The ecosystem in the Philippine island of Palawan is unique, and to make it worse, the island has only recently been cleared of terrorists and reopened for tourism, so there is worry that the terrible scars from mining will destroy tourism too.

A couple months back, a reporter and civic leader was assassinated because he had evidence on the corruption behind the mining operations, and there has been a big backlash to stop the mining on that island completely.

From the Philippine News:

The ten million signature campaign came about after the killing of Dr. Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega, a civic leader who championed the protection of Palawan’s rich biodiversity and an outspoken critic of mining operations in Palawan.

Palawan has 40 percent of our country’s remaining mangrove areas, 30 percent of our coral reefs, at least 17 Key Biodiversity Areas, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and eight declared protected areas.

. From ABS-CBN:

Sombra and Lagrada are among those who have backed the “No to Mining in Palawan” signature campaign launched Thursday (Feb. 3) by the Save Palawan Movement spearheaded by ABS-CBN Foundation Managing Director Gina Lopez, Puerto Princesa, Palawan Mayor Edward Hagedorn, and members of civil society, academe, non-government organizations, and the clergy.

more HERE at AdoboRiceBlog:

Survival International (the only organization working for tribal peoples’ rights worldwide), states that the mining has already ravaged forests, geerated flooding and caused siltation of rivers and farmland. The company MacroAsia, owned by billionaire Lucio Tan, plans to mine the ancestral land of the isolated Palawan living around Mt. Gantong and the Mantalingahan range. Some sacred sites have already been destroyed through mining activities. London-based Toledo Mining Corporation holds a significant stake in a Nickel Laterite operation which is also threatening the Palawan’s land.

Oriental Peninsula, is to start mining this year from as early as July, says this article from The Inquirer.

Indigenous people were ‘shocked’ to learn last June 2010 that the application of three new Philippine mining firms has been approved into one Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA). Approval of this meant a substantial increase in exploration activities. Read more from Intercontinental Cry.

I’m leery of rich NGO’s from the “first world” telling the world what “indigenous” people want (remember, the “indigenous” are often the ones who weren’t ambitious enough to leave and find jobs elsewhere). Too often, these NGO’s are just another variation of missionaries telling locals how they should live, but in this case, I support them. You need big money and rich NGO’s to counteract the big money corporations. Why do I say “Big money”? Because big money must be involved, or else certain people wouldn’t have resorted to killing Doc Gerry.

Palawan’s ecosystem needs protection, and until the corrupt people who are exploiting the area and the corrupt officials are replaced with those who will insist that regulations to protect the environment can be found, better to stop the mining and encourage investment in tourism and eco friendly businesses.

Corruption is as big a problem as the corporations, but at least things might be improving The attempts of the present Aquino administration to investigate and punish corrupt officials is causing waves. A General who knew where the money was going just committed suicide out of “shame”, or maybe to protect his family and his friends. And the Philippine Inquirer yesterday commented on the epidemic of amnesia in witnesses. So whether or not corruption will be eliminated, one doesn’t know, but it’s an improvement.

Yet, as I noted in the past, I’m ambivalent in some ways.

One needs minerals to live a modern life, and these minerals don’t just appear, they have to be mined, purified and then manufactured into useful items.

Nor is the problem of pollution new: Bronze Age man deforested many areas in South Eastern Europe, and the Rio Tinto mines of the Romans still scar Spain caused so much pollution it affected the atmosphere and scientists can measure the lead released as a byproduct of silver mining in the ice cap thousands of miles away and two thousand years later.

Having lived in the coal regions of Pennsylvania, the presence of slag heaps, sulfur streams, and my patients dying prematurely of black lung disease made me aware of the bad side of mining.

Yet what is the answer? There is a need for minerals that are mined, and the “answer” may be leasing to mining corporations who protect the environment and their employees. Those who want to “stop” all mining in their favorite areas only results in more polluting and less safe mining in areas that no one bothers to notice.(the biggest under reported story today is the wars, ecological destruction, and devestation caused by those who want the Congo’s mineral wealth)

Even in the Philippines, if you stop mining (that allows local people to work at good wages) the alternative might not be no mining at all, but poor people mining on their own. Because too often the local poor, having no way to make a living, devise small “mom and pop” mines, which aren’t regulated at all, and can cause just as much pollution and result in landslides. This reports suggests that small scale illegal mining is one of the major contributors to the destruction of the ecosystem in Palawan and northern Luzon. Like dynamite fishing or illegal logging, just making something illegal doesn’t mean it will stop, and poor people, alas, will mine and fish and destroy forests if there is no other way to feed their family, and there are plenty of shady businessmen to help them do it.

So until corruption is decreased enough to really regulate mining in Palawan, it is in everyone’s interest to stop it now.

More information and photos can be found at the site No 2 Mining in Palawan. which is collecting signatures against the government allowing the companies to work.

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