>News Update Pastor: Mining is no evil, but please spare Palawan

>A Christian pastor involved in environmental advocacy on Wednesday deplored as an “overstatement” a full-page newspaper ad by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines that invoked religion to justify mining in Palawan. In a paid ad published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer also on Wednesday, the Chamber of Mines slammed critics who “like to talk about God’s creation” and say it is a sin to “rape and abuse divine blessings.” “Are they not aware that mineral resources are also divine blessings? Without minerals, which have served to vastly improve the world we live in, and our ability to find and properly use them, we go back to the Dark Ages,” the business group said in its ad. In reaction, Rev. Delbert Rice – who heads the civil society counterpart of the government-sanctioned Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) – called for a more nuanced position. “Some of the NGOs have said, ‘No to mining, period.’ To that, I disagree. The Chamber of Mines says, apparently, if there’s minerals, dig it out. That’s an overstatement, too,” he said in an interview with GMA News.

Cost-benefit analysis

Rice explained that mining is not evil per se, and neither is it immaculate. He said a cost-benefit analysis will spell the difference. “There are some areas where minerals are in the earth, and there is no big agricultural use for the earth which covers them. Therefore, they should be extracted,” he added. But the pastor said the extraction of minerals from the earth – the products of which include gold, copper, or nickel components of household electronics – may in the process damage forest-based resources. “Forests are also a blessing. Wildlife is a blessing. Water is a blessing. And I think in most cases, we could do without the minerals, but we can’t do without the water, and we can’t do without the food. We might just have to learn to do without some of the minerals,” Rice explained. “We are responsible for blessings. But the blessings are always balanced out with other blessings. So why are you authorized to destroy one blessing in order to utilize another one?” he added. Considering the biodiversity of Palawan – dubbed as the Philippines’ last ecological frontier – he said mining will do the province more harm than good. “If they remove more forests from Palawan, they will speed up the process of climate change,” Rice said. The Chamber of Mines, on the other hand, said critics should not make a blanket statement that the whole of Palawan is forested, when some portions of the province are fit for agricultural and industrial purposes as well. To do so will deprive the province of industrial opportunities in mining and mineral processing activities, the business group said. “That would surely be a prescription for poverty,” it added.

Anti-mining groups Joining the debate, ABS-CBN Foundation managing director Gina Lopez said the repercussions of mining extend their reach outside Palawan’s forest borders. The tailings or residue from mining activities may also “seep directly into the sea affecting the coral reefs,” Lopez explained on the foundation’s website.

“Mining is not the way to go for Palawan,” she said. Lopez – a friend of Palawan anti-mining activist Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega, who was slain in January – is at the forefront of a campaign to gather 10 million signatures to stop mining operations in Palawan. “In this age of climate change and global warming any economic development that does not recognize and revere the web of life should be thrown in the dustbin,” she added. Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, in a related statement blasted the government for claiming that mining brings in billions of dollars in investments to the Philippines.

Mining in fact makes an “insignificant” contribution to government revenues, Bautista said. “What they do not reveal is that after extracting hundred billion dollars worth of minerals, these transnational mining companies repatriate 100 percent of their profits to their home countries,” he added. The Chamber of Mines came up with the paid ad in reaction to statements from parties that have implicated large-scale mining firms in the killing of Ortega. In their statement, the business group also sought to debunk “misinformation” that discredit Palawan’s large-scale mining industry as well as the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, the local council that approves large-scale mining applications.—JV,

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