Governments and companies struggle for common ground amid shaky recovery
SANTA CRUZ, Philippines/JAKARTA — In the eyes of Diosdado Alota, chief of Guinabon village in the northwest Philippines, the mining industry is key to his community’s health.
Until the national government ordered a suspension of operations in 2014 over alleged river pollution, a nickel mine belonging to LNL Archipelago Minerals employed 80% of the village’s men and annually financed 3 million pesos ($60,000) worth of road work, streetlights and other infrastructure.
“These anti-mining [campaigners] ruined everything,” Alota said. “They say [mining] is destructive to the environment, but I believe natural resources are God’s gift to people.” Not all villagers agree with Alota’s view. On May 14, a number of them joined a group of 20 protesters for a Mother’s Day rally against mining in front of the town hall in nearby Santa Cruz, whose surrounding hills have been stripped of vegetation by miners.
“The mining that we have is so destructive,” activist Josephine Ignacio said to the group. “It kills the livelihood of the people and destroys our forests and rivers.” Since the inauguration of President Rodrigo Duterte last June, the Philippine government has been firmly on Ignacio’s side.
In February, Regina Lopez, a former activist serving as secretary of the environment, ordered the permanent closure of LNL’s mine and three others around Santa Cruz, along with 19 elsewhere in the country, following an official audit. She also canceled 75 mining exploration contracts and banned new open-pit mines to protect freshwater sources.
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