PARAÑAQUE City, June 6, 2014 — Now, Baclaran Church might be known for more than just novenas and answered prayers. On June 4, the church launched a signature drive calling for the junking of the “Mining Act of 1995” which allegedly “legalizes the plunder of our remaining natural resources by foreign companies”.
In a written statement, the “Scrap the Mining Act Alliance”, of which the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Baclaran Church) is a member, along with other religious and secular groups from the public and private sectors, stresses that “large-scale mining is a life-and-death issue for the indigenous and Filipino people”.
While it acknowledges its importance in “building national industries and [in] providing for the industrial needs of the people”, the alliance regretted that mining, “has unjustly enriched a few at the expense of the vast majority and the environment”.
It explains that reversal of the unconstitutionality of Republic Act 7942, or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 ten years ago has only brought about the “plunder of resources, land grabbing, massive destruction of our environment and ecosystem, human rights violations, loss of traditional livelihoods, gross violations of indigenous peoples’ collective rights and its replacement of low-wage, insecure jobs”.
It lambasts the local mining industry and the law that protects it for lacking direction towards “utilizing our mineral resources and developing our national industries” even as foreign firms are allowed to “rake in billions of dollars in profits … and Filipinos in mining-affected communities remain poor.”
According to the alliance, the Mining Act of 1995 gives mining companies the following privileges:
- Up to 100% foreign-owned capital and repatriation profit
- Freedom from requisition of investment, freedom from expropriation
- Tax exemption for a grace period of ten years
- Easement rights, water rights, and timber rights
- Tariff and tax exemption for the materials and supplies imported for their mining operation or exploration and free use of port for ten years
The shrine’s “Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation” advocacy group also mounted a photo exhibit on the church grounds to raise awareness among churchgoers on the effects of mining on the environment and indigenous communities.
The manifesto mentions that there are at least 712 approved mining applications spanning a total of 967,530.80 hectares across the country to date, 251 or 55% of which are areas where indigenous Filipinos live.
The signature drive was also launched to celebrate “World Environment Day”. (Raymond A. Sebastián)