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Environmentalists push for ‘Rights of Nature’ bill

GREEN advocates push for Congress to pass the Rights of Nature bill to amplify environmental protection.

Ecoteneo director Mylai Santos said people must recognize that nature has inherent rights and the ecosystem must be acknowledged as it is.

“Every time na lang we need to justify why we need to protect the coral reef, why we need to protect the forest,  the protected areas,” Santos said during the Salakayag (Sakay, Lakad, Layag) para sa Sangnilikha Davao Region cluster press conference on Oct. 4.

Santos said climate resilience and disaster risk prevention and management are useless when the people are the ones creating the problem in the first place. “We are fighting against global problem of the climate and yet in our local environments, yung bundok, yung coral reefs, pinaka panlaban natin sa epekto ng pagbabago ng klima, yun yung tinatanggal natin,” she added.

Santos said they are pushing for an alternative minerals management bill along with SOS Yamang Bayan Network, which raised concerns about the Mineral Act of 1995. 

Santos urged the local and national governments to harmonize in environmental protection as dialogues seem to fall short. “We have laws but we are not enforcing them. Hindi natin maintindihan yung laws maganda ang pagkakasulat pero yung implementation nagkukulang,” she added.

The director recalls the lifting of an open pit mining ban in South Cotabato last December 2022, and despite being vetoed in June 2023, the coal mining company operated again in August 2023, which occupied almost half of Barangay Ned. She added that some areas were purchased by force from the residents.

Meanwhile, Santos cited the data from Ecoteneo and Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (Idis) that Davao Oriental has granted 39 permits to mining companies covering 60,000 hectares. The 19 are Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA), 12 for Minahang Bayan, and four for exploration. 

Rudolph Espe Dela Cruz from Ecological Wisdom of Banayan Initiatives for Environmental Protection Preservation also raised alarm after finding out that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR XI) approved the environmental compliance certificate of a new mining company in Banay-Banay, Davao Oriental.

“Supposedly prior to the approval of application, sana yung DENR and other agencies concerned, tingnan muna kung dapat ba ito i-approve, kung pwede pasukan ng mina, wala bangg maapaejktuhan na mamamayan o tao kaso malalaman lang nila after ma tapos na,” Dela Cruz said.

Dela Cruz recalled a forum he attended which was sponsored by Davao Oriental State University in Mati, where results from the sample extracted from different sites upstream in the river beds of Pintatagan and Mapagpa and other bodies of water were found to be highly contaminated.

Kung titingnan mo siya sa mata lang, matatawag mo okay naman clear naman siya, but technically pag examine mo through laboratory examination, contaminated na siya sa metallic elements,”

It can be noted that Arc Nickel Resources Inc., a mining company that started operation in Banay-Banay in October 2021 caused the discoloration and siltation of Pintatagan and Mapagpa rivers in January 2022, according to the DENR XI assessment.  

The siltation attributed to the extraction activity of the said firm has adversely affected the fisherfolks in the community as it destroyed fish spawning sites and fish cages that serve as their source of income.


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