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29 years later, Philippine Mining Act calls to be scrapped

Philippine Mining Act

March 4, 2024

QUEZON CITY Ė Indigenous and Moro Peoples' groups, along with environmental and human rights defenders, trooped to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Monday, a day following the anniversary of the implementation of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act No. 7942). The groups demanded the scrapping of the law, decrying its 29 years of promoting destructive large-scale and open-pit mining operations on Philippine soil and coastal seas.

Enacted during the administration of former President Ramos, the mining law liberalized the Philippine mining industry to bolster the country's economic growth. However, nearly three decades later, mountains have been flattened, rivers have become lifeless, and the well-being of the people has been severely affected.

Critics of the law, including Indigenous Peoples and environmental activists, stress that the mining act has not yielded any positive progress for the country and its people, but has rather facilitated the surrender of national patrimony to avaricious foreign corporations. While RA 7942 does not guarantee 100% foreign ownership of mining companies, it does grant leases of the country's lands to foreign corporations for 25 years, renewable for an additional 25 years thereafter.

Communities most afflicted by mining companies are often those of Indigenous and Moro Peoples, where lands have been protected and enriched for centuries. Mining projects persist in encroaching upon ancestral lands and territories, facilitated by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) through fraudulent and manipulated free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). This is often accompanied by the militarization of communities, commonly supported by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and state security forces. Consequently, these actions have led to widespread land-grabbing in Indigenous and Moro Peoples' territories, causing significant loss of livelihoods and displacement.

Over the years, environmental disasters and tragedies have plagued communities living around mining sites. In the Cordilleras, the Benguet, Lepanto, and Philex mining corporations have wreaked havoc on the lives and surroundings of the Igorot people. Most recently, the landslide incident involving APEX mining in Maco, Davao de Oro, claimed nearly a hundred lives.

The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 is anti-people and anti-environment. Its continued existence, along with the push for Charter Change (ChaCha) under the Marcos Jr. administration, will only lead to further disasters for the people and the environment. Therefore, it is imperative to call for the repeal of the law and the enactment of pro-people and pro-environment policies, such as the People's Mining Bill, among others.