Gacad: My piece on the issue of the recent mining clampdown

HERE'S a missive, written by Pammie Tolentino that I'd like to share. I find this piece very honest and objective and I hope that more of us, like the author, will truly understand what common good and social justice really means! I am reprinting Ms. Tolentino's article with her permission and kind indulgence. Thank you Ms. Pammie Tolentino!

"A lot of people have been asking my opinion on this current issue re: mining, DENR, closures etc. I am not a hard-core geologist and I am actually working on projects of the Environment Monitoring Laboratory in UP NIGS. Yes, there is a laboratory in NIGS that deals with environmental concerns (and there is more to geology than mining). The most frequent question asked, “Is there such thing as responsible mining?” To which I quickly answer, “Well, I have seen some of the worst and best practices in mining and I would say, there really exists responsible or sustainable mining.”

We have done projects for the pro-environment people, for the anti-mining people and for the mining companies. We hold no bias, we rely on the scientific method and use technical basis in our work.

We have been interviewed by media people who obviously manipulated the truth, who showed the viewers what was not actually seen while we’re shooting. But, we also met miners that acted blind and deaf to their faults.

We have empathized with the people who will be greatly affected by impending tragedy by the irresponsible ones, eventually made reports for them; and we have also reached out to those people who seek for the truth on the real effect of the activities, who kept their minds open to the importance of technical studies.

We have done pro bono analyses for indigenous people who have nothing but their land so they will have a concrete evidence of the baseline status of their water sources, but we also did a lot of baseline studies for companies who want to know the situation of the water before they do any activity for monitoring.

We have also encountered people who are at the top of their companies yet listened to our findings and assured us that they are going to do something to the problems we saw in their operations and there was also this layman who stole our field pictures and chose to invent a story far from the real one behind them.

We were on the same location site as the DENR inspectors, they investigated the river from our drop-off point then left, when we walked for more than 10 hours from upstream to downstream to locate and map out all the possible sources of siltation. We closely monitored for 2 seasons, every day for 30 days each season to do sampling then be argued upon with a finding based on a “peek” on the area.

We were put into a lion’s den when we presented our study where we also heard our seatmates yelled, “Walang natural hazard kung walang minahan.” I don’t know if there are any other quantitative studies on siltation as sound as what we did but we were criticized based on a criteria called “emotions”. Let me assure you that there was also a shock on the mining side and we did not change a thing in the report to favor them. As always, we report everything.

We have sat in a meeting with a community who bargained for a higher pay because they will go with us in the field and these were the same people who asked us, “Sino ba ang nagbayad sa inyo? Edi syempre, sa kanila kayo kakampi.” They were with us from the conceptualization to the field investigation up to the analysis. They asked to be paid to observe how the company addresses their complaints yet in the end, they questioned everything we did.

It was hard to put so much effort but will not be believed at the end. This is what we usually face yet we never doubted the power of going through the process of scientific investigation, no matter how tedious it may take.

We have faced a LOT of hesitant people who then turned out to be witnesses of how cooperative monitoring of the resources can be beneficial for both the mining company and their community.

We NEVER said that every single mining company in the country is responsible. What we are calling for is TRANSPARENCY. Tell us why, tell us the basis. Most of the mining companies you ordered for closure support a community or two. Tell these people why, tell each of the mining company the specific grounds you have for their closure (if there are any) and give them time to comply. I am very sure that once you give them your findings - now, more than ever - they would work hard to revive their company and their reputation.

Another thing I hope you know is that immediate closure means abandonment and I assure you, abandonment will not solve anything. Also, here’s a tip, these mining companies are also the best people to assign on the rehabilitation of their mined out areas. If you force them to leave, no facilitating of rehab will be done.

Let nothing be based solely on feelings (and connections, I must say).

Educate us, more so, educate yourself on how to PROPERLY ADDRESS a problem. To the Madam who is assigned as the Department Secretary, do not fail those who believe in you and do not fight those who criticize you with just pure power. Back your decisions with facts, that way, respect will be earned.

The resources are there to be utilized, let’s make sustainable development happen together. Again, there are two words here, SUSTAINABLE – that the future generation will still be able to enjoy the environment to meet their needs, and DEVELOPMENT – the concept of improving the quality of lives of Filipino people through economic growth.

Friends, we are not enemies here. Let this issue call for REAL UNITY in the country and not be divisive as it is doing to us right now. We share the same country we love, maybe in different forms but we’re both concerned on how this country will be in the future. I’d also love to see this country flourish, let’s work on having a green and economically healthy country.

Peace and love to all!"

"Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.


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