@PresidentNoy forthcoming imprimatur on the mining executive order

Hancocks and Poppycock

In a few weeks, perhaps sooner, Benigno Aquino III may affix his John Hancock on an executive order that many see will alter the playing field in the mining industry, warping statutes in mining long-held and established rationalizing economic activities against recent initiatives to protect the environment.

Expectedly, businessmen are alarmed not so much because of the substance of the forthcoming executive order and its effects on a statute that had gone through substantial if not comprehensive debate, but more on the matter of consistencies of economic policies under the Aquino administration. Wishy-washy in many instances, specifically where investments are sorely needed, the latent forward-backward movements are now upon an industry that has undeniably been a foundation for development.

Arrayed together with Aquino’s forthcoming imprimatur on the executive order that paints broad strokes over the word and logic of a standing statute are ten million signatures campaigned for and solicited over controversies concerning the battle between environmental protection and economic development in Palawan.

The signature campaign had initially come in the aftermath of a death attributed to mining controversies. It had served to impassion sentiments as well as sensibilities, highlighting issues in one sense but clouding facts in others.

The signature campaign heightened waning passions and effectively capitalized and cashed in on residual emotions, transforming grief into anger and fueling a hate campaign that ran on both truth and poppycock.

The importance of mining as a development vehicle for an economy like ours begs discernment between sentiments that expectedly side with the environmentalists behind the signature campaign against mining industry proponents on the opposite end of the debate spectrum. More so because of fallacies that have come out from both sides, most hitched on emotional bandwagons and unresolved issues.

It is unfortunate that Aquino’s now notorious incompetence in managing the economy has been of little help in discerning the issues that surround the controversy. He has himself been part of the problem and the wishy-washiness is a result of listening to presidential whisperers with one ear and listening to others with the other. Hence, the controversies that characterize the imminent executive order.

There has been an unusually large amount of fallacies scraped off controversial environmental issues, invariably scooped and piled upon the mining industry. These beg discernment when dealing with issues that go beyond what’s before us.

Discernment is critical in the face of recent events.

Too often, the mining industry is cast as the villain. When recent earthquakes that rocked the Visayas critics rode a media bandwagon and quickly blamed the mining industry.

The accusations have become standard even where the mining industry had been forthcoming enough to identify sectors within its own that might be to blame.

In the floods that swept across Mindanao, again, the mining industry was being blamed. Never mind that the culprits were logging concessions, small-scale miners and officials who allowed the urbanization of non-habitable areas.

In the run-up to the drafting of the controversial executive order, a civic group asked the president to suspend all mining activities for at least two years to allow for an alternative “rational” mining policy.

The impetus is a perceived laxity in the “regulatory and permitting procedures.”

Perhaps it is not laxity they see. Within months of Aquino’s inauguration he virtually reinforced exemptions to the total logging ban. It really depends on who has the president’s ear. Where an administration appears directionless, the first to whisper gets to steal first base.

Because of such lack of vision we can understand why the government would in one instance appear to be pro-mining and anti-environment, and then in another instance, turn completely around, flip-flop and turn environmentalist with the pending executive order.

Presidential executive orders, no matter how well intended cannot amend a law, much less repeal it. The Chamber of Mines and foreign investors cautioned against the issuance and implementation of the draft executive order. Entitled “Institutionalizing and Implementing Reforms in the Philippine Mining Sector, Providing Policies and Guidelines therefore, and For Other Purposes., it is perceived to oppose what critics label as “the aggressive promotion of mining in the whole country, that opens the country to large-scale mining operations.

To be specific as to where fallacies as well as poppycock lie, the controversial executive order contains provisions to complete a program for forest delineation that pin-points “remaining forests, critical watersheds and important biodiversity areas.”

At the core of conflicts in Palawan where mining critics fight an arena to prosecute these issues, these questions of forest delineation and “rational” mining policies raise doubts on the credibility of the critics.

Strangely, in contrast, it is in Palawan where these delineations and “rational” mining policies are well-established. In Palawan, there have indeed been delineations and the establishment of rational mining policies. The Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) and the Palawan Tropical Forestry Protection Program developed and approved by multilateral agencies and Palawan’s local constituencies disprove what critics claim as random destruction.

The SEP is specifically detailed for Palawan’s sustainable development under the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) – a body that oversees such development and also provides a venue for resolving disputes.

Unfortunately, outside the SEP, and beyond Palawan, those controversies are being prosecuted. Note the inordinate fallacy of numbers in the signature campaign.

The objective is to garner 10 million signatures. Given Palawan’s last verified 2000 population of 737,000 and against that applying a national growth rate of 1.9%, Palawan would have slightly over 906,000 by now. Notice the emergent aberration of 10 million signatures applied on a population that would have significantly less than that.

The number of residents in Palawan is by far less than a tenth of the signatures sought, so what’s the sense of a number that goes beyond a local mandate? Why carry out a signature campaign where those signing might not even be from Palawan? Obviously, the campaign is plainly an incendiary device designed to incite non-Palawenos to tell legitimate Palawan residents what’s best for them.

Photo: “Miatan” by Isabel Esterman, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

Originally posted at BlogWatch.Ph