Press Release
May 28, 2011

Legarda: We Are Losing Our Natural Wealth, While Our People Remain Poor

Senator Loren Legarda today lamented that while the Philippines is abundant in natural wealth many Filipinos continue to live in abject poverty, stressing that even resource-rich provinces belong to the poorest areas in the country.

"It is alarming that provinces enjoying large mineral deposits such as Surigao del Norte and Masbate are two of the top ten poorest provinces in the Philippines. They have one thing in common--the unabated and unregulated over-extraction of their mineral resources," Legarda said.

The Senator said that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) estimates that in 2009 mining firms earned about Php150-billion but paid only Php340-million in excise taxes.

According to the DENR, if a five percent royalty is imposed, the government's annual revenue from royalties will be around Php7-billion.

"Mining companies operating here in our country enjoy higher income and lower royalties at the expense of our environment and our people. This is clearly a flawed model for progress and development as communities within areas of mineral deposits are pushed deeper into poverty because of the irreparable harm caused by unsustainable mining in their natural environment," Legarda said.

"Government must closely monitor mining in our country. There is a need to ensure strict enforcement of the provisions of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. Ultimately, we must determine whether the benefits derived from the mining industry are worth the social and environmental costs that result from it," she added.

Meanwhile, the Senator also expressed alarm over the depletion of the country's marine resources as poachers continue to rob the riches of the seas.

"We are blessed with rich and diverse coastal and marine resources composing of coral reefs, mangroves, fisheries and many others. In fact, the Philippine waters is part of the Coral Triangle where about 76% of the world's coral species are found and has the highest diversity of coral reef fishes in the world," she explained.

Recently, approximately 7,000 hectares of sea bed within the Moro Gulf and the Sulu Sea have been reportedly ravaged by poachers where more than 21,000 pieces of black coral were harvested and 161 endangered turtles and other marine life were killed, amounting to about Php35-million.

"Continued marine degradation and weak enforcement of our fisheries law will continue to deprive our fishermen with a decent catch. Our law enforcement agencies must therefore ensure the full protection of our marine resources, on which poor coastal communities depend on for subsistence," Legarda stressed.

"It is immensely disturbing that we have allowed the depletion of our valuable resources at the risk of leaving nothing for the future generations of Filipinos," she lamented.

Legarda has already filed the necessary resolutions urging the appropriate committees of the Senate to look into these vital issues on coral smuggling and mining.

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