Mining in the back seat

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By Evangeline Murillo

Tea For Two

Thursday, July 10, 2014


IN TERMS of mineral resources, the Philippines is one of the richest in the world! Once in the past, mining was the top earner of our nation boosting and leading our economy to bullish levels. Living for most Filipinos then was easy if not much easier than today.

Reality shows that our country's economic development depends significantly on the mining industry. Exporting minerals contributes to our country's large foreign-exchange earnings and provides government revenues through fees and taxes.

On the social level, mining provides employment opportunities to a significant number of the population, and the beginning of a mining project always initiates local and regional economic progress. Other than these, mining corporations invest in road building, utilities, schools, churches and other facilities inside and around the mining site. Most people consider the schools and educational opportunities the best advantage that the industry can offer. The number of college graduates well into various professional fields financed by income from mining is countless. For example are those schooled by the Philex and Balatoc mines as well as other mining companies dotting our archipelago.

Today however, our country's former top income earner, the mining industry, is debilitated, suffering from wanton neglect, discouraging regulations and an atmosphere unfriendly to its survival. The slump of the mining industry in the past was due to not only low metal prices but more and more today, to government policies anathema to further development. As a result, many investors continue to withdraw their investments and seek other countries to bet on.

On the other hand, most of our citizens involved in mining still suffer astounding economic reversals. Many became jobless during the mining slump and sought jobs abroad even when these were not exactly geared to their capabilities. Every day since then, we have, aside from others, former mining workers who come home sick, debilitated, or worse, in coffins. To add, not only the males have sought work abroad but unfortunately, our women too who suffer the same fate.

The most popular jobs given the women are domestic helpers, or entertainers commonly known in the past decades as "japayukis" if they would go to Japan. This is not to say that all entertainers who journey abroad go this path. Many of them have become popular stars and celebrities in their fields but, indeed, many of them too, have been abused and have been made to suffer the absence of their families, and vice versa. Because of parental absence, especially for mothers, families get broken, children get into drugs, worse, they tend to hate their absentee parents.

Saddest of all effects is the abuse suffered by our women abroad which continues unabated. Yes, the OFWs are considered heroes for generating foreign currency into our land, but at what sacrifice! Should we continue to close our eyes or look the other way as we see the scourging of our women in exchange for the dollar they bring in? Are the dollars earned for themselves and the country worth the suffering, the broken homes, and the children who go wayward and who get abused too right here in their own country? Is being tagged a hero for bringing in dollars into the country worth the loss of dignity and lives?

Should we not go back to an industry that spelled economic development in the past? Mining enables our men folk to do the providing again. Should we not let our women go back to mothering and be present to watch lovingly over their children rather than seek jobs to earn a living abroad, away from home? They can still work why not, but within the parameters of their own country where their kids can grow under their physical care and guidance.

In the past, mining was the top earner of our land. Today, the weakened mining industry has slumbered quietly in the back seat of the nation's economy so that most of our women who go abroad become domestic helpers despite well earned diplomas from Philippine schools. Some are luckier of course. But then, our men folk suffer injustices there too, some committing crimes forced by circumstances so foreign to them.

If mining were back, the heroes would include the miners and other workers of various local industries right here in our country doing a great job and shooting up the economy, not the abused women and men working as OFWs abroad.

Natural resources are God's gift to mankind. Responsible development of these resources should be man's gift to God. We should take care of our land, but more so let us take care of our people!

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 11, 2014.

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