The 7,107 islands that make up the Philippines are the habitat for endangered species not found anywhere else on the planet, such as Philippine eagles. The forests in which they live have been largely cut down. Coral reefs off the coast are also under threat. Small-scale gold mining is polluting the rivers. In addition, the post-millennial period has seen the emergence of large-scale highly polluting mining.
Tropical rain forests on the southern island of Mindanao were cleared for pineapple and banana plantations last century. Illegal logging has also led to deforestation. Two large forest areas remain: one in the Sierra Madae mountain range in Luzon and the other on Palawan Island. IUCN NL supports local communities that help protect the natural environment because they, for example, extract resin, fibres and honey. We provide partner organisations with assistance relating to realising sustainable spatial planning and lobbying for better mining laws.
According to the Philippine government, one-third of the country is suitable for mining. 46 large-scale mines extract minerals such as nickel, gold and copper. But the mining industry in actuality contributes less than 1% to the Gross Domestic Product. Raw ore is exported to countries such as Japan and China where factories process it into products including electronics and automobiles.
Mining leaves behind toxic fluids that are stored in reservoirs. Earthquakes and hurricanes – which are becoming more severe and sweep across the islands increasingly from a more southerly direction due to climate change – have already damaged multiple reservoirs, causing leakage. As a result, toxic waste has seeped into the lower lying agricultural areas and coral reefs along the coast. Anyone who criticises mining faces intimidation or even murder by paramilitary units. IUCN NL attempts to protect these critics by, for example, drawing media attention to them.