Blinded by profit and greed, we must protect Mother Earth if we want to be healthy
ATM Statement for Earth Day 2020
On this 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) strongly encourages the Filipino people to continue our efforts in safeguarding the environment from destructive large-scale mining operations and protecting the lives and livelihoods of mining-affected communities. It is during these difficult times that we must come together in solidarity. Because only by working together hand-in-hand can we end this pandemic and save our planet.
Various environmental groups and scientists have linked the emergence of the COVID-19 virus to the destruction of forests and essential ecosystems. The continued destruction of forests has led to the rise of temperatures, which in turn causes wildlife to change their eating and behavioral patterns. These behavioral changes lead to mutations that contribute to the rise of new diseases such as COVID-19. Allowing the continuous destruction of our planet for the sake of profit will only promote the cycle of climate change and pandemics.
However, in the past six weeks that the country has been under enhanced community quarantine, various mining companies continue to operate disregarding the health and welfare of their workers, and especially those of the mine-affected communities.
Mining companies continue to operate by bringing in heavy equipment and resuming construction activities in their sites, such as those documented by ATM in MacArthur, Leyte; Brooke's Point in Palawan and Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. Others have continued to transport and load mineral ores for export, in the cases of Homonhon Island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar; in Aroroy, Masbate, and in the CARAGA Region.
There continued operations are a persistent threat to the lives of the community. These mining companies continue to operate, knowing that they had caused the loss of the communities' source of livelihood and food when they polluted and destroyed their irrigation, forest resources, water systems and coastal areas.
Additionally, mining companies have also resorted to violence and intimidation. In the case of Didipio, in Kasibu town, Nueva Vizcaya, a violent dispersal occurred during a sit-down protest to stop the entry of diesel tankers in a mine owned by Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI). This violent dispersal resulted in injuring several members of the community as well as arresting the Chairperson of DESAMA.
In the case of MacArthur, Leyte, a local community leader, the President of UNLAD-BLFFA, a fisher and farmer organization, received threats because of their opposition to the reentry of a mining company.
The continued profit-seeking behaviors of large-scale mining companies are the same behaviors fueling intensified development aggression. These aggressive development practices for the sake of profit are leading to the destruction of our planet. The destruction of the Earth has contributed to the rise of COVID-19. Thus, we must put a stop to this behavior of acquiring individual gains; after all, no individual can weather the storm of the pandemic alone.
ATM calls on the national government and the respective line agencies responsible to put a stop to the continued operations of these large-scale mining companies. We demand that the DENR immediately stop all these mine operations, as mining is not an essential economic undertaking. The DENR and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau must not be blindsided by the pursuit of profit and revenues from mining.
We also insist that all and any permit or instructions from the government related to allowing increased or additional mining activities are directly in conflict with the principles of the quarantine guidelines.
Secondly, we call on the local government units to support the call of its communities and protect their people from the risks and threats brought on by these mining companies. The Covid19 quarantine has already doubled the sufferings of mine-affected communities. Allowing the continued mine activities are increasing the risks and vulnerabilities of the rural poor.
Finally, we call on our brothers and sisters to continue to support the protection of our environment and the people affected by mining. We call on you to continue to seek accountability and transparency from our government to put a stop to companies that continue to destroy our planet.
Let us work together in safeguarding the environment and protecting each other. Only by working together and understanding each other can we weather this storm.
We can stay safe, but we need not stay silent. This is the least that we can do for Mother Earth.
For Alyansa Tigil Mina
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator
(+63917) 549-82-18 (also for WhatsApp/Viber/Signal)