COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
After we allowed our forests to be ravaged by big business and leave us suffering from floods and landslides with just a few days of rain, we are now opening our mineral resources for exploitation—and again by big business—and heaven knows what great havoc shall we suffer after our soil will be drained of its mineral deposits. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau in a news report has “almost 200 applications for mining exploration in Eastern Visayas.”
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources further reported that “there are some three billion dollars worth of mineral deposits all over the region.” This three billion dollars worth of mineral deposits, I must say, is better left untouched until the mining industry can be nationalized and not dominated by foreign companies that are sure to gain those billion dollars from our soil. The bigger target area now is Leyte. When will we ever learn?
Samar Island was rich in natural resources but from the 70s to the 90s was logged, mined, and fished in wanton proportions while its inhabitants were mired deep into poverty. It was only the operators of big business who got rich—foreigners in cohorts with local businessmen and politicians. It was other nationals who acquired the best of the island’s marine and mineral resources, who enjoyed living in hardwood materials while the masses of Samar lived in cogon huts.
When Samar was uncontrollably logged, mined, and fished, militarization heightened to protect big business; that, on top of the insurgency problem. Poverty coupled with militarization led to outmigration, driving the poor from Samar to end up as squatters in Metro Manila. And the land so devastated it is now prone to heavy flooding, the nearby sea deprived of its usual catch. After being disemboweled for so many years, no amount of development programs poured in there sustained.
The island of Homonhon at the south of Samar had been mined since the 80s but the people remained in poverty and the land made barren. Reports had it that the rivers were contaminated with toxic materials, and even the nearby sea, thereby, depriving the small fishermen to catch fish, otherwise, one had to navigate into the deep waters which proved to be hazardous. During one mining operation of chromite, only a very few positions were held by Filipino professionals while the majority of employed people were contractual manual workers receiving low salaries. And then the miners left, and Homonhon, depleted.
The problem with our mineral industry in the country is that the mines are being operated by foreign companies thereby de-capitalizing our economy, or by a few Filipinos who simply want to land in the list of Fortune 500. Another is that our government bureaucracy is so corrupted that government officials give mining permits amidst people’s protests and against the strict compliance of environmental laws. But most importantly, environmental laws are poorly implemented here causing great destruction in the environment.
Let our mineral resources stay where they are, preserved for future use until they can be utilized at full efficiency and full ownership by the Filipino people. Allowing our mineral deposits to be dug out at the present state we are in is to lose them forever, and only shows our bad management of the nation’s wealth. Mineral deposits are not crops that we can plant in each season and to be exchanged for cash in the world market—a bad policy we have long practiced in the midst of the people’s hunger. So, let these mineral resources, be saved.
July 23, 2010