Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Point-by-Point Critique of CBCP’s Pastoral Statement on Mining

1. Are the bishops against foreign investments? Have the bishops conducted any analysis for them to conclude that the “social impact far outweigh the gains” in mining? The truth is that there have been no such studies comparing the benefits and the costs of mining. Will mining destroy the environment? Certainly, many do. But will it lead to “national unrest”? This is a sweeping statement. “Political unrests” are caused by a combination of many complex factors including political, economic, and sociological. Mining alone could not precipitate a political crisis, more so because more than 600,000 people are dependent on for their livelihood. Clearly, the bishops are very imaginative.

2. “Mining destroys life.” Again, that’s sweeping and simplistic. But surely, mining also supported life by providing livelihood to more than half a million people. Remove these jobs and the people in the countryside will slash and burn whatever is left of the forest for firewood and charcoal so they could earn a living. That situation will even destroy life as we know it. Certainly there are two sides to the issue of mining and the bishops only see one. There is more to conserving the environment than closing all the mines and depriving people their livelihood—nay their very lives!

3. Is there such a thing as “sustainable” mining? That’s bullshit. But miners could really be responsible if they want to and they are not doing that right now. Is mining equals human rights violations? That’s another simplistic statement. With or without mining, there could be human rights violations, so mining is not the issue there. Mining activities, of course, are usually situated in conflict areas such that civilians are sometimes caught in the crossfire between both government troops and communist rebels. And I do believe that both parties sometimes commit human rights violations against ordinary citizens. Is mining equals “economic deprivation”? That’s another oversimplication. In fact, mining could generate economic activities. Poverty in the regions such as Caraga and Cordillera is a function of many variables (e.g., geographic isolation, lack of infrastructure, etcetera) and not because someone opened up a mine somewhere. Come on, bishops. Think!

4. Are the bishops only after large-scale mining? If mining per se destroys life, why not ban all forms of mining including quarrying? Do the bishops really believe that small-scale miners are harmless to the environment? In fact, they can be as pernicious or even worse—just look at Mt Diwalwal. Do mining companies encroach in conservation areas, then that’ a real issue. So why don’t the bishops file a suit against those violators? I find this part of the statement hypocritical. Remember Marinduque? Right now those bastards from Marcopper and Placer Dome has not made any significant action to clean up the mess they have created in that province. But on the other hand, did the Bishops really spend enough resources to help the communities in their legal fights against Marcopper?

5. The claim that mining “destroys the fabric of the cultural life” of indigenous peoples is another oversimplication. Culture change in response to so many social factors, not because someone has a mine. But this statement actually betrays some ideological view about culture. Does the bishop really believe that IPs should be isolated from the rest of the world? The world is getting connected, thanks to breakthroughs in information technology. Do the bishops sincerely believe that what’s good for the IPs are continued isolation? Honestly, I have yet to see an IP people issuing statements to the effect that they want to remain in the state of pristine disconnectedness. And if isolation from the rest of the world is better, why is it that the bishops don’t want to advocate for the state of disconnectedness and isolation for the rest of their parishioners?

5. What nationalist provisions in the constitutions are talking about? Are they talking about limits on foreign equity in domestic companies? Probably, yes. Then my advice to the bishops is this: Do you know that the most “nationalistic” country on earth is China? And look at them, they are growing and progressing very fast because of the massive entry of foreign direct investments! Wake up, bishops! The world is no longer what it used to be. The truth is that local limits on foreign participation, since World War II, has been used by local economic elites to perpetuate their dominance of the local economy, thus weakening it, making it incapable of generating economic activities that are necessary to address poverty. Our “nationalists” are insensitive to this reality because of their ideological blinders.

6. The bishops are a very influential sector of society. If President Gloria Arroyo close all mines today, will the bishops provide jobs for those will be economically displaced? If the specific companies like Marcopper or Lafayette messed up and created environmental problems in their specific localities, by all means let’s make them accountable for their actions. Or close them, why not? But why close the entire industry? Why burn the whole house just to kill a rat? That would be funny because we are going to be the only country that bans an industry. We are going to be the only country that will not have “mining and quarrying” in its national income account!