Small-scale miners join SONA protest

Karlos Manlupig
Small-scale miners based in Davao join a counter-SONA protest rally

Photo by Karlos Manlupig.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Criticizing the Aquino administration for “failing” to provide support to the local mining industry, more than 400 small-scale miners left their mining tunnels to join a protest to counter the President’s State of the Nation Address.

Working in mining tunnels for more than 3 decades, Gil Aguilar Jr said that Aquino’s “daang matuwid” slogan is an illusion for the miners.

“The small-scale miners have not felt development efforts or any assistance from the national government. All of the assistance and efforts of the government are directed to help big foreign mining corporations in stealing our mineral resources,” Aguilar said.

He claimed that with the new mining policy of Aquino, the small-scale mining industry is being limited to small parcel of lands called “minahang bayan.”

The Aquino administration has issued an executive order that limits areas where small-scale miners are allowed to operate. Policymakers said that the small-scale minining sector is the most vulnerable since it is also the most unregulated and open to abuse.

Photo by Karlos Manlupig.

But the small-scale miners complained that they are only given a “handful of land” to extract while big mining companies are given large areas for operation.

In the mining tenement in Panganason in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, the “minahang bayan” awarded by the government is 81 hectares while the mining claim approved for the open-pit mining exploration and operation of National Development Corp is 1,656 hectares.

The small-scale mining cooperatives in the region also railed against the banning of mercury in mining operations.

“This is the only method that we know and that is accessible to us. If the government wanted to correct a wrong practice then it is not enough to just scare us by threatening arrests,” Aguilar said.

Yet they acknowledge that mercury is dangerous to the health of both miners and the community. They said however that the government must provide technical and financial services to modernize their operations, instead of threatening them. –

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