Filipino bishops oppose mining that harms people and the environment

Manila (AsiaNews) – Filipino bishops are on the side of the poorest classes of the population who are threatened by unregulated mining activities, this according to an official letter that Mgr Fernando Capalla, Archbishop of Davao and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), sent to Filipino President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The letter comes in response to President Arroyo's decision to offer incentives to foreign companies willing to invest in the country's mining sector. For the President developing Filipino mines is an important step to alleviate the poverty that afflicts the country.

Ms Arroyo was one of the original backers of the Mining Act of 1995, a law intended to increase mining activities in the country. However, a bill was recently tabled in the Filipino Senate to abrogate the law in order to stop further environmental degradation due to mining activities.

In his letter, Archbishop Capalla acknowledged that it would be "a waste not to use the Philippines' rich natural resources for the benefit of the Filipinos, but it [would be] a greater waste to misuse and abuse this natural wealth. [Therefore,] the government should consider the ecological and social costs accompanying the economic bonanza from mining" before taking any initiative.

Mgr Jose Manguiran, Bishop of Dipolog, agrees. Unregulated mining activities are bound to "create unrest among the poorest, indigenous, communities," and most untapped mineral riches are still found in areas inhabited by indigenous people like the Central Cordillera of Luzon Island.

For Archbishop Capalla, President Arroyo must take into consideration the reports by the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace, as well as the Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

Their reports trace the source of harm to unscrupulous mining and to judicial and executive decisions that were either violated or misinterpreted.
According to the Archbishop of Davao and the two commissions, foreign mining companies should be placed under closer scrutiny and forced to accept minimal standards about workers' rights and unionisation as well as greater corporate and business transparency.

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