Investors who play by the rules, do not destroy the environment, and put the common good alongside their business interest have no reason to worry about investing in the Philippine mining industry, a broad coalition of environmentalist groups said yesterday.
Reacting to the claim by an official of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry that the strong regulatory stance of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is “sending the wrong signals” to investors, the Green Thumb Coalition said only mining companies who have no regard for the environment and people’s welfare will not find it worth investing in a country that takes care of its ecological balance and its people.
"The implementation of regulations are not the problem in this issue, but rather these regulations have long been in place precisely in response to the destruction of our country's environment and the livelihood of the people," said Gerry Arances of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED), one of the conveners of the GTC.
"A strong and strict execution of prevailing laws will only strike fear among those corporations which aim to cut costs by disregarding the welfare of affected communities and the country as a whole," he added. "If investors make sure that the companies they fund follow the rules, they have nothing to be afraid of. Rather, they should be glad that the playing field is being changed for the benefit of better investment prospects which do not sacrifice sustainability and rights for the sake of profit."
The GTC said mining has not been a significant contributor to economic development and jobs generation, contributing less than one percent to employment—and mostly contractual, seasonal, non-permanent jobs.
On the other hand, the local mining industry basically exports raw ore to fuel the industrial needs of developed countries. “There is little national economic benefit from investments in mining, yet the costs to environment, and the hazards they pose are tremendous,” said Tina Pimentel of Bantay Kita, a member NGO of the Green Thumb Coalition.
The GTC said responsible businessmen and investors should, in fact, support the DENR in its effort to make mining companies obey the rules because, in the end, it is the image of the business community, and that of the good and responsible businessmen that are destroyed.
Said the GTC: “Assuming without granting that the country’s image to overseas investors is ‘destroyed’ as alleged by Jose Leviste, co-chairman of the PCCI committee on mining, we’d rather have our image than our environment destroyed by irresponsible mining investors. It would be far easier to repair our image than our environment. It is also less costly.”
“What is a good public image for if it leaves us with a destroyed environment that endangers the lives, health and food security of our people?” Leonora Lava of Greenpeace Philippines, a GTC member organization as well, added.