I’ve written for an opinion column in a local newspaper for almost 5 years. Usually, the topics that fill this page are about politics or other current events. While I may have several “colorful” opinions about politics, I veer away from politics and all of its relatives because I don’t want my column to appear “heavy”. I wanted to balance out that page. That is why I usually write about youth culture and careers.
The times that I talk about politics (and its relatives) though, are the only times when I just do not know how not to. For example, last 2010, during the elections, I wrote a piece about how Partylists are not needed if only all the government officials do their jobs well. After all, if the President, down to the barangay captain is good at what they’re supposed to do, then there won’t be any marginalized sector, right? After that, I got letters from partylists defending themselves. I had fun reading fat fan mails that day.
Today, I read news about mining that just offended me. First off, let me tell you one thing: I’m no mining genius. In fact, no matter how long this issue has been hanging up there, I never touched it and this is my first time to throw an opinion on it.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard about the unfair treatment by the government towards mining companies. So here’s the story: Philex Mining, when typhoon hit their mine in Benguet last August 2012, landslide wounded their operations . According to a news report: ” no injuries or fatalities have been reported as a result of the incident. And since the mine has been closed, there are no tailings being added to the pond.” (See related story here.) Faster than Philex could muster, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau already ordered their suspension and charged them over P1B in environmental penalties and another P92.8M for violating the Clean Water Act.
Semirara, another famous mining company, was also immediately suspended when landslide hit them. On top of the fines and the opportunity cost of lost business, both companies had to work hard to turn the tables around, tweak PR and regain their reputation.
So here comes EDC’s interesting case. EDC stands for Energy Development Corporation, a Lopez-owned company. They recently suffered another landslide, lost 14 workers and was reported to have thrown Boron (a toxic element) into the river in Leyte. Never mind that the water from the river is what the farmers use for crop irrigation. Never mind that people died. Never mind that based on the same standards used by the DENR, Pollution Adjudication Board and Mines and Geosciences Bureau, they should be charged over a billion in fines as well. Surprisingly, everyone’s quiet about this. What’s even more interesting is that it was reported that media people and other investigators were only given the permission to see the area at least 72 hours after the incident. They said they just wanted to “sanitize” the area. I just shake my head at this.
To be fair, Leyte’s local government vowed that they will conduct further investigation on the EDC case. Although the area, they say, was not prone to landslides, DENR’s map says otherwise. Then there are news that the area was declared unsafe for workers by DOLE. Others also say EDC didn’t allow a rescue team from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to come to the site. Why, the news just gets uglier and uglier. I hope we get to know which ones are true about this.
I think that the problem here is not really about the punishments but on the implementation. We don’t need above average IQ to see that something is lopsided in the cases among Philex, Semirara and EDC. I am pretty sure Philex and Semirara suffered enough and hopefully, that will pave the way for other mining companies to employ safer practices and become more responsible miners. As for EDC, I hope justice will be served well and I hope that the media can shed more light into this than one of Kris Aquino’s love charades. There’s just something not right about the fact that they (mining companies) are gaining energy and wealth from nature, but they are also destroying it as well. And killing people in the process. So help us God.