Mijnbouw Filipijnen

NGO cooperation leads to tougher mining legislation

Header photo: Mining in the Philippines © Henk Simons

Mining in the Philippines causes serious problems such as pollution and deforestation. Supported by IUCN NL, ten local NGOs got together and successfully lobbied to bring about important changes in Philippine mining legislation. They have now set their sights on a new law which will take into account environmental, safety and human rights issues.

Large-scale mining in the Philippines

The Philippines is an important producer of metal ores. It has the world’s third largest reserves of gold ore and is in the top five producers of copper and nickel. Over the last decade, Philippine government policy has increasingly been geared to the exploitation of this natural wealth. Government incentives have led to explosive growth in the Philippines mining sector.

Mining companies buoyed by foreign investment have expanded their operations further and further into the countryside and indigenous areas. The results have been disastrous for man and the environment: the construction of mines has destroyed tropical rainforests and driven farmers and indigenous people from their land.

What’s more, mining has led to the serious pollution of rivers and coastal waters. This has jeopardised the provision of water and food for local communities. People have become sick through drinking contaminated water and eating fish containing toxins.

The ecological damage done by mining also makes the land more susceptible to the effects of climate change. Deforested hillsides turn into mudslides in increasingly severe tropical storms. The disappearance of coastal woodland means there is no longer a natural barrier against tsunamis. As a result, local people suffer unnecessarily when hit by extreme tropical storms, such as Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Convincing the Philippine government

Only the Philippine government can call a halt to these disastrous developments. That is why our local partner NGOs are doing everything they can to convince their politicians that nature and the countryside are enormously important to the welfare and prosperity of the people of the Philippines. The IUCN NL is helping its ten local partner organizations get this message across. We are deploying workshops and training courses to increase expertise in the relevant policy areas. We are also advising on the best strategy to influence government policy. It is partly thanks to this investment in the increase of skills that these organizations have grown into a strong and effective lobby to counter the serious problems caused by the mining industry.

Mining law

The efforts of the IUCN NL’s partner organizations led to an amendment to tighten up national mining legislation being passed into law in July 2012. One of the results of this legal change was a moratorium on new mining concessions. In the Palawan province alone, 400 mining licences were suspended.

Despite the amended legislation addressing a number of problems, it fails to provide enough guarantees for the better protection of nature, the environment and the rights of local people. That is why our partner NGOs together with other groups within the community are lobbying for even tougher legislation to deal with land rights and human rights, safety and environmental requirements, and the effects of mining on climate change.

Drawing up an alternative to the present law has been the most important part of this work and the Alternative Minerals Management Bill has now officially been put forward. The IUCN NL’s partner organizations are working hard to see to it that this draft bill gets the backing necessary to ensure that it is passed by the legislative assemblies. They are underpinning it by for example producing research reports and organising campaigns to drum up local support. This approach is meeting with success and many organizations, communities and individuals have joined in supporting the draft bill. These parties are being brought together in the SOS Yamang Bayan Network which is coordinated by the LRC-KsK Friends of the Earth Philippines group, one of IUCN NL’s partner organizations.

Our partners operate at both the local and national level. They support local (indigenous) communities by defending their land rights. They also help by developing sustainable, alternative sources of income for local people such as the production of honey and organic farming.

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Maartje Hilterman
Project Leader – Forests for a Just Future