How many centuries was it since the first mineral ore explorations in this country? In the Cordilleras, it began with the American occupation in early 1900s. Today, the generation and communities who survived those from that time are attestations to the fact that contrary to the promised “wealth and progress for locals” from mining it didn’t happen to them at all. It happened to the industry’s owners and financiers who are not from here. This brings us – this nation – to the question of again have we learned the lesson from that experience in history?
Mining is a necessary industry and it naturally “exploits” the land in order to get at the ore. I’ve been there and have come to terms with it. When there was this petition being circulated for total mining ban in Palawan I didn’t sign it because my experience of that reality tells me it will be drastic for all other industries (and end-users) if mining is totally banned, here or abroad. What’s not working for host communities apart from irresponsible mining is the structure of the mining industry here. Who owns the tools of production? Who are at the helm of the industry? Major players are not from here which is why locals don’t benefit as they should. In this sense, ‘extractive’ takes on a figurative meaning.
Yes, mining will take out engineers and such from un- and underemployment. Yes, it will put in loads of laborers into its mines. Yes, LGUs will be given a share. Yes, it will revive downstream enterprises. But these as a whole pale in comparison to the profit brought out of the localities and the country into the owners’ and financiers’ pockets and countries. History attests to that. Look at the Cordilleras alone. How many mining companies have been and still are in there? Has the Cordilleras attained superlative economic status above Mega Manila’s? The region remains one of the poorest in the land. And because of this, the people feel exploited. They are.
The point of this is that it is plain business common sense for profit from the use of Filipinos’ lands to remain and be absorbed into the Philippine economy, if locals and the nation are to get the most out of mining. The second point is how rational is rationalized mining – what is the number of mining activities that would give optimum yield that would benefit host communities? How many licenses to mine the land are enough? What to do in the face of conflict between IP land rights vs. licensed rights of mineral explorers? These should have been the (value added) provisions of the EO in the first place, the reform of the mining industry structure. Otherwise if we refuse to learn our lesson we can go align ourselves with those “forever poor” African States experiencing the same fate.