Allow me to rant about the present mining situation in my country, the Philippines, once, the Pearl of the Orient Seas.
To start off, my country has the worst Department that is mandated to protect its rich natural resources. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, it seems to me, is suffering from a dangerous case of schizophrenia – endangering the very people who mandated the Department and its Mission, and endangering the resources that it’s supposed to protect and conserve. This Department is in charge of protecting wildlife, endangered species and landscapes. It’s supposed to protect the biodiversity, nay, the mega-diversity (!) of this great country. Not to be too harsh on them, but in some cases they are true to their nomenclature. A pawikan saved here and there, an occasional eagle they helped release in the wild (dolphins and whales are under the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) or a tree-planting activity in one of the Local Government Units (LGUs).
Then they will just drop a bomb and say that they will lift the moratorium on mining applications and literally sell-off the Philippines to foreign mining investors. Highest bidder gets to fuck this poor country (excuse my French, but fuck is the most appropriate word I know of in this instance). As a matter of fact, I think China just won one round in this gang bang. 1 Billion US dollars of investments! Investments in what, if I may ask? Food security? Climate change mitigation? Peace process? Noooooo, investments in digging abysmal holes in our virgin forests, raking in OUR metals for THEIR products! And mining cohorts give a one-page ad in Inquirer saying ‘Thank you, Mr. President.”
I can’t help but utter a curse whenever I see that advertisement in television, that one which says that mining corporations have been rehabilitating forests during and after their operations. How stupid can that be? How do you rehabilitate an old-growth forest (forests that sustain billions of life in an interconnectedness that we cannot even fathom) back to its pristine state when you have changed the composition of its soil, water, rocks? You cannot bring back its old state. Once you churn around the earth and upset the chemicals that took millions of years to stabilize, you cannot have the same diversity as that old forest, now dead. Once an area of mega-diversity has been disturbed, you create a chain of disastrous events – starting with the littlest fungi, to the ants, to the giant trees – ultimately leading back to our own species. Compound that problem with an island ecosystem and you might want to volunteer erasing the Philippines off the coral triangle and off the 17 mega-diversity countries.
We are a threatened species. The once mighty Homo sapiens sapiens is nothing compared to the Earth trembling. We are reduced to scared Neanderthals, back in their caves, whenever a typhoon comes battering our streets and our beloved technologies. Compare that to the deaths that are daily caused by our own kind. A mother killing her own child in Manila, a man killing innocent children in Norway, a mad stampede in India, a war in the name of God somewhere, a war in the name of drugs in another place. Amidst all these threats, we continue fanning the flames of our own deaths – of others’ deaths, hell, of our children’s deaths. We sign 1-billion-dollar contracts selling off our minerals, we sign our deaths. Our wounds have not even healed, the burns continue to fester in Marinduque where the Marcopper disaster occurred, yet here we are prying open our country’s vagina to foreigners.
We cannot now trust this schizophrenic Department of Environment and Natural Resources. How can you trust a man patting your back reassuringly, with a knife in his other hand? Even its name blows up its cover. Of course ‘natural resources’ will always be a ‘source’ or a supply. But where is the RE (prefix meaning again and again) in the ‘resource’ if it’s not renewable? Minerals are NOT renewable, therefore it is not a RE-source.
There are alternatives to foreign-operated mining. Agricultural and eco-tourism relies on the richness of our lands. These are two of our alternatives. They may not give us instant revenues as mining does, they may not be easy, as mining is (because we leave the thinking and the operations to non-Filipinos) but they are better and sustainable alternatives.
When I am old, I want to photograph Lake Sebu in South Cotabato – with the same golden sun washing its waters and the same happy children bathing. I want to photograph Mount Isarog in Camarines Sur with that same lush, green and dense light coming from the forest top. I want to go back to Culion in Palawan and swim with its violet and blue corals, and meet Nemo once again in his comfortable sea anemone!
All these areas are threatened by mining. As we all are.