THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has released its results of field audit of mining operations in the country of which only ten were not recommended for suspension, but which cannot even be described as having passed standards.
In a press conference by DENR presided by no less than Secretary Gina Lopez and the audit report presented by Undersecretary Leo Jasareno, it was clear that just about every single mining company has been violating Philippine laws, except that, ten companies violated the least and are thus allowed to continue operations.
Twenty-three others have either been suspended or recommended to be suspended.
But only after causing massive siltation of rivers and the sea, and in the case of Benguet Mines in Itogon, Benguet, abandoning an open pit for the past 20 years.
We can just imagine the hundreds of deaths that these mining operations have caused, from those who have suffered the ill effects of pollution and especially among those who led protests against mining.
It took a leader from the provinces to show to all and sundry that all these are happening right under our noses and protected by the oligarchs who are now apparently bonding together to oust the President.
Now that the DENR is headed by somebody more concerned about the environment than the mines, there is the prevailing sense of justice.
Yes, we have the resources that can be mined, but we have to make sure that these resources are mined according to laws and international mining standards, not according to the pockets of the protectors of the mining companies.
Secretary Lopez said it best during the press conference Tuesday when she explained the reason why the audit report took some time to be made public, saying they wanted to make sure that “everything was done really, really well”.
“(I)n other countries, like Canada, or Australia, these are really strict (field audits). You have one violation, pak! You are suspended right away,” she said.
“What happened in this country, for a hundred years we turned a blind eye. So what happened? I don’t even blame it on the mining industry, it’s because we at DENR have been lax.”
Lopez pointed out that the Philippines is among the most vulnerable to climate change. This should be enough impetus for government to make sure that environmental laws are followed and thus reduce risks of environmental damages.
“If we want to have a mining industry which is at par or even better than Canada or Australia, which we must be because we’re the number one country vulnerable to climate change, we have to be really, really strict with our rules,” she said.
Now, the course has been set. Amid the coordinated attacks on the Duterte Government, the agencies are doing what should be done. It is up to us, the citizens, to ensure that this government continues to do what is right for all and not just the moneyed and powerful few, as they have been doing throughout all these years.
The mining company worker is just as entitled to the piece of land as the farmer downstream and the child next door. Just because mining generates employment for a village, it does not mean that the children should inhale red dust and not longer be able to eat fresh fish from their sea.
Rather, it should be that their elders are employed by mining companies while the whole family enjoys the benefits of a protected environment for generations to come.