Alternative Mineral Management Bill Pushed

MANILA, Philippines - The report that President Benigno Aquino III' has signed an Executive Order (EO) on mining prompted the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA) to push for the passage of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB) in Congress.

A NASSA position paper on mining was presented yesterday by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila, where the bishops are holding their 105th Plenary Assembly.

The position paper aims to gather signatures from the more than 100 bishops to push for the passage of the AMMB.

The AMMB, which is now being deliberated by the technical working group of the House natural resources committee, is a consolidated version of House Bills 206, 3763, 4315 and several mining-related measures.

A similar measure, Senate Bill 3126, was also filed last February 15, 2012.

Father Edu Gariguez, NASSA executive secretary, said the passage of AMMB has been made more urgent with the signing of the EO.

''There is a need to push for this AMMB because that EO is not the solution to our problem. The Chamber of Mines rejoicing is already an indicator that this EO actually favors mining companies,'' he said in an interview.

''Our problem in our mining policy cannot be cured by a mere EO because that's just palliative. That's not enough. There is a need to overhaul our mining policy,'' said Gariguez.

The CBCP said they were not against mining but wanted measures to safeguard the environment and protect indigenous communities' rights.

Gariguez is confident that the bishops will support their position on the matter as this will be their alternative to the Mining Act of 1995 that the CBCP asked to be repealed in 2006.

''Our position paper calls for three things: First, to repeal Mining Act of 1995. Second, push for the passage of the AMMB. Third, to seek for a moratorium while the AMMB is still in the legislative process and this will cover the EO,'' Gariguez said.

Once they are able to gather the signatures on the position paper, this will be submitted to the President, the Senate and the House, he said.

''We will use this to convince our senators and congressmen to support this bill, because if this EO of PNoy is also a failure....and this Aquino administration will also favor the mining companies, then we have no hope left,'' said Gariguez.

''This is a big boost to our campaign because we have the people and the bishops supporting this bill,'' he said

Last Saturday, Malacanang officials said that President Aquino has already signed the Executive Order (EO) on mining policy changes. They said details of the EO will be revealed today.

The EO is expected to set guidelines to harmonize conflicting interests of the mining industry, national and local governments and environmental groups.

The EO also identifies eco-tourism sites where mining will be banned.