Aspiring to ‘mining country’ status will throw RP into deeper poverty – Kalikasan

An environmentalist group today chided Philippine Environment Secretary Lito Atienza for celebrating the continuing flow of foreign mining projects into the country during the Asia Mining Congress in Singapore last week, warning that most developing countries which have pursued the path of mining liberalization have only ended up with higher poverty rates and devastated ecologies.

Atienza predicted that more mining investments will be inked in the next three years.

“Aspiring to a ‘mining country’ status will only throw the Philippines into a state of deeper poverty, greater environmental destruction. Atienza is blissflly unaware of the implications of the sort of mining that he and the Arroyo administration are promoting,”said Clemente Bautista Jr., National Coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).

“Many studies have indicated that most mineral-rich developing countries have some of the slowest growth rates and the highest poverty rates worldwide,” Bautista explained.

“Nearly half of the world’s poorest countries are dependent on mining as their biggest export sector. According to the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development, the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day in poor mineral-exporting countries rose from 61 percent in 1981-1983 to 82 percent in 1997-1999,” Bautista cited.

Examples of these countries are Guinea, Niger, Zambia, Jamaica, Chile, Peru, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, and Togo, Bautista said. In these countries, he asserted, the population ratio below the poverty line seems to be directly proportional to the total value of non-fuel minerals exported in the 1990s.

“It is doubtful whether these foreign mining firms that Sec. Atienza is so proud of will even make a significant dent in tax payments to the Philippine government, considering the staggering number of tax breaks and investment incentives that they will be enjoying under the current mining and trade laws,” Bautista said.

“Mining is not even a strong producer of stable jobs globally. Jobs produced by mining are on decline. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), one-third of all mine workers in 25 major mineral-producing countries lost their jobs between 1995 to 2000, Bautista said.

“Instead of relying blindly on mining liberalization and the export of mineral ores to other shores as a source of income, the Philippine government should instead move to protect our remaining mineral reserves and national patrimony from foreign plunder and embark on a genuine program of national industrialization founded on land reform,” Bautista said.

“However, this is clearly not the framework of the Arroyo administration , which is hell-bent on selling every inch of our patrimony and our remaining natural resources, such as minerals and energy sources, to foreign investors,” Bautista said.

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