STATEMENT ON EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 79
“The profit of the earth is for all. . . !” (Ecc. 5:9)
On July 6, 2012, President Benigno Aquino, III signed Executive Order No. 79 “institutionalizing and implementing reforms in the Philippine Mining Sector providing policies and guidelines to ensure environmental protection and responsible mining in the utilization of mineral resources”.
This latest Executive Order stands on Republic Act 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995 which is seriously flawed, tilted heavily in favor of foreign mining firms. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines has opposed the Mining Act from the beginning as it “intensifies the extraction of our mineral resources endowed by the Almighty Creator” and “violates the patrimony and sovereignty of the country with the expropriation of the people’s land for foreign mining corporations” (Executive Committee, November 4, 1996). The NCCP has since joined the clamor for its repeal.
We affirm this stand today. Executive Order No. 79 does not negate the inherent character of the Mining Act of 1995. It opens the floodgate wider for foreign firms to plunder our mineral resources. What other evidence do we need to see? Foreign mining firms are already exacting untold environmental destruction in many parts of our country from the north to the south. We are very concerned that in essence, EO 79’s main and sole intent is to be a bargaining chip of the government to acquire a bigger cut from these mining firms, lippy to other important long-term considerations.
In recent months, we have seen the growing opposition to massive resource extraction by no less than local government units. They have added their voices to those of indigenous peoples, non-government organizations, people’s organizations, faith-based groups and many others concerned with the degradation of our natural resources. There is sufficient basis for this groundswell, not only in the wanton destruction of our resources and in the disasters that wreaked havoc on life and property but also in the enduring concern for the proper stewardship of natural resources and the welfare of future generations of Filipinos. This concern is most evident among indigenous peoples and faith based groups. We are therefore, very concerned that this executive order intends to stifle the initiatives of local government units for environmental protection and posterity. The intent of the national government to impose its will over the will of the local government units speak loud and clear in this executive order. It subverts other regulations hitherto provided, that respect the rights of these units. It does not empower these units but emasculates their initiatives for the well-being of their constituents.
The executive order pays lip service to the fact that human rights violation are committed to indigenous peoples communities, activists and other groups in regions where there is strong opposition to mining. These human rights violations range from vilification, harassments, forced evacuations and extrajudicial killings. Opposition to mining activities has been associated with anti-government activities and part of insurgency, thus justifying the deployment of state security forces in these areas to augment private security forces of mining companies. Thirteen anti-mining activists were killed under the watch of President Aquino, the latest among them Jimmy Liguyon in Mindanao, Romualdo “Waldo” Palispis in Aurora and Willem Geertman in Pampanga. The case of Agnes Mesina, a lay worker of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines based in the Cagayan Valley is a recent example of harassment of anti-mining advocates. In terms of human rights, it is already known in the international community, that the Philippine government has much more work to do to comply with international human rights protocols it has signed.
We are very much dismayed and extremely disappointed. Instead of scrapping off the Mining Act of 1995 in favor of a more rational piece of mining legislation another recipe is put in place that heightens economic plunder, furthers the wanton destruction of our already frail environment and disturbs irreversibly the balance of our ecology. We are for a mining policy that places the primacy of the industrial development of this country and benefits for the people of this republic. We are for a Mining Bill that places serious regard to the defense of our national sovereignty and patrimony as our Constitution so declares.
We urge our Congress to legislate a people’s mining bill that considers well the just sharing of our resources to help arrest the growing gap between the rich and the poor. We want a mining bill that can push our industrial development rather than a bill that confines our country as a supplier of materials for the development of other countries. Certainly, we are not devoid of women and men who can spur our country towards national industrialization.
We recognize the leadership role of indigenous peoples in broadening our understanding of the relationship of land and people and of responsible stewardship that sustains the earth. We are encouraged by the growing astuteness of local government units towards the preservation of our natural resources over and against the onslaught of corporate greed. We are edified by the sacrifices people’s organizations and activists undergo to ensure that future generations of Filipinos enjoy the benefits of God’s earth. As Christians, we seek to uphold the primacy of the development and sharing of what we have so that all may benefit (Acts 4:34-35) and we do not trade our birthright for “a pair of shoes” (Amos 8.6).
The Most Rev. EPHRAIM S. FAJUTAGANA , Chairperson
The Rev. REX RB REYES, JR. General Secretary