SPONSORSHIP SPEECH HB 3763 (Minerals Management Bill)

SPONSORSHIP SPEECH HB 3763 (Minerals Management Bill)

Rep. Kaka J. Bag-ao, AKBAYAN Partylist

Delivered on August 24 2011 / RV Mitra 3 and 4


Magandang Hapon po Mr. Chair, at Members of the Committee!

It was 7:15 pm of September 29 1993, when House Bill No. 10816, entitled “AN ACT INSTITUTING A NEW SYSTEM OF MINERAL RESOURCES EXPLORATION, DEVELOPMENT, UTILIZATION AND CONSERVATION” was under consideration in the plenary of the 9th Congress. The Honorable Renato A. Yap, Chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources began his sponsorship speech,

“Mr. Speaker, allow me to convince my colleagues today, that we are a rich country whose wealth remains buried under its grounds. The author of the Miner’s Praise in Job 28 of the Holy Bible may have had the Philippines in mind: There is a mine for silver and a place where gold is refined. Iron is taken from Earth and copper is smelted from ore.”

The Honorable Yap was correct. Indeed, we are a rich country. “Third in gold, fourth in copper, fifth in Nickel, sixth in Chromite.” But such is not the wealth which is our most important resource.  Mr. Chair and members of the Committee, if there is any wealth which Filipinos should be proud of, it is the Philippine biodiversity.

Our country is one of the “17 Megadiversity Countries” which claims two-thirds of the entire earth’s biological diversity, home to more than 20,000 endemic species of plants and animals. Biodiversity provides us with a range of food and nutrient sources. According to Goodland and Wicks, authors ofPhilippines, Mining or Food?, it is biodiversity which provides an agriculture gene pool that will produce food amidst climate variations. It cannot be gainsaid that biodiversity is a valuable resource because it is crucial to food security.  In essence, Philippine Biodiversity is the lactating mother who breastfeeds us.

So it then begs the question, why are Filipinos hungry?

Mr. Chair and members of the Committee, a case in point is mining in Mount Hilong-hilong in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur. Declared as one of the nine (9) Key Biodioversity Areas in the Philippines by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), a Water Forest Reserve pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 1747, protected by one of the only two Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) issued in this country, home to five (5) major water systems and the few remaining old growth and primary forest, but still hauled, bulldozed, dug by the Marcventures Mining and Development Corporation.

In Tampakan, South Cotabato, 20,000 hectares of sustainable farmlands are under the mercy of Western Mining Corporation and Sagittarius Mining, Inc. Five major rivers, including the Padada River alone which irrigates 33,000 hectares of lowland farms would be polluted. Also to be affected, is the 4,954-hectare Lake Buluan whose tilapia, milk fish, big head carp and eel feed 27, 000 households.

In Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, the Oceana Gold Project needs to divert 3.8 Billion liters of freshwater to extract gold and copper while the same amount of water is needed to produce 1,538, 592 kg of rice.

These are only three cases, Mr. Chair and Members of the committee. According to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), there are currently 482 approved mining applications covering more than one million hectares in the country.

While the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 continues to believe in the mythical nexus between mining and development, the ironies of hunger are becoming patent:   while more than 60% of the Philippine rice production is irrigated, that is second in Asia, we were number one rice importer in 2008. While we have 78 river systems, 50 are biological dead due to pollution. While an agricultural country, rice is planted only in 30% of the total arable area and we allow mining companies to encroach our farmlands, watersheds and forests, instead of using them for food production.  Only to realize that while we cannot eat gold, copper or nickel, we spent more than $ 2 Billion for rice importation in 2008, and received only about $ 1 Billion for exportation of these mineral resources.

Mr. Chair and members of the Committee, it is no doubt that after sixteen years, mining has not given us the economic development that maybe Hon. Yap and members of the 9th Congress envisioned. The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 is indeed a failure.

Today, Akbayan presents for the committee’s consideration, HB 3763, a new minerals management policy which puts premium in the ecological value of our country’s resources, shifting the land use priority towards sustainable development and food security.

Mr. Chair, members of the Committee, our current mining policy has exacerbated the Filipinos’ hunger. I disagree, with all due respect, to Cong. Yap. The wealth of our country is not buried under our grounds, it is what we can plow from our lands and drink from our rivers. It is with this vision that the immediate passage of the Philippine Mineral Resources Act of 2011 is earnestly sought.

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