Environment group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), together with Mindanao indigenous federation KALUMARAN and other Mindanao-based people’s organizations, held a picket protest outside the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the Mining Act of 1995 to demand the upholding of the 28 mining closure orders previously released in 2017. “Instead of enforcing the shut down of destructive big mines, the Duterte government has already initially downgraded the closure order of 8 of 13 big mines into mere suspension orders. We fear the same reversal will happen for the remaining 13 mines still under review. The Mining Act of 1995, our long-standing national mining law, has been repeatedly used to hamper the long-overdue closure of known mining polluters, plunderers, and human rights violators,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
The review and reversals were the result of large-scale mining companies, together with mining oligarchs in the President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet and Congress ‘Super Majority’, orchestrating legal actions against former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez’s regulations on mining and eventually her removal from office, saying her actions were ‘unconstitutional’ in violation of various provisions of the Mining Act of 1995, which promotes the opening up of domestic mineralized lands to foreign mining control and ownership. Mining and Martial Law in Mindanao Eufemia Cullamat, a Manobo woman leader who is a council member of KALUMARAN and the current third nominee of Bayan Muna Party-list, said grassroots communities in Mindanao, in particular, have greatly suffered from the “twin problems of mining plunder and martial rule” under the Duterte administration. “The declaration of Martial Law over Mindanao served as a brutal ‘investment guarantee’ to stop our communities and advocates from holding accountable the land grabs, plunder, and destruction caused by these foreign and large-scale mines,” Cullamat said. “Since Martial Law was declared over Mindanao, at least 22 indigenous people and other anti-mining activists have been killed of which 18 are suspectedly perpetrated by military personnel. Our communities from the Andap River Valley Complex, across the Kitanglad, Pantaron, and Daguma mountain ranges down to Compostela Valley have been hamletted, food blockaded, occupied, and bombed,” explained Cullamat. Scrap Mining Act, Martial Law The groups called for immediate action on the Mining Act and the Martial Law declaration in Mindanao, saying these policy shifts would provide relief for the various mine-affected communities in Mindanao and across the country. “It is high time for the Duterte government to walk its talk on repealing the Mining Act. Over the past 24 years since it was passed, it has been repeatedly used as a weapon to crush opposition from communities, scientific and legal experts, and even champions in local governments and line agencies,” Dulce said. “We demand the Duterte government to desist from extending the bloody rule of Martial Law over Mindanao. It has been used for nothing but to protect big mining and other corporate interests encroaching into our ancestral lands,” Cullamat ended.#