THE clash of the titans that include the big names in the mining, communications industries and environment watchdogs who tackled the impact of the mining operations in the country, ended with nothing but a lot of hot air, defamations, dishonesty and a public display of rapacious greed.
The pro-mining advocates led by Manny V. Pangilinan wants us to believe that any nook and cranny in the country is good enough for mining and that it will do no harm to the community. Gina Lopez, whose family once ran Meralco that operated the giant bunker-fed generators that exuded the worst toxic smoke in the skyline of Metro Manila and owner of the First Philippine Industrial Corporation responsible for the deathly toxic gas leak in Makati, accurately described the mining tycoons as liars.
Not to be outdone, a Londoner, a self-proclaimed environment consultant who has become a permanent fixture in environment forums, tried to elicit public sympathy by fabricating an atrocious claim that he feared for his life the moment he arrived in Davao. Why Clive Montgomery Wicks thought that he is being hunted in peaceful Davao is beyond me. The last time I saw him, he sets comfortably in the presidential seats along with other speakers who graced the “international anti-mining conference” hosted by Ateneo de Davao University. If there is a Davao City councilor worth his salt, the best way to treat this alien is to declare him persona non-grata for picturing the city as an unsafe place for foreigners. But that is another story.
Let me take on Wicks first. This Londoner spent much of his time in Africa in the field of agriculture, I was told, and became an expert on mining issues in the Philippines overnight. There is nothing new about his thesis that mining in Tampakan will cause a great havoc on the environment, water resource, waterways and marine life to name a few. We are not ignorant in this aspect and therefore we do not need Wicks to preach on us about the hazards of the open-pit Sagittarius Mines in Tampakan. This British national must have stayed too long outside his homeland he forgot that in his own backyard there are over a dozen open-pit mines operating. He should go home and wage his campaign against mining. But then he cannot do that as he will not have a company of non-government organizations who want to cash-in on the mining as a tool to seek funding from donor foundations.
As to MVP and the rest of his coterie in mining, they came up with a classic tomfoolery by showing a simplistic if not idiotic presentation that nearly every tool and other gadgets we use in our daily life are derived from metals that are mined. That is not debatable. What is inconceivable is that those who mine and process our ores pay us a picayune and they sell us the finish products beyond the means of those they profess to help. MVP’s demonstration becomes relevant and significant only if he tells us that his firm engages in mining, extract the metals, refine these, export some and process most into finish products. MVP got a friend in Vic Lao of the Mindanao Business Council who tells us that we cannot process our ores because we do not have enough electricity to run a processing plant. While he is telling the truth, Vic thinks he can fool us into believing the big capitalists in the mining industry cannot afford to put up their own power generating plants.
What I am saying is, if we cannot do processing and refining now because no one wants to invest in power, then let us stop this rush to do mining and leave it to future generations to do it for us.
There is parallelism which we can derive from the logging industry which had devastated our forest resource as quickly as the concessionaires started. Like in mining, government issued timber license to any Tom-Dick and Harry who are close to Malacañang or who can grease their way to the palace. There was quick money in just cutting down trees, haul them to the log pans and load these to the vessels that would take the precious mahoganies to Japan and elsewhere. Very few went to processing our timber into finish products. Our forest resources were quickly harvested in such a great hurry that today we have to ban logging and export of raw logs so that our forest lands can recuperate.
While we can restore our forests by just doing a diligent job of replanting denuded areas, we cannot do the same with mining. When metals are extracted from the bowels of the earth nothing will be restored after that. Gina Lopez is correct in many ways but she too should say mea culpa for the impact on environment that the company of her family had caused.
We should mine our resources but we should maximize the benefits that the nation can derive from them. The benefits that are accorded to our indigenous peoples are nothing but morsels fit for the beggars. Jobs? Scholarships? They are part of the opiate and cajolery employ by the mining firms to get the consensus of the tribes to allow them to explore and extract precious minerals from the ancestral domains of the tribesmen. This is good a treat to the B’laans of Tampakan, but one can never imagine the threats that the open-pit mines of Tampakan can cause to the towns of provinces around the mine site.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper by Jun Ledesma