Anti-mining archbishop sees hope in Duterte

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Thousands of anti-coal protesters from different sectarian and religious groups march around Batangas City culminating outside a gymnasium to express their dissaproval of the proposed coal plants in their province. (Photo: Veejay Villafranca for Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities)

MANILA, June 10, 2016— A Catholic archbishop has seen a glimmer of hope in their fight against mining under the incoming administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa has welcomed the Duterte’s recent pronouncement that big mining has to stop for “destroying the soil” of the country particularly in Mindanao.

“I know he means it… and knowing the Mindanao experience,” said Arguelles, who is leading a fight against mining and coal plant operations in his archdiocese.

“I hope he supports our plea for total mining ban,” he said, especially in Batangas where the Verde Island Passage, dubbed as the world’s “center of the center of marine biodiversity” is located.

The archbishop lamented that they have been fighting against the mining and coal plants for so long but they have always been ignored.

“Let us be steadfast and determined in following Pope Francis’ call to protect our common home,” Arguelles added.

The incoming president earlier called on mining firms to “shape up” and stop destroying Mindanao where 25 out 44 large-scale mining operations can be found.

Duterte also got the support of of Alyansa Tigal Mina (ATM), a coalition of mining-affected communities and their support groups collectively confronting the “destructive” large-scale mining in the Philippines.

ATM believes that Duterte is aware of the “plunder” of the environment and mostly foreign-owned mining firms “making huge profits from the country’s natural resources at the expense of the communities.”

The group urged Duterte to act on these concerns and investigate further, specifically, by ordering a moratorium on all mining operations and the evaluation of project contracts and operations.

“We urge President-elect Duterte to exercise his power to immediately suspend or cancel any mining contract that has violated our laws or abused the human rights of mining-affected communities,” it said.

ATM, which is currently chaired by Fr. Edwin Gariguez of Caritas Philippines, also urged Duterte to order the review of the implementation of the RA 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995 and repeal it with the enactment of a Philippine Mineral Resources Act or the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMBB).

The RA7942, ATM claims, “promotes the plunder of the country’s resources for the benefit of investors and mining firms while the environmental and natural resources and Filipino communities are at the losing end.”

On the other hand, it said the proposed AMMB presents a sustainable, rational, needs-based minerals management geared towards effective utilization of mineral resources.

“It would be consistent with his stand against the current state of mining that Duterte certifies the proposed alternative mining bill as urgent,” ATM also said. (CBCPNews)

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