Church opposition in the Philippines to destructive mining on its islands was supported by Church leaders in Britain yesterday, 9 February, at the launch of a new report at Westminster titled, Philippines: Mining or Food? It was commissioned by the UK-based Working Group on Mining in the Philippines, which is chaired by Clare Short MP and involves Columban Faith and Justice, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility, and Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links.
Bishop John Arnold, auxiliary in the Catholic Diocese of Westminster and Anglican Bishop Michael Doe, General Secretary of Anglicans in World Mission, attended, giving support to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the Philippine Independent Church, which have worked closely with those affected by and protesting against mining companies. Bishop Doe reflected that he has personally known Church personnel, including one bishop, who were murdered because they opposed mining projects. The Canadian Catholic Bishops Conference sent a message of support to the launch, saying, "the Catholic Bishops of Canada continue to encourage their episcopal confreres in the Philippines, and all those who collaborate with them, in their important and timely efforts to protect our planet as a gift from God".
Report authors and environmental experts Clive Wicks and Robert Goodland recommended that new mining is halted in the Philippines and that international investment is withdrawn until procedures are in place to protect human rights and the environment. They provided evidence that the mining of gold, nickel and other minerals is causing large-scale ruin of island environments and people's livelihoods, particularly undermining rice production and poisoning water. Even whole mountains can be destroyed to access precious minerals, harming the country's tribal peoples. "Focus on rice production and not on mining," urged Robert Goodland.
The authors joined Filipino campaigners and the country's Catholic Bishops in calling for the Mining Act of 1995, which opened the country up to foreign mining companies, to be revoked. "The Church joins in the collective and continuous call against the uncontrollable plunder of our natural resources," said the bishops in 2008. "Above all" they added, "it calls on a moratorium on mining activities until the government and the mining companies learn to uphold the right of the indigenous peoples, compensate the affected communities for past damages, and ensure responsible mining practices".
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an indigenous woman from the Northern Philippines, who is currently Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, also spoke at the launch, welcoming the report. "Mining is not the path to our development" she said, "and we will be picking up on the report's recommendations back in the Philippines".
Companies with a British base whose plans for mining in the Philippines are being challenged include Xstrata Copper, BHP Billiton, and Crew Minerals. Clare Short criticised the very substantial role the City of London has in financing large-scale mining in the Philippines, and encouraged investors present at the launch to review their involvement in Philippines mining.
Clare Short MP introducing the 2009 report, Philippines Mining or Food?
Visit to Philippines mining sites during January 2009 for report launches there.
The full report and abbreviated version.