BAN Toxics statement on calls of small-scale miners in Camarines Norte for dialogue with government

February 2017, Quezon City — Today, roughly a thousand small-scale miners attended ARAW NG MGA WALANG PUSO, Protesta Laban sa Pagsisikil sa Karapatan ng mga Maliliit na Magkakabod, a peaceful rally in Daet, Camarines Norte to oppose the massive shut down of small-scale mining operations in the province. These miners marched around the Provincial Capitol and then held a program in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO). They called on government to consider the plight of the poor Filipino small-scale miner and to enter a dialogue to achieve the formalization of their sector.

A Cease and Desist Order issued by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR early last week declared a stop to all small-scale mining activities in the province’s three mining municipalities: Jose Panganiban, Paracale and Labo. The stoppage has left thousands of poverty-stricken families in remote areas without income and struggling to make ends meet. The miners at the rally called on government to consider the human rights of the small-scale mining communities affected by the order.

“BAN Toxics supports the call of small-scale miners in Camarines Norte asking the government to support their traditional livelihood,” said Evelyn Cubelo, Program Manager for BAN Toxics. “With no alternative livelihoods firmly in place for people living already impoverished lives, the order for the immediate shutdown of small-scale mining operations does not align with DENR’s core principles on social justice.”

“The small-scale mining sector is largely poverty-driven and this crackdown is hurting the country’s poorest communities. The DENR should approach small-scale mining with a developmental approach and treat it differently from large-scale mining. Communities must be given a transition period and must be guided to adopt less destructive mining methods in the short-term,” she added.

“In fact, miners themselves have taken the first steps in transforming their livelihood into a responsible sector,” said Cubelo. “Small-scale miners in Camarines Norte have pursued formalization as a Minahang Bayan but have not yet received approval. Formalization will enable better environment and labor practices, generate local government income and reduce poverty in the countryside – all of which these communities wish to achieve.”

“Proper support from the government can lead to such a transformational change in the sector. The DENR needs to listen and give impoverished communities a fair chance to evolve into a responsible industry. We support DENR Secretary Gina Lopez’s mission to protect the environment, but she must be open to a dialogue with these small-scale miners and establish a roadmap that improves the quality of life in the small-scale mining sector.”