Supporting Arguments to the Stand of “Save the Palawan Movement”


Atty. Christian Monsod

November 22, 2011

(1)  Mining is one of the most contentious activities in our country because most of the minerals are located in the rural and in the mountainous areas where the poorest of the poor are located – farmers and indigenous peoples – and in smaller islands where, in addition, the livelihood of fisherfolk are also endangered by mining tailings spilling into the rivers and shorelines.

(2)  The scientific basis for banning mining in island eco-systems, key biodiversity areas and watershed areas, is a key factor in making this decision.

(3)  With respect to other areas, the government should go back to the policy of tolerance for, and not promotion of, mining for the reasons given in pars. (5) and (6) below.  In evaluating mining projects, the Aquino administration should consider explicitly adopting the Precautionary Principle enunciated by the Supreme Court in promulgating the Writ of Kalikasan , to wit:

Part V. Rule 20, “Sec. 1 When there is a lack of full scientific certainty in establishing a causal link between human activity and environmental effect, the court shall apply the precautionary principle in resolving the case before it.

“The constitutional right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology shall be given the benefit of the doubt.”

(4)  In any case, there should be a moratorium on mining in these areas until the government (DENR/MGB) has put in place the safeguards which the Philippine Development Plan (Chapter 10) admits are not yet in place, namely:

(a) “currently, there is no standard resource and environment valuation. There is a need to have a cost-benefit analysis and standard parameters that will consider all relevant values (including non-market values)”; (page 310)

(b) “Institutional issues need to be addressed to ensure sustainability of the country’s fragile environment and natural resources…(page 320-322)

– “implementation is confused by overlapping and conflicting policies,

-“government capacity for resource management is wanting,

– “enforcement of environmental laws and policies is inadequate.Relevant environmental laws,  specifically those regulating the utilization of natural resources, i.e. NIPAS, etc. are poorly implemented.”

(5)  How can the government approve mining projects in the face of these institutional shortcomings?

(6)  The mining industry is pressing for approval of mining applications and operations, warning that investments might dry up and the international community is becoming alarmed at the instability of the rules and delays in government approvals.

All the more reason why the above safeguards must first be put in place for reasons of transparency and consistency. The present case-to-case approach opens the door to corruption (big amounts are involved) and to decisions that are vulnerable to future questioning

Moreover, the consequences of wrong decisions are so huge and irreversible that it is better to take a longer view today.  In any case, the demand for minerals will continue into the future and there is no real opportunity cost to deferring decisions on mining.

We might as well put in place the safeguards, as well as plans, that we have been postponing for decades, such as, making an inventory of our natural resources, determine the actual metal needs of the country, requiring mining companies to establish downstream plants (PDP, page 327), etc. to capture more of the values of our minerals for ourselves.

(7) Joining the issues on mining

(a) mining as a driver of development – COMMENT: The role of mining is always described as “potential” because mining has never played a major role in our development, even during the mining boom of the seventies and early eighties. Former Sec. Habito estimates, based on input-output tables, that the backward linkages of mining is .46 or less than half of other industries and the forward linkages is a low .82 (below 1) – not considered enough value adding activity. After 50 years, there is no downstreaming industrialization from mining;

(b) mining and employment – COMMENT:  Extraction mining is known all over the world as a low job-generating activity. In our country, its employment contribution is about 1/3 of 1%.  Habito cites other statistics: Labor share in mining = 13.3% compared to the average share of labor in all activities = 20%;

(c)  mining and revenue generation – COMMENT: D itself says that the country is shortchanged with only 2% excise tax share. Moreover, there appears to be an undercollection of excise taxes of 56%-74% of the already low excise tax; a recent study estimates (preliminary) that government only collected 7.5% of the production value of mining from 1997-2007, given the tax incentives and low share of government. AJ Antonio Carpio in his Dissenting Opinion in the MR in the La Bugay case stated that the State has so far gotten zero of “additional share” in mining. And stands to gain zero in the formula chosen by Tampacan for “sharing” with government because of the onerousness of the formula. The profits from mining have gone to foreign companies and corrupt government officials, just like other countries that have suffered the “resource curse”.

(d)  mining and poverty alleviation – COMMENT: Figures derived from FIES 1988-2009). Mining has the highest poverty incidence (48.7%) of any sector in the country. It is the only sector where poverty incidence increased between 1988-2009. As for the argument that national figures do not tell the whole story: among the highest poverty levels among regions are where many mining companies operate, i.e. CARAGA (47.5%), Zamboanga Peninsula (42.75%), Bicol region (44.92%) . At the municipality level, (small area poverty estimates 2003), Bataraza in Palawan where Rio Tuba has been operating for 30 years has a poverty incidence double (53%) the national rate (26%).

(e)  mining as God’s bounty to serve humanity – COMMENT: Minerals can serve other purposes than being dug up and exported. Science says that they are needed to anchor forests (especially in island ecosystems). Since we are the number one disaster area from typhoons, the value of mineral rocks to our forests and biodiversity is just as high. As for the argument that minerals are the raw materials for modern conveniences, the point is that, in cases where mining is allowed, the minerals should be priced at full cost, including environmental and social costs. Otherwise, our poor, who bear these costs are effectively subsidizing the rich in their consumerism.

(6) In the face of contrary empirical evidence, past Presidents bought into the rhetoric of mining and made it public policy:

“Long term, high profit mining translates into (1) higher revenues for government, (2) more decent jobs for the population, (3) more raw materials to feed the engines of  downstream and allied industries, and (4) improved chances of human resource and  countryside development by creating self- reliant communities away from urban centers. 

            (Pres. Fidel Ramos, as quoted in the SC decision on La Bugay case )

(1) responsible  exploration, development and utilization,(2) to enhance economic growth, (3) in a manner that adheres to the principles  of sustainable development (4) with due regard for justice and equity,  sensitivity to the culture of the Filipino people and respect for Philippine sovereignty.” (Pres. Gloria Arroyo, as quoted in the SC decision in the La Bugay case)

The new mining policy of the Aquino Administration can surely do better than these.

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