By Mario Casayuran
Opposition Senator Leila De Lima on Saturday sought an in-depth Senate inquiry into the continuing negative impact of large-scale mining operations on the environment and human rights of local communities.
This came after de Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) 778 which seeks an appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the implementation of various environmental protection laws by concerned government agencies.
“Despite stringent regulations under our laws to mitigate environmental degradation, mining operations continue to pollute rivers, cause soil erosion, and destroy forests and vegetation,” she said.
De Lima pointed to reports about children as young as 13 years old are working in mining industries in violation of Republic Act (RA) 9231, also known as “Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act.”
In 2010, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), acting on complaints, has found clear violations of human rights committed by Oceana Gold Philippines Inc. in Didipio, Kasibu in Nueva Vizcaya against its own workers.
Sometime in June 2013, Sagitarrius Mines Inc., in Tampakan, South Cotabato has been accused of funding the operations of the military and paramilitary groups which have been harassing and killing of indigenous peoples within the mining areas.
CHR has also found human rights abuses and violations in four other large-scale nickel mining operations in Zambales by Zambales Diversified Metals Corp., Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc., Eramen Minerals Inc., and LNL Archipelago Minerals Inc.
De Lima noted that in these large-scale nickel mining operations, there were reported cases of land grabbing and other human rights violations, including the right to health, to a clean environment, and the right to livelihood..
She also said the Senate should also investigate the continued use of instruments of State repression, such as the police and military, in protecting mining operations against local communities and people’s organizations due to their active opposition.
“It is imperative to fully implement laws and utilize mechanisms to protect our environment as well as uphold the human rights of local communities who are vulnerable and exposed to the dangers of mining,” she said.