Secretary Gina Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, whose confirmation remains pending before the Commission on Appointments, is unwavering in her opposition to irresponsible mining.
In a one-minute video posted on her official Facebook page last April 6, Lopez challenged her critics to explain the cost of pursuing mining activities to the environment. “The big question is, ‘At what cost?’ Ano ang kapalit na halaga sa pagkukuha ng minerals ng Pilipinas? Is it worth it?” the 63-year-old secretary asked.
The video was shot during Lopez’ visit to an abandoned open-pit mine in San Marcelino, Zambales. It was formerly operated by Dizon Copper and Silver Mines Inc. and Benguet Corporation. Lopez claimed that the mining site was abandoned when the prices of copper plummetted.
No one questions that the mining industry provides jobs to Filipinos and that it contributes somehow to the national economy. But, those advantages pale very much in comparison to the lasting damage that our environment sustains due to irresponsible mining operations.
The numbers speak for itself. According to the National Economic Development Authority, the mining industry only contributed 0.6% to the country’s gross domestic product in 2016. And, it only creates around 240,000 jobs nationwide per year (or roughly 0.5% of the country’s total employment). This figures mean that mining make very “negligible” contributions to our economy, says NEDA Director General Ernesto Pernia.
Keep in mind that mining-created employment opportunities usually lasts for just several months, and that multinational firms typically ship their earnings back to their home countries. In other words, once these companies have already exhausted the minerals in their base of operations, they will leave as quickly as a man running away from a woman he got pregnant.
Lopez, therefore, is correct. Are we going to forsake our environment in the name of short-term earnings and contractual jobs?