By Margaux Ortiz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:05:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Climate change and irresponsible mining in the country could prove to be a deadly combination in coming years, a legal policy research and advocacy organization said on Tuesday.

Members of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) said miners’ inability to predict the weather and amount of rainfall could prevent them from implementing safety measures properly.

“These mining companies say they are able to contain mining toxic wastes in what they call tilling ponds or dams,” Ronald Gregorio, LRC campaigns paralegal, said in an activity held in Quezon City in observance of the Anti-Mining Solidarity Week.

However, the tilling ponds and dams — where hazardous wastes such as mercury and cyanide are dumped — are known to spill over and pollute the surrounding land or watershed whenever the miners miscalculate the amount of rainfall.

“Climate change has blurred the divide between summer and the rainy season. Summer now does not mean that there would be no rains or even typhoons,” Gregorio said.

He added that mining might not be suitable for a disaster-prone country such as the Philippines.

“Typhoons and earthquakes would only worsen the situation, with the consequent spillage of toxic wastes leading to death of biodiversity and food scarcity,” Gregorio said.

He added that the number of mining companies operating in the Philippines only painted a bleaker picture for the environment, especially with an undermanned Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Gregorio likened the DENR to the Bureau of Food and Drugs, which he said lacks the capacity to monitor all dairy products in the country amid the melamine scare.

“With so many mining corporations operating in the country, it is impossible for the DENR to monitor them all,” he said.

LRC documents show 30 companies with exploration permits in the country and 262 companies with mineral production sharing agreements.

He called the government’s mining revitalization program “reckless and unfair to land owners, especially farmers.”

“The government’s mining policies do not jive with the people’s rights,” LRC’s Ana Muhi stressed.

She said “these policies do not take into consideration human rights, biodiversity, water, agricultural, displacement and starvation costs.”

Gregorio said the group has been planning to push for an alternative mining bill, which would stipulate that the industry should have a link with “downstream industries.”

“This means the creation of local industries such as metal processing and machinery plants that would turn the minerals into finished products without exporting them,” Gregorio said.

He added the creation of such industries would regulate the extraction of minerals and prevent the use of toxic chemicals such as mercury and cyanide.

“There would be no use for such destructive chemicals because the miners would not be pressured to sell the minerals for a higher rate abroad,” Gregorio said.

“The Philippine Mining Act should be scrapped and replaced with a more patriotic law,” he said. (PDI)

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