MANILA, Philippines - Environmental and militant groups gathered at Mendiola near Malacañang on Saturday to kick off an "intensified" campaign against mining in the country.
The Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment is calling for a moratorium on all mining applications of foreign companies.
"We call for a moratorium on applications and operations on all foreign, large-scale, magnetite and offshore mining transnational corporations. This must stand until we are able to put in place a pro-people, pro-environment mining law," said Clemente Bautista, the group's national coordinator.
Militant group Bayan, for its part, is urging the government to repeal the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 as the law marks its 17th anniversary today.
Saying the current mining policy is a "bankrupt economic policy," Bayan said the government should pursue a nationalist and pro-people policy and that mining should be geared toward meeting people's domestic needs rather than private profit margins and global market demands.
"It is time that we assert our national interest and sovereignty. It is time we put domestic needs and environmental protection at the forefront of profits. It is time we junk the Mining Act of 1995," it said.
The protest comes after a big mining conference in Makati City on Friday where stakeholders presented their views about the impact of the industry on economy and environment.
Friday's conference saw heated exchanges among its participants that included Gina Lopez, ABS-CBN Foundation managing director and convenor of the Save Palawan Movement, and businessman Manuel Pangilinan, chairman of the country's biggest miner, Philex Mining Corp.
Despite the high drama that marked the event, the country's top executives believe the forum achieved its goal of providing an avenue for a healthy exchange of ideas on mining issues.
Eduardo Francisco, president of the Management Association of the Philippines, one of the organizers, said the forum was a "win-win" for all participants and the public.
He said the forum convinced critics of the benefits of mining and brought anti-mining advocates to sympathize with mining companies.
He said they hope to hold a follow-up conference to provide more clarification and direction for collaboration on mining-related issues.
He added that business groups like MAP plan to come up with a summary of points raised during the forum and submit their recommendations to Malacañang ahead of an executive order on a unified mining policy.
The President was supposed to issue the EO last February, but deferred it pending additional consultations with stakeholders.
Business groups were worried that the EO, which reportedly aims to increase mining taxes and review fiscal incentives for miners, might affect investor sentiment in the country. - With reports from Caroline Howard, ANC; dzMM