Visit mining communities, DENR chief urged
Filipinos in mining communities are living above the poverty threshold and satisfied with their lives and Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez should pay them a visit to see for herself, according to the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP).
The COMP said this as Lopez accused the group of “twisting the truth” about poverty statistics.
“In mining communities which are within the area of jurisdiction of the mining operations, households are provided with free housing, water, education, health and other services and these noncash benefits make the households’ disposable income enough to enjoy a quality of life that is not available to farmers, fisherman, factory workers and other wage earners,” COMP executive vice president Nelia C. Halcon told the Inquirer.
The industry group and the head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have engaged in a word war, using data from the Philippine Statistical Authority’s 2015 Family Income and Expenditure Survey—among other data sets—to support their arguments.
Lopez—a staunch antimining advocate —had reiterated that there was poverty wherever there are mining activities. Halcon said PSA data disproved such statement.
“She (Lopez) should visit mining communities and talk to mining households to see for herself that people living inside the mining companies’ jurisdiction are contented with their way of life and are not suffering as she has been insinuating repeatedly,” Halcon said.
“She may be talking about unemployed people who are living outside the host mining community, people hoping to get employed in the mine as most mining operations become a magnet for migrants in their quest for a good life,” Halcon added.
Halcon maintained that mining activities helped reduce poverty in host communities since mining firms complemented the government’s social services.
Even then, the COMP official said it was the local government units (LGUs) who had the responsibility of implementing antipoverty policies “since they are the ones who can identify the many faces of poverty at the local levels, not the mining companies.”
“Mining operations only complement LGU programs in easing poverty at the periphery of the host communities,” she said.
Earlier this month, COMP—comprising the biggest and smaller mining companies in the country—said none of the 10 poorest provinces in the country, as listed by the PSA, hosted an operating mine, contrary to Lopez’s claim the poorest places in the Philippines were mining areas.
However, Lopez argued that one just had to go to Caraga, Eastern Visayas or Compostela Valley “to see that mining has not only failed to help lift poor Filipinos from poverty but has added to their socioeconomic difficulties.”
She said Eastern Visayas and Caraga had the second- and fourth-highest rates of poverty incidence in the country and were host to some of the biggest mining operations.
Citing data from PSA’s 2015 Family Income and Expenditures Survey, Lopez said in Eastern Visayas, “where there are mining operations in Leyte and Eastern Samar,” 47 percent of the population was poor. “The poverty incidence is 46.7 percent in Leyte and 50 percent in Eastern Samar, nearly twice the national average of 26.3 percent,” she said. “In Caraga, where there is mining in all provinces, 43.9 percent of the people wallow in poverty,” she said.
In June, Lopez had told the Inquirer that there was no such thing as responsible mining, especially with the open-pit method.
“If there is responsible mining, why is it that wherever there is mining, there is poverty,” she had said.
On Thursday, Lopez said people from areas hosting mining operations came to the DENR “every day in droves, bewailing their suffering, and you tell me mining does not cause suffering?”
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