Bishops, priests, pastors, people from all walks of life and non-government organizations have taken a stand against the unfair, exploitative and damaging mining operations in this country. It is an important moral issue because for generations 75% of the people have endured a life of poverty and want, exploitation and injustice. Wealth distribution in the Philippines is among the most unequal in the world and 1% of the population unjustly own or control 70% of the national wealth.
The mineral wealth is said to be worth US$680 billion and is the heritage of the Filipino people. If not stolen by the 1% it can be a way out of poverty for millions.
However the small minority of the 1% of the super rich in cahoots with multinational corporations are trying to get all the valuable minerals they can for themselves and share practically nothing with the people. The crooked law of 1995 and the past administration favored the thieves and allowed them to pay less than 2% tax obligation on earnings. In Australia the mining corporations now pay 35% of their profits in tax.
The mining corporations in the Philippines don't even have to pay any tax until they have completely recovered their costs and made a profit. With slick manipulative bookkeeping and smart tax lawyers that could take up to ten years and even then they can show a loss. The Alliance to Stop Mining said in a newspaper advertisement recently, "…..while the mining corporations use the Philippines as a milking cow, the owner of the natural wealth only gets dog food". In other words mining is of no economic advantage to the Filipino people. This is the serious injustice facing the nation that has to be addressed.
The mining companies will claim otherwise. If they will open their books, bank accounts, (especially the dollar accounts) and tax records to the public then we might see the truth. Let's see what they earn considering the astronomical high prices for mineral commodities on the world market today.
The government, elected by the people to address this issue among others, does not treat the people as dogs and to prove it, the President will issue a Executive Order (EO) to bring this tax free exploitation to an end and impose at least a 20 %tax on large scale mining and end the corruption and environmental destruction caused by the irresponsible mining industry. However the passing of the new mining law is the best solution.
In a previous article I pointed to the abandoned open-pit mining operation in San Marcelino where Benguet Corp. operated for years, a huge crater remains, a mountain has been destroyed with it's bio-diversity and an entire valley has been left abandoned and poisoned. The open-pit mining operation in Tampakan, South Cotobato is so huge you could fit two Empire State buildings one on top of the other in it according to the Alliance to Stop Mining.
The Filipino people are demanding a total halt to the rampant and out-of-control massive irresponsible mining operations that are destroying the environment and bring no benefit to the people or the nation.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the mining law of 1995 should be repealed and the proposed new People's Mining Bill passed by congress. That is the increasingly loud cry of the people from all over the country.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) representing the voice of 125 Bishops has supported this unequivocally. The bishops called for a halt to large scale mining until this new law is passed. In an ecumenical move Catholic and Protestant Bishops made a statement: "We the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, Express alarm over the wanton abuse of natural resources by the transnational mining corporations with their local cohorts in South Luzon Region, especially Bicol" They went on to say: "Destructive mining is blatantly unethical, unjust and senseless for it exacerbates poverty, causes dislocation of the livelihood of the people, and threatens the base of life and life itself", the bishops said.
There we have it, the plain bald truth. The way the minerals are extracted is detrimental to the environment; the earnings for the people are zero. The proposed new law must be passed to make mining a responsible industry that protects the environment and gives just and fair benefits to all.
Fr Shay Cullen is a Colomban Missionary priest working in the Philippines. He is a founder of PREDA.org - a nonprofit dedicated to ending the exploitation of children.