Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
Last Friday’s Conference on Mining’s Impact on the Philippine Economy and Ecology at the Hotel Intercontinental in Makati City saw heated discussions between mining proponent and business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan and environmental advocate Gina Lopez, as each side campaigned for what they honestly believed would be best for the country when it came to the sensitive issue of mining.
Mining advocates pointed out that responsible mining is the way to go while emphasizing the responsibility of government to boost its institutional capacity to regulate the industry, especially when it comes to small-scale miners. Pangilinan highlighted the importance of mining to our modern existence by noting that an average cell phone, a gadget that almost everybody, whether pro or anti mining, owns and uses, contains about 24 milligrams of gold, 250mg of silver, 3,800mg of cobalt and 9mg of palladium.
Those against mining insist that the industry causes irreparable harm to the environment, that it does not uplift the lives of those who live in communities that are affected by mining activities, and that its contribution to the Philippine economy is minimal considering its enormous social cost. They point to its terrible track record the past and the gross inability of the government so far in its attempts to properly regulate the industry when they quickly dismiss the term “responsible mining” as an oxymoron.
While mining in the Philippines definitely comes with significant social and environmental costs, it would also be irresponsible to ignore outright the potential riches that our still-poor country has been blessed with. The challenge for the government then is to review existing laws as well as conflicting and confusing regulations between the different government agencies directly involved or affected by existing and proposed mining activities, and then find a way to make mining work for the government and its people instead of benefitting only a few.
Mining is one issue where the government has to take a stand. If our government officials are confident that they can regulate and control the industry such that the social costs, the environmental impact, and the inherent dangers are either controlled stringently or eliminated completely, then it is only proper to make use of our natural riches and give mining a chance. However, if the government cannot guarantee that it can, and will use its powers to compel everybody in the mining industry to be truly responsible, then it may be a good idea to put mining on hold until such time it knows it can.*