A CALL FOR THE PASSAGE OF ALTERNATIVE MINERALS MANAGEMENT BILL (AMMB)Mining or extractive industry, more often than not, as experienced in thePhilippines, can be destructive to communities and the environment. The scale ofmining operation normally involves large tracks of land, mostly located in theenvironmentally fragile forest-ecosystems. With the government’s policydirection of liberalizing the mining industry, applications of the transnationalcorporations came pouring in, targeting mineral rich area mostly located in themountainous part of the country inhabited by the indigenous communities. Eventhe agricultural, tourism, biodiversity, and watershed areas are not spared.The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines took the position that “thepromised economic benefits of mining by these transnational corporations areoutweighed by the dislocation of communities especially among our indigenousbrothers and sisters, the risks to health and livelihood and massiveenvironmental damage.” (CBCP, A Statement on Mining Issues and Concerns,January 29, 2006).The country faces more and more environmental problems because of thegovernment’s liberal policies on extractive operations - “The government miningpolicy is offering our lands to foreigners with liberal conditions while our peoplecontinue to grow in poverty. We stated that the adverse social impact on theaffected communities far outweigh the gains promised by mining Trans-NationalCorporations (TNCs)” (CBCP, A Statement on Mining Issues and Concerns, January29, 2006).The Mining Act of 1995, which lays down the policy for the government’s near-fanatical campaign to attract foreign investors to invest in mining distorts thegoal of genuine development. By single-mindedly pursuing the entry of foreigninvestments, it failed to weigh the greater consideration in the equation - thehuman and ecosystems well-being, the human rights of the indigenous peoplesand the local communities, food security, local autonomy and the ecologicalintegrity of our country.Together with experts and other civil society organizations, the Churchrecognized that the flaw is in the government policy framework which regardsthe natural resources as something to be exploited unlimitedly rather than acrucial reserve to be sustained and protected in order to sustain the ecologicalbalance and sustainability for all.As in its previous pastoral statement, we appeal to change the government’smining policy and we reiterate the call for the repeal of Mining Act of 1995 on thepremise that: “the Mining Act destroys life. The right to life of people isinseparable from their right to sources of food and livelihood. Allowing theinterests of big mining corporations to prevail over people’s right to thesesources amounts to violating their right to life. Furthermore, mining threatenspeople’s health and environmental safety through the wanton dumping of wasteand tailings in rivers and seas” (CBCP, A Statement on Mining Issues and Concerns,January 29, 2006).
The Church, together with the civil society advocates and mining affectedcommunities, call for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and the enactment ofan alternative law on mining and environment protection. We see the need to gobeyond the micro-policy initiatives and torecommend for a promulgation ofnational law that prioritizes ecological protection and promotes environmentaljustice, principles of stewardship and of the common good.The Church supports the call for the passage of the Alternative MineralsManagement Bill (AMMB), which offers a far more sustainable approach toutilization and protection of our country’s natural resources.Recognizing, however, the long duration of legislative procedures, the Churchjoins the local communities and the civil society in calling for a miningmoratorium to put a stop to the destructive plunder of our natural resourcesby the mining corporations. The large- scale mining operations, under the guiseof development, promise to bring the much-needed foreign investment to thedetriment of the environment and the welfare of our people.We believe that environment should never be sacrificed - that “an economyrespectful of the environment will not have the maximization of profit as itsonly objective, because environmental protection cannot be assured solely onthe basis of financial calculations . . . The environment is one of those goods thatcannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces.”(John Paul II,Encyclical Letter CentesimusAnnus, 40: AAS 83 (1991), 843).We pursue our advocacy for a sustainable ecology because it is part of ourChristian responsibility. With the late Pope John Paul II, we believe that"Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation andtheir duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith"(The Ecological Crisis No. 15, Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II for thecelebration of the World Day of Peace).