reserves are being extracted and permanently depleted by foreign mining giants at a much faster rate than before. These leaders are clearly supporting a policy of mining for profit, and not for the people,” Concepcion continued.

Environmental activists are also alarmed over the entry of more foreign mining giants in the country.

“The entry of the world’s largest mining transnational corporations (TNCs) into the Philippines with the full backing of the Arroyo administration will bring this country into a state of calamity and will unleash an environmental tsunami that would engulf the people in a tide of unparalleled hardship ,” Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) National Coordinator Clemente Bautista said.

“Many of these mining giants encouraged by the government to invest in the Philippines-such as BHP Billiton and Anglo-American-are notorious in other countries for their role in grave environmental disasters, spotty human rights records, and anti-labor histories ,” he said.

“BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company which is eyeing a multi-million dollar nickel project in Pujada, Davao Oriental, faces a $4 billion class suit by the people of Papua New Guinea. For two decades, it dumped 80,000 tons of mine tailings filled with toxic heavy metals such as lead directly into the Fly and Ok Tedi rivers, ruining the livelihoods of the peopl, poisoning forests, and contaminating river systems. Anglo-American, the fourth largest mining company in the world, paid its South African laborers the world’s lowest wages and was named as one of the main toxic lead polluters in North America. Now, it has numerous mining operations in the Cordillera and Mindanao, some of which have been even classified by the government as priority projects,” Bautista continued.

“We do not want this to happen in the Philippines. Certainly, we do not want these foreign mining giants to unleash its greed for profit and replicate the same human rights violations, anti-labor practices, health hazards, and environmental degradation here,” he said.

Concepcion challenged the AFMA participants to consider and uphold a People’s Mining Policy

“We are not anti-mining,” Concepcion clarified, “we believe that mining can be made sustainable if pursued at a much balanced scale in contrast to the present practice of all-out mineral extraction, waste generation, and plunder under Arroyo’s mining liberalization program “.

“Mining has a fundamental role in national industrialization, it can be responsibly utilized for the people’s welfare: to meet the needs of hospitals and schools, homes and industries. Mining has its rightful place in a society where governance and science and technology is for the people, and not for corporate interests,” Concepcion continued.

“Unfortunately, the kind of mining that the Arroyo administration and the AFMA is promoting will never serve the interests of the nation, nor of the majority of the toiling masses who do care for our lands and resources because they know that this is the only source of life for the people,” Concepcion said. ###

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