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Fr Edwin Gariguez, is a priest whose work protecting the environment by leading a grassroots movement, was named as one of six winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize. This prize honours grassroots environmental heroes from all over the world. Fr. Edwin, executive secretary of the Filipino Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace, was awarded the prize for "fearless" leadership in protecting the environment and his community. This involved protecting the biodiversity of Mindoro Island in the northwestern Philippines as well as its indigenous Mangyan people from an illegal nickel mine.

Fr Gariguez collaborated in research for a study entitled Philippines: Mining or Food, which was brought to BC by Development & Peace as its 2015 Share Lent Visitor. He talked about the connection between mining and food in support of the Caritas Internationalis’ One Human Family: Food For All campaign of which D&P’s campaign Sow Much Love, in support of small farmers who grow most of the world’s food, is a part. Fr Gariguez’ talk was illustrated by a Powerpoint presentation, “Mining in the Philippines Vis-à-vis Right to Food Campaign.

T he slides from Fr Edwin's Powerpoint presentation are displayed below.

Scroll down further to read Andrew Conradi's thought-provoking article, " The Philippines: Mining or Food? "
(Andrew ofs, is the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation animator for the OFM & OFS.)

Slide Group 1

Slide Group 2

Slide Group 3

To download a copy of Fr. Gariguez' Powerpoint presentation, "Mining in the Philippines", CLICK HERE .

The Philippines: Mining or Food?
Andrew Conradi, ofs

The 2015 Development and Peace Share Lent visitor to BC recently made a powerful presentation to the Vancouver Secular Franciscans and others entitled: The Philippines: Mining or Food? Fr Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary, National Secretariat for Social Action – Justice and Peace, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine was the presenter. This article will deal mainly with the mining issue.

The Philippines is a top producer of gold, copper, nickel and chromite. Nation states normally exercise strategic control over their mineral resources, but in the 1970s, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank started applying pressure on the Third World governments to open up, privatise and remove state control.

But as Pope St John Paul II wrote in 1991: “It is the task of the State to provide for the defence and preservation of the common goods such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces” (Centesimus annus, n 40). The Bible says: “Do not defile the land where you live, and where I dwell” (Num 35:34) and the people say: “We take care of the land, and the land will take care of us.”

The Philippines Mining Act has not benefited the poor but has benefited foreign mining companies and corrupt officials. Mining has displaced communities and dislocated other economic activities especially because of landslides, flashfloods and pollution.

Clare Short, former British Minister of International Development said in 2006: “I have never seen anything so systematically destructive as the mining programme in the Philippines. The environmental effects are catastrophic as are the effects on people’s livelihoods.” Several examples could be sited of Canadian government and corporate complicity but space allows for only one.

One of the largest mining disasters in Philippine history was the Marinduque tragedy. Between 1975 -1991, Marcopper, a subsidiary of Canadian mining company Placer Dome, destroyed coral reefs and contaminated rivers and fishing grounds causing loss of livelihoods. Placer Dome left the Philippines in 2001, leaving a mess and owing millions of pesos in taxes.

In 2005, the provincial government of Marinduque sued Placer Dome for $100 million in damages. Barrick Gold, a Canadian company, the world’s largest gold mining company, which bought out Placer Dome in 2006, has spent years fighting the province in court rather than putting things right. Barrick should pay restitution and restore the environment.

The right to life of people is inseparable from their right to sources of food and livelihood. Allowing the interests of big mining corporations to prevail over people’s right to these sources amounts to violating their right to life. Furthermore, as the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said (29 January 2006) mining threatens people’s health and environmental safety through environmental abuse.

Why has mining not contributed to the common good? Do not foreign mining companies contribute profits and taxes to the government? The government’s share of the income from the mineral resources it owns, is zero and the excise tax is only 2 %. The excise tax is not payment for the exploitation of the State’s natural resources, but payment for the “privilege of engaging in business.”

No wonder the Philippine Bishops in 2010 called for repeal of the mining law and for changing the way natural resources are developed and managed. Comparison of mining and agriculture reveals that mining’s contribution to the Philippine economy is around 2% of gross domestic product (GDP).

In contrast, agriculture, a sector that is often negatively impacted by mining activities, contributes a solid 16-17% of GDP! Pope’s have frequently called for elimination of the structural causes of poverty and to promote integral development of the poor. Controlling mining abuses and supporting small scale agriculture is one way to do that. In July 2004, the World Bank commissioned the Extractive Industry Review (EIR), which confirmed the concern that extractive industry contributes to greater poverty rather than easing it! Thus, it called for the World Bank to phase out all investment on oil on mining!

Mining could be responsible and, if properly regulated, would among other things, avoid densely populated areas and zones of social conflict; not forcibly displace communities; respect ancestral domains and indigenous peoples; protect and conserve natural areas of biodiversity and food- and fish-producing areas; and avoid erosion-prone areas. Additionally mining could ensure greater benefits to the local people such as in Nueva Fuerabamba, Peru where a new village, soon to be completed with homes, running water, sewage treatment, roads, health centre, school, chapel, bull-ring and soccer pitch was required to obtain local consent.

In July 2015 Canada will be reviewed by the UN Human Rights Committee composed of experts (not to be confused with the UN Human Rights Council composed of political appointees) for its compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Many organisations have criticized Canadian Government complicity or lack of action in countering Canadian mining companies’ detrimental actions, including Franciscans International at the UN and Development and Peace in Canada. The UN has asked Canada for more information on the effect of mining on human rights by Canadian companies in foreign countries and legal remedies in case of abuse. The UN review will conclude with an outcome document (a sort of “judgment”) including recommendations to be implemented. When these are made public, certain Canadian Catholic religious orders will consider a campaign in Canada and at the UN to ask the Government of Canada to implement the recommendations. It will almost certainly renew the call for an Ombudsman.

Father Edwin's Presentation at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Vancouver, on February 15, 2015 - Photos by Katrina Laquian