Press Release
September 10, 2011

Indigenous Peoples in the Forefront of Climate Change - Loren

Senator Loren Legarda today echoed the sentiments of the country's indigenous cultural communities over the ill-effects brought upon their livelihood, health, food security, cultural integrity and lands by extreme weather events brought about by climate change, further aggravated by irresponsible mining operations.

"It is lamentable that despite the fact that indigenous peoples contribute the least with respect to carbon emissions due to their simple and sustainable lifestyles and practices, they are most affected by the consequences of climate change," Senator Legarda, chair of the Senate Committees on Cultural Communities and Climate Change said during the assembly of representatives from indigenous cultural communities all over Luzon held at the Quezon Hall of the Teachers Camp in Baguio City September 9-10.

"There is an urgent need to assess the implementation of existing laws that protect the environment and the welfare of indigenous communities. The environmental laws have long been enacted and are in place. All we have to do is implement these existing environmental laws," the Senator said in reaction to the concerns aired by IP leaders who said that aside from the effects of climate change, their ancestral domains are being exploited by some irresponsible local and foreign mining companies who promise livelihood, sow disharmony over their communities and leave them in the end in abject poverty, environmental destruction and, worst, with toxic wastes.

Legarda said that based on the sentiments of the Luzon indigenous peoples during the assembly in Baguio--together with the findings and results of the assemblies still to be held in in Iloilo City on September 23-24; in Tagum, Davao del Norte on September 16-17; and their culminating event, the National Indigenous Cultural Summit in Manila on October 13-14, 2011--she will look into the compliance of existing mining firms with their obligations to protect the environment and the communities where they operate.

Legarda cited, for example, the provisions of Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act, which provides that every contractor shall undertake an environmental protection and enhancement program covering the period of the mineral agreement or permit which shall be incorporated in the work, program which the contractor or permittee shall submit as an accompanying document to the application for a mineral agreement or permit.

"The work program should include not only plans relative to mining operations but also to rehabilitation, regeneration, revegetation and reforestation of mineralized areas, slope stabilization and mined-out and tailing covered areas, aquaculture, watershed development and water conservation and socioeconomic development," said Legarda.

The same law requires contractors and permittees to rehabilitate the excavated, mined-out, tailings-covered and disturbed areas to the condition of environmental safety. Likewise, a mine rehabilitation fund shall be created based on the contractor's approved work program, and shall be deposited as a trust fund in a government depository bank and used for physical and social rehabilitation of areas and communities affected by mining activities and for research on the social, technical and preventive aspects of rehabilitation.

Section 85 of the same law established a semi-annual Mine Wastes and Tailings Fee which is imposed on all operating mining companies to accrue to a reserve fund for the payment for damages to: a) lives and personal property; b) lands, agricultural crops and forest products, marine life and aquatic resources, cultural resources; and c) infrastructure and the revegetation and rehabilitation of silted farm lands and other areas devoted to agriculture and fishing caused by mining pollution.

Section 17, meanwhile, provided that "in the event of an agreement with an indigenous cultural community pursuant to the preceding section, the royalty payment, upon utilization of the minerals shall be agreed upon by the parties. The said royalty shall form part of a trust fund for the socioeconomic well-being of the indigenous cultural community."

Legarda stressed that if she were to have her way, "all I want for this country is to be clean and green and beautiful."

She added that in attracting investments for the country, we need to attract the kind of investments that will strengthen our resilience and bring about development that is sustainable.

"What we need are climate resilient-investments that will strenghten our communities' adaptive capacity in dealing with the impacts of climate change, unlike mining operations that leave communities poorer and more exposed to disaster risks than before," Legarda concluded.

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